Do you have a job?

During a recent night out in San Francisco, another performer and I struck up a conversation with a fellow bar patron. Life details emerged, and it wasn’t long before the question arose. The one all performers must navigate. The one that caused my friend to look at me, eyebrows raised, suppressing a laugh (or possibly a horror-movie-style scream).

“So do you two just perform – or do you also have jobs?”

It doesn’t matter how many contracts pass through our hands, how many emails are sent, how much time is dedicated toward editing video and answering phone calls. It doesn’t matter how many hours of our lives are spent not “just performing,” not even “just rehearsing,” but also doing the administrative, marketing and promotional work that would be done by countless people and departments within a typical company. The question still lingers:

“Do you have a job?”

To be honest, there are two answers to that question.  The first one involves falling to the floor, clutching one’s belly and rolling around, laughing so hard that it’s nearly impossible to discern your words, which are: “A job?  A JOB! Ahh haaaaa haaaaaaaa!”

The second answer calls to mind an old sketch from the show “In Living Color,” in which a West Indian family gets through life by piecing together so many odd jobs that one job just winds up sounding lazy.

Q: “Are you just a performer, or do you also have a job?”

A: “I’m a performer. So I have eighteen jobs. Thanks for asking.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I understand that people are focused on the end product of performance, the time spent on stage.  They may understand that involves some rehearsal.  They probably haven’t spent too long considering any other work involved.  They also view performance as fun (which the end product often is). In their own lives, they may have been conditioned to think of a “job” as work and “fun” as not-work.

Ergo, performance is not a job.

“Do you have a job?” can be taken as a compliment, mixed with a bit of longing. What they’re really asking is: “Have you been able to support yourself by performing, or do you also have to deliver pizzas?”  In my own life, the answer to that question is: I HAVE been able to support myself entirely by performing. I have also mixed that performance career with freelance writing.

Spinning together the moves for a fire show. Photo by Rich Porter

Sometimes, I don’t have any writing clients, and I’m just performing, for long stretches of time. Sometimes, I have a writing client that requires a lot of focus, and I downgrade the amount of gigs I can do. This is my own personal path, forged because I love to perform and I love to write, and I have noticed through direct feedback that I’m able to touch more lives when I create than I can when I work a 40-plus-hour-a-week corporate job (I tried).

But I can honestly say that one of the most challenging, edgy, time-consuming, risk-taking, educational, work-intensive endeavors of my entire life has been building my performance career. When people ask me (either out of disdain or wonder), “Do you just perform, or do you also have a job?” – and I reply that I perform, and I also work as a writer, I don’t think they understand I am NOT saying, “I have a fun activity and a job that you might consider real!”  Instead, I’m saying, “I have a job that’s eighteen jobs in one – and another job. So I have nineteen jobs. Thanks for asking.”

Spinning a yarn. (Writing the tour blog for the New Old Time Chautauqua Vaudeville Tour.) Photo by Michelle Bates

In solidarity with other professional performers, I wanted to zoom in on the performance part of my life and break down what we actually do for a living. As we grow, it’s possible to pay for assistance, and some of us do have help/ management. But I’m going to state all of the following tasks because before, and even after, we form a reputation, making sure they are accomplished (even if that means by hiring one or more people to help) is on no one’s shoulders but our own:

  • Booking Agent – Want to earn money so that you can continue to eat while you put your art into the world? As a performer, you must connect yourself with shows. Someone else can also do this job (it requires finding the right agent and giving that person a percentage of the profit). When a show arises, a large amount of psychic energy must be spent deciding which number(s) you will perform, how many hours you will be at the event, how much space is available, what kind of performance they are suggesting, whether or not the client’s expectations are realistic. There are contracts to negotiate and sign.  There are gigs that arise and take up weeks of time that appears to be leading somewhere – only to fall through. There are major gigs that pop up at the very last minute, in California, when you just agreed to be in another state. Performing is fun. It’s necessary for the world to contain art. And each minute on stage is connected to about eight zillion minutes of back end time that it took to allow the world to contain your art. I’m just sayin.’
  • Administrative Assistant – Most corporations, schools, non-profits, churches, restaurants, car washes, grocery stores, nail salons – pretty much every organization on earth – has a buffer between the public and the organization itself. Guess what happens when people call performers about a gig? Guess what happens when performers receive an email from a client, a fan, a reporter or a stalker? Performers put on our administrative assistant hats and administratively assist our selves.  Thank you very much.
  • Director of Marketing – You might have a business card for the organization where you work. Did you personally hire the designer and oversee all aspects of that business card’s creation?  Or did you stay up all night, nights in a row, designing that business card yourself?  Have you spent months filming your own promotional video footage, then teaching yourself how to use video editing software so you could cut that film together, with sound? Did you know what “</br><em>” means and how to add widgets and paypal buttons and navigate html, even though you never went to school for web design? If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, congratulations. You are probably a performer.

"Here, have a postcard. I made it myself."

  • Public Relations Specialist – I feel grateful that past experience with both receiving press releases (as a journalist) and writing them (for clients) has helped me understand how to pitch my own performance projects to the media.  But if I hadn’t learned that on-the-job as a writer, I would have had to learn it on-the-job as a performer. The world’s journalists and newscasters aren’t following my every move on twitter, waiting for the breaking news that I will be doing a show. The press must be contacted with information. Someone must contact them.
  • Social Networking Manager – Speaking of twitter (and Facebook, youtube, blogs, etc), keeping up with a network of people who are passionate about the same art and promoting gigs to potential audience members and clients is a full time job, in an of itself.  Unfortunately, it’s just a full time job that no one considers, while asking performers, “Do you have a job?”
  • Travel Agent – Want to book a tour down the west coast? Or maybe you’ve been hired for a gig in Paris but then want to spend some more time hitting European events, while you’re on the other side of the pond. Better get on and pull up your frequent flyer numbers and figure out bus routes and train routes and baggage restrictions (hoops count as a bag, and every single time you go to an airline counter, they will be unsure how to attach the tag or whether they count as oversize baggage).
  • Business Manager – Try spending five weeks in Europe and saving all your receipts in a pocket of your suitcase, which incidentally has gotten wet in a leaking tent a the European Juggling Convention.
  • Costume Designer– A performance is a spectacle that causes audiences to laugh, cry, think, hope, believe. What we wear on stage, whether or not our art is mainly visual or aural (juggler vs. opera singer) is inseparable from the act itself. To that end, many of us have an idea of what clothing would best support our performance – and wind up making it ourselves.  Or modifying something existing. Or swimming through a stream of online stores, searching for exactly what we need. This can take hours, days, weeks.

    Bavarian dress modified to remove zipper and replace with all-velcro back, sleeves sewn from slip, hand sewn hat band with feather, costume reveal (not shown) black outfit with modified straps and punk rock skull from resale shop t-shirt, punk rock wig (top not shown) searched for until found.

  • Music Editor – A few years ago, I used to contact my friend Andrew to say, “Hey, can you edit 30 seconds of ‘The Chicken Dance’ together with the song ’99 Luftballoons,’ with the sound of a record scratching, in between those tracks?” And then we’d go back and forth for a while, via email, until it was exactly right. Now, when I’m doing my solo fire show, and I need to knit together two songs, I use Garage Band.  But first I had to learn how to use the program. I taught it to myself.
  • Performer – Wait, what?  Is there any time left to even rehearse and develop one’s act? Yes. There is. Sometimes, it comes at the cost of sleep. Sometimes, it’s hard to create while simultaneously expending so much mental and emotional energy on all responsibilities listed above. Sometimes, artists linger in obscurity or sink into deep depression because it is so hard to navigate everything involved with dedicating a life to art – including the misperception that our work is non existent or less valuable than something like having a corporate job. But it happens. Through nerves, through sweat, through failures and successes and self-doubt, performers forge ahead. Maybe we’re crazy. Or maybe we’re less crazy than people who stifle their creative urges and talents because the process of putting them into the world is too frightening.

I’m not complaining about life as a performer.  I’m only pointing out, for people who don’t know, that it’s less a selfish life led by lazy, lucky people – than it is a selfless one led by people who often spend every waking moment dealing with (or even thinking about) some aspect of how to raise our art into the world, the way a mother raises a child.

So the next time you’re tempted to ask a performer whether she “also has a job,” why don’t you instead ask her obscure questions about i-movie, about bus routes between Bristol and London or about what to bid on a two-hour walk around gig? If she knows the answers, give her a hug.

Revolva is a hula hoop performer and writer, based in Oakland, CA. Check out her work at

Huggling. Photo by Mike Maginot

82 responses to “Do you have a job?

  1. Wow. You hit the nail on the head. I was nodding and chuckling till I got to the last ‘Performer” paragraph…then I started crying. Thank you for writing this ❤

  2. What a great article. The next time I am asked by someone do I have a job… hhahahaha yeah I do. It’s called life and I’m living it, working for hard for it and following my passions. While I do perform, it really is only one of the vast array of the “jobs” I do have. Gigs are hard work and they don’t come easy! Seriously, awesome job on this article, you’ve insphyre’d to step it up in my own blogging, (fyi it’s another one of those many jobs.) ~Ase

  3. Love it, and have lived it! I hope that I can continue to help support my performer friends in the years to come with my own 15 million jobs that I have!

  4. AWESOME does not cover this piece! Hit the nail on the head, with humor, grace, and lots and lots of truth.

  5. Where do you perform? I rarely see your name mentioned on a bill in SF or see you posting about upcoming performances.

  6. Michael O'Neill

    Wonderfully written Revolva thank you

  7. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Glad to know so many of you resonate with the topic. FireGrrrll, I post whenever I can, but I also do shows out of state — and I’m still a relatively new Bay Area resident. I moved to Oakland last November (2010). In December, I left for an entire month to do shows in Washington and Canada. I was back in the spring and did some local SF things like The Flow Show (Dance Mission), Nat Keefe Concert Carnival (SF Independent), Cabaret Perilous (Uptown Club – Oakland), Hubba Hubba Revue (DNA Lounge), opening entertainment for OK GO at the Yahoo Block party (SF Art Institute). I also do corporate shows, private events and things that aren’t open to the general public. Around May, I started into festival season, and from there, I was at Hoop Convergence (N. Carolina), Fire Drums (N. California), Ridgefield WA Fourth of July Festival, Oregon Country Fair, Secret Garden Party (UK), European Juggling Convention (Munich), Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland), Burning Man (with Vulcan Conclave), Lake Tahoe Flow Festival, Hoop Camp (Santa Cruz) and then in October, I went on tour with Los Straitjackets and the World Famous Pontani Sisters, from the Midwest to the east coast. I just got back the first week of November. 🙂 If you haven’t seen my name on a local flyer, it’s probably because I’ve hardly been local for the past six months! Phew. I’m actually glad to have a bit of a break. Feel free to keep in touch on FB or twitter (revolvahoop) because I do actually post my shows when I have things people can attend.

  8. As usual, you speak the truth with clarity and wit. Oh, the many, many, many jobs.

  9. Brenda "Manzanita'

    I “have a job,” and I also perform on occasion. Let me just say that my job as a healthcare professional is MUCH less stressful and time consuming than performing. I’m always thrilled with the result of my performance in one way or another, but the effort way out balances the financial pay off you need to feed yourself. I have an incredible amount of respect and admiration for artists that choose a life of working their asses off to put their art out there for all of us to be inspired by. Thanks for writing this piece. I often get asked the “Do they have a job” question when I’m speaking about friends that perform. Now I can refer them to your piece. Rock on, sister!

  10. Excellent post, Revolva! You obviously have a lot of pride and passion for what you do and that shows in your amazing performances. Now I have a post to which to point others if that “job” question comes up, even if isn’t relating to the performing arts. (There are indeed other “jobs” out there that invite similar ignorance and disbelief!) Happy Hooping!

    • That’s true (about there being other work that invites ignorance and disbelief). I think it’s part of human nature to want to work – but I mean that in the sense of contributing to life on earth and to forging one’s way through the world, playing a meaningful role in existence. I heard someone say once that life isn’t hard. Our culture is hard. I wish it was more easily possible to do work, find work and be respected for work that felt meaningful. That might involve shifting our culture. Now, there’s a job!

  11. These sorts of questions are honest. (no offense) They derive from patrons and would-be patrons of the art who aren’t privy to what happens behind “the curtain”. It’s good that there’s a sense of disconnect between them and the product; without that some of the magic is gone.

    • Anthony, I agree that the performance (and the performer) need to maintain some mystique, lending to the “magic.” There’s a sense of awe to be found in making impossible things look easy — or sometimes, depending on the act, in making easy things look impossible. And I agree that patrons of the arts do not always have a whole concept of a performer’s reality “behind the curtain.” But I don’t think the question “Do you just perform, or do you also have a job?” arises entirely from a sense that art is magic and can’t possibly involve any substantial work. I think it arises because our culture, in general, doesn’t lend too much weight to certain creative endeavors, such as performing.

      I didn’t say this in the blog, but if you had to break it down, I work as a freelance writer, and I work as a freelance performer. With both, I promote my work, and I get clients. There are differences (the writing jobs are longer, I have more creative control with performances) — but without getting into the differences, I am a freelancer at one and a freelancer at the other. If I meet someone and happen to start talking about my writing work first, no one EVER asks me, “Do you just write, or do you also have a job?” If I meet someone and begin talking about performing first, it’s absolutely common to be asked, “Do you just perform, or do you also have a job?” And when I answer, “I perform, and I’m also a writer,” the “writer” part seems to address their desire to know what I REALLY do for a living. (Although I purposely split my life between both, at some points – if I don’t have a writing client – relying solely on “Revolva.”)

      This blog is simply an observation that people often don’t seem to consider “performer” a “job.” I think it’s possible for audiences to feel a sense of awe and magic about a show, while simultaneously having the opinion that the performer is living a viable, rich existence. Just the way readers would feel a sense of awe and magic about an amazing book or article, without questioning whether its author had a “real” career. Maybe performance isn’t always seen as a “real” career in our current culture, but, you know, it could happen. (Anyone want to band together to make it happen?)

      And thanks for your comment. I wasn’t expecting this blog to be shared so widely, so quickly, but I’m enjoying reading all the discussions on Facebook and also interacting with comments like this one, which push my thoughts even a bit further than the original post.

  12. Alysia Michelle James

    Haha, I feel this. One time I actually explained to a friend what being an aerialist means because she did not understand why it is so “expensive” to hire one. I said, “Well let’s start with training. I spent a lot of money on training when I first started, then I had to invest in my own equipment, which has cost me thousands of dollars and which has to be replaced regularly since, you know, my life depends on these things being strong enough to carry me, my partner and the excess weight we create when we drop. Then I had to invest in performers insurance, this is to protect you – the audience – the people who make the equipment I use, and the venue that is hosting the event, not me. I have to train at least three times a week for hours a day just to stay in shape – not to improve, more if I want to improve. I spend months creating the pieces that I perform, developing character, putting together the music and costumes; all for a three to five minute routine. Sometimes I have to travel for training or performances. I cannot stop doing any of these things, I cannot even take a week of time off because I will lose strength and have to spend another two weeks just to gain back the strength I lost from taking a single week off. I have to get massages and chiropractic adjustments every week. I have issues with my joints and need physical therapy to keep them strong (I am 23 years old and this is JUST from doing aerial for the past four years). Every time I am in the air, I am risking my life. When I perform, it feels great, I love it and the second I come down from the air, I am REALLY tired. It is like continuously lifting hundreds of pounds and doing a dance with them for a full five minutes. It is painful, it is powerful and it is worth every penny of a grand to watch me do a single routine.” I then asked her if she had ever taken a class, she hadn’t. Every who has taken a single aerial class knows immediately that it is exponentially harder than it looks. She asked purely out of curiosity of why it was so expensive and why I do not teach for free. It was great that she did because it helped me understand what I do a little better. Thanks for this, I really appreciate you putting it out into the world.

  13. i read your article via a friend who is a performer, but might i add that the same could be said of artists of the non-performing variety? you have just described my professional life for the last thirteen-plus years better than i could have done myself.

  14. Anthony: I suppose you could say then that part of your job as a performer is to not make it look like a job. And when asked if you have a job at the end of the performance, you can consider it a job well done.

  15. Honestly I’d take the question as a compliment. You’re obviously doing it so well you’re making it seem effortless, as it should. 🙂 Good on ya.

  16. I would also like to say thank you for putting these thoughts into words. It makes me feel so much better about not having a “real job”. I have dealt with this question from my family which, I think, is much harder to tackle than it is with a stranger or new friend. In addition to answering to Dads and Moms who love to see you happy, but worry about your job status for you, our troupe deals with the expectation that we will do a full fire show with 15 people out of the kindness of our hearts. Often we are doing our 19 jobs for free because in a community filled with art, artists, performers, and musicians, everyone is broke! Haha. Here’s to starving artists!

  17. Pingback: Do You Have a Job? |

  18. Revolva, I appreciate this post so much, and I’m glad it was featured on I hoop only for fun and exercise, not as a career, but I have recently been considering launching a freelance writing career while looking for a “day job” to replace the one I was downsized out of in October (and that only because I have pressing bills I can’t ignore and can’t pay on freelance work alone at this point). All the jobs you mention are part of any self-employed person’s “job,” and the scope of work involved can be daunting for those of us who have always been the employee of someone else.

    I recently landed my first freelance gig, so I’m just starting to find out about all the other hats I’ll be wearing in addition to my writer hat, and your list spells out pretty clearly what all I can expect to be doing if this takes off, both in my freelancing and in my Etsy shop. Scary stuff, but it’s encouraging to know that it can be done. Your post gives me hope that I can make it too, if I’m willing to put in the work.

  19. BOOKMARKED! I will re-read this anytime I am feeling low because someone thinks my job(s) is less important than theirs. Thank you!

  20. I found this piece really interesting. I came back to America from Japan after the earthquake and the only job I could find was hooping all summer. I couldn’t find a day job to save my life but I was always booked to hoop and perform. I don’t live on my own, so I wasn’t making enough money to pay bills on my own but I was surprised that in the struggling economy, people were still paying to come out to see me play fire hoop and do burlesque hoop for venues that didn’t allow fire. So although hooping isn’t my bread and butter, it’s my beer and cigarettes.
    I agree with everything you said about having “18 jobs” and managing yourself. I’ve performed all over the world and learning how to manage yourself is one of the biggest things that helps a performer become successful (the other thing is physical appearance, IMO, but that’s another topic) I not only promote myself but I promote my burlesque troupe as well because we’re a team. I hope that all of this experience helps me land a job as a social media manager.
    Hooping has taught me more than just how to play with a circle and I found your piece really inspirational 🙂

  21. Wow! Big thank you to you from a newbie performer. Inspired to the fullest.

  22. Right on the money!!! I’m a visual artist, with all of the same duties as you described. Not to mention, a full time wife AND mother of 2, both of which are unpaid “fun” jobs, too? Ha!

  23. Thank you for writing this – it really struck a chord me with (any many others, I see!) 🙂 I’m so close to jumping off the edge of the corporate day job world. I know I’m ready to dance (+ everything related) completely full-time, 24-7; I just need to get over my fears. It’s scary, and I so look up to everyone who has been able to let go of “normal” jobs to really be what the universe has in store for them. So close…I can taste it.
    So yeah, thanks for this. Love your site, btw! ~ Cherie Dawn

  24. Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you for this.
    And thanks, too, to Alysia Michelle James above. I’m in the same boat entirely.

  25. Revolva, I love this!! I spend more time teaching hoop dance now than I do performing but much of this still applies. And it eloquently makes the point I had failed to make previously under the structure of the former Thee Inner Cirkus here in Greenville. It felt impossible to explain just HOW MUCH work was involved in successfully accomplishing gig after gig. In the group format, it became impossible to delegate a pay structure when so many people involved were missing this information, the very point of this post. wish I’d had this a reference way back when!!

    It’ll also be handy to reference this post later when people ask why I choose to be a starving artist sometimes…Because if I work hard enough, eventually, I wont be starving and my efforts with come to fruit!

    Thank you for sharing and clarifying. =)

  26. I am so grateful to read you right now!! I’m a musician, and recognize myself perfectly in what you wrote. I was on the merge of despair before reading you, because I can’t find any gig right now and I just spent the last dollar paying my rent. I told myself I must be a bad seller, or it just what you said: it take time, but you have to keep on doing all that, and I can’t believe it will not work! I was precisely thinking on getting myself “a job”, and reading this it gives me back my “faith” in myself. It is hard to be a performer, because you have to be responsible entirely for yourself. Big daddy president isn’t there to tell you when to take your vacation and what’s your value. So THANKS for writing this, again. And by the way, check our website: – we are trying to set up a show with acrobatic performance (we’re in Montreal, Quebec, Canada).

  27. Oh, thank you. Another dancer posted the link to your article on her facebook page… and I just signed up for wordpress so I could thank you. I do all those jobs, and sometimes felt (note past tense) guilty that I couldn’t “get more done”. Wshew!

  28. This is great!!! Thanks

  29. Thanks for writing this, Revolva. It amazes me that you find the time to do all the jobs listed above AND write uplifting articles like this. Thanks for validating the work of artists!

  30. Having been a working circus artist for 11 years or so, I really appreciate this article. I’m lucky enough to never have had to take another job to pay the bills, but there is one thing I really resonate with and should give people a lot of encouragement that time working on yourself is not wasted. The skills you learn when you put time into yourself in this way are useful in the outside world. Whether you continue to work on your own projects or you try to break into another field via a more ‘normal’ career path, your CV (as well as your life skills) is hugely enhanced by learning how to be a volunteer coordinator, web designer, project manager, budget balancer and all round administrative octopus, and all the other jobs you need to complete in order to make it all work. You just need to recognise the value in what you have already done and see how it can be used wisely in the present and future.

    Hope to hang out with you a bit more next time you’re on this side of the pond 😀

  31. Thank you for writing this! Its so very true and well written. Hilarious and humble. I cant even count how many times I have been asked that question in the last year alone, let alone across my lifespan. WIsh I could have caught your show in NYC- but I also had a show. Till next time! ¡Por lo tanto muchos sombreros!

  32. Such a great article! Great job clearly articulating the reality that differs from the assumptions people make about working. I have thought so much about work and the way we view it as a society, so I loved reading this. Thanks so much. -kate,

  33. It’s strange, because as much as I get “Do you have a JOB?”, I’ve gotten “Wait. You have a dayjob?” a lot more. People were always more surprised that I worked a shitty 9-5 as well (when I had the luxury to do so, before I lost said job & my house), expecting that I was already able to make a living doing what I do. I always felt ashamed, having to say “Yeah, I work a day job.” Like there was something wrong w/ mer that I hadn’t been able to craft a living out of my performance/various arts yet.

    Amazing article!

  34. Yes! This is brilliant. I too, am a writer/performer and it works out great, but freelance writing is also five jobs in and of itself! Pitching stories and dealing with clients, alongside producing shows, yeah there is lots of juggling. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  35. Thank you so much for this insight. A misunderstood life path indeed.

  36. THANK YOU!! Seriously, I have gotten asked that question countless times! Just replace ‘performer’ with ‘artist’ and you have described me perfectly! Really appreciate you putting this into words. ❤

  37. I too was smiling, giggling and crying for some un known reason! I love your style of writing. I am about to start my own trio group of burlesque performances….. Fingers crossed x

  38. This was very enlightening as many people wouldn’t know what goes on behind the scenes…However I must say the tone does come off as a bit self indulgent and nasty. If nothing else, if you love what you do, you should be grateful that you do have a career where there are many others who don’t and have to find some way to pay the bills as well as express themselves creatively. We are in a recession after all and not everyone is that lucky. Plus, it sounds a bit Bitchy and off-putting to talk that way to “Regular People”. Why should they be punished for not knowing all the Vagaries of your life and tribulations as a performer? Didn’t they fulfill the obligation to you when they walked through the door and plunked down their hard earned cash to see YOU? Those folks that you disparage here almost as some kind of second class citizen are really only trying to show some concern and some interest. Writing something like this is interesting and educational but taking a Holier-than-thou tone to the very people whose hearts and minds you are trying to win over is probably not what you hope to accomplish and could serve to alienate the very people you would hope to reach. Sorry to say this…I’m not trying to be a Troll or be mean here…I’m sure you are a great performer with great talent but although I felt I learned something new, the attitude of the piece left a very bad taste in my mouth.

    • Matt, I love the people I perform for and I certainly respect what people who have chosen a traditional career go through handling a “day job” I have had several of them and it is really tough out there. I agree. I do not think Revolva meant this article as a discouragement or a disrespect to people who are not performers. The tough thing for performers is this: If you go to school to be a dental hygienist, for example, you and you follow the path that is laid out for you, and you sell your self once to dental office, continue to do a good days work every day, you can expect a certain amount of money and a “regular” career with the perks and health insurance and benefits and all of the pain and reward that goes with that career path. A performer on the other hand has very few laid out paths or regular expectations or normal things he/she can depend on. And there are no health benefit perks or Christmas bonuses or 401K, unless you are in a unique situation like performing with an established institution. Not to mention, all of the promotion, grooming, practicing, studying, auditioning, costuming etc… AND many performers try to hold onto a part time job to stay stabilized during slow months, I have done that and believe me it is really exhausting. So it is an irregular career path with irregular expectations and many risks. This can lead to discouragement, confusion, and allot of heartache, and few people understand why some one would choose this kind of life. It is the classic notion that a mother really does not want to hear her child say, mom, I want to join the circus. Or I want to be a singer. Moms usually will get a migraine when their child announces this. I was told when I wanted to study art instead of be a secretary that I had to pay for my own art school, and I did, in fact I went to the art school that is most famous for the circus. Ringling Brothers. Usually when I tell people I went to art school, most people ask me why did I study to be a clown? Anyway Matt, I hope this takes the edge off, I do respect whatever career path you have taken and I hope you love it. Peace and Blessings to you.

    • Sorry Matthew but I disagree. I think you missed the point here. And for the record Revolva is an amazingly good performer. What she is doing is helping the rest of us, not all performers (in my case) but all self-employed, feel a bit better about ourselves. Normally we are treated with slight disdain by the “regular people” with career paths and a benefits package. They look down on our trials all the time thinking we should just go out and get a “proper job” and after a while that attitude starts to take it’s toll.

      This excellently written blog redresses it a little in our favour. You only have to look at the number of responses to realise that we all feel a recognition here. This is how it is for us. My parents don’t think I have a proper job even though I run my own business and have done for years. My friends think I spend all day at home so can’t possibly be stressed like them. For them it is acceptable to just turn up on the step and expect me to stop and give them tea or an ear, or to expect me to drive to help them with something or pick them up or drop them off. If I worked for someone else in an office somewhere they would not dream of doing/expecting that.

      So I think you chose to misinterpret the blog. It is not supercilious or Holier-than-thou. It’s just the truth from our perspective for a change.

      We all have the chance to make a choice and that’s what you have done and what we have done. Neither group should feel threatened by the other.

  39. Well said. I think I might need to print this out and give it to the students I’m teaching (Theatre majors in college, lazily thinking they’re going to have performing careers without doing any work at all.) If I were making a list for my theatre job, I’d add Grantwriter and Web Master, as well. (Oh, and the day job of teaching. . .)

  40. Awesome article! When people ask for advice about going into the “business” I always try and find out what their take on the job is. I always end up telling them that it is a way of life, an all consuming life. You have to be comfortable living the 3 ‘P’s”; performing, practicing and pimping. To get started you need to be doing one of the three at all times and even after some success you still need to be doing this. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but I do know the ones that are performing or living their dreams are happy people.

  41. Oh stop complaining and do your dishes.

  42. Exactly!!! So well said, and a topic that I have explained to “outsiders” for literally decades now. ❤ great article, definitely sharing!
    (Sorry, the business manager/pr hat took over)

  43. Brilliant! I am a burlesque performer and was having a conversation the other day about how what the audience sees is only about 1% of what we actually “Do”. In reality it is probably far less, especially considering time travelling to and from gigs.

  44. Father of a Performer!!

    I love the arts and performers! I do believe
    that if you can pay your bills then it’s a job
    if you can’t then one day it may become a
    job, but it’s not a job yet.
    Seems to me that is why so many performers
    has jobs that have nothing to do with their
    craft !!

  45. Well said!

    I sometimes feel that when people ask ‘What else do you do?’ it’s because they’re looking for something in common. They can’t relate to what it’s like to be a performer (on stage or off), so they’re hoping I say ‘I’m also a nurse/chef/social worker’ so that they can contribute more to the conversation, or lead it. ‘Oh my uncle is a nurse! blah blah blah’

  46. I also have many many jobs. It’s just that the one that occupies most of the daylight hours from Monday to Friday happens to pay more than all of the other roles put together; including performer, events manager, dance teacher, music editor, content manager, copy editor, social networker, and costume designer! 🙂

  47. Fabulous article both in content and execution! I know many performers who have excelled exceptionally in one or two of the 18 jobs that they have started providing that service for other entertainers in addition to their own performer work load. Just because you don’t carry a brief case to a cubicle 5 days a week doesn’t mean you can’t be a workaholic!

  48. There are so many days that I envy your reality. As someone who spends more than 40 hrs a week in a soul-sucking cubicle job-thing that gives me some bill money and health insurance, then hoops in a 2-bit burlesque troupe for a couple of bucks in door money maybe once every other month, I often wonder how I might go about making that transition. It seems like such an uphill battle, though. And I’m scared. Desperately scared that I might fail. I’ll have to work on that. Thank you for reminding me that magic is possible.

  49. This is very true! Thank you for writing this! And thank you for being an inspiration and following your passions! You are helping others, like me, to follow their passions too!

  50. Excellent 🙂

    I get the same questions now, being an indie author and editor. I know exactly how you feel. The formatting documents, the accounting, the writing pitches…

    So what do I do to relax? Hula-hooping, obviously! 🙂

    Lovely post, and keep up the good work! x

  51. Pingback: Why yes, I do actually work for my money (and pay taxes) | Mistress Roxxanne Rex

  52. You really nailed it. I’m still navigating the all time favorite question, “What do you do for a living?” I like to have fun with it, so depending on who asks, I’ll give creative answers and tell them I do something that they would relate to. Gotta keep things interesting:) Thanks for the great article

  53. there are so many other jobs in there too: choreographer, director, contracts, finances, sales, customer relationships, outside marketing (video and phot capture and presentation to the public post gigs to follow up), president (vision holder) and CEO (leader) and more. i go through this in my training all the time. thanks for getting it and putting it out there. ❤

  54. Although I’m not a performer, it was great to see some of the similarities between all of the backstage stuff you need to do to be the backbone of your performance career, and the things I am currently learning about creating courses for people, teaching, and learning to get my ideas and gifts into the world in a way that allows me to support myself. Awesome post!

  55. I love you. You have encapsulated so many years of my life. I’m now the art department at a systems integration house because I taught myself web and graphic design, video and audio editing and writing trying to pursue a music career…

  56. Very good to read and see that so many people (re. comments) get it.
    Of course this is not limited to performers, but also the self employed people working for the art business. I am a CEO, graphic designer (websites too), writer, (online)publisher, travel agent, personal assistant, receptionist, PR-manager, social networking manager, workshop supplier, logistic operator, import/export manager, bookkeeper, administrative assistant, account manager, sales representative, catering, event planner, event host, treasurer, etc. and a violin maker and restorer to boot myself. So I do know what you are talking about! Also not complaining about the workload, but the 9-5 people just don’t understand how someone can live in a 24 hour workschedule, so they still ask whether you have a job. Also read your oprah tour article. Well said! So besides having all these jobs, people also assume you would happily do it for free – nay, go out of pocket on travel expenses for them – just for the exposure and the chance to land other gigs. (I do play an instrument too and have been in enough bands and music groups to know the performing side of it.)
    And we’ve all got bills to pay as well…

  57. Reblogged this on TheBrianaHansen and commented:
    Love this article. Very true.

  58. After being a successful musician for 32 years, my answer has always been: “I get paid to entertain people, have fun, and drink for free” Who wouldn’t love a Job like that?

  59. Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look of the life of a performer. I am afraid that I must have asked people the “job” question as well, and would like to offer a different motive of asking that (or at least what I was thinking at the time). Knowing how hard it is to make a living performing as opposed to, well, just about anything else it seems, it’s just a way of asking whether you’re able to make ends meet without recourse to wage labor. No insinuation at all that performing isn’t real work — quite the opposite — but genuine curiousity, given the sorry state of the arts nowdays. I do admit it’s a rather prying question, but thanks to posts like this, it’s less necessary to ask these questions. I suppose this blog is also “exposure”, because now I have a new act to watch out for! 🙂

  60. Reblogged this on As Things Go & As I Go and commented:
    “I’m a performer. So I have eighteen jobs. Thanks for asking.”

  61. Loved EVERY word of your letter to Oprah and here, all the comments! …and your mention of the Ellis Act – that pic is so powerful. Lincoln Place (apartments in Venice, CA), a.k.a. David, beat AIMCO (property owner), a.k.a. Goliath, with the Ellis Act, and I’ve never been so proud of our fellow artist-activists who were victims of the largest single day of (illegal!) evictions in LA’s history. I’m certain that if we weren’t of your similar ilk, we would not have won. That, on top of the many “jobs” we have to do in the “real world.” I’m newly inspired today – THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  62. Is the question really about “a job” as though performing weren’t a job or is it about whether or not your performances feed and clothe you? I feel like that’s more of the question being asked than anything else. It’s not that being a professional performer isn’t a “job” but it certainly isn’t a “job” in the way that the same person pays you $8.85/h to fill coffee cups or $11.25/h to stamp sewage overflow reports is a “job.” That’s what people think of when they think of the word “job” and I’m fairly certain that’s where that question comes from- can you support yourself with your art or do you only do this on Friday nights after you’ve spent the rest of the week getting paid to listen to people complain about how their new toaster isn’t shiny enough and how they want a refund.

  63. Pingback: Revolva: Vaudeville hula hoop act, circus performer Do you have a job? - Revolva: Vaudeville hula hoop act, circus performer

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