One of the number-one most popular functions of our badass Self-Management for Actors Facebook group is the crowdsourcing that comes so freakin’ easily when you’ve got an audience of 13,000+ people who’ve gathered with the express goal of working out the SMFA principles together.

It’s really powerful when you think about it.

Pretty much every day someone will toss up a photo or ten (*groan* Please, never ten. More on that below) and ask for typing words, adjectives, age ranges, target shows, etc., and while that’s all well and good, it’s those who’ve truly mastered the process of surveying who get not only the best data, the most data, but also the most accurate data.

And I don’t know about you, but I love accuracy. Especially when it comes to how I’m gonna make bank.

bonnie gillespie's $69,142 month all about the zenjamins

If you have the option of getting a general idea of what might work or of getting a super specific picture of exactly what’s gonna pave the road with pennies, wouldn’t you choose to put a little extra care into your surveying method to get it right and START making that moolah?

Yeah, I thought so.

With that in mind, here is the ultimate guide to how to stay the eff out of your own way and get the most bankable data possible when it comes to nailing down your most castable type and brand.

You’re welcome.

1. Create a Google Survey.
Sure, you could just slap up a photo and ask for comments at Facebook or in a series of tweets or at your blog but the second you get an answer in front of others, you contaminate your data. Every person who sees another person’s answer will have the temptation to agree — or disagree — not because it’s how they, personally, feel about your photo but because of some other motive. Doesn’t matter what that motive is; once you’re getting data based off what *else* you’ve already received, you’re screwed.

2. Make your Google Survey WAY easy to participate with.
Don’t require an email address for participation. Don’t make us click elsewhere to see your password-protected video or to download a gallery of photos. Make sure embedded playback is enabled if you’re including a silent typing vid. Create a simple, straightforward survey using the Google Form function in your Google Drive. Select question types that provide the best answers (multiple checkbox options for adjectives if you’re providing a list; short answer if you’re allowing write-ins) and grab the shareable link from the “send” option when you’re done to reduce barriers to participation.

3. Keep the questions simple and straightforward, and only survey one tool at a time.
First off, NEVER survey multiple headshots at once. Never. NEVER ever. When you ask for feedback on multiple photos at once, you’re serving a delightful five-course meal and then asking diners to describe what they ate. The responses are going to be generic enough to cover everything from the appetizer to the salad to the dessert and that generic info isn’t going to serve you as you attempt to work the Self-Management for Actors principles and get clear on your brand, your targets, and the direct connection between those things (and the MONEY, honey). You want to get deliciously detailed words for ONE tool at a time and then find out which of the tools you have does the best job of representing exactly what you present in the room and on screen/on stage. So, do a survey for one photo. Then another for your silent vid. Still another for your demo reel footage. Yet another for you, live, in the room with respondents. You’re trying to track which tools do the best job of selling what you deliver in the room, not figure out how you can CHANGE into what it is your headshots might be selling.

4. Do not restrict respondents’ options.
If you’ve provided a list of adjectives and essences — like the one available here or as a PDF download here — allow respondents to check multiple boxes. Don’t tell them to pick their top three. If *you* want to get down to YOUR top three, you accept all the responses in the world, sort your data, see which three words have the most frequency, and BOOM, there’s your top three. When you force others to limit their thoughts, you run the risk of having 20 people who would’ve chosen the same word as their #4 item for you leave that out… blowing your data into the wrong direction by a lot.

5. NEVER restrict age range.
This is listed separately from the above because OMG everyone misses this. No matter how much I say it. Everyone freakin’ misses this and it makes me crazy. Batty. Insane. Off the hook coocoo. For the same reason as the above, you accept alllllllllll the ages people believe you could play and then YOU narrow it down to your most castable four-year age range after the data-collecting is done. Period. Please read this again.

6. Know that your photo’s pose could be responsible for your feedback.
If your photo has the ever-popular peeking-over-your-shoulder pose, you’ll get words like sneaky, mischievous, dishonest, and possibly vixen, mistress, liar, cheater, and such. If you’re in that fun one-eyebrow-up, shrugged shoulders, fingerguns pose, you can expect a lot of words like quirky (a completely useless word, as character breakdowns go, due to how clichΓ© it has become), comedic, funny, wacky, silly… and while that may be great for that photo, unless it’s true for YOU at your idling speed, it’s not helping you. If you ARE sexy, you’ll get the word sexy even if the pose is as dry as a passport photo. If you ARE hilarious, that’ll come through in a silent vid in which you seriously don’t even crack a smile. Let the words come from YOU, not the business you’re doing.

7. Survey a silent vid when you want to get as close to the “first impression, walking in the casting room vibe” feedback as possible.
If you’re able to do the Self-Management for Actors typing work in a group of people, that’s best because you can get feedback on both your in-room essence before you speak *and* on your primary headshot to be sure they’re aligned. Further, as you speak and your humor and personality start to come through, you can get more feedback on how much of that shows up in your photo or upon first impression vs. what needs time to be revealed (and there are ways to adjust for all of this in your headshot, BTW, same as it’s possible to adjust for your super high-pitched or oddly low voice… yes, in your photo! We teach this!). But one survey for a headshot, another for a silent vid, yet another for a speaking vid, and another for footage or a candid photo or whatever else needs aligning is all fair game!

8. Remember you can survey LOTS of things, but not all at once.
Yes, your type and brand are the most popular things — especially when getting clear on your brand umbrella — but age range is right up there, as is testing out a logline, trying out a stage name (one of my favorite surveys was one I had a client put up at the “sample size” sub at Reddit — where strangers love to weigh in on things — asking “What is my name?” to see if the stage name she was considering might naturally feel like her, in the eyes of others), identifying target shows, even nailing down where it feels like you’re FROM. Just don’t try to do all of this in a single survey. It’s overly ambitious; it makes all data weaker due to respondent fatigue; and it’s greedy. C’mon. Don’t go overboard.

9. Always add a final prompt with, “Anything else I need to know?” in your survey.
This allows for all sorts of rich information you’d cheat yourself of receiving otherwise. πŸ™‚ Let folks surprise you with what you might have never thought to ask about yourself and how you’re coming across!

10. Remember that every survey is a sales tool.
Yup. Casting directors, agents, managers, publicists, writers, showrunners, producers, directors, we all take surveys from time to time. No, not often, but often enough, and even your peers are “buyers” if they’re creating content and potentially casting you in something someday. The thoughtfulness with which you pull together your survey IS teaching people how to cast you! Treat it casually? Be prepared for casual responses, and opinions of you as being a casual person. And that may be just fine! But if you’re generally meticulous but throw your survey together as if you couldn’t be bothered to show attention to detail, you risk brand confusion.

11. Stay out of your own damn way while data-gathering.
Y’all, I know I’ve already covered this but I’m totally saying this one last time because OMG — especially if you forego the Google Survey version of things and just slap up a headshot in random Facebook groups and ask for feedback — you may think you’re being polite by saying, “Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you!” after each person offers their thoughts, but what you’ve actually done is muddy the waters by being friendly right there in the thread. You’ll get friendlier-skewing words from the very next person who responds. Further, when you say, “OMG, I get that comparison all the time,” about a celeb you look like or a show you should be on, you’ve just contaminated the data to come with that, “Yes, and…” action. Seriously, stay out of the way. Come back and say thank you AFTER you’ve collected all the data. You “lead the witness” by being helpful or friendly or even a casual participant in your own stats-gathering and that’s a recipe for bad data. We want you to have the most accurate, badass, leading-to-the-dollars info possible in this, and this SMFA how-to is just the ticket!

Follow these tips and you are SET with some of the cleanest, most accurate, most *bankable* information you’ve ever received about your most castable brand.

You can thank me when you’re holding up something gold and shiny. πŸ˜‰

REPLAY of a glorious livestream on this topic!

Actors: Your Type and Brand REVEALED! Bonnie Gillespie’s SMFA Survey

Want the above tips in a handy PDF? Here ya go! (Get ALL the free SMFA Hot Sheets over here.) Man… it just got sooooooo easy to nail your most castable type and brand, thanks to the Self-Management for Actors method! Woo HOO!

Having trouble getting feedback? Reddit was invented for people on the internet who have free time and are looking for stuff to do! This is the specific subreddit to visit — be sure you follow the instructions — when you want LOADS more data (but beware of trolls; they do like to “help” here too).

Wanna be sure ALL your tools *and* your mindset are in peak form? Let us get you in gear in just 100 days!

Now go get ’em!



Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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  1. Leslie Yacopetti December 19, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Picking a headshot for this years GIGFTNY survey, and I’m thinking about how specific I got when taking these new headshots. For example, I have one that I submit for “millennial”, another for “young professional”, etc. I don’t want to waste valuable peak survey time by getting obvious answers. Advice?

    1. Bonnie Gillespie December 19, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      I talked to you in today’s Facebook Live broadcast, if you were able to check it out! Basically, it doesn’t matter which one you survey in terms of best choice… it’s more about which one you crave the MOST data on.

  2. April Sugarman December 22, 2017 at 7:58 am

    Hi, Bonnie. I’m the paper type and got excited about the 4-page printable document you mentioned in the video. Is there a link to the printable version? I checked your blog posts and I’m pretty sure I didn’t find it. Thanks! Having fun!

  3. Abbey Glasure February 9, 2021 at 7:18 am

    Hey, hey, Ninjas!

    Here are a few things that have enhanced to my branding data process so far:

    1) This website will source random survey respondents in exchange for completing others’ surveys (data for data – how ninja!):

    Essentially, you receive credits for each survey you complete, which are then “spent” on others taking your survey. I spent about 30 total minutes taking surveys and have received 22 responses in the past week. The algorithm seems to favor active users, so it’s possible that leaving the tab open here and there could yield more results.

    2) Using the “Shuffle Option Order” feature on Google Forms may get you descriptors that start with letters beyond A-H.

    When my looooong list of descriptors was in alphabetical order, I noticed that my first few survey respondents almost exclusively selected words from the first third of the alphabet.

    If you click the three dots on the bottom right corner of your list of descriptors Q, you can select “Shuffle Option Order”. This will show your adjectives in random order, potentially allowing target words to jump out more easily.

    3) Converting your silent video into a GIF is a great way to loop the video while simultaneously removing Youtube’s distracting “watch next” suggestions.

    1. Bonnie Gillespie February 9, 2021 at 12:04 pm

      You are THE best! Thank you so much for this follow-through! #SoOnBrand and awesome. πŸ™‚

  4. Kent Sanders April 19, 2021 at 5:27 am

    Can you create an castability for me? Or do you know someone else?

    1. Bonnie Gillespie April 19, 2021 at 10:20 am

      That’s not a service we provide as a part of Self-Management for Actors (the work is all about giving YOU the tools to do this for yourself, so you’re never beholden to a guru or any of those “systems” out there that take away the actor’s power). Perhaps ask in the SMFA Ninjas Facebook group how others have navigated this work? Find inspo there? Good luck!


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