How to Become a Balloon Entertainer
Sitting in my inbox was a letter asking for help on how one gets started entertaining.
“By that, I mean, get a gig at a library or a walk-a-round entertainer. What do you do/say to get started?” signed Silver Sister.
Many entertainers start by working with other established entertainers, someone willing to take you under their wing to get you started. My first entertaining gig came about from hanging around the local juggling club. A friend was opening a trick shop, and I would hang out at the shop and help with his clown class. As time passed and more people knew what I was doing, people started recommending me. I made some business cards and distributed them to people I met. The first job was for a baseball picture day, and I was mobbed with 50 kids. My back was against the home plate fence, and I was blowing up balloons and twisting balloon animals as fast as possible. It was a nightmare job, but it was my first.
For any beginner, I would suggest finding other entertainers, magicians, jugglers, clowns, balloonists, or character artists. Entertainers are friendly people, and even though you may not be in the same market, your association with them can only help establish you as an entertainer.
Business cards are necessary and are inexpensive. Have 500 produced to get you started? Nothing fancy. After all, these are your first cards and trust me; you will have many more made over your entertainment career when you meet other entertainers and swap cards. Entertainers pass on work to each other and are always looking for somebody new or available. Usually, it’s the latter.
After joining other entertainment clubs and making some friends, ask if they know of any agents they can recommend you to. A rookie mistake is meeting professional entertainers and expecting them to share all their knowledge. After all, on some level, you are a competitor to them, and their years of success and errors in marketing are not freely given away. It may take years before you are considered good old boys or gals, and information is freely shared. Therefore, Rookies, watch, listen, and learn; with time, knowledge, and experience, you will know what works for you.
Once you have established your entertainment style and feel confident in your performance, you will market yourself to different venues. Many newbies want to do everything the seasonal professional does but do not have enough experience or marketing material to compete against a seasoned professional and have little to no success. After all, this is a business; prices and markets are not plucked out of the sky, shows are not tossed together, and corporations do not pay big dollars just because you have a pretty business card. The best entertainers have been doing this for years, and they make it look easy. Every advancement that moves you up the entertainment ladder, more promotional material to develop, oversized props, expensive equipment, and staff to keep things going gets you the job you desperately seek. There is no jumping to the head of the learning curve.
Please keep an open mind when it comes to reading; there are many good marketing and personal organization books. You are starting a business, and all companies take time and commitment. With every person, you meet a potential job. It just takes that first gig to get you started. After that, it is just persistence and willingness to keep learning and working. Eventually, it will pay off.
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