Are you the stereotypical starving artist type or a confident belly dance entrepreneur? I’ve lost count of how many times people have told me there‘s no money in being an artist, and that I should pursuit a ‘proper job’ instead. But if that was the case, then the world would be a poorer place. Imagine if Beyonce, Darcey Bussell, Dina or (insert your own favorite artist name here) had believed that, and ignored their calling of being creative, just to hold down a 9-5 job instead?
Plenty of artists have made a living out of their art, but starting out and getting establish isn’t easy no matter what field you want to make a career in. So how do you thrive instead of just survive in a crowded marketplace? Here are a few overall points, which I feel apply to most artistic entrepreneurs.
If you want to be seen as a professional, you will need to act and think like one too. Decide how you want to be seen and what your unique selling point is. Are you a fantastic teacher, performer, event organiser, costume specialist or several of these rolled into one? If so, what makes you different from the dancer in the neighboring town?
Knowing yourself, your strengths and expertise will not only help you boost your confidence, but also help you market yourself.
Read my post on 10 marketing essential every dancer should know here.
If you just can’t work out what your USB (unique selling point) is, then try asking your students/clients what they like about your style of teaching/performing etc. You can then use these as testimonials afterwards, as well as cheering yourself up on those days when you just don’t feel you can deliver. And yes, everyone has those days and doubts…
Once you can see yourself as a true professional, you are also more likely to act like one, and what you send out into the world is what you will receive. Call it karma, God, the Universe, whatever floats your boat, this is how things work.
Have you ever noticed how some people just act with confidence and as a result seem to make things happen so much quicker and easier? It’s because other people will pick up on their confidence and energy, and respond accordingly. That is unfortunately also why con-artists exists, so don’t be fooled too easily, and also, don’t be one yourself. But ‘faking it until you make it’ is an effective way to adapt a professional mindset and get yourself on the right road to success.
Running your own business is a bit like driving a car. You need to pay attention to what’s going on around you, but don’t focus too much on others, as you’ll end up crashing or coming off course. Inspiration and knowing what the belly dance scene is doing is essential, but it’s also very easy to get carried away from your own path, because you think you should be following a certain trend. That applies to dancing as well as how you market yourself. You don’t need to, and can’t physically be, everything to everyone, so go back and look at your USB’s and how you want to get those across to your new clients. If you love posting on Instagram 5 times a day, then do continue to do so, but if your customers aren’t on there, and you don’t enjoy it, then don’t waste your time!
You are your own business, so take good care of yourself and run your business by your own rules and standards, assuming these are ethically correct and you don’t undercut or undermine your fellow dance colleagues. There can be a fine line between being a good and savvy belly-biz woman, and not treating your competition with respect and courtesy.
The dance community is small, so you are better of looking at other dancers as colleagues than cold hearted competitors that need to be eliminated (although some may indeed be like that). Getting on with your fellow dancers will not only leave you in a stronger position when it comes to reputation, but it will also mean you can utilise them should you need cover for a class/gig, get them and their students to attend your events (which means more bums on seats and therefore a win-win for all), as well as for networking/support, and yes karma. I do believe that ‘what comes around, goes around’ as I’ve seen this to be true over and over again.
Avoid wasting time and ensure people know what they get if attending your class/book you for a performance. By writing up a clear procedure for bookings, what to do in case of cancellation (on both sides), when refunds are issued etc. you save yourself a lot of waste time in the long run. You won’t have to reinvent the wheel every time a situation crops up that requires you to either refund or re-book .
It can also help you from offering discounts and refunds, when you shouldn’t. Some women feel terrible about taking money in the first place, and are therefore very quick to turn down money that is rightly theirs. But if you want to make a living as an artist, you need to get better at handling money in general. This is a big topic in its own right, and something I will cover in a separate post.
When working as a professional dancer, you can often forget just how essential it is to maintain time for being creative, but it’s what makes you uniquely YOU and therefore essential to your career. It’s easy to get bogged down in the business side of securing gigs and/or students, to ensure your weekly income. But setting aside time to run your business and then also setting a side time to just ‘create’ is essential for any artist. If you can also make time to cross train to ensure you keep your body strong and subtle, then you’ve secured an even better balance.
No matter how great an artist you are, you will need to look at securing other income streams, so start thinking about this right from the beginning. Beyonce, Darcey Bussell and Fifi Abdou, they’ve all understood that living of just one source isn’t viable should anything change – and things do change! What happens if you injure yourself and can’t perform anymore? Or the economy changes and the majority of your students disappear? Within your zone of genius you will need to look at other ways of making money. I’m for example using my knowledge about marketing and branding to assist charities and small business owners to develop their own.
For some it could also mean holding down a part-time job. Some love having two separate lives, whilst others hate it. But it doesn’t need to be the old cliché of the starving artist waiting tables until their big dream comes true! You can decide whether you can use your knowledge and experience to either become a multiple-entrepreneur and have two separate businesses, whether you want to secure yourself some create freelance work, that you can fit in around your dance business, or go down a more secure income route. A word of warning; successfully maintaining two separate businesses can be quite difficult, but not impossible, especially if your zone of genius can overlap both.
So what will you do to make your career thrive? Please let me know if you have already implemented any of these ideas, if you will do so, or if you have any other tips for running a successful dance business. I know these are just a few points of a very long list, but I still hope they may inspire you.
Happy thriving 🙂
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: 10 marketing essentials every dancer should know