If you’re a freelancer, you’ve been there: the work is done, but that paycheck is gone with the wind. When you get radio silence or the runaround from the person who hired you, it can be a whirlwind of stress, anxiety and anger. As a performer, you have a number of options to pursue, but that’s next week’s post. This week? I want to talk to the folks who hire the performers, because if people are consistently waiting on you for a paycheck, that’s a problem.
You Have a Responsibility
I’ve only not been paid for my work one time – New Years Eve 2009 when I worked for Cirque USA (if you’re reading this, it’s never too late to do the right thing…). After chasing the paycheck for a long while, I eventually chalked it up to a lesson learned. But ugh – what a lesson.
When we hire artists, we feel the responsibility of the commitment that’s made – you perform at our event, we pay you for that performance. It’s not your problem whether or not WE get paid by the client, that’s on us. It’s not your problem if the house doesn’t sell enough seats. It’s not your problem if the company went nuts on hookers and blow and spent your paycheck. You worked? You should get that money. Period. Can’t take that on? You’re not ready to hire anyone.
Disposable Artist Syndrome
We see this ALL the time – venues who regularly hire talent, then make them chase that check. They often suffer from what I like to call Disposable Artist Syndrome – they’re banking on the fact that there are so many artists eager to perform, what does it matter if they piss some off? There’s always another one to take their place. Ew.
Artists are people, not tissues. That’s really all I have to say about that. Don’t be surprised if you start to find it tough to get (and keep) good talent.
Just to Be Clear
It’s so important to be clear about pay – how much you will pay, how it will be paid, and the time frame. If you know it’s going to be 90 days before you can pay, say so at the time of booking. Did you agree to pay sooner? You betta do it. If something insane happens and you cannot pay on time, transparency is key. Be honest about what happened, and how you will make it right.
Not in the habit of giving a timeline for payment? Enjoy the drama. Performers start getting really antsy when they start having to ask about their check, and thus begins the downward spiral. A lot of potentially great producer/performer relationships get needlessly ruined that way – sad.
Over 70% of freelancers will report not being paid at some point for work they’ve done. This is not OK. If you are an artist hiring artists, your responsibility is even greater – these are your people, for heavens sake! Money is already a subject fraught with feeeeeeeelings and tension and baggage – don’t be shady. Don’t pull a Donald. Be excellent to each other. Dare to imagine, Laura
We all have those moments – someone asks you to be in their show or event, and you’re all like, “YES! Hooray! I am totally available!” And then it dawns on you – you have no idea what they’re thinking of paying you. OMG, are they thinking of paying you at all?! It’s an important question, but how do you ask it without sounding a wee bit crass?
It’s About Relationship
We went to a conference a while back, and, weirdly, the best perspective shift I came away with was this:
All business, particularly in the arts, is about relationships.
The goal isn’t so much to book a gig or a show (although it ultimately is), but to forge new, mutually fulfilling relationships with folks who can hire you. These relationships are about a lot of things, not just financial transactions; so, when we reduce them to a paycheck, we diminish the potential richness (pardon the entendre) of the partnership.
How to Ask About Pay Rates – Best Practices
Anyone who knows me is well aware of my direct and candid nature – there’s not much I won’t say or talk about. But, I’ve learned (and turned!) a trick or two when it comes to chatting about finances. When I’m talking to potential clients, we both know that the real deal breaker will likely be budget, but how will that client feel if that’s the first question out of my mouth?
Potential Client: “Hi! I’m interested in booking circus entertainment for my event in a couple of months!”
Me: Great! What’s your budget?
… Nope! While budget may be the determining factor, it’s not the most important thing. There’s a person planning an event on the other end of this phone call or email! The person – the relationship – is the most important thing. We’ll get to budget pretty quickly, but a couple of minutes listening to their needs goes a long way towards increasing the likelihood that we’ll work together – if not now, then maybe in the future.
There are a lot of ways this dynamic plays out in our business. Here, I’m going to focus on the artist/entertainment company relationship.
- Express enthusiasm about working with the company. Even if you’ve been working with a company for years, a little pep in your step when you accept a gig goes a long way. Say thanks! Say how excited you are to be working with them! Trust me – an eager attitude with a little gratitude stands out, and helps you appear friendly, fun to work with, and gracious.
- Think long-term. Unless the company sucks, you want to lay a strong foundation for future work. Beyond the basics (respond to communications promptly, know your performance parameters, etc), you want to invest in this relationship the way you would any other. Express interest, keep it friendly, grease the wheels.
- Keep it professional. Unless the person booking you is your bestie, then let them set the tone for communications. Are they uber formal? Respond in kind. Are they super informal? Err on the side of caution and spare them the emoticons. When talking about money, watch your phrasing and keep it on the up and up. “What can you pay?” is a far cry from “What do you have set aside in your budget for me on this event?”
So, how do you phrase money talk with class? Here are some good examples that came across my desk recently:
- “Hi Laura! Thank you so much for thinking of me for the 22nd – I’m so excited to work with you again! Can you give me an idea of what you have set aside budget-wise for me? I’m really looking forward to this event.”
- “Hello Laura! Thank you so much for thinking of me for the 22nd – I’m so excited to work with you! This is my first time with your company, and I’m not familiar with your pay scale. When you get a minute, could you please let me know what the rate is for this event? Thanks again – I’m really looking forward to it.”
If the pay rate is WAY below what you had in mind, you have two options:
- Negotiate. If it’s within a couple hundred dollars, ask if there’s some wiggle room in the budget. “Hi Belinda! Thank you so much for the info about the 22nd. My usual rate is closer to $1000 – is there any flexibility in the budget for this event? I would really love to work with you on this one!”
- Decline. If there’s no way that budget is going to cut it, you’ll have to bow out. Do it like a jerk, and you can be sure they won’t contact you again. Decline with class, and, when they have a budget that can work, you’ll likely be on the list! “Hi Lulabelle! Thank you so much for clarifying the rates for the 22nd. My usual rate is $1000 for this type of event – is there any wiggle room in this budget?” (No.) “Hi Lulabelle! I completely understand. I’m so sad to say that I won’t be a good fit for this event – I will not be able to make $300 work. Please do keep me in mind for future events – I would really love to work with you down the road!” Then, consider recommending a student who might be a good fit for this show. If this company is kind of jerky though, don’t pass the buck.
In closing, remember: it’s about relationship. If the company is good, nurture that relationship by using your mad people skilz! Dare to imagine, Laura
Love really IS in the air! From Champagne Aerialists to a Living Red Carpet, ImaginAerial adds a new twist to Valentine’s Day.
- Spectacular elite cirque-style acts to enthrall your guests
- A gorgeous array of costumes – from traditional red and white to lingerie-inspired, gowns, etc.
- A Living Red Carpet is a novel surprise for your attendees!
- Glamorous Champagne Aerialists add flair and elegance to any welcome.
- Strolling Tables make mingling more fun!
- … and so much more!
Killian is on the move again! Come somersault through time and space on this cirque-style journey through the mutli-verse!
March 2 & 3, 7:00 pm at the Hangar Theater in Ithaca, NY
March 5, 3:00 pm at The Miller Center for the Arts in Reading, PA
Ever had a show go bad? I mean REAL BAD? Yep – us too. Your act can go poorly one night, or an entire show can just be le poo for whatever reason – maybe the whole thing is just wretched, maybe it was just an off night. Most of us, when confronted with a stinker, do one of two things: we castigate ourselves mercilessly, or we pretend that nothing is wrong. Move along people, nothing to see here…..
Hate Yourself. You’re Awful. Oh – and You’re a Fraud.
If you come off stage and flip a table, or sob in the dressing room while eating the entire last tray of catering, you’re in this camp. It feels so goooooooood, and so right somehow, to really let yourself have it if you messed up, or if things didn’t go as you’d hoped. And it’s so motivating and helpful, right? Well…. right?
……Maybe….. If you find that giving yourself a harsh talking to really works for you – gets you motivated to fix what’s broken and work harder, then have at it! You’re awful! Positively dreadful! Get to work tomorrow. BUT. If, after screaming at yourself, you feel broken, sick, sad, hopeless, or exhausted, your reaction may be a hair counterproductive. By all means, wallow in self-hatred for a few minutes, but all that energy has to go somewhere productive eventually. Keep reading.
Pretend Everything is Fine
If you find yourself getting stabby if someone suggests you weren’t perfect, or if you can’t “hear” any input other than your own, welcome to Pollyanna-ville. Population you. Every time you perform – EVERY TIME – something could be better. Can you be honest enough with yourself to admit that you, your act, or the show aren’t perfect? If you can’t bear to evaluate your own work, or have it evaluated for you, it can help to remember this: you are NOT your work. You are not your act, you are not the show. Criticism of the work is not personal. Repeat until you actually believe that.
(I get it – believe me. It can be hard to separate “us” from the work, as much of it is reflective, or has so much of “us” wound up in it. Work to cultivate a slight detachment, kind of like you do during meditation when you watch your thoughts, but are NOT your thoughts. It’s HARD, but it can be done. It’s a process.)
Performance is never perfect. What we do is always somewhere on a spectrum between The Worst Thing That’s Ever Deliberately Happened on a Stage and Absolute Perfection Incarnate – Like Angels Dancing on My Eyeballs.
When we think of our work this way, it’s so much easier to see each performance as a blueprint for future work. We look at each show – what worked great? What was not so good? What should never, ever, happen on a stage again? Write it down if you have to. Keep the good, fix or make a plan to work on the bad.
There’s no need to bash yourself into a hole of depression, no need to pretend that everything you did was great. Some stuff was meh/bad/stupid/uuuuugh, some stuff was pretty good/amazing/yes/right direction. Every time. Each and every time we rehearse, perform, or create, we have the opportunity to get a little closer to what we really envision for ourselves and our work. Whether we flog ourselves emotionally, live in a perpetual state of denial, or use each creation as an opportunity for growth is completely us. What’s it going to be? Dare to imagine, Laura
What is GLOW?
ImaginAerial lights up the night! From UV blacklight acts to LED-powered hula hoops and costumes, this is an experience your guests will never forget.
What does GLOW look like?
Here’s an example of a GLOW event we did in Toronto last year!
What do GLOW artists need to perform?
- Acts include LED hula hoops, UV silks, light up juggling and prop manipulation, contortion, and more!
- Many LED props require charging immediately prior to performance. Multiple outlets and/or power strips will be needed to make sure everything stays nice and bright throughout the evening.
- Artists can perform acts while mingling with guests, on a stage or pedestal, or as part of a show.
- GLOW ground artists need a clean floor space, and about 5×5 feet of space on a stage, pedestal, or floor.
- If UV blacklight is desired, the client will need to arrange for UV units through their lighting vendor.
- If you have questions (and I’ll bet you do), give us a ring at (929) 260-3134 and we can talk you through it.
Your mom was right: pick your friends (training partners, coaches, etc) carefully – they have more influence than you can imagine. I was (wisely) counseled early on to surround myself with people who were just a little bit better than me, who would challenge me to up my game; this proved to be some of the best advice I’ve ever been given.
You Don’t Want to Be the Best in the Room
Well, not ALL the time! If you’re the top dog at your school or in your community, it may be time to level up. While it feels GREAT to have your ego stroked every time you take the stage or bust out an ankle hang, if there’s no one to push you to get better, chances are you won’t. You’ll begin to slide into “big-fish-in-a-small-pond syndrome” – trust me, it ain’t pretty. Eventually, your bubble will be burst! Tale as old as time – you’re the very best aerialist at the Dolly Dinkle School of Aerial Arts, you take a little field trip to Montreal to train, and you get your ass whooped but good. It hurts, but a swift reality check to the butt is ultimately a good thing. Don’t wait for it – seek it out and embrace it!
Better Business vs Bitter Business
Do you surround yourself with successful folks? People neck-deep in best business practices that you can learn from? OR are you drowning in a sea of people who have bought into the notion that being an artist means sitting back and waiting for work to magically find you? Take a gooooood look around right now. The people you work and train with influence everything from core beliefs to training practices. The people you encounter every day should push you to be better in SOME way – train harder, get better in business, be kinder, love broader, point your toes, etc. If you’re pouring out your best self into rocky soil, and getting nothing in return, that (as my son would say) is NOT GOOD.
I’m in no way saying that you should only befriend people you see as “stepping stones” – that would be douche-y. But, it’s always healthy to look at the community you’re aligning yourself with and check in – are they headed in the direction you see for yourself? Yes? Carry on. No? Time for a change. We invest in others, and they invest in us – just make sure it’s a good investment on both sides. Dare to imagine, Laura
“Oh my gosh – you are SO GLAMOROUS! Look how gooooooorgeous!” And we bat our lashes, Vaseline our teeth, hike up our Spanx, and say, “Thaaaaank yooooou!”, while simultaneously thinking, “heh – you should have seen me three hours ago with sweaty hair and last night’s confetti in my bra, lugging a free-standing rig up a loading ramp and tripping over my ratchet straps.”
But, of course, we never SAY those things… out loud…. to normal people.
If you’re going into circus performance imagining an endless parade of impossibly glamorous situations, exploding with glitter and fabulousness, you’re only 5% right. The other 95% is hustle, body-breaking training, and manual labor – scramble, sweat, haul. Now don’t get me wrong – that 5% is dreamy! Performing is spectacular! But it comes with a looooooot of work. And blisters.
Haul, Fetch, Carry
Some gigs are cake-y! Walk in, do your thing, eat sushi, look pretty, perform, go back to your 4 star hotel. But many are…. well, decidedly less cake-y. Early morning calls, schlepping equipment, hauling and setting up a free-standing rig (whether or not you’ll be the one performing on it), steaming costumes, loading bags, you name it. Warm-up, into costume, sparkly makeup, warm-up, 4 hour event. After the show, eat a Power Bar, wait for the guests to leave, break everything down, pack it up, drive it home, unload, fall into bed. Or, you know, drive to the next city and do it all again.
We’re lucky in that we have a core group of mensches who know that the show must go on, no matter what. They schlep bags, drive vans, MagGuyver rig covers out of table cloths and athletic tape, whatever it takes. In fact, when we’re casting, we absolutely take into account who our best team players are, and try to throw the glammie gigs their way whenever possible (hey, butt busting has its rewards)!
You’ve Gotta Be Tough
Performing, and touring in particular, is incredibly hard on the body. You cannot be a delicate flower and expect to blossom in this business! Be prepared to:
- Help load and unload – even if you don’t have to, it’s much appreciated!
- Have a nutty schedule – late nights and early mornings are a thing.
- Deliver an impeccable performance.
- Take care of your circus body.
- Drive if you can, navigate if you can’t, and expect long drives.
- Put a sock in it – working circus artists don’t whine and complain.
- Stick up for yourself if working conditions are extreme or unsafe (this is another post).
- Make it work! The show must go on, and sometimes creative solutions or compromises are required to make that happen. Flexibility is key!
- Remember – teamwork makes the dream work! None of us perform in a bubble – everyone from the ticket takers to the artists to the lighting techs are essential. When you have an “it’s all about me” moment, go do jumping jacks and burpees until the delusion passes. Be a mensch, not a Pretty Prince(ss)!
Go forth, work HARD, enjoy the glammie gigs when they happen, and enjoy doing what you love and loving what you do! Dare to imagine, Laura
ImaginAerial invites you to tumble down the rabbit hole, as we bring you “Alice in Wonderland” as you’ve never seen it before!
- Alice, Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Caterpillar, Jabberwocky, Deck of Cards, and more!
- Aerialists, sideshow artists, acrobats, contortionists, stilt walkers, and all manner of cirque-style artists bring the characters to life.
- We also partner with companies like Fine Affairs, Inc to connect clients with props, decorations, storybook stands, and more!
ImaginAerial is the perfect addition to any winter or holiday event! From icy aerialists to acrobatic elves, we’ve got you covered.
- Winter themed acts in white, silver, and holiday colors.
- Free-standing rig available, can be covered with white masking, colored or white lights, or assorted greenery.
- Cirque-style acts, strolling tables, stilt walkers, living snow globes, and more!