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How to make money as full-time burlesque artist?

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

Diversify your revenue! I'm sure I don't need to remind you just how hard the last few years have been as an independent creative. Whether you are a burlesque dancer like myself, a model, a musician, a photographer, or any other small creative business, we have all struggled with financial uncertainty. And how quickly the covid lockdowns, travel restrictions, and venue capacity limits hit us highlighted how important it is to have a diverse income that is not dependent on just one activity or product.

Of course, a global pandemic is not the only financial challenge you will face as a small business owner. There will always be circumstances outside your control that will require creativity and innovation to overcome. And by creating additional revenue streams, you are giving yourself the time and financial security needed to review and adapt to future situations and changes that might affect your business.

To put this in perspective, I often tell people I do burlesque full-time, which IS true because my entire brand is built around me as a performer. But I don't actually perform full-time, which is an important distinction to make. I know I nearly had a heart attack when I first got paid for a show, then tried to multiply the income to see how many times I'd need to perform per year to make an average full-time wage. (Spoiler alert it's literally like a billion times.)

So, how do I make money if I don't do a billion shows per year?

Well, here is a percentage breakdown of my income throughout June 2022 as a 'full-time burlesque performer'.

As you can see, the most significant income stream for this period came from teaching, including working at Maison Burlesque as well as running my own burlesque workshops, which together accounted for 44% of my total income. My onlyfans account was my second most crucial income stream at 28%, with performances coming in third and making up 15% of my total income for this period. My merchandise made up 9%, and modelling work made up the last 4%.

It's important to note that these percentages can vary from month to month. Some months, most of my income does come from performing, and sometimes it comes from Onlyfans. Regardless of the exact breakdown, ever since I began to diversify my revenue streams, I have had increased peace of mind knowing that I am not entirely reliant on one thing to survive. And I am now in a fortunate position where I can turn down work that I do not think aligns with my brand image or future goals and focus on creating additional revenue streams in the future. And my business is growing faster than ever before.

I would encourage absolutely everyone running a small business, especially other performers and creatives, to think about how you can begin to diversify your revenue. Your imagination and drive to succeed are the only limiting factors in the success of your business. And if you start with ideas aligned to your current core business, you will undoubtedly find success. If you've read this and you're unsure where to start, or would like some feedback on ideas you do have, please reach out to me via e-mail. I will be happy to help point you in the right direction or offer advice.

As a final note, please remember not to push yourself too hard and risk burning out. Take time to reflect, assess your situation, have a break if needed, and consider your health and sanity when growing your business.

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