Are You Ready to Go Pro?
It finally happened. Someone clicked the contact button on your brand-new website and asked you to come perform at their event. This is it—the big time. Your teacher has finally said, “Yeah, that act is ready to perform.” You’ve joined some Facebook groups that talk about professional practices; you’re up to date on Laura’s blog. And you’ve noticed, Hey! Professional rates are pretty high! I’m gonna make bank! Or at least finally pay myself back for the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on training…
Whoa, Sparkle-Party! Don’t throw that triple yet!
It’s true, there’s a substantial push in the aerial “industry” for charging appropriate professional fees. Being aware of the going price, not undercutting your fellow performers, and being willing to say to a client, “That’s what aerial entertainment costs. I’m sorry you can’t afford me.”
But are you ready to be in that price range? Are you, in fact, a professional? Find out with this simple quiz!
TRUE or FALSE?
- You know the market rate for different types of event, and you’re comfortable asking for it. You can assess the non-cash value of certain performing situations.
- You own your own equipment and rigging. If you offer a particular act, you own all necessary equipment to execute that act.
- You are comfortable rigging in a variety of situations (ceiling points, exposed beams, freestanding rigs). Even if you don’t rig your own equipment, you are able to judge whether a rigging situation is safe.
- You can adapt your act to a variety of heights, moods, themes and performance lengths. You know when to say, “Sorry, that act won’t fit, I’m out.” Or, “Sorry, that act won’t fit, how about this other act?” Or, “I don’t do that act, but Cindy-Lou does, why don’t I put you in touch with her?”
- You can guard your own safety at the event by being kind but firm about what un-contracted extras you are willing/not willing to do. You are flexible and try to give the client value for money. You will sometimes do un-contracted extras that are safe and a minimum of hassle, or in exchange for something else that was contracted.
- You don’t ask if your friends can come to the event.
- You own costumes suitable for varying levels of formality, and can adapt to many themes or color schemes. You have a list of your measurements that can be provided by hitting ‘reply’ when the costume person asks for your measurements, rather than four days later after you go buy a tape measure.
- You own necessary accessories/consumables like rosin, tape, dance belt, theatrical makeup, hairspray, and clean, modest, whole cover-up/warm-up clothing.
- You have a hairstyle that works with your costume, the theme and the act, and you can do your hair in the time allotted. You have a makeup look that suits your act, is visible from the audience, and stays put.
- Your warm-up adapts to the available space and cleanliness of the warm-up area.
- You know not to hand your own card to the client and you know why. You know not to talk to the client unless you are there alone or you are the designated person who talks to the client.
- You have a short, “agent-friendly” (no contact info) video clip when someone needs to show you to the client before booking or for performer approval. In the clip, you are wearing a costume and performing a routine.
BONUS: You are able to smile at the client and say “of course!” when they ask if you “do that thing where you wrap up and come down real fast.”
11-12 TRUE: Congratulations, you’re ready to ask for professional rates in exchange for your professional-caliber performance!
Less than 11: Sorry, you still have some things to learn!
The good news: these aren’t difficult to learn. If you’re not ready yet, start putting in the time. Ask professional performers if you can come to a gig as a stage manager or gofer, be genuinely useful, and watch how they work. Ask your school for performance opportunities where you can go as an intern or junior performer, and work on someone else’s equipment and wear someone else’s costume while you learn how to do the job. If you’re young enough to work for crap pay, apply for an official internship.
Start saving up for costumes and equipment. Take a rigging workshop. Practice makeup in the mirror (that’s the fun one!). Next time you’re in a student show, make sure you get good video from a couple of angles. Ask your teachers about their most recent performances. Role-play responding to client requests, reasonable and unreasonable (it doesn’t feel dumb when you do it in the car).
Most of all, be brave about being ignorant. If you see something you don’t understand, ask (privately, politely, and after the gig). Read online discussions. Listen more than you talk. Be humble. Be helpful. We—your fellow aerialists—want you to learn these things. We want you to be professional. It makes us all look better.
Allison Williams is the Artistic Director of Aerial Angels. (www.angelsintheair.com)
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