There is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing that the hard work you have put into your performance art has started to pay off. I have spent years buying and crafting fire dancing equipment, often through sweat and tears, only to find that my repertoire of props is not complete. I have been through trial and error learning the skills and techniques necessary to put on a professional fire dancing show, and I am now, 6 years after my first performance, experiencing feelings of content and bliss towards my art.
What I charge for a 30 minute fire show is modest when you take into account the rehearsal time, choosing the music set list, buying the fuel and most importantly paying a fire safety person to accompany me to the event. So what do I do when a client tries to undercut me?
Unfortunately there are times when I come across a first time client who has not done their research into this niche market. After all, fire dancing is specialized entertainment. One that people are not likely to have seen yet, but after experiencing a show, they likely will never forget.
I recently encountered a client who wanted to book my services- which was great. We talked, I explained my fee and it all seemed set. A couple weeks later, however, he came back to me saying the venue he has booked me for would also like to hire me for an event the night before. I was pleased!
He then asked for a discount because he found me another gig. I explained to him that my price could not be lowered based on this. Both shows were set for different days, the amount of work doubled, and transport and gas also increased. Most importantly however, is that going lower would disrespect and hinder other professional fire dancers in the area. We ended up having a long, back and forth, e-mail thread. Him justifying his position through long paragraphs of business tactics, and me sitting firm on my original quote with as little fluff as possible. He wanted a bulk discounted rate as a thank you for getting me more work.
I want to thank my mentor, Eleanor Crowder, for insisting on the importance of sticking to my position. I was able to maintain my integrity while keeping to my original pitch.
Eleanor also asked me a very important question, “are you willing to give up this gig?” My answer was yes. It’s September now, and I have had a very successful summer with two back to back plays, a principal role in a feature film, Canada 150 events and fire shows in between. But what if I hadn’t had a good season? What if I was struggling for money? Is it worth it then? I don’t have these answers, and I definitely don’t believe every situation is the same. We need to be willing to accept the loss of a gig to stick to our bottom line, but every gig comes with a fresh set of problems and we have to analyze them each uniquely.
Finally he agreed to my original pitch and the show was on the road. I put on a great performance, and what’s more, I felt great doing it.
The best part about this story is that after the show the man in question came to tell me that he appreciated my excellent negotiation skills. On top of that, he claimed the back and forth e-mails were simply a test, and that he was always going to pay me the original quote in the form of a tip, regardless of whether or not I accepted to lower my fee.
Whether that last statement he said was true or not I felt good leaving a couple of successful shows, knowing that I respected my worth as a Fire Dancer. I also want to encourage fellow artists to decide your worth, figure out where you have room for flexibility, and never go under your bottom line. If you love what you do and have worked hard to create a gem you know is special- then let yourself sparkle.
AOE Arts Council–This program is made possible by support from the Ontario 150 Partnership Program and is in partnership with the Cultural Human Resources Council. To find out more about the program, click here!
This group is composed of mentee Zoe Georgaras, who will be guided by writer, director and actor Eleanor Crowder, one of the collective members of Bear & Co. theatre company. Ce groupe est composé de notre mentorée Zoe Georgaras, une des membres collectifs de la compagnie de théâtre Bear & Co.