Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dancers are Businesspeople too.

Some just haven't realized it yet. I was one of them.

Growing up, I was never the entrepreneurial type. I was never interested in money management, budgeting, or being frugal. That sort of thing was just too... practical.

Now, as I find myself in the throes of adulthood, I am finding that I probably should have cared more about how to keep track of my finances when I was younger. Because now, I am a small business owner. How did that happen?

I never imagined myself to be a small business owner, and yet, as a self-employed dancer and instructor I am, indeed, just that. I pay taxes on my earnings, itemize my business expenses, and own a BlackBerry to keep in better touch with anyone who needs to reach me regarding dance. I have to market myself, network with other dancers, send out contracts, manage my website, and even brand myself and my dancing.*

As artists, the business end of things is often the last thing we consider. We are so consumed with creating, capturing inspiration, improving our technique, and sharing our creations with others (often other artists) that we forget that we have a business to run. When I remember that dance is business, I am reminded of the following, some of which come naturally to me, and others which continue to be difficult every day:

  • My promotional materials must be clear, informative, catchy, and without typos or spelling mistakes.

  • My behavior in public, dance events or otherwise, must be professional, calm, and collected. I can be quirky and odd, but never displaying out-of-control anger or frustration.

  • I must keep good records of my expenses and earnings.

  • I must return e-mails and phone calls in a timely and prompt manner.

  • I must consider those who take my classes, watch my performances, and hire me for workshops as clients. I am providing them a service.

  • I must be open to changing my business practices, including how I teach my classes how I market myself, and how I communicate with my clients.

  • Public criticism, regardless of its validity, is still better than not being mentioned at all.

  • I must not take public criticism personally, but I should "try it on" to see if it fits (thank you Frank Gehry for that imagery). Unconstructive criticism reflects more about the one doing the criticizing than it does about me, my dancing, or my instruction.

  • I must keep my eyes open for inspiration all the time, not only for my dance, but in how I present myself as a businesswoman.

  • I must never ever make promises or commitments to others in the business (or anyone else for that matter) that I cannot or do not intend to keep.

  • Most importantly, I must never forget that I am a businesswoman, a professional.

What does being a professional dancer mean to you?

*One of the reasons I chose the tagline "Modern Tribal Bellydance" is to give my business (i.e. me and my dancing) something that people could latch on to. Now every product I produce will have "Modern Tribal Bellydance"--business cards, my advertisements, my instructional DVD, my website--somewhere on it.


She-burtsy said...

Frank odd. I recognized that quote immediately. It's strange to me that you would be familiar with some of the same random, semi-obscure stuff I am.

the ineffable b said...

I agree with the points you touched on regarding being a businesswoman. One aspect of Kallisti Tribal and our semi-success in our small little pond is that we do view Kallisti as a busines and I, likewise, see Lyra as a business. We have talks about how to present/market ourselves, which gigs and shows are best for us image-wise and will raise our public profile, we have a standard "brand" to our fliers and business cards that reinforces our style and we always work our hardest to assert our strengths.

One interesting thing about this is that I think my experience as a freelance designer has really shaped how I approach bellydance. As a designer, I have to constantly evaluate myself as a commodity. I look at my capabilities, strengths and experience and, from that, decide how to position and market myself as such. I do the same for dance. I look at Kallisti and/or Lyra and jot down strengths (sassiness, good crowd interaction, troupe dynamic, etc.) and all of those items are taken into account when we book shows, I teach classes , etc. I think it's done well so far as I think we've found a place where we are a bit different from what is in our immediate area and we do have something unique to offer.

I find that there is also a large amount of selfishness that goes into being a paid artist. And I don't view "selfishness" as a bad quality, per se. You have to know what you've got and own it, then make sure you keep it sell-able, true to your intent and competitive. All of those things together make for a good commodity and continue to grow your career, versus stagnation or self-deprication.

There's my two cents! Love this blog :)