For any new storyteller or community performer looking to develop a small business as an artist, knowing how to entertain a wide variety of audiences and having many opportunities to demonstrate one’s work are essential for ultimate success. But how does an artist move away from constantly donating services to confidently asking for and receiving a fee?

When people contact you and say they are looking to find an entertainer for an event, but they have no budget, you are in a position to ask for something other than money as compensation.  By doing this, you establish the fact that your work has value, and it alerts people to the idea that you are seriously looking forward to the time when you will be charging professional fees for what you do. Do not be shy about asking that in exchange for your time and talent, they (1) allow you to use them as a reference, (2) be willing to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf, and/or (3) can help you network and explore new opportunities.

I was a little nervous the first time I requested a letter of recommendation, but I soon learned that people are quite happy to accommodate a performer in this way. Furthermore, the unspoken message is that you are starting to move beyond the need for experience and exposure alone.  This unspoken message translates into a new respect for you as an entertainer. It is a “cross-over” moment.  I know this to be true, because once I realized I had reached a point when I could ask for acknowledgement in a tangible form, I began receiving fewer calls to work for free and more calls asking about my fees.   

Performing Before Library
Audiences is a Joy for Me!

One of the most important goals to pursue as you “pay your dues,” is to clearly identify your ideal niche – the groups and audiences that can’t get enough of what you do, and the audiences you are most eager to serve. This is where your repeat and loyal customer base lives, and this is the group that will make it possible for you to transition from the world of “free-bees” into working as a professional performer.

I am always happy to share the benefit of my experience with other performers. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your questions or comments.