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  • Aerial Cheryl

5 Tips to getting paid as a freelance performer - Hint, it’s not the most important part of the gig

Aerial silks performance, one arm hang, Aerial Cheryl

When it comes to the freelance world of performing, an event organizer is not only paying for the minutes spent performing. They are paying for years of training and experience and thousands of dollars spent on training, equipment, costumes, space rental, and insurance. Every gig should be paying you back for part of the initial and continuing costs you pay to be a performer. Yes, you should be charging a premium for the work you’ve put in. That is, if you want to continue to work for what you charge.

1. You need to be prepared to continue working for what you charged. The effort doesn’t stop when you book the gig: Your professionalism in communication and appearance, how polite you are, how timely you respond, and standing your ground respectfully. Here are some more quick tips that will insure you’re giving it your all:

2. Respond to emails and phone calls within 24-48 hours, even if the response is “I’ll need a few days to look into that for you. I’ll let you know by <insert day>” and then FOLLOW UP. Show up on time or early, every time. When you show up, dress appropriately - not like you just got out of bed. No, your hair and makeup don’t need to be in perfect order, but wear attire that is in good condition and represents you, without being distracting or having disrespectful phrases.

3. Make sure that you deliver what you promised. If the client booked you for a dynamic performance to wow their guests with, make sure that your performance is designed to do that. Have a good quality costume - it doesn’t need to cost hundreds of dollars (although it can). Check out Discount Dance Supply or Dancewear Solutions or even Etsy for great components that you can put together easily on their own or with a few embellishments. After the event, send a thank you email or even better, mail a thank you card after the event. Ask for feedback and thank them for it.

4. Organize your gear and bring it in good condition. If you’re an aerialist, retape bar apparatuses and make sure your fabrics are reasonably clean and free from dark stains, odors and tears. Be patient and prepared. Bring a couple extra caribeners, rope, and a spare pair of tights. Bring a pair of shoes that you can safely wear to and from your performance space that somewhat goes along with your costuming (ballroom shoes, character heels, and simple sandals are potential solutions depending on your venue).

5. Respect the client’s opinions or design choices. They might not meet your ideal but guide your client with your experience so they get what they want and you feel comfortable. Ex: Client asks you to wear a neon yellow and purple costume for their company’s gala fundraiser while you perform to the song from Requiem for a Dream (for the 100th time). Yes, you can opt out of wearing the cape as it’s likely not safe and perhaps you add an extra costume fee since it’s likely to be a custom option and not to be used for anything else in the future. When it comes to choreography, we know that everyone loves star drops and splits and we know we can be more creative - different clients want different things. It’s not an insult to your craft when they ask for this, it’s an honor that they know something about it.

With so much talk about not working for free, not undercutting your fellow artists, and the industry getting watered down, it is vital that we represent the value we want our industry to be seen for. Work with your clients, ask artists in your area what you can learn from them and do what you love, simply because you love it. Not because you want to be paid for it, but because you want your work out in the world.

Want more info on getting paid and how much to charge? Check out this article by Rachel Bowman and Brett Womack. Find a mentor who is willing to guide you. Not sure who to ask or want to talk it out first? Send me a message and I’ll help you out.


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