Last night on our weekly #LetsTalkDance Tweetchat on Twitter, we discussed the business of dance, and we had a live chat where we shared our thoughts and feelings in response to the following questions:
Q1: Why do you think most dancers are broke or struggle financially for most of their careers?
Q2: What have you struggled with most in the “business” side of dance?
Q3: What can we learn from other industries to help us build a stronger/more stable dance “business model”?
Q4: What are some good things that people in other industries can learn from dance professionals?
What an intense, informative, and powerful discussion we had last night! Everyone had such great feedback! If you weren’t on the chat, you should definitely join us every Monday night, from 10-11 pm EST, to be a part of it.
This discussion made me reflect on “the value of a dancer”. My friend, and former radio show guest, Maria Hanley, of Maria’s Movers
said that she sometimes struggles with charging what she’s worth, and asking for it from her clients. A few other dancers also expressed struggling with the same issue. All because they love what they do, and would do it for free. The irony is that Maria (and another Tweetchatter) expressed the challenges of paying back student loans, and that the expensive education that got them the degrees and credibility for their jobs, are another reason why they need to charge what they’re worth.
So my question to you is, “What is the value of a dancer? What are we worth?”
It’s a tough question to answer, but I have very strong feelings about dancers working for free, and working for less than they’re worth, even though it happens all the time. I would love to see an end to it, in my lifetime. I even wrote an article about it last year called, “Why Dancers Can’t Afford To Work For Free
“. Before I answer this question, let’s look at some facts, that are not industry-specific, but that generally come into play, when determining how much a person’s work/service is worth.
High Value/High Cost Services:
- Specialized Training Is Necessary.
- Not Able To Be Done By The Majority Of The Population
- Expensive and Extensive Training and Education Required
- High Risk Work
- High Probability Of Injury
- Ongoing Training/Education Necessary
- Inconsistent Work
- Extensive Preparation Necessary To Perform The Work
So when you look at these factors which ultimately determine the value and cost of someone’s work/services, what industries come to mind? Here are a few…
- Real Estate
Well, based on the criteria that I listed above, Dance should be included in that list. Why? Because all of the following factors apply to those in the dance field.
- Specialized Training Is Necessary.
- Not Able To Be Done By The Majority Of The Population.
- Expensive and Extensive Training and Education Required.
- High Risk Work.
- High Probability Of Injury.
- Ongoing Training/Education Necessary.
- Inconsistent Work.
- Extensive Preparation Necessary To Perform The Work.
So, given all of these factors, why do we continue to work for pay below what we are worth? Where is the return on our time and financial investment in our training and education?
I’m a dancer, so I know all of the obvious answers:
- We Love What We Do, And Would Do It For Free. That’s nice. I know a lot of people who love what they do, but that doesn’t mean they do it for free! Are you crazy? How are you supposed to eat, pay your rent, buy a home, pay for healthcare, etc. with this attitude? God has blessed you with gifts and talents, not only for your own enjoyment, and that of others, but also as a way for you to sustain yourself, and provide for yourself. If you take those gifts/talents, and give them away for free, or for less than you should, then how will you take care of yourself? And more importantly, who can you blame other than yourself, when you’re constantly struggling financially? We have to do better.
- There Aren’t Enough High-Paying Job Opportunities. There is a lot of truth in this statement. But what do you do, just give up, and say “Oh well”? NO! You start to create your own, high-paying opportunities. You get creative. You seek out ways that you can produce something of your own, that will allow you to change this. The high-paying dance opportunities that do exist, exist for a reason. Look at the factors that have contributed to those jobs being so valuable and use that to create something of your own that can mirror that in some way. Don’t make excuses either. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!
- It Would Mean Saying ‘No’ Sometimes, And I Don’t Want To Do That. I’ve said it time and time again, when you say ‘No’ to the things that you don’t want, or that are not driving you towards your goals, you say ‘Yes’ to what you DO want. Think of it like this. You don’t want to be like one of those people who’s always in a dead-end relationship, simply because they’re afraid of being alone, and waiting for the RIGHT person to come along. But, when you continue to do work that is below the standard of work that you aspire to do, you decrease your own value, and you end up missing out on those really great opportunities that you’ve always dreamed of, because you’re distracted with the small stuff. You have to say no sometimes, and you have to learn to be selective. Just think, quality vs. quantity.
- It’s Not About The Money, It’s About My Passion For The Art Form. No, it’s not about the money, because if it was, we would’ve all quit a LONG time ago. But money does matter because, it costs money to train/take dance classes, to rent out space for rehearsals, to pay for your dance education, to pay your rent, buy food, pay for physical therapy, etc. So, turns out, it IS about the money, because, you can’t actually dance without money. So, we’ve come full-circle again, and we’re back to, knowing your worth, and not settling for less than you’re worth. We, collectively, need to raise the standards in this industry, to improve our quality of living. We each play an important role in that fight.
- That’s Just The Way It Is. Or should I say, “that’s the way it’s been”, but guess what? That’s not how it has to be in the future, if we take a stand for ourselves. No one is going to do it for us. It starts with me, and it starts with you.
Here Are 12 Powerful Ways To Know Your Worth/Value As A Dancer:
1. Calculate The Cost Of Your Dance Training and Education.
2. Respect Yourself And Your Craft.
3. Create & Produce Your Own Work.
4. Create A Business Entity That You Own.
5. Read Business Books. Knowledge Is Power!
6. Educate Others On Why Your Work Is So Valuable And Ask For What You Deserve.
7. Be Selective In The Work That You Choose To Do. Elevate Yourself.
8. Have A Personal Mission Statement, And Live By It.
9. Know Your Purpose.
10. Know What You Want Your Legacy To Be.
11. Always Focus On Long-Term Goals, Consequences, and Results, Not Just The Present.
12. Don’t Just Think About Yourself, Do What’s Best For The Industry As A Whole.
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