How to set up an actors co-operative agency

If you haven't got an agent at present, or don't want an agent then you might like the idea of setting up a co-operative agency with some other actors. A great factor about setting up a co-operative is that you can get it started for relatively cheaply. Here are some guidelines to get things going quickly and cheaply.

First of all you need other actors - if you're reading this then you might have some in mind already. They're probably also friends and I'm sure you'll want to remain friends, so from the start you need to be honest with each other. Have honest chats establishing roles and how everything is going to work, you need to trust each other and be able to talk freely. Maybe you need to appoint to someone to oversee the whole running, or maybe you'll split off in to your natural areas (maybe someone's good at web design, someone at the administrative side of things etc). If you establish this from the start then everybody knows where they stand - you may have different opinions in the future, but ultimately, whoever is leading that department gets the final decision, so you all need to be happy with that.

Another important thing to discuss is time. You may have other jobs and commitments so this needs to be dealt with from the start. Is everyone going to work a certain day of the week or are hours going to be spread equally per month etc. Maybe someone can't work as often as the rest, so think about whether they should pay a joining fee, or similar, to equal this out which would ultimately pay for the running costs. Don't forget hours or days have to be flexible to some extent - you're actors and may have to swap days last minute if you get an audition or a job!

You need a way to manage casting submissions. Presumably you all have Casting Call Pro or Spotlight accounts so the easiest way would be to make everyones login details available to each other. However, with CCP and Spotlight you can sign up as an agency and from that agency account you can manage each actor profile and submit them to castings. Here's a link to register as an agent on CCP - http://www.castingcallpro.com/uk/agent.php

Once you're certain on the idea, you need a few more material things to get you going - mainly to do with communication. If you can't be contacted, you're wasting your time.

A phone number. Ideally a landline number because it looks more professional. For a small monthly fee you can get a landline number and have it diverted to your mobile number. Don't forget to transfer the divert depending on who's shift it is. You could also buy a cheap mobile for the co-operative, so don't forget to hand that on either.

There are a few places online that offer this service, like soho66.co.uk or ereceptionist.co.uk. They all offer slightly different packages, so do a bit of research and see if you can get some recommendations.

Website The importance of this depends on how accessible all of your information and actor's information (CV's, showreels etc) is. Although, these days every company has a website so it's advisable to get one running as soon as you can. They only need to be simple and can be done quite easily and cheaply. Do some research, but start with common companies like godaddy.com or 123-reg.co.uk. You need a domain name (e.g. YourName.co.uk). Then, you need a hosting package - probably just a basic one with only a small amount of webspace and one or two email addresses.

When it comes to building your website, keep it simple. A main page with contact details on it and links to the other pages. A page for Actors/Actresses (you might split that into 2 pages) with their head shots on. Ideally, you want to link each actor to their CV, CCP or Spotlight page. You can build simple websites with tools/templates like Joomla or Word Press. They all offer different levels of customisation, so find what works for you.

Email address. A must! For quick contact and exchange of scripts/contracts etc. You'll probably get one as part of your web hosting package, but if you don't have a website then you can sign up to one on it's own. Places like Gmail.com will offer you a free one but a personalised email (like [email protected]) is infinitely more professional.

These are the basics and should get you physically up and running, but setting up the phone and website are the easy parts - now you need to keep on schedule, remain friends and network!