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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

"Why Do You Charge So Much for Only 15 Minutes of Dancing?"

by Shira

 

"Why do you charge so much for only 15 minutes of dancing?"

Every working performer has heard this question.  People are shocked when they hear that the price for a 30-minute show is $200 (or more, depending on the local economy).  They do the math in their heads and they think, "That's a rate of $400/hour — nobody can be worth THAT much!" 

Many dancers try to respond to this by talking about the high price of costumes, continuing education, etc.  And clients tune out because they view such responses as defensive.

Try simplifying the discussion: 

The client is paying for more than just the time you spend on stage.  The client is also paying for your expertise and your preparation.  Period.  End of sentence. That's really all you need to say.

"We are business professionals who customize our service for each occasion. 

Just as the wedding cake chef, the caterer, the florist, and the photographer all possess specialized expertise and perform significant behind-the-scenes work to prepare for a job, so do we." 

Consider these points:

  • When a bride orders a wedding cake, she's paying for more than just the time it takes the chef to wheel the cake in from the car and set it on the table.  She's also paying for the time it takes to bake the cake, decorate it, and transport it to the event.  She's also paying for the pastry chef's artistic expertise.
  • When a bride hires somebody to provide the flowers for her wedding, she is paying for more than the time it takes the florist to place them on the altar.  She is also paying for the time it takes to arrange the flowers into bouquets, and she is paying for the florists' artistic expertise.
  • When a bride hires a caterer, she is paying for more than the time the caterer's employees spend placing food on the table.  She is also paying for the caterer to prepare the food and transport it to the event.  She is also paying for the caterer's expertise in creating delicious food.
  • When a bride hires a photographer, she is paying for more than the time he spends posing people and pressing the shutter.  She is also paying for him to provide expensive equipment, transport it to the event, and set it all up.  She is also paying for his expertise in operating all that equipment.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Michael Baxter, Santa Clara, California.

Shira

Professionals in every field earn what they earn because they possess specialty skills, high-quality equipment, and the expertise in using that equipment to achieve the best results. They can guide clients through the decision-making process, explaining the pros and cons of the various options. They can steer clients away from ideas that probably won't work, and recommend options that probably will.

These professionals:

  • Prepare
  • Create
  • Set up
  • Deliver

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Shira

So it is with dancers.  When we accept a gig, we:

  • Prepare according to what the client needs — we determine appropriate show length, we examine our music collection to select something suitable and practice with it, we choose any props that may be needed and practice with them, and we check the costume we intend to use, making any needed repairs and ensuring it still fits properly. 
  • Create a package specific to the client's unique event that is designed to ensure the guests will have a great time. We assemble a perfect combination of music, dance, audience participation, and costume to meet the requirements of the occasion.
  • Set up for the performance by transporting all our supplies, putting on our costumes and makeup, arranging any props we intend to use, and figuring out who will announce us or handle our music.
  • Deliver a high-class show that will entertain the audience and leave everyone with fond memories of the occasion.

We invest in specialized equipment (costumes, music, props), and we possess the expertise to make the entertainment portion of the client's event the best it can possibly be.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Lina Jang, New York City, New York.

Shira

When a client asks, "Why are you so expensive?" many dancers respond with a detailed description of all the things they spend money on: their workshops, their expensive costumes, their transportation expenses, their music acquisition, etc.

If you respond in this way, then you are missing the point. Clients don't really want to hear about how much money you spend — they want to be reassured that you are worth what you charge.

Explaining your expenses sounds defensive. The wedding cake chef doesn't talk about the cost of flour, sugar, and baking pans. The photographer doesn't complain about the high cost of the professional lights that he brings to the church.

If you try to talk about your cost structure, it may backfire. The client may privately think, "I don't need a dancer who spends $1,000 on her costumes. One who spends $200 would do just as well." Or, "She's talking about all the workshops she attends. She's obviously still a student. I think I'll keep looking until I find a pro."

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Shira

For these reasons, it is important to focus the conversation on the benefits you offer, not on the expenses you incur in running your business:

  • Polished, high-class performance that will leave a favorable impression on the guests long after the event is over.
  • Experienced guidance for the client in choosing show length and format that will be appropriate for this event.
  • Highly-trained dancer with professional costumes and music.
  • Skillful entertainer who knows how to show the audience a good time.
  • Trustworthy, reliable, and mature professional who keeps commitments.

Think about what else you can add to this list.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.

Most customers don't have a realistic picture of what it costs to hire an entertainer. Your rates may be consistent with what clowns, singing telegrams, and other entertainers in your community charge, but your client might not be aware of that.

Shira

Not everybody who contacts you can actually afford an entertainer. It's possible that $50 is all the client can afford to spend on entertainment for her husband's 40th birthday party. If you talk to this person about your $1,000 designer costume from Turkey, the conversation will not end well.

Don't act offended or defensive when the client questions your rate. Always be polite and respectful when negotiating price. Perhaps down the road, when that client has more money to spend, she'll remember your professionalism and call you back.

 

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