The Ultimate, Universal Truth About Gigging, aka “Why I Refuse to Give My Work Away”

Norwalk, CT belly dancer
Carrara performs in Norwalk, CT

Every creative freelancer has one of “those” weeks where the price shoppers, the undercutters and all other earthly manifestations of the Wal-Mart Mentality come out to haunt you. I’ll spare you all the editorial, but last week was definitely one of them.

Happily, I’ve cooled down and collected my thoughts since then. But in so doing, I have also discovered the dance equivalent to The Meaning of Life: that is, “never give away your work.” Just to clarify, “giving away” your work doesn’t necessarily mean dancing for free. It means throwing in the towel. Giving it only 50%. Settling for less. Lowering the bar. You get the picture.

How do I know when I’m giving away my work? Let’s get started.

  • I give away my work when I say, “The pay’s not great, but it sure beats staying home with Ben & Jerry’s on a Saturday night.” Might I ask, are you crazy? What’s wrong with Ben & Jerry’s? :-D
  • I give away my work when I think to myself, “Everybody else seems to have lowered the bar. Why do I work so hard and charge so much when everybody else is dancing for peanuts and coasting along?”
  • I give my work away if I’ve gone an entire 24 hours without learning something new about the art, the culture, or the business of belly dance.
  • I give away my work if I discover that I’m doing something the exact same way I did it 4+ years ago, when I first started gigging in public.
  • I give away my work if I say, “They’re just an American crowd. I don’t have to try too hard to impress them.”
  • I give away my work if I say, “They’re an ethnic crowd. They’re gonna be picky and hate whatever I do.”
  • I give away my work if I hide insecurities about my own belly dance technique behind gimmicks, tricks and props.
  • I give away my work when I knowingly book far more gigs in one night than my body, my brain and my levels of energy and “mojo” can handle.
  • I give away my work when I treat my gigs like they’re just another opportunity for me to be seen. My number one priority is making special days unforgettable. Being seen is merely part of the job description.
  • I give away my work when I treat my clients like they’re all the same generic person with the same generic needs, goals and preferences.
  • I give away my work when my life’s goal is to dominate the local restaurant scene. Been there, done that, and it’s highly overrated.
  • I give away my work when I don’t celebrate my everyday victories and learn from my mistakes. And when I pretend that I never make mistakes ;)
  • I give away my work when I aspire to be all things to all people. That goal is every bit as impossible as it is boring.

If you take ONE thing out of this post, remember this: just because we’re in a recession does NOT mean that the entire world has lowered its standards.

If you compromise your quality, your integrity, your vision and your goals, your clients will be the very first to miss out. To stay competitive in today’s changing marketplace, the secret is not to charge less, but to constantly offer your personal best. Be indispensable and you’ll be in top demand. You’ll have good days and bad days, but you’ll come out so much stronger when things get better out there.

‘Til next time, keep it real, and keep it classy!


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