I get asked this all the time “how much should I charge for….”
In our book "Becoming a Belly Dancer" - the stagecraft handbook for belly dancers - we avoided costs that would quickly become outdated, but here are a few pointers on how I calculate costs for all kinds of events:
No matter what the job is start with your “I wont get out of bed for less than” price. This expression comes from the modelling world, but it works for other businesses too – just how much money do you want before you will get out of bed, put on your full make up, and “be” the belly dancer? This will depend a bit on what kind of work you are being offered – for example I hate teaching kids, but I love my regular students – I probably want twice my “get out of bed” price for a morning in a school. This also covers costs associated with being a teacher or performer that might come under the umbrella of “admin” or “hassle”. You might factor in the cost of your mobile phone, computer, internet into your annual business costs, but what about time spent on the phone or answering emails? Sometimes a booking can be organize with a quick phone chat followed by the emailing of a contract. Other times it takes twenty calls before the client decides they want to book the balloon artist instead. And I cant calculate the many hours and miles I have burnt on my quests for keys for dance studios over the last seventeen years. If you still feel as if you don’t deserve the “get out of bed” price then use it as part of your negotiation when a customer wants you to drop your price.
Add in the things you can put a price on. How much will the traveling cost you? Gas/petrol, bus tickets, train fare…. add parking, entry fee if you are being charged. How much is room hire? and insurance?
And how about those things that are harder to price? Do you need a new costume? or does your costume need repairs or a dry clean? You will need a full face of make up, and perhaps false nails, eyelashes or a spray tan. Divide these costs between how many jobs you do between payments. So if you perform twice a week all year and buy three costumes each year, you should divide the cost of the costumes by 100(ish) jobs (3 costumes @ $300 = $900 divided by 100 jobs = $9 per job), if you do your nails each month then that cost is divided by 8 jobs ($40 divided by 8 = $5)…. and so on
Next you can charge for your skills. I charge $25 per hour to teach and $50 per half hour to perform – or to wait to perform ! Remember that you should be paid for all the time you are on site, not just for the time that you are on stage. You are still a belly dancer goddess while you are hanging out in the toilets waiting for the stage to be set up. Make sure that your booker knows that they will be paying for you from the moment you arrive and that you have to leave on time. Or you can simply assume that every 15 minute performance will include two hours of hanging about and be happy to know that you are being paid to text your mum or read a book.
Now to preparation. Each one hour beginner lesson should take about an hour to prepare. More advanced classes are about twice that; an hour of studying the style (taking workshops, watching videos and on line research), plus an hour of lesson planning. If your preparation hourly rate is $50 then you want to recover $100 from each advanced class. If you have twenty students then that will be $5 each. Don’t forget to add in other charges to that (such as hall hire, teaching time and insurance) before settling on a class fee. If you have a student who would like a private lesson look at how long the preparation is going to take. Assessing their choreography will take less preparation than writing a choreography especially for them. When taking a booking for a performance add in preparation time to that as well. How long will it take you to put on professional level make up? Do you need to plan a new playlist? Write a new choreography? or re-learn an old one? If the client asks that you perform to her favorite piece of music, add in the cost it is going to take you to prepare something special for that tune, and/or to purchase the music.
Lets look at a few examples:
That is not to say that you can not give your time and energy as a gift for friends or charity if you want to – just as an accountant can do his grandmothers tax, you should be allowed to teach your daughters brownie troupe if you want to – BUT – always let them know the cost of that gift, so as not to distort the general public’s idea of what a belly dancer costs. Personally I always work from a contract, even if I intend to “gift” my fee back to the charity, and I ask for payment up front on the understanding that I will return the money if the event goes well. It also means that someone with a check book approved my booking. In the early days I would turn up ready to teach or perform only to be told “Sorry, I just spoke to the committee and they didn’t realize I had invited you. They are not sure its suitable. Sorry I wasted your time….” I think its better to have that conversation three days before a performance when the check hasn’t arrived (and I can take the phone call in my PJs).
Your contract should make it very clear what the client is paying for, how long you will be on site, when you get paid, if you want cash, what happens to any tips, how many students you can teach (and ask that they are sober if you are doing a party), who is paying for the room hire, who is insured and clarify the cancellation policy.
If you like this blog, go back to my blog page and check out some others like:
Teacher Knows Best
Dealing with Difficult Students
I'm Perfect for Belly Dance (and so are you)
Why Belly Dancers need to Walk the Line
Teaching Belly Dance: Making Corrections
Being Part of the Solution
Or check out my Hub Blogs including:
"Your First Belly Dance Workshop"
The Top Ten Belly Dance Tunes for Performance"
"Finding a Great Belly Dance Teacher"
The book “Teaching Belly Dance” includes some example contracts to help you hire an outside teacher to teach a workshop for your students or perform in your show, plus lots of other advice for anyone who teaches belly dance. “Teaching Belly Dance”, by Sara Shrapnell is available through Amazon.
Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage is a stagecraft handbook for belly dancers of all levels and all styles. It includes a chapter on getting paid and has lots of help for those who want to find great gigs.
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
She has taught more than 4,000 belly dance classes, both in the UK and US. She now teaches in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore in the SF bay area, as well as workshops world wide. Her classes are known for their humor, detailed breakdowns and cultural context. Students who have studied with Sara have gone on to teach and perform in all styles of belly dance and many have made their living through performance or teaching.
Sara’s first book “Teaching Belly Dance” was published in 2014. Her second "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage", co- written with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya, is a stagecraft handbook for belly dancers of all styles and levels. Both are available on Amazon.
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
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