|Ali Block performing w/Columbia Ballet Collaborative (Photo: Eduardo Patino)|
In typical LOFD fashion, I'm letting this moment inspire the content I'm creating to share with you. And I figured why not head back to the root of this media platform, helping freelancers freelance. So, inspired by the word that I inspired this lovely dancer to cross that line and embark on a career in freelance work, I would like to offer you a checklist of items to ask yourself if it is time for you to jump into the freelance pool to drive your own career and success.
Have I completed enough of my training to offer my best product possible? Am I anxious to start dancing professionally when I could really benefit from more time refining my technique and skills?
If you have already danced professionally or have auditioned for companies and received interest without solid offers, you may be ready to take the plunge. If you are still in the pre-professional period of your training, don't mistake your intense drive to have a professional career as a reason to embark on seeking employment as an independent contractor too early in the game. Many dancers are willing to forgo pertinent training in the formative late teens and early 20's because they feel like they should already be working. Try to be realistic about your training and skill level and don't be afraid to train an extra year or two. You can make up for time in your career, but you can't always make up for lost training. In fact, I gave up a corps contract with Colorado Ballet at 18 years old to train for a year at the School of American Ballet. The next year I was offered a position with Houston Ballet, which was a nice step up. I would say it was definitely worth the wait and additional education.
Do I have the motivation to make sure that I am taking class and cross-training regularly or do I need the push of an employer/potential casting to keep me coming to class to stay in shape?
Not every dancer is able to stay self-motivated to stay in shape. Just like taking an educational online/correspondence course, some people don't perform well without direct, in-person oversight to stay on track. If you find that you easily fall off track without outside motivation or if your response to feeling down is to avoid the activities necessary to perform at your highest level, you may want to reconsider freelancing or work on ways to improve your self-reliance. The best freelancers are the most self-motivated, driven people you will meet.
Am I outgoing or extremely sensitive when being thrust into new environments?
|Lucia Rogers & me performing Romeo & Juliet at Fort Wayne Ballet (Photo: Jeffrey Crane)|
Does self-promotion come easily to me and/or am I willing to work to build that?
|A popular Instagram post creating choreography at my gym|
Can you stand up for yourself in the studio? What about when it comes to contract negotiations and pay?
Are you a compulsive pushover? Most people don't like pushing too hard when it comes to accepting terms of work. We all want to be working, so we will all be pushovers at a certain point. What I am talking about is speaking up when you are not comfortable with the compromise (or lack thereof) given. It is important that you know how to stand your ground in contract negotiations or how to approach an employer when certain work places issues arise. It is never comfortable speaking up to protect yourself or telling an employer that you aren't comfortable with certain items. As a freelancer, you are responsible for your physical, emotional, and financial health. If you don't think you can handle this type of pressure, you may need to seek work with a company that offers a union contract or an advocate for its dancers.
Are you ready to wear more hats than the word "dancer" implies?
One of the biggest shocks I had after entering my freelance career was the multitude of duties I had to take on in order to become successful in my field. While dancing for a company, all I had to worry about was showing up for class, rehearsing repertoire, and taking care of my body. The last few years I danced with Pacific Northwest Ballet, I added university classes to achieve my Associates of the Arts degree and union delegate duties as a liaison between company dancers and management.
|Playing the role of Businessman|
Are you truly passionate about dance or is it just something that you've always done?
One thing that really strikes me about freelance work is how revealing the stresses of this career-style are to an artist. Dancers are greatly unique, but especially so in the sense that almost all of us started our path to professional as children. Some of us asked our parents to take dance classes. Others were put into ballet by our parents who thought we needed to burn energy. And there are certainly some dancers who were forced into the studio by overbearing dance parents hoping to live out their unrealized dreams through their children. Due to the range of reasons dancers begin training, many are only dancing because they were good at it and have never known anything else. Like other artists who have been honing their craft since early childhood, a handful of professionals find that they really aren't passionate when the going gets tough. I can almost assure you that there will be intense challenges at some point in your freelance career. If you know nothing but an easy path, you may not realize that you don't have the passion to push through intense difficulties. I have experienced firings, injuries, famines, transitions, losses, more injuries, burnt bridges, burn out, and much more. But I am still here and I can't imagine doing anything else. How about you?