Filling out an income report or filing taxes takes a back seat to nailing your latest routine or choreographing an entire performance when you make your living as a dance professional. While your creativity and artistry pay your bills, don’t overlook the importance of paying attention to those bills and all other financial aspects of your career. Having a strong grasp on your finances is crucial to your long-term success as a dance teacher, choreographer, or dancer.
When you work as a dance professional, you take on the responsibility of tracking your income and expenses. A bookkeeping system is essential to track all the money coming in from various gigs and all the money you spend on business-related items. You want an organized accounting of all money in and out of your account. Hiring an accountant or bookkeeper is a simple way to keep your finances on track. Let your accountant crunch the numbers while you focus on your artistic talents, but don’t stay in the dark when it comes to your finances. Stay involved in the process so you have a solid understanding of your financial situation, and find an accountant who understands the unique needs of creative professionals for accurate, relevant reports. If you prefer a DIY approach, accounting software provides guidance and easily generated reports to help you track your dance income and expenses.
Think of yourself as a small business. Your service is your performance, your choreography skills, or your dance lessons. Pricing yourself competitively without pricing yourself out of a job takes a delicate balancing act and a strong knowledge of the local market. Consider researching rates of other professionals in your field in your particular area. What do other dance schools charge for lessons? How much do other choreographers charge for similar jobs? While you want to stay competitive, you also need to factor in your personal experience. How many years of experience do you have? Do you have a special skill or area of expertise others don’t have? What is your target hourly rate? How many hours does a particular type of dance project take? Knowing a potential client’s budget is also helpful in setting your rates.
Income Ebbs and Flows
Performance-based income differs from a traditional nine-to-five income in that some months you’re rolling in the dough and other months you’re digging for change in the couch. In general, professional dance gigs are low paying, so budgeting is essential. The feast or famine lifestyle with fluctuating income each month adds to the challenge and takes lots of planning to avoid financial difficulties. Look at your upcoming schedule to determine the number of jobs and the expected income from each of those jobs to get a rough estimate of your income for budgeting purposes. Filling in gaps in your schedule with additional gigs limits the number of lower-income months and helps balance your overall income. Diversifying your income stream helps weather the slower months. If you perform on stage, you might offer dance lessons on the side to boost your income. When you have a well-paying month, set the excess aside instead of spending it to cover expenses in leaner months. If you come up short most months, try to focus on your spending habits to find areas to cut back.
Protecting yourself and planning for the future with a variety of investments and savings is another important aspect of earning a living as a dance professional. If you get hurt, your income stops. Dance careers are often much shorter than traditional jobs, because eventually, bodies wear out and can’t handle the wear and tear of the profession. Having a career backup plan when that time arrives helps keep you stable during the transition. With a little planning and an easy-to-use accounting system in place, you can manage your professional dance income and expenses efficiently. Staying on top of your financial situation helps you stretch that dance income to live a more financially stable life while pursuing your professional performance dreams.