Beginners Guide for Performing Artists and Entertainers
Help and advice for Entertainers who are new to the industry in Australia and New Zealand.
Hi and welcome to Talent Online’s Beginner Guide. This guide serves as a basic introduction answering the most regularly asked questions we are emailed from around the world.
The most successful performers were once just starting out like you are now so we hope you will find it useful.
So you have spent years training and perfecting your art and now you would like to do it for a living or even as a part time job to supplement your full time job. Whether you want to start a Band or a Dance group or be a Magician you will need certain tools to get going.
Tools of the trade
Your photos are what will help sell you to clients who are interested in booking you. They must be taken professionally and be updated on a regular basis. Nothing is worse than an act turning up to a job and looking 10 years older than their promotional photos! Make sure you have at least 3 or 4 for the client to view. Some of you performing will also let the client “see you in action”
These days no one will book you unless you have video footage. It must be of professional quality both in sound and visually. Don’t scrimp and get a friend to film you as the client will judge the quality of your promo footage and if it is bad quality they will think your act is also no good. Keep it to 2.5 minutes max as clients are busy and they don’t want to spend a lot of time viewing footage. They will know after the first 10 seconds if they like you or not so it has to be wow!
It is very important to have testimonials so always ask clients for a testimonial when you have finished a job. In the beginning while you are getting started you won’t have any but a good way to get the ball rolling is to do a couple of free gigs i.e. a friend’s birthday party or ask your local pub if you can do a freebie for them. Then ask for testimonials after the jobs.
Once the bookings start rolling in for you, it is imperative that you use a good system for recording your jobs so there are no double bookings or missed bookings. There is nothing worse than performers who forget to turn up to a job or didn’t have the booking recorded anywhere. Nothing will get you thrown off the books faster than not turning up to a job – there is simply no excuse that will pacify anyone!
Get a Booking Agent
You may have a fabulous website for clients to contact you but you should also register your act with a booking agent such as Talent On Line as it will increase your chances of getting work and give you more exposure, especially if you don’t have the funds for expensive advertising or SEO.
As a booking agent we have existing clients that would rather use a booking agent as we can suggest the right acts to them and promote you to them. We work with event managers and wedding planners who would rather use a booking agent as it is easier for them. Sometimes an event manager may have an event that requires 5 or 6 acts in one night so it is easier for them to let us coordinate it all for them.
We can also advise performers who are new to the industry market rates for performing and what you should be paid. Prices do vary throughout the year i.e. peak rates are usually from Oct – Dec over the Christmas period and non-peak rates are from Jan – Sept. This of course all depends on the type of act you have.
As a booking agent we can negotiate contracts for you and make sure you are getting the right remuneration. A lot of performers when they first start out aren’t sure what to charge and end up under selling themselves. Our goal is to have the right price for the clients and the performers.
How does a Booking Agent work?
A booking agent will put you forward for jobs and suggest you to clients. Or clients will view you on our website and make an enquiry about you. We will then contact you to see if you are available and discuss what you want to quote for the job. We will then let the client know you are available and the fee. Once they come back and confirm they would like to book you we will send you through a job confirmation sheet with all of the booking details such as venue, times, where to park, your contact on the night etc…We then send a contract and invoice to the client so you don’t have to worry about collecting payment for the job.
You then invoice the booking agent for the job and the booking agent pays you once they have been paid from the client.
A booking agent will also have terms and conditions in their contracts to protect you against cancellations and last minute cancellations. Most booking agents ask for a 50% deposit to secure the job and if the client cancels at the last minute (from 2 weeks out) you will get paid the deposit and in some cases be paid the full amount (if they cancel within a week of the event). We realize that you have probably turned down other jobs to do a job you have been booked for so if a client cancels at the last minute you should be paid the full fee. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances and the client can’t help cancelling. We had one client whose MD died the night before so the event was cancelled. In that instance the performers totally understood and we refunded the client their deposits in full.
Updating promo material
Your booking agent will promote you to their clients and have your photos, promotional bio, video footage and testimonials on their website. You need to update the material on a regular basis. As a guide we say every year or at a stretch every 2 years.
It is imperative to also let your booking agent know any changes in your contact details.
On the job
So bookings have started coming in and you are all set for your first bookings. Below are some guide lines of what is expected of you at the job and after the job.
What time to arrive at the job
For bands and music acts or any other acts that need gear to be set up and sound checked you must be set up before the guests are due to arrive. If the function starts at 6pm you should arrive at say 4pm to set up gear and do sound check and be finished at least 15 minutes before guests are due to arrive. It is very unprofessional to have entertainers still setting up as guests arrive. If you have been booked to start performing at say 8pm you will need to go away and then come back or stay in the change room where you can change and get ready to perform. We always ask clients to provide dinner for the performers in these instances and you can have it in your change room.
The same applies to dancers as you will need to have a rehearsal at the venue before guests arrive and set up costumes in the change room.
For roving performers or entertainment acts that don’t need any set up you should arrive at least 20 before your start time or if you have to change into costume and apply make-up you should arrive at least 40 minutes before your start time. Often some guests will arrive 5 minutes early so it is always helpful to the client if you are ready to go 5 minutes earlier. Also remember to take into account travel time and parking and allow plenty of time for that.
Always introduce yourself to the contact person you have been given for the job on the job sheet to let them know you have arrived. They will show you to your change room and let you know any other details.
At the job
Never ever give your business cards out to guests at a function. If a guest compliments you and asks about your act you should politely point them back to your contact person on the night. All future jobs must go through the booking agent that got you the original job.
You should have a 10 – 15 minute break every hour if you have been booked for more than 2 hours. During your break you should stay in your change room or pop outside but never mingle with the guests or drink alcohol on the job. We ask clients to provide non-alcoholic beverages for our performers.
After the job
When the job is over you can discreetly slip away from the function. Don’t stay for a drink unless the client invites you to (which hardly ever happens).
Let the contact person know you are leaving, ask them if they are happy with your performance and thank them for the job.
Let your booking agent know how the job went and give any feedback to your agent. We always contact the client after a job to make sure all went well and that they are happy.
Email through your invoice to your booking agent ASAP so they can pay you for the job.
You’re running late
If you are running late (flat tyres and traffic jams do happen!) ring your booking agent and let them know you ETA and they will let the client know, then ring the booking agent again when you have arrived. Or if you have a contact person from the job sheet and their number call them as well. Clients are very forgiving as long as you let them know what is happening.
Once you have arrived quickly get going and start. You can add the time on and finish later to make up for it.
Sometimes a client will ask you to stay on for an extra hour or two. In these cases it is best to politely decline and say that you can’t. We have had a few instances where the performers were asked to stay on and the client never paid for the extra time after the event. Some clients have even disputed that they were asked to stay on, so we advise performers not to do it or do it at your own risk.
Anyway it’s best to leave them wanting more….
Here are some handy links for paying tax as a performer or entertainer.
Tax Guidelines for Resident performers from New Zealand
Tax Guidelines for non-resident performers working in New Zealand
Tax Guidelines for Resident performers from Australian Taxation Office
Tax Guidelines for non-resident performers working in Australia