Yes, you actually can make $1,000-1,500 a day doing educational performances in schools, museums, libraries, and arts centers. Truly.
I do it dozens of times each year.
But to earn that kind of money from performing, you really need to be four figures a day – and sometimes all at once.
I’ll see if I can explain.
(DISCLAIMER – for discussion on why it might be important to earn this much as a self-employed artist, please see the article How Much Should I Charge? Three Pricing Strategies for Performers.)
Figure #1 – Educator
It goes without saying that to be an educational performer, you’ll need some educational content to share with your audiences.
There are zillions of different ways to do that.
I took a quick look through an online catalog of arts-in-education performers recently, and found people combining their artforms with educational content in each of the following ways:
As varied as that list seems, it’s really just scratching the surface. There are an almost infinite number of ways to integrate useful information with your performances.
Truly, the sky is the limit.
Combine what you love to do (music, dance, storytelling, etc.) with what you truly care about (history, wellness, science, mother earth, etc.) and you’re off to the races.
If this concept is new to you, head over to the DCMO BOCES Arts-in-Ed Catalog where you’ll find descriptions of each of the programs mentioned above, and dozens more, along with information on what people are charging for such performances.
Figure #2 – Entertainer
This may be the part you’re most comfortable with already, although that certainly wasn’t the case for me.
I spent years staring at my shoes on stage before I started figuring out how to interact with an audience.
Here’s what I’ve learned in this department (so far):
Make it fun – get the audience involved – make the education part painless.
Do that, and you’ve created a monster.
Because you are now that rare breed who can deliver messages, ideas, and learning in a user-friendly way.
You’re the sugar that makes the medicine go down.
How valuable is that? Very.
If the “Entertainer” figure doesn’t come naturally to you, you can learn it the same way I did (and still am) – go out and do it, over and over again. Trial and error, repetition, and learning from mistakes – that’s the shortcut. (The long way is to stare at your shoes.)
Figure #3 – Entrepreneur
OK, so your show is engaging and fun, and you’re delivering great (or at least some) educational value when you perform.
Now, who’s going to hire you?
That’s where the “Entrepreneur” comes in, and unless you have a booking agent, guess what?
How does your show dovetail with the needs of the marketplace? What other markets might be interested in what you’re doing?
Who are the people most likely to book you, and why? How do you give them exactly what they need?
How can you encourage repeat bookings?
This is the work of the entrepreneur, and he/she will make or break your opportunities for more and better-paying work.
Figure #4 – Customer Service Rep
The first three figures will get you some good-paying gigs, for sure.
Skip this fourth figure though, and you’re almost guaranteed to sputter and fail over time.
It’s delighted customers, repeat gigs, and referrals that keep our worlds turning as performers, and all of that can be accomplished by being great to work with.
Think of it this way
I’ll bet the last time a vendor exceeded your expectations, you told somebody else about them. In fact, you probably still have a good feeling about the experience to this day, right?
When someone overdelivers, or at least makes things really easy for us, we notice.
Aiming to do that as often as possible is a great strategy.
How do we overdeliver?
Here’s roughly what it looks like:
- timely communications – the quicker, the better
- easy to work with – friendly, accommodating
- flexible at the gig – making it as frictionless as possible
- always thinking of their needs along with your own – duh!
- showing up on time – DUH!
When you hire a plumber or a contractor to do some work on your bathroom, what kind of interaction do you hope to have with them? What would make you thrilled with the experience? Take your answer to that second question and do that for your clients.
Where’s the artist?
You may have noticed that “the artist” wasn’t even included on the list of essential figures. That part’s a given, and our artform is truly the “hook” that makes everything else work.
But unless you’re Baryshnikov, or Pavarotti, relying on your artform alone might not be enough to provide the kind of living you need.
That’s where the educator, the entertainer, the entrepreneur, and the customer service rep come in.
I’d love to hear what you think – please leave me a note in the Comments section below.
About The Blog
Since leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.
Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.
The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.