Five Qualities Every "Dancer-preneur" Needs

As each day passes and I interact with more and more professional dancers, it seems like we are in the age of the entrepreneurial dancer. Some artists are starting their own dancewear lines, while others are creating their own fitness programs. Perhaps, this trend is due to fear of the brevity of dance careers. Or, maybe, we have past generations to thank for empowering us to follow them after they became entrepreneurs outside of their performing careers. Even many dancers that are living the age old tradition of joining a company seem to feel the pull of guiding their own career as a freelancer. Being an established freelance dancer and choreographer, like myself, is surprisingly entrepreneurial. Most of my days outside of the studio are spent developing my brand, promoting my product, and selling my services. Not everybody is up to the challenges of running their own business, whether creating a physical product or selling your dancing. Here are five qualities that every Dancer-preneur should have in order to have a successful career as a freelancer:

(Photo: Shalem Photography)
1. Leadership: Any dancer that is looking to launch a career as a freelancer needs to show signs of a leader. Spending a career with a company requires a certain level of submission. But as a freelancer, you will find yourself in a handful of situations that require strong leadership skills. First, a dancer needs to be strong enough to put themselves out there for employers to hire. Often, dancers are brought into a school or company to show students/company members what it means to be a confident, professional dancer. In order to own your own business, whether you are selling yourself as a dancer or selling a product, it is important to show confidence in that service/product and to convince employers that you are a leader. When you can lead, you will get hired.

Stress Control?
2. Stress Control: Getting to lead your own career may sound like an ideal situation. But there are many challenges and stresses that go along with finding your own work. In a great deal of work environments, you get out of your work what you put into it. Unfortunately, this is not how the freelance world exists. More often than not, you are putting in 1000 (yes, one-thousand) percent of the work and only getting 50-75 percent in return. When you have poured all of your time, energy, and heart into something and your bank account is continuing to dwindle, stress levels can blow through the roof. Whether looking for work, negotiating a contract, rehearsing, nursing injuries, performing, getting paid, surviving financially until the next gig, or a multitude of other items, it is necessary that you are able to handle the sometimes insurmountable stress that is involved in being an entrepreneurial dancer.

3. Social Media Expert: Love it or hate it, we live in a day and age of social media. When I first started using Myspace, people used to talk about what a waste of time and energy that was social media. Often, I heard, "I'd rather be living in reality than sitting on my computer." While I don't disagree with this statement, I have always been rather attached to networking sites. Today, there are people in the international workforce getting hired with large, rewarding salaries to sit on the likes of Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and innumerable other sites. If you are a freelancer, you are unlikely to be rolling in the dough. So, you need to find inexpensive ways to promote yourself. The easiest way to do this is through Facebook fan pages, Youtube videos, blogs, personal websites, and much more. I know for a fact that I would not have had any success as a freelance dancer if it weren't for my social media skills.

Romeo & Juliet w/Fort Wayne Ballet (Photo: Jeffrey Crane)
4. Compromise: As mentioned in the first important quality of this post, leadership is necessary to become a Dancer-preneur. Many of our great leaders have set themselves apart from the crowd with their ability in handling compromise. The challenge of being a leader is knowing when to give a little to get a little. When negotiating a contract, a dancer must approach their potential employer with care about the financial health of the company. At other times, dancers may need to give up some of their professional expectations to work for a choreographer that they have always wanted to work with. Knowing when and when not to compromise is, perhaps, one of the most defining qualities of the best independent contractors.

Performing "Maan Singh" (Photo: Oberon's Grove)
5. Determination: One quality that is naturally found in most professional dancers is determination. In order to guide your own business, you must have gritty determination. Only if you put every ounce of your being into finding and/or creating work can you have a career built from an entrepreneurial spirit. Keep in mind that even if you throw every bit of yourself into your business, it won't always succeed. But the more determined you are to make it work, the better your prospects will be of experiencing a successful, freelance career.

What qualities would you add to this list? 

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