Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Unpopular Business Advice: An Audacious Manifesto

A while back, one of my Audacious ones posted something. She was starting a new business venture- and asking for any guidance the rest of us might have. ANY act of courage is a cause for celebration in my book, and I was looking for direction for the day.

So I wrote a three page manifesto on what the point of the whole thing is and some unpopular business advice that I firmly stand by. It is here for your perusal, and in case it resonates with you, there is a downloadable PDF that is public on my Patreon.

"I believe that god is in me, or not at all. All I want is myself, and the god in me." I wrote that in high school, unsurprisingly, and it has haunted me since.

Trigger warnings for woo, etc.

I believe that our birthright is the divine, and that it is not mutually exclusive of the secular or corporeal. Call it whatever suits you; the Source, the Muse, Goddess, God, the Divine, the Universal Well of Whatever...not only do I believe we are all worthy of it, I believe we are unable to be detached from it. Its presence and its directives are coded into us, in whatever language we will understand, and if we could revert back to our factory settings it would be clear as day and easy to hear and understand. I believe this force directs us through our creative impulses. I mean, where do they come from? Electricity in your brain? Why is there electricity in your brain? If you try and follow this rabbit hole, more power to you, but I'm a simple creature and I'm already satisfied at the offset.

I believe this force directs us through our creative impulses. I am not urging you to follow every flippant whim you experience, because many of those can be destructive. There is a difference between the destructive lurchings of a traumatized ego and the unbidden creative urges of your psyche. One feels restrictive, the other feels expansive. Expounding further on the differences or worthiness of "desires" does not interest me.

That brings up another point. What interests you? What interests me is extremely specific and I'm afraid I have severe tunnel vision to that end. I used to apologize for that because I was afraid it made me selfish, but it also makes me what I am, so we are now friends, my tunnel vision and myself. I'm not interested in broadening my horizons to consider the viewpoints of this or that esoteric philosopher, I'm not interested in intellectualizing art and wrapping it up in theory or postmodern this or deconstructed that. I don't give a shit about those things, I want the make the things that emerge half formed and compelling as a primordial lady-beast from the stew of the ocean. I do not care to classify it, theorize it, or try to defend it with lofty elitist language. I'm sure that interests some people and I'm glad, and I would sit them down over a coffee, take them earnestly and awkwardly by the hands, and urge them to trust that interest and to devote all that they could to serving it.

I believe that your interests deserve to be served. In fact, not to do so is an affront to the Muse, the Source, the Force that gave it to you in the first place. I'm also not interested in trying to defend this view point. If you don't agree with it, I heartily support your right to that. But I also don't care. I'm too busy lugging this half-demon/half-angel out of the viscera of my own subconscious because I believe that is what I am charged to do. I agreed to do it and I intend to do it fully and with every sword in my arsenal.

This is where things really get unpopular.

This is how I have started and created everything I've started and created. It's how I made the Audacity Project. The compulsion to mentor, to safeguard by way of permission, was inexorable. I wanted and needed to share the lessons I'd learned and try until my fingers bled to shake someone, anyone, even one person out of the fog of self-doubt and oppression that is supported at every turn in the world, to holler into their ears that they were fucking worth a damn, that they were worth the chance of failure even. And what's more, that greatness courts failure, so even for them to try and fail should make them proud because they had the courage that so many have had stolen from them, to at least give it a fucking shot in the dark.

Some say the morning after a failure is the greatest show of courage. It's not, although that is tremendous. It's the morning after a success. When you open your eyes and you realize that in spite of your accolades, in spite of your grand reception and the money that may or may not have followed, your charge today is exactly the same as your charge was 10 years ago, to zero in on the instinct of what is trying to make itself manifest through you. That your charge is still, even after all this time, to pick up the pen, the hoop, the brush, the corde lisse, the knife, the sword, and continue carving out a path in the jungle of darkness. And not even to get anywhere, because where exactly are you trying to get to? You carve the path because you have no other choice, and this is the only thing that makes you happy, the forging of a new path that was not there before, because you have not been here before. And you KNOW it is worthwhile, even while the gremlins shout that everyone is going to laugh at you. So what if they do? What do you care? You're holding a sword of righteous creative instinct and looking like an idiot will come with the territory. So will new territory, that wasn't there before.

My business is run on interest and intuition. I don't post shit on social media unless I want to. My "want" is well tuned by now, and I can tell if I'm doing it out of a need for validation or FOMO or some nonsense like that, or if I'm doing it because i have something to say that I feel needs to be said. This is not "good marketing advice." Good Marketing Advice is to post every day (ugh) and make sure your stories are always full and that you keep growing your email list and blablabla who the fuck cares, none of that is interesting...to me. Some of my peers are amazing at this and it always interests them and there are many rewards there...I am so extremely proud of them. I'm proud of me, too.

What IS interesting...to you? Keep the channel open. Tell the truth. I say it about art and I mean it about business, as well. That is the only guidebook I know of, and I believe it is worth saying, so I'll say it. For too long I sat by nicely waiting for an invitation, a permission to speak that never came. I wondered in awe at those who would just say without invitation, whatever they wanted to say. If you, like me, identify as an introvert, there is something important for us to know. There is no red carpet that will be unrolled for you. There is no letter from Hogwarts (dammit) coming to invite you to your destiny. There is only this moment, and the pen in your hand or the itch in your muscles, and your inability to sleep if you're not using those things, whatever they are, to do the thing you want to do.

If you build anything- whether work or business- on Good Advice alone, sooner or later you will get burnt out. You'll spend your time fretting over social media followings and if this contentious post is worth putting up and what if you alienate your base by making this piece of work that is political and blablabla. You'll short-circuit, because you're acting out of social hierarchy, as Stephen Pressfield would say.

The opposite of hierarchy is territory...claim your interest, claim your ground, it doesn't belong to anyone else but even the ground occupied by the soles of your feet needs to be acknowledged. I am standing here. No, I will not disappear. I am standing here. The writing desk. The studio. The gym. This is your church. If you build a business on what is good and interesting, on what is compelling and fascinating and worthy TO YOU, you will find something extraordinary happens...it is easy. Don't get me wrong, it is still hard work, but you're essentially just being yourself- just louder, and on purpose. And hopefully, eventually, for money. That saying "do what you love and you'll never work a day" is bullshit. You'll work until your ears bleed. But you will be working at something that feels worth your life, your breath. You won't regret it. You'll know it was worth doing.

It's not "passion". Passion is a flash in the pan. It's a wonderful flash in the pan, but like its cousin inspiration, it's not a reliable form of fuel. It will come when it comes, but interest...interest is there for you. Interest plus some discipline over yourself. It makes it easy. Death is natural, pain is natural...suffering is not. More unpopular advice: you do not have to suffer for the first 3 years of an endeavor before you glean any joy or produce any work. It starts right away, and you're not suffering because you're in love. Like being in love, it doesn't mean you'll walk around in a fit of romantic fever at all times, but the truth of the thing remains strong. The bedrock is there for you, because it is you.

Your interest will change as your work and your business change, which are not mutually exclusive. Keep trusting that. Follow it.

What else is there to follow? Some clickbaity article on best Instagram practices? You are a far better compass than some SEO writer churning out articles. Trust me, cause I used to be one of them. I tried to tell the truth in those articles but I didn't give a shit about the content. It wasn't interesting. I didn't want to be doing it.

So what do you want to do? In what direction is your blood flowing?

Whoever you are, whatever it is you are wanting to do and afraid to do, it's good that you're afraid. It proves you mean business. It is always scary and it never stops being scary, but you stop being "scared." You're too busy falling all over yourself in love with whatever crazed half-formed lunacy has lit up your insides. Do that. Make that. All of it. The hunger won't wait for you, you have to feed it while it's there, because it will eventually morph into something else.

I see you. I salute you.



Rachel Strickland




Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Fancy Pahty

Imma tell y'all a story.

Once upon a time, I was a baby aerialist living in San Francisco.  I wrote black-hat SEO copy online for $10/hour to pay for circus classes, I lived in an apartment with 3 other relative strangers which smelled ubiquitously of skunk weed, and took the bus for an hour each way to get to Circus Center.  I was poor, but I was doing the thing.  I felt victorious and free, even though my hands and feet frequently went numb in my sleep and I couldn't afford honey.  I spent my free time wandering through the city, admiring architecture and the beautiful wares offered in shop windows, finding little pockets of the city that were soft and beautiful, and many that were sharp and painful. 

One early evening, I saw a big party tent up near the opera house by the civic center.  Curious, and of course thinking "what if it's circus?!" I started walking that way.  A man was in front of me in black tie dress and mirror-shiny shoes, very posh, and he seemed to be headed that direction.  I caught up with him and said,
"Hi!  Excuse me, are you going to that tent?"
He looked at me as though the postal box had just asked him a question and replied, "Yes..."
"What's going on in there?"
The look of incredulity on his face I'll never forget.  He just couldn't believe a dirty little urchin like me was addressing him.  He refused to make eye contact.  "It's the beginning of the social season."**

**the SOCIAL SEASON?!  Who the hell even talks like that?  Have any of you ever heard of the "social season"?!

Me, refusing to leave him alone, "what's the social season?"
Him, exasperated, "tonight is the opening gala for the opera, it kicks off the social season."
"Can I buy a ticket at the door?"
"You kind of have to be someone to get in.  Excuse me."  And then he sped up and disappeared into the sparkley tent of wonders.

YES HE ACTUALLY SAID THAT TO ME.  YOU HAVE TO BE SOMEONE TO GET IN.

I lingered at the doorway of the tent, the guests had not begun to arrive in force yet.  The inside was draped in red and white, empty glasses sparkling on the tables.  The security guard was an oversized, good natured looking man, so I chatted him up for a bit and he was a hell of a lot more polite than the man in the tuxedo.  I asked him if I could get in- he smiled apologetically.  He said he couldn't let me in, each seat cost $250.  I thanked him and left to walk home in my dirty clothes and flip flops. 

I got home.  I pulled a cocktail dress out of my closet that I got on sale for $20 at Marshall's.  I did my hair and makeup, and put on the garnet jewelry my step dad had given me for Christmas that year.  I put on my best 2nd hand heels and the wrap I found on a park bench the week before (yeah I had washed it first). 

I took the bus back to civic center.  I straightened my spine and walked as though I had somewhere to be.  I fell in with a crowd of fabulously dressed people, and walked right the fuck into that fancy party.  No one batted an eye. 

I ate their food.  I danced with their tuxedoed men.  I laughed and talked to old women dripping in diamonds who cursed more than me and had interesting accents.  I drank their wine.  I caught a ride home at the end of the night at a reasonable hour and that was the end of that. 

And I'll tell you...I was disappointed that the experience hadn't had more of an effect on me.  It was just ok.  It wasn't a great party, it was just a fancy party.  There was much talk of investments and vacations, but no one talked about art or sex or seemed impressed with the quality of the wine.  So I was kind of...bored.

In fact, the best part?  Was leaving.  I asked my ride to wait for a second, then I went back up to the friendly security guard at the front door, the same man I had talked to before.  I leaned in and stared at him meaningfully, and said,
"Hey...have a great night, sir."
He looked at me confusedly, then the shock of recognition hit his face and he exploded into laughter.  I grinned at him and clipped off in my heels to the sound of him laughing in the distance.

I know I usually wrap these stories up with some meaningful lesson, but I won't this time because I didn't really learn anything new.  You can draw your own conclusions, but you already know those things too.  So maybe this story is just something true that happened to me that underscores what you already know. 

Own your world and your place in it.  If you believe it, so will they.




Well I guess I did wrap it up in a bow didn't I?  Hey did you know that if you were on my email list, you'd get stories like this one (and others possibly more relevant to you) as well as tips, tricks, announcements about upcoming workshops and applications, and a bit of woo as well?  Not saying it will save your life but, you know.  It could save your life. 





Saturday, September 15, 2018

Leaving San Francisco



On August 28th, I woke up in the embryonic dark of morning to leave San Francisco. It's been a long time coming, this leaving. It started around three years ago as a wistful "someday, I'll go home." Then it began to feel urgent. For the past year, it's been a silent demand, never wavering, never giving me much peace as I lived my life; whether I was cooking dinner in San Francisco or coaching spins in Ireland.




"Go home. It's time to go home now."




So I did. Here's a story about that, and it's all about me, and won't necessarily help your aerial career, but I'm going to tell you anyway, because I promised I would tell the truth and this is the truth of right now.




All together I've lived in San Francisco over 7 years. It hasn't been that long, you might say. You'd be right, but considering the years in question spanned the ages of 25 to 36, I think we can agree that anything that transpires at that time is fervently done.


I left it much the way I entered it...








with a suitcase and a backpack full of books. The amount of things I've amassed in the 11 years I've been on the west coast is probably normal for a decade of life, the detritus of domestic comfort, flatware and teapots and bathmats, and a whole heap of aerial rigging- all that's been shipped east. For the moment, we are free of it and the suitcase is a welcome substitution.


All our things carted off and the castle on the hill safely given to its new tenants, scrubbed clean and said goodbye to, we finally had some time to recover from the ordeal of GTFO.










I went for a walk two days before I left, to say goodbye to the city. I started where I ended- where my whole journey here started, in Castro. Under the watchful eye of the enormous rainbow flag, this the place I first came, barreling down market street being ushered forth from one uncle into the keeping of another, my two benevolent uncles- the one who goes to the ocean every day on a bicycle, and the other with whom I have lived upwards of three times under his care. It was there I was first deposited 11 years ago, in his wood paneled apartment at 18th and Eureka.





I walked down Market, past the apartment I illegally sublet for a year, the only time I've lived alone. I loved it- but I was terrified of being evicted so I never told anyone when the fridge broke. I lived that way for months, I learned exactly how long food could be left out before it went bad. Whole milk hardly at all, skim milk sometimes two days, butter a while. If you leave the lid on split pea soup it will keep for three days, but don't even think about it on the 4th. It will already be carbonated and the smell isn't worth the experiment.


Kristina used to stand there on the sidewalk and yell up at me, and I'd drop the key and she'd come up and we'd drink wine or have strawberries or who the hell knows what we did, but damn it was a good time.


And here's that section of Market street where some young fool attempted to mug Christy, not knowing who he was dealing with. She had pulled out her phone (to call me actually), when this chap of very poor judgement snatched it out of her hands and took off. He couldn't have known, but Christy? Is FAST. She put on the gas and went after him while his friend hollered behind them "look out!! Bitch's got wheels!". She tackled that bastard to the ground, took her phone back, ran another block and then finished her phone call to me. I believe she came over and we ate chicken or something like that.


And here's the open air market where I would buy almonds every Wednesday and eat them to the tune of 1/2 a pound a day. I was 25 and my metabolism was effortless, I had no knowledge I was eating 5x the daily recommended allowance of fat and who the hell cares, because I was learning circus arts and I was young and poor and fearless and I loved almonds.


I walked through that market trying to remember the creature that walked through it 10 years ago, eating almonds by the handful. It wasn't hard. Not much has changed, at the core. I ate a peach off a fruit stand without washing it, and bought a poem off of handsome young busker with an antique typewriter. He asked me for a subject and I asked him what he gets asked the most for. He said “love”. I rolled my eyes and asked for a poem about monsters. It was pretty damn good.


This is where I used to take the bus to one of the shadiest places on Market so I could walk the even shadier two blocks to go blues dancing every Friday night. Today a young man is resting on the sidewalk with his head on a duffel bag and his pockets full of spoons, listlessly scrolling on an iPhone. An elderly woman with a shaky voice is singing blues over a keyboard, some tourists smiling over her shoulders. I gave her all the ones in my back pocket and pressed on.




And here is a park I once spent three hours in on the phone with Shaun- we were still long distance and he was recently back from a stint on the submarine. It was the closest I could be to him to have his voice in my ear and at that time I could spend three hours in a park and no one would miss me. I don't miss those days but I'm glad we lived them.




And you know what...it's too much, this story. Too much to do justice to, the bus rides and BART rides and sleepless nights. The endless rehearsals and late night gigs and glitter stuck under my nails. The false eyelashes I'd stick to the mirror afterwards and the buckets of quarters so I could do laundry around the corner. Achey walks home at 3am after go-go dancing for 4 hours, lugging a suitcase full of heels. Romps with friends...so many friends, so many afternoons, having nothing but a burning ambition and a pocket full of almonds.




Circus Center, Cayuga, Kinetic Arts, Aerial Artique, Great Star Theater, Trapeze World, Vau de Vire, Nekyia Dance, Temple Nightclub, DNA Lounge, Circus Automatic...there's nothing I can say but naming you mindlessly.




So, I'm going to accept that I can't do it justice. I'm going to post a bunch of pictures from 2008ish, and not enough either. These aren't listed in any order of importance and if you're not included it doesn't mean you didn't change my life or win my heart, it just means I can't handle this post, and I just have to walk away.




So I'm just going to say, Thank you, San Francisco. There is not, and could never be, any town like you.











































































































































Monday, April 30, 2018

Rejection feels great and so does Sarcasm

Imma tell y’all a story.  This is a little known tale about the time I got contacted by **well known competitive show i’m not at liberty to disclose** to come perform for them in Hollywood as a contestant.  Since I’m not at liberty to disclose their name, I will refer to them as A Serious Stage, or ASS for short.  Here’s what happened.

I had just moved to San Francisco with my partner so that he could take a job he’d been offered, and while I insisted it was the right thing to do, I was very grumpy about the change.  I had an established, supportive artistic community in Seattle and no desire to return to the city-by-the-bay and start the process over.  Again.  I had been trained in San Francisco...the prospect of entering a marketplace dominated by my very first mentors and heroes, masters of their disciplines, was daunting to say the least.

So for the first few months nothing much was going on- I was looking for a house for us and training grumpily in the afternoons.  The rest of the time I was putting irons in the fire, one by one, hoping that one of them would catch.  Then ASS called me, and it wasn’t the first time.  If you’re a performance artist in the USA I think it’s a law that ASS has to call you at least once and offer you a spectacular opportunity to travel to their location and perform the most fabulous hacked up 90 seconds of your carefully curated work you can think of, in return for a travel stipend.  Everyone knows it exploitative.  I don’t think I have to talk about that, so I won’t...it’s the entertainment industry.  It’s not well-known for being deeply fair and for it’s excellent working conditions, now is it?  So this particular opportunity had never been a tempting prospect.  But here I was depressed and bored in San Francisco, with Hollywood a mere 5 hour drive and with my career at a sudden standstill.  It was the only iron in the fire that had caught a spark.  Frankly, it was the only thing I had going on.  So I agreed.

Well I don’t know how familiar you are with ASS but esoteric organic performance art out of left field lands one of two ways...they love it, or they hate it, and they did not love it.  In case you were wondering, it was the piece I created in 2012 called Genesis.  It uses a giant petri dish full of water, out of which I perform an aerial hoop solo.  See below:

photo by Dominic Bonuccelli
http://www.azfoto.com/

Or rather “the most spectacular 90 seconds” of the routine I could muster.

I did enjoy aspects of the opportunity.  I’m a sucker for a huge stage and it was, as I’ve said, A Serious Stage.  The audience was absolutely gorgeous and could not have been more in love with the acts.  I’m not at all accustomed to hearing people chant for me, much less chant after 90 seconds of work.  And while I was not loved by the judges, I did not get heckled.  Most of the hosts were gracious, for which I am grateful.   Even if one of them did say it looked like I had lost the soap in the bathtub.

Yet in the end, I was still sitting in a rental van with my empty petri dish in the back, having been rejected by the only thing I had going on, which I had felt minorly embarrassed about participating in in the first place.  I don’t know how often you’ve been rejected by someone or something that you’re not interested in, but it does not feel amazing.

So there I was, in Hollywood, with a five hour sad drive in front of me and not much else.  I felt like an idiot for coming here, and for chopping up my favorite piece for ASS.  I was very very close to indulging in that most contemptuous of activities...feeling sorry for oneself.  Then my phone rang.  It was an unknown number.

“Hello?”
“Is this Rachel Strickland?”  What fresh hell is this.  
“...yeeees…”
“I’m the creative director at Supperclub SF, you sent me an email a couple of weeks ago with your water act; Genesis I think it is called.”
“...yeeeees…”
“That was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.”
"...huh?"

Turns out, one of the pokers in the fire had caught.  I was in such a negative state of mind that I almost felt like it was a prank call, but he got through to me in the end.  Ultimately, the conversation ended in a performance residency in which I got to perform my favorite brainchild act every weekend for two months in my new city.  And not just “the most spectacular 90 seconds” either.   I also found in the director a beautiful like-minded soul and an incredible artist in his own right.  You can see his work here.

I’m sure you’re expecting a moral of the story and of course I’m going to deliver, but I think I can let my friend, the great Ronan Brady of Ireland say it for me, in this most excellent of captures:


In case you're wondering and I'm sure you are- you can follow Ronan's antics here.  You won't be sorry.

So back to my moral...you can try to cater to a specific company, adjusting your work to suit their aesthetic, needs, and even altering your body to fit into their requirements.  It might even work.  But I would humbly suggest there is an alternative course...which Ronan has illustrated for us so well.

Because what if it did work?  What if you got into the company of your dreams and worked for them for the next 20 years?  What if you were so unbelievably blessed you got everything you tried out for?  In the end, would you be left wondering what was left unexpressed that was YOURS, and not dictated by someone else?

So what if you gave credence to your stupid weird self?  What might that look like?  What if it worked?  

And if you're interested in finding out what that might look like...

Cycle 6 of my flagship creative mentorship course is buzzing away, and we've still got a few spots left for the next cycle of The Audacity Project.  Cycle 7 goes from May 23-July 19th.

This eight week course runs you through a gauntlet of creative excavation and actionable, step by step assignments to get your priorities straight, get your promotional materials in order, and feel your feet underneath you as a working artist.

It's not for the faint of heart, the helplessly lazy, or for people who are perfectly happy and satisfied where they are.  But if you're finding yourself at a crossroads, I made this to help you find your way.  You can learn more here:


ps. my mailing list ALWAYS gets first dibs...as well as templates, card readings, and other free goodies.  You can sign up for that here:  http://tinyletter.com/rachelstrickland

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Following is Admittedly a PSA/Rant:

Attention aerialists and circus performers:

Stop charging by the hour!!!



It's one thing to get this request from a client...clients don't know circus.  They know that the rest of the civilized world tends to sell itself in hours, so they frequently ask how much performance costs by the hour.  This my friends is where we have the opportunity to educate them with kindness and understanding.  This is not the time to become indignant and defensive.  The client isn't necessarily trying to trivialize your mortally dangerous lifelong work, they really just do not know any better.  Keep your emotions in check and instead, use facts to explain the situation.

The best possible response of a client to watching a performance is for their face to melt off in amazement.  It was amazing, it was moving, spectacular, they want more, they want to see it again.  This does not mean you should do it again...you WANT that aching pulsing love in the heart of your audience.  That is part of the magic of witnessing live performance.  Which option do you think leads to this response:  a dynamic, tightly choreographed 4-5 minute act, or watching someone do a variety of slowly moving splits for 20 minutes to house techno?  Right.

Understanding this, you are presented with a difficult task.  A client always thinks they want more.  More sets, longer sets.  You are in the position of facilitating the understanding that LESS is actually MORE.  Unless you have absolute confidence in the value of what you are selling, you are not going to succeed.  This is why we're presented with the current landscape of 95% ambient gigs, with ridiculously long sets.  Artists and agents let the client bully them into giving them more, when they are actually getting an inferior product.  Put an outstanding performer on for two 20 minute sets and you're going to be yawning by the eighth minute.  What's worse, now 4 sets are en vogue.  Ugh...you guys.  This is not why we got into this.
"Those who lack confidence in their ability to deliver quality will offer quantity instead.  Those who need to pay rent will sabotage their own future earnings to do so."  
Said the great Scott Cameron of Trapeze World, San Francisco.  Thanks for holding the line, sir.

And yeah, I get it.  I pay rent, too.  Here's the thing, I don't expect anything to change because I stood on a soapbox for a few paragraphs.  The market world-wide has already changed to an ambient marketplace.  It's nothing to be upset about, because why waste the energy?  But if you're going to walk into the fire, walk with your eyes open.  Either way, selling live performance by the hour is like selling a painting by square inch...short-sighted at best.

It may seem rare, but you can still have the experience of selling the act you worked for years to make for $1000 or more...if you know to try.  If you don't ask for it, you won't get it.  It's worth learning how to ask.  It's worth the time it takes to build a package BEFORE the phone even rings, so you don't have to sweat and stammer and try to invent something to sell...you already will have something to sell.  Your life's work has value.

Want to learn how to ask?  Talk to your mentors, talk to your friends.  Practice on your dog.  Apply for my mentorship course, The Audacity Project- I've opened the application for the next TWO cycles.  Whatever you do, try.  If you're spending your life becoming great at something, at least make a concerted effort to sell it for what it's worth.  We are all in this together.


photo by Brian Alvarez

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Gremlins.


In the last newsletter I sent out, I asked what gremlins were holding back the progress of my super rad readers.  I received so many thoughtful responses- I was blown away by their candor.  Raw, open honesty, like a fish hook in the eye.  Only in a good way. 

I want to report that every single response I got had something in common- the fear of not being Good Enough.  I read dozens of different ways of saying “I don’t feel that I’m good enough for ________.”  So Imma address that right now using the best method I have at my disposal...

Preachy overly self-assured soapbox prose.  Here it is.

When trying to battle the Good Enough problem, a first response is frequently an attempt to affirm to ourselves we are awesome, and to focus on things we feel awesome about.  This is healthy, but it clearly doesn’t get the job done.  Countering a fear of not being good enough with fake-it-til-you-make-it proclamations of our awesomeness is a good start, but it doesn't close the gap between wanting to believe it and actually believing it. 



So let us begin with stone cold facts to combat “I’m not good enough for ________”, whether _________ is a company, show, workshop, the world at large, or any other presentation.


Stone cold fact #1: 

You cannot possibly know if your skill level is a match for the ________ you’d like to do or not, unless you are speaking to the decision maker RIGHT NOW.  At best, you're guessing; and your guesses can't be trusted empirically because they are heavily colored with your own bias.  You feel me?  So know that every time you say "I'm not good enough" you aren't stating a fact.  You're feeding a gremlin.  And you know what happens when we feed gremlins…



Stone cold fact #2: 

Being good doesn't get you jobs.  Relationships and pursuing strategic action gets you jobs. 

So imagine you are “good enough”.  Does your phone start ringing with offers of tours and contracts?  NO.  You still have to go to auditions, apply for considerations, contact the Gatekeeper.  You still have to do the work, regardless of your own ill-conceived concepts of whether or not you measure up on this invisible scale of nothingness.  Don’t let the hamster running its wheel in your brain make decisions about your life- just do the work. 

Stone cold fact #3: 

Good Enough doesn’t exist.  “But Rachel,” you might say, “I have clear delineations on what will be Good Enough for my purposes.”  Ok cool, think about that place.  Point to it.  Describe the Good Enough exactly.  Now imagine you are there.  Spoiler alert!  There’s another Good Enough just out of reach. 

It’s not worth your life to chase a shadow. 

You may notice that Stone Cold Facts numbers 1-3 don’t include a meathook transfer to back flag.  The obsession with higher and higher skills might be born out of a quest for excellence, but the result can be an emotionally stunted product that hits all the “correct” benchmarks while somehow still failing to succeed at either impacting an audience or satisfying the artist.  High skills are desirable, but if that’s all that’s present in an act, personally I don’t care to watch that act.  I’m not interested in being impressed.  I’m interested in being moved...which will require your entire being, not just your skills; your vulnerability, your fortitude, your courage. 


Cool.  Whatever, I proved a point...now what?


If you genuinely feel your skill level needs to be raised, you know what to do.  It’s not a mystery.  Go put in the time needed to support that outcome.  Go to class, get a private lesson from a scary coach.  Change your training regimen.  Eat better food, get actual sleep.  Write down the minimum effective dose to support your desired outcome.  Feel like hell today?  Hate yourself and everything you touch?  Crippled by negative self talk?  Yeah that happens sometimes.  Go in to the studio and only do the minimum effective dose you wrote out for yourself, then get on with your life. 

Squashing a gremlin requires more than positive thinking.  It requires action based on what you value, instead of what you fear.

Don’t blink. 

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Money...it's a Ga$$

You have no idea how much I do not want to write this article.  But, the time has come.  Like, five years ago.  It’s actually too late.  It was too late the moment the circus left the family business and became touchable to the few, the brave, the crazy.

Now it is touchable to everyone- and man, are they touching.  This is natural, normal, unstoppable.  So here’s what happens next.  Everybody and their cousin enters the market.  Nobody tells them what their work is worth, and they usually don’t ask.  They think $300 for five minutes of performance is amazing (it’s not).

So here we are.  This is an article about money.

I’m expensive.  Does this mean I’m the best?  Not really.  Does it mean I’m better than most?  Again, not necessarily.  My price is only marginally reflective of the quality of my work, which is always held to the highest standards of excellence by...myself.  Most clients don’t care how about the artistic excellence of my work.  They care if I show up on time, have clean lines, a big smile, am not drunk OR HIGH (looking at you Californians), own my own equipment, have insurance.  In short, what an agent generally wants from me is a level above proven competence and to not be a pain in the ass to work with.  If I can be actually fun, that’s a bonus.  And you know what?  The feeling is mutual.  At this point in my career, I work pretty much exclusively with those I am friendly and real with.  I know them, and they know me.  There aren’t really any surprises there, and after a lifetime of suddenly frozen dressing rooms, mysteriously disappearing costumes, and a suspicious scent of bourbon, we are pretty darn happy with each other.

Sell Competence...Deliver Excellence


So how can I be “expensive” and tell you frankly that it has little to do with the excellence of my work?  For one, my work is solid.  I know it is solid, I can stand by it, it can stand on its own.  That counts for something.  But the buck stops there.

So what does it mean that I can be “expensive”?  It means I know to expect a fair wage for my work, and most people don’t, and therefore they don’t get it.  As a result, a “fair wage” begins to look a lot like a “high-cost commodity” for good work.

This is how what “should” be a given- that good, competent work for a fair wage becomes a luxury; an albino deer in the forest.  You’ve never actually seen one yourself but you’ve heard of them.

Much of this could be avoided if we communicated better with each other; students, teachers, mentors, community leaders.  I’ve seen dozens of Facebook arguments bitching about being undercut, and the back and forth is truly popcorn worthy, but NO ONE LISTS NUMBERS.

What the hell are competing artists, emerging artists, and barely-hanging-on artists supposed to think coming away from pointless conversations like that?  The only message it manages to convey is whatever you do, do it quietly so the hordes don’t tear you into pieces...it underscores our unwillingness to share our own prices for the totally understandable fear of being judged/shunned/scorned/voted off the island.

In some of my most prolific years, I could have easily doubled, and often tripled my income, if anyone had been willing to discuss pricing with an obviously ambitious new aerialist, and if I had asked more (and better) questions of my teachers.

Well guess what.

How to price your work- my method.

This is the method I use, and I invite you to use it as a means for comparison if nothing else.  It is not the only way and I feel you can probably improve on it, so for the love of the future of our industry, please do.  And then tell everyone that will listen.  You won’t regret it in the long run.

First we have to differentiate between the types of gigs commonly come across in local freelancing work:

Community Gigs:


Put on by your friend’s friend, or a local celebrity.  Low paying, regular, total love fest, do whatever you want on stage and enjoy your world.
Generally anywhere from $50-125 a show.  No one makes money off these shows, they exist for the sake of art and for the community.  They should be approached with respect to this end.

Club Gigs:  


Ambient affairs in nightclubs/restaurants- dependably regular, often questionable work conditions, all regular work pays less than a one-off and $150-250 is a pretty standard range for these gigs.  A nice way to bulk out a weekly income and try out new material/costuming.

Private Events:  


For the sake of discourse, this is what we will focus on here.  One-offs, including weddings and corporate events.  These are either self produced or you are the hired muscle.

Hired Muscle:  
Curated by an agent.  You show up, get into costume (possibly provided) makeup (also possibly provided) warm up and do your thang.  Get a check.  Go home and watch Frasier reruns.

Self Produced:
You do the bidding, contracting, invoicing, casting, costuming, organizing, event coordination and on-site manager, and also perform as the muscle in many cases.  You will also be responsible for ensuring safe rigging and possibly hiring the rigger yourself.  
Would you charge the same amount for both of these scenarios?  I wouldn’t.

The Method

Built around an artist’s fee, for a day’s rate.  A day in muggle land is 8 hours.  In physical performance, it is approximately 4 hours onsite, as we cannot and should not be expected to perform for 8 hours at a private event.

That symbol means "does not equal" fyi

Whatever occurs in this four hours, generally either an act or 2-3 ambient aerial sets, is what I sell for an artist's fee.

How much is an Artist's Fee?

This is not an arbitrary number, it’s based on the perceived value of the goods in the local market at that time.  I prefer to charge on the higher end of what the market can allow.  At this time in my local market that number ranges from $450-750 with dependable regularity.  This is JUST TO SHOW UP and perform, and leave.  It includes nothing else, someone else (an agent) is doing all that stuff, and collecting their own fee for it you betcha.

Yes, that means if you are charging in this range to show up, rig the event, perform, manage the event, and contract the performers, you are not charging enough to uphold market value.  Stahp.

If you are curating (self-producing the entertainment) at an event you will need to allow for that extra work, or you’ll find yourself working 40+ hours for a 4 hour day rate.

Fuck.  That.

So wait, how much is it?

The numbers I just gave you are based in my market.  The market changes with locality, and also time, and you need to know what your market is like, at this time. Guess how you find that out?  You will have to locate human beings who have that information and ask them questions.  

Don't ask me how much to charge, go find out.  

When you've collected this information you can use that range to decide what within that range is appropriate for you to charge for your work.  Know your day rate, and have a range.  You'll come across non-profits and other low-budget affairs that will ask you for a discount.  If you already know the lowest appropriate number, you don't have to take a hit just because someone else asks you to.  You can discount to your appropriate bottom line.  That's as far as it goes.  

This should go without saying, but when negotiating a gig...it is poor salesmanship to start with your bottom line.

Don't want to be a salesman?  Then you're not a professional.  Profession=money for work.  Don't want to sell?  Then live happily as an amateur artist.  Nothing wrong with that.
Absolutely nothing wrong with that.  As long as you're not taking a paid opportunity and doing it for free, which in case no one mentioned it, is a completely shit thing to do to the rest of us.  Why?  Because once someone gets something for free, it loses it's value.

I don’t have to think about my prices when negotiating a gig...I’ve already thought about it.  There’s no “ummmmm, let me see” because I already see.  If you wait until you are being offered a gig to price your work, you run the risk of pricing based on your emotions...not the market.  Don't let this happen to you!  You end up getting panicked at the thought of losing the gig, and it's easy to practically give your work away.

copyright South Park

So knowing this, I can take a gig someone else is doing allllll the other work for, show up and perform, and leave for a $600 check and sleep well that night.  In some localities, this number is a paltry sum.  In others, it's a dream.

If I were in charge of the event, you bet your ass I’m going to need extra compensation for the hours upon hours of administrative tasks that it takes to pull off an event.

If I’m performing, I start with my artist's’ fee-  $600 approximately, and double it AT LEAST.  This is for someone with very little overhead; as in, you don’t have an office or employees, you’re just organizing an event.  An agent probably has to charge more than this to get you a fair wage and also cover their cost of doing business, so consider how much damage can be done to a local market if suddenly no one is considering these extra costs?



The Moral of the Story...


Do your homework ahead of time.  Have a pricing structure that is based on numbers, and that you can defend without the need to be defensive.

Pricing is not about your feelings.  It's about value, and should be based in mathematics...not emotions.  Have it in place before you get your first inquiry, ask for help from your teachers and mentors.

Your actions do affect everyone else.  Don't go it alone...we really are all in this together.  And you know, it's YOUR LIFE.  It has value.


PS.  

I've gotten many questions about The Audacity Project, my 8-week mentorship program designed to get you off your ass and into the working world armed with the tools for the trade.  In case you're curious, I made an FAQ for ya.  Next round begins next week, August 22nd.  There are 2 spots left.