Sign On The Dotted Line – Contracts for Belly Dancers
Last week I got an email from a local dancer asking about performance contracts and what to include in one. I’ll admit I was uncomfortable with contracts when I first started to do private gigs. Some part of me felt it was a gesture of distrust toward my client, but twelve years and a several hundred parties later, I wouldn’t do a private gig without one. I’ve come to realize that it’s just a document of clarity and commitment that makes sure we are in agreement on the details, and most people aren’t put off by them. I call mine a “Performance Agreement”; I think it accurately describes its purpose and sounds less intimidating to the sensitive client.
Before I venture on a word further, I will say that I am not a legal professional and my contract has not been written by a legal professional. It also has never been “tested” in court – thank goodness! If you want a legally water-tight contract, I suggest you go straight to a lawyer.If you would like to draw up a document that will help you and your client get all your gig facts straight for a smooth booking experience, the information to come should be helpful for you.
The Five W’s of a Belly Dance Contract
Like a good reporter, you’ve got to cover Who, What, Where, When and Why.
- Who is the person hiring you and responsible for paying you? If they are representing a company, the company name should be included too. Get their full name, an address, email and a phone number. Ask if that is the number where you can reach them at the time of the event. Be sure to get an on-site phone number in case you have to call on your way there for more directions, help getting into the venue or anything else.
- What type of performance is it? I have several types of performance services that I provide. Include a specific description of what you will be doing. How many dancers? How long is the show? What props are to be used? Does the client want audience interaction for a party or will it be contained on a stage for a cultural festival?
- Where will it take place? You will need the physical address of the venue, including the specific room or hall if it’s in a hotel. Be sure to ask if it will be inside or outside. I always ask about the flooring or outside surface as well.
- When does the show start? Be clear about this. I always ask “What time do you want the show to start?”. I do not ask “What time should I get there?” I list the “Performance Time” and the “Arrival/Set-Up Time” as two separate items with the arrival usually 15 minutes before the start, unless I feel I need more than that for some reason. Everyone has different tolerances for show delays. If you will be on a tight schedule, make it clear in both your conversation and in your contract. You can do this by including something like this…”A waiting fee of $XX per 15 minutes will be incurred if the show is delayed.” In my experience, this alone is enough to keep people on time.
- Why? Find out the reason for the occasion and if there is a guest of honor that they would like you to pay special attention to.
But There’s More…
- Your Fee Details Specify the total price, any deposit amount and when and how each of these can be paid. Do you want cash? Can you take a credit card on site? Put it in writing.
- Changing Area Some dancers arrive fully dressed. If you will be dressing there, you may want to include your needs. For example, I will not dress for a show in a public restroom and my contract has a nicely worded line to let them know that.
- Cancellation Policy This is very important! Be sure that it is very specific and includes what happens if either you or the client cancel. Of course we would never cancel on a client outside of an emergency, but the fact that it is in your contract is a matter of equality and protection for both parties. This should include a date beyond which any deposit is forfeited. In my contract, I agree to “provide a suitable substitute dancer at the same fee” if I cancel. I’ve never cancelled, but I am letting my client know that I cannot and will not leave them high and dry for any reason.
- The Sound System Does the sound system play CDs or iPod? Do they have an iPod dock or cord or do you need to provide one?
- Special Instructions Include in the contract any special requests such as theme colors, keeping your arrival a “surprise”, leading a dabke line or dancing out the birthday cake.
- Additional Services If you are including live music or any other professionals, I recommend having them draw up their own separate contracts rather than adding their services to yours.
Sealing The Deal
When you have filled in the contract and it’s been approved and signed by your client, be sure to sign it yourself and return a copy to them promptly.
A Contract of Your Very Own…
If you would like a sample contract to customize to your needs, you can email me at mahin@shes-got-hips,com and request a copy. From this starter document, you can add or edit any items that are specific to your needs. I hope you find it useful!