Category: business

Marketing for Dancers – an Introduction

Illustration of how marketing is split up

When you want to kickstart your dance career or any endeavour in the dance industry, you will need some marketing. Marketing is a term that is often misinterpreted and misunderstood. I love the simple definition from Seth Godin’s blog:

If you need to persuade someone to take action, you’re doing marketing.

Seth Godin

It means whenever we try to make people take our classes, watch our work or click one of our links; we are marketing. Easy as that. In our daily dance business work, marketing is the equivalent of customer service and customer acquisition. But we hate to call it like that.

You can split it into brand marketing and direct marketing.

Brand Marketing is the way that big brands used back in the days when all the hype and the best options you had were tv ads, billboards and ads in magazines. The concept is to expose as many people to your brand message and establish an image in their minds. When you remember who is behind the slogans “connecting people” or “just do it”, you saw brand marketing at its finest in action. For some applications, brand marketing is still the way to go. For entrepreneurs like freelance dancers, it is not. The goal is brand marketing is to reach as many people as possible. As many as possible means high investment in either cash or time. We don’t have the time, and we don’t want to spend our money on people that will not support.

Direct Marketing is an approach where you try to expose only the right people to your message and ignore everyone else. Another difference to brand marketing is that you want people to do some specific, like book a class. It’s not about your image, but your offer. We are not aiming for maximum reach, but for a good percentage between people reached to people who finally accept our offer.

Some of you may already see that I talk about how we can measure our marketing success in the last sentences of the paragraphs above. We will not dive deeper into this today, but for sure later down the road – first, some more general things about marketing.

When you talk about your work to make people come and watch or participate, that is marketing. When you do it without the intention to market, it is as well.

When you post on social media, that is marketing. When other people talk about your work or post on social media, that is marketing as well. And it is free and reaches people that you won’t reach on your own.

1.000 True Fans

The best marketing you can get is still fans talking about your work. They will praise what you do and recommend you to others. They work as your free army of marketers without you getting involved. Kevin Kelly published the idea of 1.000 True Fans in 2008. It has since then become one of the most used approaches to creating a sustainable income for artists.

The basic idea behind the 1.000 True Fans is that you don’t need to become a star with millions of followers to make a decent living. What you need are 1.000 True Fans (in other places they are called Superfans) that are into your work that they will practically consume everything you release. I am not talking about Followers or Likes. True Fans would travel 300 miles to see the new piece you created. They would join a class or workshop you give. They would also buy a DVD or pay to download a movie. They would attend the events you create, and they would purchase merchandise if you had it. They also would support crowdfunding campaigns of yours because they want to see what you make of it.

Just to support the idea with numbers: when you manage to sell 50 bucks of work to 1.000 people you made 50.000. Remove half to be safe on taxes, and you still have 25.000. Most people can make a living from that, as it is over 2k per month after tax.

So the point of our marketing is to find 1.000 people who love what we do. Those 1.000 will become your stable source of income and act as recruiters for new True Fans as well as regular customers who only consume some of your work.

How will we approach to find our True Fans?
By engaging in work that is meaningful to us and sharing it with the world. Do you remember Your Bigger Picture? Your True Fans share your vision, that is why you need to know it. If you keep working on projects that play into that vision, they will follow. And they will tell others about it.

How to find those guys?

These are the marketing tools that we can utilise, but they are only the transport vehicle of our message.

  • Direct Contact. It’s still #1 to find and create True Fans. People who see your work live and enjoy it are likely to check out what you do next.
  • Social Media is the #2 way of connecting at the moment of this writing, but not as good for bonding with your True Fans as the next.
  • #3 Your Website and Email list are often neglected since the rise of social media. The advantage of them is that they are your property. When any given social media platforms change their algorithm of presenting your content, you can not do anything about it. If they shut-down, all your contacts are gone. That is not likely to happen soon, but you never know. Social Media is also an open experience; anyone can join. For bonding purposes, it is far more effective to create an intimate and exclusive atmosphere.

Far behind those 3 are other methods like print ads, media coverage, tv shows, guerilla (or ninja) marketing ideas and everything else. There are applications where these OTHER methods can help and give your reputation a push, but they are situational. We will deal with all of the above topics in detail.

Crafting your message

No matter what vehicle we choose to transport our message, its content is what matters most. It is our promise what people can expect from us. If we can deliver on this promise, again and again, our circle will grow and eventually we will hit a thousand.

Go back to your bigger picture and think about which kind of people would share your vision. Don’t think about it as a mass of people, think about it as your one perfect fan. If you can see clearly how she ticks, what she wants from life and what she wants from you, you will know what you have to deliver.

What do you want them to do?

The second part is to find out what you want them to do, if they share your vision. In short, you want them to be part of your journey by consuming your offers. You already know what you offer from Your Dance Business Set-Up. If you missed this one, go back and read it now.

How to be a good dance teacher – an overview

An illustration of the topic

Starting now, we will take a closer look at our primary work fields of dance. I begin with teaching as it is one that applies to most of us, and I consider it to be the most reliable one.

A good teacher should bring the following:

The Curriculum

Your curriculum is the content of your classes. You decide what to teach and in which order. A lot of people copy the curriculum of their teachers without changing or questioning it. That is a bad practice. Your teacher, most likely, has another pool of knowledge and experiences as you have. Creating your curriculum and writing it down makes you think about how you want to approach teaching others. It streamlines the whole process and helps you to refine it. Having your curriculum in writing also helps you to keep track of what you did and what you will do, you can use it to promote your classes or hand it out to the students as a reminder.

For example, when teaching breaking, I do not show the six-step in the first lesson. Some of my colleagues think this is a sacrilege, as the step is considered the base of footwork. I agree that it is a crucial step, but I believe that someone who has never moved on the floor before, is not ready to do this in a way that makes sense immediately. So I teach them basic positioning on the floor, the Russian, CCs, Scrambles and Back-Shuffles before moving on to the six-step. These more manageable steps help the people to develop a feeling for floorwork and approach the six-step differently as when I would jump directly into it.

You don’t have to take this idea into your curriculum. But as I have my thoughts behind doing so, you will have your intentions why you would do things a certain way. Let these thoughts influence how you teach.

Don’t limit your curriculum to moves. Add space for explaining music, history, concepts and everything else you consider valuable when approaching dance. Show the ways dance is done – in cyphers, battles or on stage with fixed choreography. Give them the whole package.

But on the other hand: Be real! Don’t put stuff in your curriculum that you don’t understand. If your students ask for it, be honest about it and give them what you know, but point out that it’s wise to ask someone else as well for the topic.

The Toolbox

I stole the idea of the toolbox from Steven King. He writes about it in the book “On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft”. Your toolbox is your set of methods that you can use to teach what you know. The important word is “can”. You don’t have to use all the tools all the time, but you want to have them with you when you need them.

A plumber might only need one tool when coming to a clients house to fix an issue. But he does not know which device he will need. So he brings all his tools and chooses on-site.

It’s the same with teaching. On the top of your toolbox you have “show and tell”. It means you show what you want the students to learn and explain. It’s your everyday tool. If the students get what you want, you don’t need anything else. Job done. But otherwise, you will reach back into your toolbox and use some progressions to get the harder moves by learning prerequisites first and then drill them to make the guys fluent. You might throw in some practise games, include peer learning – where the students teach and correct each other – or call and response exercises. I will present all the tools that I know over time. For now, I want you to think about what methods you know and add them to your curriculum, so you don’t forget them. There might be some gems that you rarely use.

Understanding the Needs of your Students

Talking to and understanding your students is not directly teaching, but it is crucial to understand who they are and what they need. I recommend you dedicate a few minutes at the beginning of each class to talking and listening. Ask how they have been, how practice went and from time to time if there are particular topics they want to explore. When you ask how training went, you also imply that they work on the stuff outside. When some of them do, it should motivate others to do so as well.

Don’t make this all about small talk. Ask and listen to understand, not with the intention to reply. Use what you learn to improve your teaching.

On the other side: if you understand what the students need, but they don’t – tell them. It is your job to make them dance and grow. When they ask for things they don’t need, bring them back on track. Otherwise, you are in danger to become a dancing animator or a best-friend replacement. Ignore this piece of advice if that is your niche – it’s a viable one if you want to fill that role.

Artisan or Originator? Supporter or Maker?

Two scales with artisan-originator and maker-supporter label

Today we will answer two more questions before we move into the nitty-gritty and details of our dance business.
Question #1 is: “Are you an artisan or an originator”?
Question #2 is: “Are you a maker or a supporter”?
Most people tend to answer these questions with Originator and Maker. That is what we want to be, and that is fine. But for most of us, it is also dishonest with ourselves and therefore unfair to ourselves.

To be sure, we are talking about the same things; I will briefly explain what I mean when I use the four terms.

An originator is someone who paves the way for something new. He is the pioneer — someone who either creates a new game or changes the rules in an existing one. In our scene, an originator would be, i.e. someone who created a dance style or at least a proper amount of new moves. Maybe it is a choreographer who developed a new way to create pieces or a coach who has a revolutionary method to train and motivate his students. It’s also the dancer who we can’t classify into a specific style because he does not stick to the rules of someone else.

An artisan is someone who learns as much as possible about his craft. She can also create new things from there, but the impact is not as significant as from an originator. Often the artisan has a broader knowledge than the originator, but it does not reach as deep. In our scene, this would be everyone who learns the roots of a style and how it works. We can classify their dance as a specific style that someone else created.

The supporter is someone who helps other people to reach their goals and rock their projects. In our scene, these would be all the guys who help to organise events, dance in the pieces that others produce and try to be helpful wherever they can.

Makers act on themselves and usually, they rely on supporters to help them. Makers are the ones who start projects when they think something is missing or needs to be changed. They are the motors that keep the scene alive.

Of course, the reality is not black and white, and one can be a little bit of both in both cases. Once again being honest with yourself is the key. If you never started nor finished a project because you thought it needs to be done, you are probably not a maker. When you learn all the details of a given dance style and insist that it has to look a certain way, you are an artisan – no question.

It is imperative to understand that these terms are not judging about the value of someone. Originators and Artisans, Makers or Supporters. There is no one better than the other.

The reason why we ask the question of what we are is that it helps us to understand and create our business. As mentioned in Your Bigger Picture, we use the insights from those questions to be authentic and consistent.

If we are an artisan, we want our message to be about honing our craft and taking it to the next level. As an originator we don’t want to talk about playing by the rules because we don’t – we make them.
The maker’s promise is about making things happen (that’s why we call them maker) and the supporter helps the makers succeed. There is a place and a need for every role.

The thing you want to avoid is to build your promise or your message in the wrong way. Don’t pretend you are someone you are not, because people sense and avoid fake people. Believe that you are needed the way you are.

Answer those two questions! We will create our business and marketing strategies on the answers.

Your Bigger Picture

A character talking about the Bigger Picture

This week we will look into two important questions that help us to make our dance business a thriving one, instead of an exhausting but unsatisfying hustle.

Today it is about “The Bigger Picture”. Usually, the bigger picture comes up when somebody tells us to think again, think about the future or don’t think so egocentric. The Bigger Picture focusses on a greater good. And exactly there is the issue with The Bigger Picture.

The Bigger Picture is a subjective vision of how the world (or anything if we talk about a specific topic) should be. So everybody has a different bigger picture. Knowing your better vision of a future is essential, and it is a shame why so many people don’t even think about it. So take a moment to go deep inside yourself an think about how you would design a better future for everyone.

In my Bigger Picture, people would spend their lives doing work they loved, expressing themselves honestly and appreciate time over money. That is oversimplified, but it covers the key points.

So why do we need to know that? How does it help our business? FraGue, stop preaching, start talking business.

When you understand how your own bigger picture looks like, you can use it to kickstart everything you do. The reason is that your subconsciousness knows your bigger picture very well. It knows what you wish and hope. And it is honest and direct. It will cheer for you and help you work when you move towards your bigger picture. But if you don’t, that bitch will sabotage you at every step along the road. It will do so by presenting a million possibilities to do something else, to procrastinate and it will pull you down into a swamp of distraction or unhappiness. You don’t want to mess with your subconsciousness. It runs the show a lot more than we are willing to see.

And to finally get to the points:
1) Choosing your business components: Your work will prosper more when you have your subconsciousness cheering. So don’t take jobs that influence the world in the other direction or compose your portfolio from activities you despise.
2) Promotion & Marketing: When you start to promote your work, you want to reach the right people. You don’t want to reach everyone. Because not everyone is interested in what you do. Reread the last two lines. The good thing about this is that you can focus on talking to the right people. The ones that want what you can offer. When you start to promote your work, you make a deal with people. You make an offer of what they can expect when they follow your work. People might join you or not. Those who do, follow you because they liked the original offer. If you change your offer, they might go somewhere else. So you should not change your offer without a good reason. The best way to stay consistent with what you do is to work on a future you believe in. Work on making your bigger picture a reality.

Planning Your Dance Business – The Satisfaction Side

FraGue stating that it works but he hates it

In the last weeks, we took an in-depth look at our own skillset and calculated the numbers that we need to survive while following our passion, either as a full-time job or side-hustle. Side-hustle makes the whole thing sound more doable, which is great, but it will still be a major hustle.

To set us up for success in this endurance game, we will also take our emotional state into consideration. If there are multiple options on the table on how we can compose our own dance menu, then we should also include the following questions into the decision-making process.

  1. Do I enjoy the work I will be doing?
  2. Can or will I be proud of the work?
  3. How much of it can I actually handle?

These three questions and the money questions from the last week will help us identify what composition is most likely to work for us in the long run.

When you followed the last weeks, you already know that I consider teaching as the most stable form of income. Once in my dance career, it was in the years from 2012 to 2014, I taught 10 classes a week – a total of 12,5 hours of teaching plus 6 hours of way, as not all studios were in my town. For some months this was fine, but I tired fast, and soon I was not happy anymore with the amount of giving classes. I was and am still proud of teaching as I can give back to the culture that is with me for almost twenty years now and seeing my own students progress is simply amazing. But I had to reduce the number of courses as otherwise, I would have burnt-out. I reduced to only 3 classes a week and was able to keep going.

When the questions above don’t raise any concerns about your plan: perfect, stop thinking, start doing. But if they do, consider taking the work field only as a small part overall and not as your primary source of income.
If this is the case with more or all of the work fields in your set-up, it might be wise to ease into it slowly and increase the amount of time spent. Keeping your day job while testing out the waters might seem unambitious to some hot shots, but for most of us, it is a smart thing to do.

Here is to work we can be proud of, that keeps us sane and well-fed.

via GIPHY

Calculating your real expenses

Excel sheet of an example calculation

Yesterday I posted an article about how to plan your business when we only talk about the numbers. It was all about mapping out the road in front of you considering the financial side of things. We need to think about these points to estimate how we price our shows, products or dance classes.

Mike, the CEO of Rookies at Work, gave me the feedback that I might consider some things in the process to be self-explanatory when in reality they are not. I reread the post and have to say he is right.

Especially when I say “calculate your fixed costs”. For some people, this is obvious stuff, but for someone who never did it before that is clearly not enough to get it. So here is everything you need to know:

Your fixed costs are the expenses you have every month. It is the amount of money you need every month for sure. The math is simple. Just add everything that you spend. Here is a list of positions that can be part of your fixed costs, but there might be more.

  • Your rent.
  • Heating might be on top.
  • Electricity.
  • Insurance for the flat.
  • Insurance for your freelance job.
  • Payments for a car, if you have one. Also the costs for fuel and the insurance you need for the car.
  • Food
  • Partying
  • Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify or any other subscriptions you use
  • Costs for your website
  • Services that make your business easier (ie Dropbox, Grammarly, any social media scheduling tools, …)
  • Costs for your internet connection
  • Your phone bill
  • Your daily coffee or snacks that you shop in between
  • Private doctors if your insurance does not cover them
  • Medication if you need it
  • Clothes
  • Practise room rent or training fees
  • non-fiction books you read to improve what you do
  • postal sendings if you utilise them
  • fees of people that work for you, when you outsource stuff

Just think about everything you spend. If you are not into researching it, track your expenses for a month, and you should be good to go. In fact, I recommend tracking your expenses constantly. This raw data will come in handy later in our business running process.

Planning Your Business – The Numbers Game

Two Pillars with a gap

The next step in being successful with our dance career is having a game plan. It is about knowing what to do to reach our goals money-wise and also from a satisfaction perspective. Today it is about the numbers. You need to evaluate your situation with brutal honesty and set a goal. From there we reverse engineer all the steps that are needed to make it happen. I will take you through this process step by step. This process is there to define your personal goals. They are ultimately what defines where you are going. Let’s call it the B-Boy/B-Girl or Hip Hop Dance Business Blueprint.

The following calculation uses numbers after tax. Meaning you calculate with the amount that stays with you after paying your taxes. How much you have to pay depends on the country you live in and the amount of money you earn. In most states, there is a certain threshold of earnings before you have to pay any taxes, and from there you have a progression of percentages you have to pay.

For the exact amount you have to put aside, you must inform yourself about your local tax laws as I can not cover that in detail. The best thing you can do is to talk to an accountant.

Many people think it is smart to start under the radar without invoices and illicit work. I don’t. If you have the fiscal authorities after you, your life is hell. So do this right.

Grab a notebook and a pen. If you want you can use something digital too, but I prefer the oldschool way for work like this because it keeps me away from distractions. Think about the following points and take down notes. 

  1. How much money do you need to survive? Consider only your fixed cost per month and add 20% as a security buffer. If you are not certain about how to do that, check out this post about calculating your monthly expenses.
  2. How much do you want? Be honest. This number can be as high or low as you desire. 
  3. How much do you earn at the moment from dance-related sources?
  4. How much do you earn at the moment from other sources? 
  5. How much spare time do you have? 
  6. How much savings do you have?   

You see that all of those questions started with how much. The thing is: the planning we are doing is a numbers game, like every business. We are all here for the love of the dance but making a business work is knowing your numbers. Don’t forget that and don’t wing it.

You now know: 

  • Your short term (what we need to survive) and long term (what we want) goals of income. 
  • Your current situation. This gives us the difference we have to take care of aka the mileage we have to run before we win. 
  • Your resources (savings, current income, spare time). 
  • The things you can do from the last two posts about your possibilities and your dance business set up.

Calculating time again. You take the difference between your next goal (either fixed cost or desired income) and your current situation. Now you check what it would need to fill the gap with dance-related work. Sketch out multiple options, taking all the primary and secondary work fields that you found in the prior tasks into consideration. Draw one scenario for creating all the needed income with one primary work field only and one scenario for splitting it up over multiple work fields. Develop as many different but possible scenarios as you can. Write them down. Then walk away for a day or more. 

Come back and check your developed options. Throw the ones that feel wrong away, burn them or get rid of them however you prefer. Take the remaining scenarios and think them through. Do you have one that works with your current resources? For example, you need to teach 2 more classes to reach your break-even point (where you earn what you need to survive). Do you have spare time for two classes? If the answer is yes: great. You found one way that is working without having to change a lot. Check all of your remaining options, just to check if there are more of the viable. 

If there is only one option working, congratulations. Stop calculating, start executing

If there are multiple options that might work, choose one. Roll a dice or flip a coin if you are indecisive. Making that decision is progress. Then start executing

If you have no options that seem to work, you must free some time. This can be done by either stopping or reducing the time you spend in front of the TV, video games or social media or by reducing the hours you work in your regular job. If you work in a steady job that covers your fixed cost, you can take your time because you are not losing any money. Start by finding those additional hours that you can turn into dance related income. If you work 9 to 5 you can teach, practise, rehearse or choreograph in the evening and perform, compete or teach at the weekends. 

As soon as you have a small income built, you gradually shift hours from your regular job to the dance. This transition can be as fast or slow as you are comfortable with. In order for this to happen with as little extra stress as possible, I recommend taking your time. 

Example Calculation

Here you find an example on how to do the whole calculation. My tool of choice for doing anything math is either Google Sheets or Excel. In case you need a short introduction into this; let me know either in the comments or on social media. If enough people are asking, I will cover that in a post.

Calculation Example
An example of the calculation done in Google Sheets
(the table calculation inside Google Docs)

short term goal: fixed cost of 1.300 
long term goal: desired income of 3.500 
income from a regular 20h job: 800
you don’t watch tv at night because you are busy practising with your crew
no savings 

Primary work fields you consider valuable for yourself: performing & teaching, you love to battle but are not good enough to win major comps. 
You and crew are doing regional small jams. 

We need to close the gap from your income to your fixed cost first: this is 500 bucks.

You know that the shows you can do with your crew pay approx. 250 per gig. So you can dance two shows per month. Or you can find a studio that pays you about 70 per weekly class that you teach and do two of them. 

You want to do all shows but are uncertain if you can land 2 gigs a month in the beginning. Therefore you decide to start 1 dance class and go for as many shows as possible with the crew. The one class takes away from your practise time but brings in some money. 

For some month you are landing the shows as planned but then, you don’t book any shows for some month. You decide to go for another two classes because you don’t want to fall below you fixed cost again. With the 3 classes you earn about 200 (not all of them are full enough to pay 70) per week which adds up to 800. Together with 800 from your day job you have a stable 1.600 with fixed costs of 1.300. You did it. 

Before we take this new situation as our starting point and work our way up to the desired goal, let’s take a break and check what happened. 

In the example above we did not drop our day job. If we wanted to get rid of this one we would need to carry 500 more. If you keep that additional job it is highly recommended to swap it for a job that favours your dance stuff. 

One of our decisions did not work: we wanted to cover our difference with teaching and performing. Performances did not work, so we shifted towards teaching. It could have gone the other way around. 

Let’s keep going. 

Our new difference is 1.900 as we need to work out way from 1.600 up to 3.500.
We still work 20 hours regular, teach 4,5 hours and have travel time to the studios of another 2 hours per week.
We still have plenty of time to practise. 

For the sake of simplicity, we calculate classes with 200 a month and shows with 250 (you should make better deals if you can). 
You can either teach 10 additional classes, do 8 shows a month or try a combination of both. 
When you live in a big city it might be possible to teach 13 classes a week but in the bigger cities, there are often a lot of teachers too. 
Booking two shows a week isn’t exactly easy either. Any combination might be hard because if you book shows outside town you will miss classes. 

So what can you do? 

If you favour teaching: Try teaching classes in the suburbs outside of town or cities nearby. If you have teaching days “abroad” with 3 or more classes this will add up fast. Just don’t forget to calculate with travel cost and your loss of time.

If you favour performing: Create a show with a few people and get an agency that takes care of your booking. If you have nobody to perform with, find an agency that sends you to auditions that might book you bigger jobs. 

If you want to do both: Get a friend from your crew or somebody else who has the same or a better level as you to do your classes while you are performing. If you have to cancel your classes for performances, they will be gone soon. 

Switch your day job when you have the possibility to get one of the secondaries that help your dance career. For example, start working at that artist agency when they hire. 

You know the goal and you can take your steps. I could calculate the example to the end but there is no difference to the first half of the trip. There are no shortcuts, just taking one step after the other. 

Start now, do your work … and you will make it. 

Your dance-business set-up

a brainstorm of work fields with some of them marked with color

We already talked about the abstract work that needs to go into the creation of your sustainable dance business and rolled up the most common options you can put work into.

Today I want to explore how to set up your activities for a balanced way of working. I hope you made a list of the things you consider possible for yourself, as suggested in my last post. It will make the following step much more accessible. If you did not, consider going back to this post and take a few minutes to compile your list.

What you are looking for is a combination of activities that a) provide a steady flow of income, b) you love to do, c) that synergise well and d) can support you even when you are not able to dance for a while.
The most common combination within the people that I know is the Performing, Teaching combo with an added secondary work field that has benefits for the other two.

Examples are Performing, Teaching and Event Management or Performing, Teaching and DJing/Music Production. I ran with Performing, Teaching and theatre and movie production for many years before the birth of my daughter.

This combination is prevalent because performing is one thing that most dancers love, and teaching is the most reliable source of income. When you pair them with event-management, you are doing community building, which pushes your reputation and makes more people come to your performances and classes. When paired with DJing/music production you can book a gig at dance events or sell your music to dancers. We are searching for these synergies.

Look at your list of things you can do. Define one primary activity that sounds like reliable, steady income (making the obvious choice of teaching here is not a bad thing). Now pick the one that you really want to do.
If you think that this combo can provide enough money for you, you are already good to go, when you have big balls. I recommend incorporating a secondary work field that plays into your primary ones or simply helps you build your name. You can also work with two secondaries, but you should have a reason to do so.

I will use my current situation as an example:
After the birth of our daughter, I stopped travelling for dancing because I wanted to be around. This immediately stopped my income stream from performing. I also was not able to teach on a regular schedule anymore. (We had a hard start due to medical conditions). What I did was starting to write, as I had the opportunity to do so for Rookies at Work, the agency I was with from the beginning. Here I had my secondary work field covering all the expenses from my family and me. As I write exclusively about dance topics, this work is definitely based on my dance knowledge. Now, as the child starts to go into daycare and my wife and I get used to our new parent-lifestyle, I develop some in-depth workshops so I can start to teach again. I also plan to publish some literature about dance topics. Finally, when the time comes, I will start a new movie project. In that case, I would have one primary field and two secondaries. The reason for that is that I value the time with my family more than being away for rehearsals and performances all the time.

Another point to keep in mind is that your decision is not final. You can always adapt along the road and change your activities, when new circumstances demand a different treat. But as long as you go with a set-up, you should be commited to make it work.

TL;DR: Pick a combination of 2 to 4 activity from your list from my last post and choose which combination works well by considering the following criteria:

  • what provides a steady income (you need one)
  • what do you love to do (to keep you hungry)
  • what can you do to add people to your active activities or build your reputation

Be courageous and share your setup in the comments.

Possibilities to build your dance business around

Sketch of different dance business ideas

Last week we talked about the elements that we need to master to run a dance business (and I strongly believe it is the same for almost every other business). What we did not cover are the actual possibilities that we have to create income with. I separate those into primary possibilities and secondary ones. The primary ones being the things that directly involve your dancing skills and the secondary ones being things that you can apply your dance knowledge to and therefore turn them into dance-related work.

Let’s look at the primary ones. While all of these are very diverse on the inside, you can split it up into four general activities.

Performing

Performing can be summed up by “dancing for an audience”. It is not relevant what kind of “piece” you perform or in what “stage situation”. Productions can be contemporary pieces, dance theatre, muscials, commercial shows, streetshows and performing for movies, music videos or ads in front of a camera. If you put in the work, performing can bring you a stable income.

For most of us performing is done on a freelance base where you write an invoice and must take care of everything tax-related yourself. If you are really lucky you can get into a standing company that can employ you. In this case, they would pay for your insurance and tax. The downside of performing is that it is not completely in your hand how many shows you can do, because you never know how many gigs you will book.

Teaching

Out of these four primary work fields teaching is the one that is most reliable in terms of a steady income. It might not be the one you can earn the most money with, but it provides a good amount of stability and security. As soon as you have your classes established and running you know how many people come to you. Therefore you know how much cash will be in your pocket at the end of the month.

Teaching can be done as a freelancer or employed. Depending on the laws in your country, only one of these options might be legal. The downside of teaching: if you have a lot of classes it might feel like a regular job and can get boring if you are not good at motivating yourself.

Choreography

Creating the choreography for performances, shows or camerawork is one of the opportunities that can earn you a lot of money in a short time. If you are booked by a big production to do this job you develop the dance and rehearse with the cast until they can do it. Then your job is done.

While they do the performances, you are already good to go and work on the next job. Downside: You need some strong references or a good network to book the jobs that pay well.

Competing

You can earn money by winning battles. There is price money out there. But the events that have a proper amount of it are rare, and the competition is fierce. If you are not top of the pops – this will not work.

In my opinion, competitions should never be seen as an income stream. There are other reasons to join competitions like building your name, testing your skills and having fun, but for most of us, it is not an option to rely on.

So far so good, let’s look into some secondary possibilities that can directly benefit your dance career development:

Working in or running an artist agency

An evergreen that has tremendous value. If you are doing the booking in an agency that books dancers you might be able to book some good jobs for yourself or for your crew. As no serious agency gives gigs to people they don’t know you are going to meet a lot of people aspiring to a dance career that might be future colleagues on stages.

Therefore you are sitting on the source for jobs and potential new colleagues. Of course, your agency needs to be cool with you doing this, but if you do great work and have the skills to convince on stage, there should not be a problem. On a side note: if you are running the agency yourself it’s no problem at all.

Producing stage pieces

This one is big. It is a shitload of work but can pay off. I live in Austria and at the time I started there was no hip hop dance theatre in the country. In 2006 we started working on changing that – and we did. In the last 10 years, Austrian dance companies, crews and solo artists created more than 15 pieces in a genre that did not exist before in our country. I call this good work. *brofist to everyone who did a piece or show, you guys know who you are*

At the start, most people tend to choreograph and dance in the pieces they produce. So you just created the opportunity for you to do more work. If you are creating pieces for more dancers, you start meeting new people again and grow your network.

Making the event

Creating Dance Events is as big as producing for the stage. You help your scene to grow. You build opportunities and depending on your kind of event you get to dance yourself. Possible events are jams, competitions, theatre, workshops and so on. You can get really creative with this one. The best thing about making events happen is that you really meet a lot of people that dance too. If you treat them well they will eventually become a great addition to your professional network.

And now on to some possibilities that where you can fill a niche that might be unreachable for someone without dance background.

This list is a little bit longer and more creative than the one before. Most of the following jobs are perfectly doable without any knowledge about dance. But being able to dance or having the daily practise that you need to stay on top of your game will give you an edge here. In some cases, you can use your knowledge to become an expert in a niche, which is always an advantage. The list is in no specific order.

Photography/Videography

I put those two together, which does not mean you need to do both, but all points are valid for both. Every event that wants to grow requires proper documentation or ads. As a dancer, you have a better understanding of what to shoot and can produce better images. You can also use this to create products like photo books, prints or movies that might give you some income through sales.

Writing

Dancing is trendy at the moment, and a lot of companies are investing in the scene to grow their revenue. If there is some expert knowledge needed for blogs, copy or whatever, your experience sets you apart from the people who can write but know nothing (like john snow). If you have valuable stuff to say you might be able to publish a book and create income through sales.

Acting

Sometimes a role asks for someone well versed with moving and doing stuff with his body that untrained people can’t. I produced short movies myself and heard more than once that it is so refreshing to see “actors” on the screen that know how to move.

Modelling

Most dancers that practise hard have a physique that goes well with being a model. As you train your body regularly you are always in shape when a request comes in. I have a lot of colleagues that do model and dance back to back. The only bad thing about modelling: if you are a living photobomb like me, it does not work.

DJing

Dance needs music. The DJ provides it. While you are not actively dancing behind the decks, you are there at a lot of events and get paid. On good events, the DJs does not have to work the whole night alone. In that case, there is still time to hit the cyphers when your backup is playing.

Producing Music

When you have the taste and the skills to create danceable music: go for it. Dancers are always on the search for new music. If you can deliver, you have nothing to worry about. This is another one that can add money from selling your music or through royalties.

Fitness Trainer

New trends are coming up in the fitness world every day. At the moment of this writing, Breakletics is a thing, as well as dance fitness. If you are into this stuff, you can seriously pimp your income because people are fast in spending money on their “healthy lifestyle”. I did some of those earlier in my career, and these were the most profitable classes with the most participants I ever had. And this might go very well with being a fitness model for the club you are working at.

Yoga/Pilates/whateva teacher

This one could be in the other category (stuff that aids your dance career) as well. Some people get deep into Yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais or some similar practises. While I am well aware that those are very different, this makes no difference in our business perspective. If you get deep enough into something, teaching might come naturally for you. That is the case here. Like the fitness trainer above, it is one hell of a chance to add substantially to your income. Some of my friends established themselves as the dance experts in physiotherapy. A smart move and it works. Maybe you can design a yoga class tailored to the need of dancers.

Judging

I almost forgot about this one. If you build yourself a reputation that will get you invited to judge significant events, then you can earn money with judging. This said you need to get to the big battles. Smaller competitions can pay you most of the time, but the income is not significant.

I am pretty sure I forgot something, probably a lot of things. If you can think of additional dance business ideas, let me know in the comments and I will add it to the list. And I will give credits for helping me out. With the work fields above there is one important thing. While you can make money with them, you need to be good. Doing any of those bad will damage your reputation while killing time you should use for dancing. So there is no easy-going in any of those.

Secondary work fields are things where you do not actively dance, so they take away time from your dancing. This sounds not too beneficial at first sight but there are reasons why you might want to include secondary work fields in your job setup.

  1. your secondary job benefits your active dance career (the first list of secondaries)
  2. your knowledge of dance qualifies you for a job that non-dancers could not do or makes your results better than from a non-dancer (the second list of secondaries). This makes negotiating higher fees/salary easier.
  3. you are not yet able to support all your financial needs by dancing alone.
  4. you are not that much into “the hustle” and appreciate the stable extra income.
  5. the point we never want to talk about: a lot of the secondaries can provide stability and income when you are not able to dance because of an injury or because you need a break or even when it is time to say goodbye to your active dance career. I know we don’t talk about this. But it is wise to think about it and have a plan.

As a research task for you on the path to becoming a fulltime dance entrepreneur and creating your personal dance business plan (fancy wordings over here) think about which of the possibilities above might work for you. Where do you have the right skills? What do you enjoy? What would be a thing that you would love to learn that could play into your work in a reasonable amount of time? Go through your options and map them out on paper. There is power in seeing what you can do in writing.

The 4 elements of running a dance business

4 colooured pillars and the headline "four elements of running a dance business

Most people who are into dance, flirt with the idea of becoming a professional dancer from time to time. While this is not the right thing for everybody, it is not too hard to pull off for someone who really wants it. With discipline, dedication and honesty about what oneself can do, it is doable, even without any talent. (Talking about myself here, not you :-p)

Being successful in your dance business is no matter of luck. There are four key components you have to take care to create a sustainable income. Only one of them is directly related to dancing. Invest time in all of them and you will see results in a matter of months.

  1. Honing your craft.
  2. Providing value.
  3. Finding your audience.
  4. Building your network.

If you have it all, you will be successful. Let me explain in a little bit more detail.

Honing your Craft

You need to be good at what you do. This is an essential rule in every business. You deliver bad quality, you are out – even when you have everything else down.

Put in the hours into your dance skills, your understanding of the music, your knowledge on how to create shows and how to present yourself. You want to create the illusion that everything you do is super easy and comes naturally to you. Every great dancer delivers this illusion and it is imperative that you can do it too.

This also goes for secondary dance workfields like organising events, judging, or anything where your knowledge and experience as a dancer is the key. But those are a topic for another post.

Providing Value

Giving the people something they crave is the key to success. If you think about it, it is obvious. Nonetheless, it often happens that people try to “sell” things that nobody really needs. Don’t fall into this trap.

The best methods of providing value to peoples lives (from a business point of view) are:

  • teach them
    If someone wants that move but does not get it for years and you help him finally get it, you can be sure you added some value to his life. This goes for everything you can teach dance wise: steps and moves, musical understanding, groves, concepts, choreography, …
  • enlighten them
    If you spark insights that give them an understanding of how they can improve by themselves. This is very similar to teaching but deserves its own place. You can introduce are a certain kind of thought process or sources of inspiration that may help their development. It is more like telling them where to look instead of what to do.
  • entertain them
    Entertainment is one of the biggest industries right now and dance can do it very well. People want to be distracted, they want to be amazed and see things they have never seen before. If you create that show that can take them out of their regular lives for even the shortest amount of time, you will earn your place in the hearts of the people and that is where you ultimately need to be.
  • touch them emotionally
    Connecting to people in a way that you can take them on a journey through more emotions than just enthusiasm is even better. You know the feeling when a movie or music takes you on an emotional rollercoaster, right? That is where your audience needs to be. To be honest: it is not easy and takes a lot of work and/or talent. There are very few dancers and choreographers out there that can do that. If you find out you can do it, look no further for what you should do.

Find your Audience

Jeff Goins writes in his bestseller Real Artists don’t Starve: “in order for art to have an impact, it must first have an audience”. This is another no-brainer if you hear it from somebody else. Building or finding your own audience is still one of the things that a lot of dancers neglect. Dance is art and art is a matter of taste (as soon as a certain level is reached of course). So the people that enjoy your dance might not be the same that enjoy the dance of some of your colleagues and vice versa.

You should take the time and research the people who love to watch your work. Create a place to present what you make and make it easy to find. Luckily today that is not as hard as it used to be. The internet is your best friend. These are some of the tools you can and should use:

  • Your Website
    There is really no excuse to wing this. On your website, you can introduce yourself, show your work, post events or shows you are attending and give people all the info about you. If you have things to sell, you can put it up there too.
  • Social Media
    Social networks help you connect with the people that like what you do. You go there and direct the traffic to your website, where they can learn everything about you. Don’t make the mistake to promote all the time. Spamming people will not bring you sympathy. On social media, the goal is to engage with your audience and build a relationship. When people are comfortable around you, they will care about your promotions as well.
  • Word of Mouth
    Still the strongest form of an ad! If you are recommended to someone by a friend of theirs, your chances are really good that they consider checking your stuff out.
  • Meeting in real life
    If you can meet people and make a real world impression, that is the way to go. The only disadvantage is that you can only be at one place at a time. This means it does not scale well.

Building your Network

This is the same work as building your audience but for a different group of people. Your professional network are the people that you collaborate with or that help you do what you do. It is imperative to have healthy relationships with them and to never let them down as long as they treat you right. Here are some examples of people you should have in your network (depending on your work fields not all may apply):

  • other dancers of course
  • choreographers
  • producers & directors
  • composers
  • musicians
  • booking agents
  • event promoters
  • festival directors
  • photographers
  • videographers
  • an accountant (if you are not into accounting yourself, this one is crucial)

You might not need all of them and depending on your personal niche there might be many more.

Here we have them: the four crucial elements to running your dance business. When you are planning to start your dance business, or you are already earning money with it, I encourage you to grab a notebook and think about all four elements in detail. List your strengths and weaknesses. What value can you offer to people? What do you know about your audience and in which ways do you connect with them? Make a list of your collaborators and see if you miss anyone. There is power in the clarity that you gain from seeing this base-line study in front of you.

From there, we can start to level up.