When you’re getting started in entertainment, you’re nervous, you’re excited, and you’re eager to land that first great opportunity.  You’ve got stars in your eyes, which makes some people, unfortunately, just as eager to prey on you.

If you’ve done your research, you’re probably hoping to make it to the point of securing an agent or manager who will help facilitate your career and drive it to the top.  The ability to get one or the other, or both, in your corner means you’ve gotten some impressive credits under your belt.

However, just because you’re at the point of selecting someone to represent you doesn’t mean all shysters are suddenly unmasked and everyone becomes open and honest, according to Paul Russell.  Protect yourself from the get-go.  If you are uploading your headshot or resume to a database to get others to notice, consider utilizing gig-only contact information.  This means, establishing an email account you only use for submissions and for others in the industry to reach out.  You can also create a temporary phone line used specifically for securing gigs.

Build relationships with the individuals you work for one step at a time.  Make sure you feel comfortable about the process.  Yes, you’ll likely have butterflies in your stomach and your anxiety will be on high alert the first time you’re reporting to audition or to the set.  This is normal for any new opportunity.  But, you should feel safe while at work and be networking with the crew who’s hired you even when the camera isn’t rolling.

Report, work, and get paid – it’s a fairly simple formula.  If any of these factors are missing, there’s a problem.  If you’ve connected with someone, but they’ve never given you a specific location to report to, beware.  If you report, something feels off, and there is obviously no intention to have you work the gig you were promised, get out of there.  If you don’t get paid, you’ve been scammed.  There are red flags to be on the lookout for along the way.

When you connect with agents and managers, make sure they have your best intentions in mind – not theirs.  They may have an exciting vision for you that you may not have considered on your own, but love.  That’s great.  But, if you’re not connecting with their mission at all, say something.  Always keep the lines of communication open.  If you get paid for a gig you found, tell your agent and offer the commission anyway.  In turn, whenever they are paid for opportunities they’ve secured for you and you’ve completed, make sure you’re paid.

You’ve embarked on an exciting whirlwind of a career.  You have every right to be seeing stars!  Just make sure you stay grounded, and keep your eyes and hears open, so you continue pursuing your dreams without being led down a dark path.