It’s an interesting thing planning a festival because you’d think the people that reach out to you interested in performing or attending would be just as organized as you but sadly, this is rarely the case. I’m here to give you some quick and super easy ways to get yourself out there for more potential shows, teaching gigs, and what have you. Once you read them you may think “duh, common sense” but you’d be surprised because these are the most common mistakes I see. Even if you don’t classify yourself as OCD organized as some people (‘cough cough me’) other professionals are or they will at least really appreciate your efforts to make their lives easier.
1. For the love of God, have a website
If you at all call yourself a professional, you need a website. No questions about it. They’re super cheap to host nowadays and it’s a very important investment for yourself and your business. It’s super easy in this day and age to make one yourself (check out Wix and Squarespace) and heck I can even make one for you. But either way, you really need one. And when you make it, make sure it’s not all about “me, me, me” but what you can offer for potential clients and/or students. Keep it simple and legible. What a dancer’s website should have is a whole other post but avoid colors too bright and letters too small. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve tried to reach out to dancers because I’m genuinely interested in contacting them to invite them to dance or teach for something and they are nowhere to be found. Facebook is not enough! Which brings me to my next point..
2. Don’t forget to link your website to all your social media
Did you know that there is an ‘About Me’ section that you should be filling out? If I can’t find a dancer’s website I’ll check their Facebook account and lo and behold, none of their details are there. This is important! I have now wasted time trying to hunt down someone who apparently doesn’t want to be found. And I’m not the only one who shares this frustration. Don’t leave this section empty. Check it out and see all that you can fill in. At least have a proper email address to link to (not your “Facebook” email address which is automatically filled in unless you change it).
3. Update your website regularly
The whole point of it is for people to reach you and know where you are dancing/teaching at next. I’ve seen some sites that haven’t been updated since 2012! Even if you don’t have anything scheduled for the year, at least update your schedule to reflect the correct year so clients know you do still maintain the website and are still around and dancing. Write something like “Looking to hire so-and-so? Call at blah blah blah”. And make it easy for people to contact you! Even if you have a contact form to fill out, list your full email address and phone number. You may have someone trying to email you an attachment with important gig info but they can’t do it if you just have the contact form and no email address listed.
And once they do reach you…
4. Answer your emails
I’ve lost count of how many times dancers have not responded to inquiries and sometimes even free stuff. It’s like they’re allergic to money. Answer your emails or if you’re away from your computer, set up an auto-reply to explain when you can answer emails. Set up an auto-reply anyway and make clients aware of how long before they should expect a response from you. Don’t miss out on a sale or contact by avoiding something so simple!
5. Check your ego at the door
Assume that everyone you come across doesn’t have something to offer you; how would you speak to them? Hopefully as a decent respectful human being. Somehow, people forget that and they turn on their networking persona instead of just being genuinely nice. The second people realize you can’t give them what they want, it’s like you have no place in their world. The world is full of opportunities to those that are humble enough to accept that they are willing to work hard enough for them and still help others along the way. Think of the sweetest and most successful dancer you know (most likely those two descriptions go hand-in-hand). Now think, why does everybody love them? How are they successful? Most likely because they’re helpful, insightful and hard-working. They don’t have egos even if they are recognized as “stars”. With every show, workshop, festival, etc. they are still truly amazed and in awe of the many people who have come from so far away just to be in the same room as them. Those are the kind of people you want to surround yourself with and those are the best examples you should learn from. Ain’t nobody got time for divas.
6. Don't be afraid to ask
I regularly get the odd email here and there asking for me to host them for workshops or who I can connect them to that would be able to help. I, personally, don’t mind these emails because I get it, it’s all about who you know, whether we like it or not, and I’m almost always more than happy to help in some way. And I say “almost” because what does bother me in some of these emails is how rude they can be! If you’re going to approach someone about a teaching opportunity or to dance at their show, try this:
Before you email a festival host or whomever, try and connect with them on social media first and actually CONNECT with them. Shoot them a friendly message just saying thanks for accepting, a bit about who you are and that you’re hoping to meet them one day (because you are, aren’t you? Otherwise, why are you reaching out to them?). Don’t get clingy but try and start a conversation the next time they post something interesting. “You like pandas, too? How awesome, I have a whole ton of panda related things!” If you want a more hilarious guide of how to do social media correctly, check out the Oatmeal’s take on the matter.
Once you’ve established a bit of a rapport with them, shoot them a private message/email and explain what it is you are hoping they can help you with. Now here is the tricky part. You need to know exactly what you want but at the same time be flexible. If you are going to be in their town during a certain date and wanted to see if anyone in the area is interested in workshops, let them know when you are going to be there and be ready with all your info. Have a list of workshop topics and descriptions, bonus points if you have them separated in categories of ‘choreography’ and ‘technique’ and how many hours they run. Be ready with your bio (short version!) and a link to your website (Facebook says nothing about you). End the message on a positive note and thank them for their time and any help they are willing to offer you.
Be aware: it’s very risky for organizers to bring in teachers they’ve never met or have never heard of, especially if they’re from very far away. Don’t be discouraged but also know what you’re asking. Nathalie makes some interesting points here in her videoand I also recommend checking out Michelle Joyce’s “Insider Secrets” on this topic. This doesn’t mean working for free (and please please please don’t! Your time and effort is too valuable so treat it as such!) but having more demands than the Queen of England doesn’t bode well for you either.
i.If you did everything right and came off respectful and pleasant, and generally a type of easy-going yet organized person someone would want to host, and you get a rude answer (or no answer at all), just move on. If they were this rude in the first correspondence, then you probably wouldn’t have wanted to work with them anyway.
There is nothing wrong with asking for an opportunity because you never know. I can’t guarantee that everyone will respond positively, or respond at all, but at least you tried and so long as you do it in a nice & respectful way, you won’t have any regrets about how you’ve come across. But this all boils down to networking and this takes a while. You can’t expect to get something if you yourself aren’t just as friendly to others. But it’s important to be genuinely nice and interested so don’t be fake. Word of mouth is a lot more powerful than you think, especially in this line of work. Just please, please, please, don’t work for free. I can’t stress that point enough.
7. Show up
“80% of success is showing up” – Woody Allen.
Truer words have never been spoken. You never know what attending one show or teaching one class can do. I’ve gotten two successful and well-paying teaching gigs from someone just having seen me perform at a show, and one of those times was just seeing me dance socially at the after party. That teaching opportunity lasted me 2 years and I still have those students. The other gig was a sold out workshop in another city. I’ve gotten gig requests more from social dancing (you know, when you’re not uncomfortable in a costume with drag queen makeup on) than I have probably for anything else and it’s all because I just showed up. Try and be open to opportunities in the beginning and just get yourself out there. Once you know what it is you like and don’t like, then you can narrow down how often you attend which event, agree to teach in such a place, etc.
Hope these help you in some way! Share it with your fellow dancers so we can all stop the absurdity of no websites and no replies!