|Performing Scales of Vertigo by Connor w/ Rachel Kantra Beal (Photo: Bill Hebert)|
After moving from a company with a 40-week contract to one with a 22-week contract to having no long term contracts, I have had my fair share of desperate moments. I have a little calendar on my website that lets people know when and where I am working (mostly in case someone wants to attend my performances, but also for employers to see my availability). At times, that calendar will say "No shows booked at the moment." This means that I am either free to work or have been too busy to update that page. More often than not, though, it denotes that I don't have any contracts signed, which also means that I have very little income coming in. Teaching twice a week, picking up sub work, and teaching master classes is not enough for me to pay my bills. After a period of time without any prospects, I may start to feel a little panicky.
Often, when I feel panic starting to set in, I go into overdrive looking for work. For instance, this past week, I sent out 27 emails checking in with companies. Out of those 27 emails, less than one-fifth of those organizations returned my message. And a majority of those emails stated that the companies don't typically use freelance dancers. Then, out of nowhere, one potential job becomes available. But the time between contact takes a bit longer than my current comfort level. Maybe it took a normal amount of time, but, feeling panicked about how I am going to make rent for March, I start to feel like the employer isn't interested. Or maybe they are interested, but something is wrong with my email account (which has happened before). Or maybe I waited too long in my response and the employer got a bad taste in their mouth. Or maybe...or maybe... or maybe....I'm starting to feel a little desperate.
There will be times that freelance artists feel that nothing is ever going to formulate in terms of employment. This is a hazard of the trade. One must always push to get work, while having a backup plan in case nothing appears. The point here is that we all need to be practical. The moment that we start to lose our ability to be practical, we start to panic, lose our patience, become desperate, and possibly make poor decisions.
When independent contractors become desperate, their poor choices can take on a variety of faces. Perhaps, a dancer may focus too much on finding work and forget to keep in shape, so they aren't prepared when work comes along. At other times, someone may check out completely and ignore what they have to do because it is simply too much pressure. It is also common for people to start looking for work well below their skill set and salary needs. Not only does this act of desperation devalue the artist, but it also takes more time to make a smaller amount of income. Then, when a proper job becomes available, you may already be working. Or you may respond too aggressively or come off too overexcited and turn off the person with whom you are in contact. There are many things that people do in these moments of fear.
It is important to keep a level head when work is coming in at a glacial pace. Patience is the key that will get one through these cool periods. While it may not be easy to feel patient, it is always important to act patient. One may feel that they need to take a job the moment that it appears. But, now more than ever, it is pertinent to take some time to do some research on the job that you have been offered. Look at their website. If they have a Youtube presence, watch a few videos. Ask a few questions before offering a "Yes! I am AVAILABLE!!!!! HIRE ME!" While you may be feeling this on the inside, you still need to make sure that the work you are accepting is legitimate. In the worst case scenarios, you could even find yourself fighting to get paid without having done proper research and assessment. Patience is the virtue that will keep you on track. It is your ability to assess. Beyond all of this, it will keep you sane, level-headed, and happier with your choices.
While patience is extremely important when seeking and accepting work, becoming too patient can also work against you. Leaving too much time between contact can lose a job opportunity for you. Not all employers will send you a message that asks if you are still interested. If they have a deadline to meet and they feel that you may not accept an offer, they may find another dancer without letting you know that they are doing so. Patience is a two-way street. I find it best to offer a time frame when giving yourself a cushion to make a decision. For instance, this past week, I was offered work for a month between April and May. I am waiting to have a conversation with another employer and don't want to make any decisions until that happens. When speaking to the director of the April-May job, I mentioned that I needed to check on a few things and that I would get back to them by Tuesday. This way, the director doesn't feel that I am going to take my time only to say no. But if they don't hear from me by Tuesday, they can choose to call me to check in or start looking for another possibility.
It is also important not to be so overly patient that you hold off on something that really excites you. I tend to be the type that wants to make sure that every aspect of a job is going to be perfect. I've also been in situations where there is a very small chance of a very unlikely prospect coming my way, but I don't want to commit to something unless I know that the potential opportunity is 100% not happening. Holding off is not wholly bad. But, for some reason, the dance world operates more along the lines of "I really want to work for you," instead of "I am more than worth you waiting for me." Be patient, but don't completely lack desperation.
|Find balance in your business practices (Photo: Brian Mengini)|
How do you handle your own moments of desperation?