Yes, It IS Your Business! Or *A* Business, Anyway!

Posted by: on December 5, 2017

One thing I see again and again in our circus community is a near fanatical refusal to see ourselves – our talent, our skills, our offerings – as a business. Is it any wonder, then, that we’re asked all the time to work for free? The sooner we get on board with the business side of what we do, the sooner folks begin taking our work seriously. Because, even though we love it, it is WORK. Am I right? I’m totally right.

Are YOU a Business?

If you are trading (or hoping to, anyway) your time and talents for money, you are a business. If that thought makes you want to barf, you can think of this in any number of ways – you are an artistic product, a creative (business) entity, a glittery money magnet; however you want to think of it, if you are a professional trading goods or services for money, you’re a business. So, riddle me this: why aren’t you treating yourself that way?

For many of us, it’s that we signed up to be artists, not business people.  LEGIT! Sadly, this changes nothing. You have two choices: 1 – run your own business, or 2) pay someone to do it for you (agent or manager). Many of us come down with a foot in both camps, which is also fine, so long as we’re working our hustle. But what does it MEAN to run a business?

The Basics

Whether you’re selling widgets or a lyra act, the mechanics are surprisingly similar.

  • Idea/Product/Talent – whatcha selling? Cube act? Handbalancing? Artsy stuff? Get clear on what you’re offering and who your audience/client/buyer is.
  • Maintain Basic Standards of Professionalism – your work should be professional level, and you should be able to supply everything you need to do your work (rigging, apparatus, costume, makeup, etc.).
  • Procedures & Operations – your rules and policies (yes, you have these as an individual), and how your business works. Do you require 50% to hold the date? Do you have a 3 week booking deadline? How do people work with you? Any and all policies and the *how to* of your business should be clearly written down. **Note: make it EASY for people to hire you.
  • Marketing & Promotion – how do you spread the word about your awesomeness? Are you being consistent?
  • Finances/Pricing – what do you charge? Don’t reinvent the wheel every time – flexibility is fine (HA!), but aim for the same ballpark. Make sure you’re factoring in your expenses, everything from insurance to gas and tolls, and PAYING YOURSELF. Got a total? You need to charge more than that. Also – get a good tax person.
  • Your Team – who keeps you fabulous? As circus artists, we often have: costumer, PT, tax lady, acupuncturist, massage therapist, apparatus supplier, graphic designer, etc. Keep ’em on speed dial!
  • Hustle/Entrepreneurial Spirit – your act ain’t gonna sell itself, m’dear! Refine your hustle every damned day. Return emails and phone calls PROMPTLY, let people know you’re out there, fine tune your professionalism, be the artist who creates solutions not problems, etc.

When You Meet Resistance

Many artists think it’s somehow traitorous to treat this industry like the business it is. If you’re one of them, I strongly suggest you get an agent, or get so damned good that people will put up with your crappy business practices.

If you just have no idea where to start, I’ll share with you a life-changing piece of advice: google that sh*t up. You are NOT the first person to ever ask a question. How much should aerial artists charge? Google it. Where to get a freestanding aerial rig? Google it. How to sew a spandex costume? Google it. After you’ve consulted the Google Oracle, get the Facebook groups to weigh in (search aerial arts, circus, etc – join those groups!).  Ask your peers. Ask your coaches. Subscribe to all the circus blogs (there are a lot of them). Call local circus schools. Don’t stop until you have an answer (or 20). It was suggested to me a few weeks ago that the younger generation doesn’t know how to google, to which I say bullsh*t. Don’t expect information to be spoon fed to you. Take charge of your education, your business, and your career, or you will never thrive in this industry.

**Note that FB  & public forum chats are with the community at large, so mind your P’s & Q’s – folks in this industry have a loooooong memory. Be polite, and try not to get yourself blacklisted before you get out of the gate.

Whether you’re a born entrepreneur, or someone for whom the very thought of sending out a newsletter makes your skin crawl, it’s all the same: love it or hate it, it’s a business. Treat it that way. Dare to imagine, Laura

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