10 Ways to Handle Gig Rejections Better

I recently saw someone post a question on line which is paraphrased here:

I’ve been negotiating a gig for a while now and the deposit was due today. Instead of sending it, today they told me that there wasn’t enough room in the budget and they wouldn’t be needing me. I just feel like I lost a month’s income (because I did). I am very upset and angry and want to deal with this as gracefully as I can, while making it clear to them that the way I have been stringed along is unfair and unprofessional.

Unless this is just how it works, but I have spent hours (rough estimate 5+ on various administrative bullshit, going back and forth, planning, (no longer necessary) paperwork and communication with the Fire Marshall, etc.

I want to charge them for this. Any advice greatly appreciated.

Fire Dancing GigsHaving been where you are more than once, there’s a few basic rules of thumb that I’ve implemented in my business to help with these issues.

  • No gig is my gig until I have a deposit (50%, non refundable is my recommendation) in hand (which means if you take checks, the check is cleared) and a signed contract. What that means is I can’t count on the money and I won’t hold the date.
  • A date is always up for grabs until the contract and payment are in my hand and it is important to have both the contract and the payment to ensure you’re on the same page with the client.
  • I will attempt to honor people on a first come first served basis, but if they don’t Show me the money! and I have another opportunity, I will pursue the other opportunity. I will always give the first person the option to buy our services for that evening first and then give them a deadline until which I’ll hold off discussions of a finalized contract with the other client. Sometimes this works out with me getting more than one gig in a night which is great, too.
  • If a client starts being too difficult to work with, if it feels like I’m being strung along, if we’re not moving to signing the contract quickly and if the client generally seems challenging, I will either raise my rates or, more likely put less energy into trying to get the gig. I’ve found that sometimes, no amount of money is enough to make the hassle of working with a prospect worth it and have, without exception, regretted the times I went against my gut.
  • Always charge for extras. If you have to go to the fire department, fill out extra forms or do anything other than get your get your music together and show up, charge more for it. If they want you to make a special costume, you charge more. If they want you to go to the fire department, you definitely charge more. If you have to do a site visit, charge more. Your time is valuable and they won’t respect your time if you don’t respect your time.
  • Final payments are due in cash and that is in the contract so there’s no chance of a check bouncing at the end. I will, in rare instances such as extremely large corporations, make exceptions to this rule, but it is my general policy.
  • Your rates should reflect not just what you want to get paid when you are working but what you also want to get paid for all the time you’re not working. Even if you book 50% of the gig inquiries that come your way, that’s still a whole bunch of paperwork you have to do where you are interacting, educating, answering questions and chatting with prospects for which you’re not getting paid. That means that when you do get paid, it needs to cover the cost of the time it took for you to answer people who never booked you as well as the client’s who are booking you. Because, again, your time is valuable. In fact, it is the only thing you have that you can’t really replace. Even these days you can replace body parts, but we have yet to work it out so you can recapture lost time, at least in the linear sense.

Apart from all the practical advice already given, there is an emotional component associated with putting out a bid and holding space for a gig. The emotional bit revolves around, at least as I’ve seen it in myself and others, some recipe with the following ingredients: desire to gig, desire to serve, desire to eat (make money or have access to resources that money allows, like food)), desire to have fun and desire to propel the business forward. If you read all of those, the underlying element in them is some aspect of desire.

In my meditation retreat I was told a story that Buddha says suffering is caused by three things: craving for something other than what we have; aversion to something we already have and don’t want; and ignorance that these other two things cause suffering. In looking at the recipe above, each of them has an obvious element of craving for something other than what is — either a gig, service, resources, fun or propelling the business forward. What is also there — and this depends especially on how hand-to-mouth you live as an artist — is an aversion to lack of resources.

When making bids, there is a period of time between the initial inquiry to the signing of the contract — let’s call it the “negotiation period” — that often accompanies an emotional roller coaster ride. All kinds of self doubt can come into play: did I bid too much? do they want me? will they be cool clients? And if the gig is something you really find yourself drawn to — for whatever reasons — it may feel even more alluring and the emotional tug of the experience can really suck you into the roller coaster ride more fully.

Now if we were all Zen masters living on the mountain top and not dealing with the very human parts of our lives, this would all be much simpler if you ask me. You would simply be of the mindset, “either I will get the gig or I will not” which is the sort of mindset that makes that it much easier to be in the negotiation period and even the subsequent rejection, should it happen.

For my own part, I have found that the practice of equanimity around bidding for gigs is the key to success in maintaining a positive attitude. It’s true that not all bids will lead to gigs and it can feel frustrating to put in 5 hours for what results in nothing in your pocket and a bunch of lost time.

That said, it is not always the case that because you didn’t get the gig you wasted your time. I’ve had experiences like this that led to gigs later. I’ve gone out of my way for some folks that have landed me results or referrals later. So along with the trick of equanimity, there’s a secondary skill that will get developed as you bid more and more on gigs: discernment. I know that I get a sense of how serious client’s are based on the quality of communication from them. I’m not always right, but I get more right through time as I have more experience.

Finally, and perhaps the best and easiest advice I can actually give on the subject is to take it all on like a game. Games are things to be played, often for the sheer joy of it. In contrast, when you’re worried about Maslow’s basic needs (which is all too often the mindset of the almost starving artist), it’s difficult to connect with your inner joy. I have noticed when I am not attached to the gig and I come from the joy of the challenge: “Can I book this gig?” as a game rather than an actual need, I bring more to the table and I have more fun doing it, even if I don’t book the gig.

I’m want to reiterate the last bullet point above: your rates should reflect the time you don’t spend gigging but do spend in the negotiation process because it is the gigs you get that are paying for the time you spent when you weren’t gigging. It is ever so important that your rates for the gigs you get actually account for this time, which is why amateurs don’t care what their rate is the way pros do. Amateurs don’t need the money to eat; pros do. That distinction, as I embrace it, helps keep me clear that my rates are not too high.

Ready for private instruction? Want to try Zero to Fire in 4 Hours! Or if you want to join our next beginner class or have other questions, contact GlitterGirl directly or subscribe to our newsletter for mailbox delivery of this and other articles written by Temple of Poi founder and visionary, GlitterGirl, who has been a full time flow arts coach and instructor since 2002. If you seek professional guidance associated with creating a safe performance, obtaining a permit in San Francisco or other personalized coaching, contact GlitterGirl directly for a free consultation (GlitterGirl <that pretty little ‘at’ symbol> TempleOfPoi <daaaaaaaught> com).

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