As artists grow from fledglings to professionals, along the way there is the gap between knowing enough to be entertaiing and not being confident enough to command money for it. If you’re one of those people in the early phase of your professional career — perhaps even just trying to figure out now if you’re ready to make that leap — we offer this article to help you understand more clearly what you have done and what you have yet to do, if anything.
This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of everything you need to garner success as a professional performer and it may be that you have just a percentage of these things rather than the full list. Either way, it’s a way to assess your current status so you can consciously create your future direction. Here are 14 signs you are ready to become a professional fire dancing performance artist:
- Consistency. Over a period of 6 months, you have demonstrated professional consistency by keeping appointments, showing up on time, meeting deadlines and engaging in timely communication while maintaining your practice. In addition, you can flow without a show stopping error for 10 minutes, even if there is some prop switching, most of the time while gracefully recovering from minor (non show stopping) flubs.
- Focus on your own success. Professionals have a focus which may even be what becomes a career path. This focus is on moving their practice and business forward and focused on their own success rather than being focused on other people/organizations.
- Insurance. Performers have performance insurance. I’m not going to say you absolutely need it because there is this period of time before you’ve performed much where you haven’t made enough to cover the insurance. And, let’s be honest: insurance isn’t what makes you safe but good judgment and safety protocols are what make you safe. Still, at the end of the day, if all other things are equal — or even if the client just thinks all other things are equal, the person with the insurance may well get the gig because they are seen as more professional than the person without insurance.
- Knowledge of how to acquire permits in your area. When you get inquiries from prospects with questions about how permits work, costs, limitations and the acquisition process in your area, knowing the answers to these questions lends credibility to your troupe. Be clear on dates for the permit acquisition and timing limitations to provide the best planning details for your clients — something that can help you get the gig.
- Effective writing skills. You may think that as a performer you won’t need to do much writing and while that is true to some extent, you’ll at least want to be able to compose emails that can effectively negotiate the contracts you seek as well as the marketing copy necessary to sell your work as an artist. Granted these aren’t Pulitzer Prize winning sorts of opportunities though neither are they moments where you’ll want anything less than a professional presentation, particularly for the higher end corporate gigs — often the highest paying opportunities.
- Ability to negotiate a contract. Writing skills are most important as related to negotiating a contract. One great reason for email negotiation is creating a documented trail of agreements to later be included within the contract. It is important for each artist to understand how to take care of themselves, know their boundaries, ask for what they want and learn how to articulate that through shared agreements. This also includes the ability to explain the booking and performance processes in a way clients can find trustworthy. Perhaps most importantly is the need to comfortably ensure appropriate payment is received for services delivered.
- A web site. Though it’s possible to get by without a web site, it certainly adds credibility to your offering. Many clients over the years have told me the reason they signed up (either for gigs or classes) was the quality and quantity of information available through our site. In 2015, it’s pretty easy to get a basic and nearly free site on line so it makes sense to have something working for you 24x7x365 which is exactly what a web site does as as sales tool.
- Video reference. Others may disagree but I think it’s good form in 2015 to have a HD video of your work. Ideally, you’d have both a promo as well as a complete set so you can showcase your work in those instances where a client wants to get a sense of what you offer. The best way to see what you’re like as a performer is to see a performance but short of that, video is our current best second choice.
Professional looking photo portfolio. As fire artists, you’ll want to have photos of you with your props lit while adorned in costumes and makeup if you use it. While it may not be necessary, I also think it lends credibility to have a few photos showing off some excellent geometry/fire and/or light trails created through extended exposure photography with your props.
- Effective costumes and makeup. it follows that if you’ll have a portfolio in which you should be in costumes, you’ll need to have the costumes and skills to put on the makeup yourself or have a makeup artist available for the artists. As someone who has been doing this for a while, I find variety of costume to be more enticing than a the same costume used again and again, although a uniform for practice makes sense if desired. The challenge with keeping the same look and never changing it is an unconscious message to the viewer that encourage them cling to their old impressions of the artist who wore this look which, ideally, is out of date with your current style as an artist. As artists, if we evolve, it follows our look will also.
- A 10 minute continuous solo show. If you’re at the point where you’re ready to perform a continuous 10 minute show and have all the equipment necessary to do that without having to dip between burns (ideally as well as having the equipment needed for backup as well), you may be ready to start charging. This usually means more than one fire prop. Also, as professionals, the expectation is that your fire is bright the whole burn (except perhaps during the last set or while switching tools) which means you’ll likely need to do 3-5 burns, depending on the size and style of tools and wicks on those tools.
- You can effectively perform while following the “3 second rule.” The 3 second rule is a concept we use at Temple of Poi to help artists self assess themselves as performers. The idea is that some aspect of what you’re executing in your performance changes with no less frequency than every 3 seconds. This could be the move, blocking, stylization, sequence or any other facet of the performance. What’s important is to continue to provide unique and engaging performance material throughout your act.
- You have experience.This is, of course, something of a catch 22. How do you get experience if people won’t hire you until you have experience? The trick is to give it away for free until you have enough experience to know what you’re doing. There is no perfect formula that is one size fits all for performers that says, “After 27.3 performances you should have enough experience to become a professional.” It depends on so many more factors than simply performing. However, less than 5 probably isn’t enough to really have encountered too many challenges with fire safety so be sure to be extra cautious in those early days when you’re less experienced.
- People ask if they can hire you. By far, this is one of the most important indicators that you’re entertaining enough to be hired! If people are already asking to pay you money, you’re on the right track and whatever you’re doing is working for you. It should also be noted that just because no one has asked you yet if they can hire you doesn’t mean that people won’t hire you, nor does it mean you’re not yet ready.
If you’re looking for more coaching as on becoming a professional performer, consider our upcoming Building Your Business training, one or more of the modules within, including those on marketing and social media. Or, try our $13 for a 13 minute private with GlitterGirl in celebration of our 13 year anniversary!