Do you remember that famous catchphrase from Jerry McGuire? We thought it was the funniest bit……but when I really started thinking about it, and actually started saying that same phrase to myself with every conversation, when someone “asked” me to sing. I started to understand the value in that catchphrase.
I love the arts, it took me a long time to realize that I HAD to start paying for my services. People think that you just open your mouth and sing. Sure we might have some repertoire always prepared to go, but they do not see the hours in a practice room, the large sums of money spent on coaching and voice lessons to prepare for their event. The one exception I have is family….if it is for a special occasion possibly, but if it is as a fundraiser….everyone knows my first question is “What is your budget”. Let’s face it, in the world of opera, we often undersell ourselves because we need the gig. However, do you know what you are REALLY doing when you do not ask for a fee for your (in my case) singing services? Here are some great strategies to help you stop the vicious cycle of performing without getting paid, and how you can feel more confident about asking.
The following strategies work for everyone, but I really want singers of color to listen up. If you struggle with asking for your fair share for a performance or a singing job, the following strategies will help you.
- Value – Do you ever wonder why the same polyester blouse that feels like silk sells for 200 in SAKS, and sells for 20 in Rainbow? Easy. They know their value. If you do not charge for your service people will assume you do not value your own service. If you do not charge for what you do, then people will not care about what you do. They will say…hey hire that singer because she or he is soooo inexpensive. When I started having to negotiate deals with various corporations for sponsorships for my TV show, I realized that if I undercut myself, there is no way later, that I would be able to ask for more money for a project. People LIKE paying for services of value. THEY LOVE knowing they are getting something extra special, and that you value your craft.
- Practice Makes Perfect! You know how we used to spend HOURS in the practice rooms in college to get one verse of an aria just perfect for jury season? It is the same thing you need to do if you are one that freezes up when people ask about the cost of your services. PRACTICE. Create a go to script if someone asks. DO NOT THINK to hard. Just ask the questions from your script and take notes. Have your pricing sheet ready. Here is the trick in negotiations….he who talks first LOSES. Say your price, and do not say another word. Usually the person on the other end will be freaked out by the silence, they will more than likely say…well that might be doable, then negotiate from there. My rule of thumb is that I do not squabble over price. If they can not pay my fee, then someone else will. If you dig a littler further, you will probably see where they are trying to pay you less, so they can pay the caterer more. Not me Boo Boo!
- Show Me The Money ! Technology today has made life so much easier….and even more awesome for people to want to pay you. With apps like Venmo. You can start charging for tons of things. If the person decided to pay you your suggested rate, AWESOME! Now you need to get used to charging your deposit up front. Make sure it is non refundable. Let them know that there is a (whatever you charge) deposit 25 to 50 percent due up front. If they cancel, no worries for you. If you end up singing for the gig, then you can deduct it out of your total performance rate.
Remember that everything takes practice. Get used to knowing what your value is, and loving it!!
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