Rules For Rookies

May 30, 2008

Sometimes beginning a conversation that will lead to a person really enjoying new opportunities is the hardest part of business.  We offer this quick suggestion, something commonly known as a Term Sheet.  It’s really just a memo and should never be proposed as anything else.  A Term Sheet is most frequently devised as a jumping off point for contract negotiations.  It also serves to solidify some of the sentiments that may have been previously touched on during casual discussions about upcoming projects.  Though for an emerging talent it can help remind people that you treat yourself and your craft as something you expect to sustain you, as a job.  Of course everyone’s supposed to live and breathe the art, but dedication can be both empowering and humiliating so on your first few gigs it’s considered shallow not to reiterate your commitment once or twice.

The Term Sheet can accomplish a number of things.  Foremost it helps maintain your own quality control, we’re not talking about fruit baskets and tanning beds, well maybe tanning salon vouchers, but basic quality continuity.  It also helps you to introduce support talent like hair and make-up artists that you can rely on without tactlessly dipping your pen in the wrong ink.  A Term Sheet is a great conversation piece because the person that isn’t open to discussing things in clear concise language, isn’t someone that knows what they’re doing.  It may save your career from being led down some tumble weeded cul-de-sac by people that have more balls than brains.

Now keep in mind that this is not an opportunity to talk about your friend the pet sitter or your love of yoga and fresh lilies.  Those that can expect that sort of workplace don’t have to ask.  Nor is it a chance to drop buzz words or gloat about how shrewd you think you are.  This isn’t an opportunity to prove that you’re some sort of insider, or the time to pitch yourself as smart and pretty.  It is a chance to hold someone accountable for producing a result that’s in keeping with the progress of your career.  It also keeps petty resentments off-set, minimizes the anxieties of daily life and helps to compartmentalize your pursuits and your passions.  This isn’t a resume either; there should be no laboring over the typeface or borrowing stationary from the office of esquire, esquire and run-around.

To an audience your passion should be palpable. We shouldn’t infer underlying resentments through shorted cuts.  As spectators we prefer dueling dialogue over egos.  Think of a Term Sheet as a weed killer, pre-emptively keeping both competing brokerage and splinter media at bay.  It minimizes subliminal deals and the trading of unsubstantiated favors while keeping your business at the stage door and your profession in the best possible light.

The bottom line is that if the people you deal with aren’t willing to address the ways in which your alignment with their goals is going to benefit them, regardless of weather or not they get to cross an item off of their personal wish list, then they aren’t people with whom you can do good business. Equally if you can’t identify guidelines that will improve your ability to execute your profession then you’re in the wrong one, or at very least in the right one for the wrong reasons.