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How to land your first pro gig – 3 mistakes to avoid



Turning pro is just about as exciting as it can get for any bellydancer. But exactly how do you break into professional work without dropping a clanger and ruining your chances?

How do you avoid making schoolgirl,  embarrassing mistakes when dipping your tassels into the pro bellydance water?

Here are 3 valuable pro tips plus 3 BIG no nos to help get you started on the right track.

Pro tip  1:  be a geek and do your research

Who do you already know that’s absolutely rockin’ it on the scene? Go and watch their live gigs and learn by watching how they behave as well as talking to them. (I’m talking notepad and pen in hand) If they don’t have time to chat on the night, ask if you can set up a short phone call or skype chat.

Ask about how they got started. How long did they work two jobs? How did they know when to quit the day job? Did they quit the day job? (not all pros do) Mostly you’ll find they are flattered that you’d ask and will be happy to chat about their beginnings.

You may think that you can’t bring yourself to do that and you’re too shy. But here’s the thing, if you can’t muster the courage to speak to real live human beings already on the scene at this point, how are you going to deal with it when you’re pro? This is good practice for the proactive and tenacious attitude you’re going to need to forge a successful, lasting pro career.

And I know I don’t need to tell you to thank them and ask if there’s anything that you can do for them 😉

Pro tip 2: neutralize the competition by giving before you take

Take a look at who is already on the pro scene in your area  (if you haven’t already, where’ve you been?!). What you want to do is think about how you can positively impact the pro dance world and help other dancers – even before helping yourself.

These dancers have probably brokered deals, negotiated decent pay, carved out resident spots as well as educated a regular audience with quality dance. In many ways they have paved the way for you.

Contact them to introduce yourself and ask if they would be willing to consider you as sick cover, backup or an extra dancer. You’ll likely need to send a showreel or YouTube videos.

And always offer to refer gigs that you’re unavailable for (and actually do it).

You see, other pro dancers aren’t you’re competition, they are your community. Share any useful information and knowledge that might help them and you’ll be well on your way to making respectful, lasting relationships.

A rising tide floats all ships, when one dancer is doing well it generally elevates the chances of work for everyone. (This goes for teachers and students too)

Pro tip 3: don’t be too proud to hustle

You’ve psyched yourself up to hit the ‘publish’ button on your first website expecting to be busy fielding the queries about your classes and performances. You’ve hung out your shingle for all the world to see, things are going to get crazy, right?

And so the metaphorical tumbleweed starts rolling on by…

The thing is, it’s not up to people to find you, you’ve got to find them. You must put yourself out there constantly, not just when you first start but again and again and again.

Thinking that folks will eventually cotton on to your brilliance and you won’t have to lower yourself to marketing your services is not the way to go. So it’s time to get in the right mindset and think about all the ways you’re going to tell the world about your goodies. (if you don’t know how to do this then it’s time to educate yourself and learn).

Start with your mum, dad and cat to get started and ease yourself in. Then move on to friends and the world!

It’s not up to the world to discover you. You will always have the responsibility of keeping your pipeline of work full.

Oh, and those 3 mega mistakes?
  • Don’t  get your dad, boyfriend, mum etc. to hustle for your gigs
  • Don’t walk up to the resident dancer at the end of the gig and announce you’d like to have a residency there also
  • Don’t show up to a restaurant and try to ‘out dance’ the resident dancer in your day clothes (not the most dignified)
  • BONUS MISTAKE – don’t try to undercut the existing dancer to land a gig. It will make you and them feel yucky.


Did you find this post useful? Do you know somebody who might dig this content? I’d be so grateful if you were to share it!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below – did this post bust any myths about turning pro for you? How did it change your thoughts, fears and dreams about becoming a pro bellydancer? Be sure to tell us by posting a comment!

Thank you so much for reading.

Love and shimmies,

Helen xx

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