Why you should never work without a contract and deposit

I’ve been performing magic and circus acts as Paul Incredible since 2010 and have always been a self employed artist and entirely self promoted. I hope the following will help you out if you’re just getting started.

 You’ve taken a booking online, agreed your fee with the client and put the date and time in your diary. On the night, the client asks if you can do some extra meet and greet with the audience pre-show, this seems reasonable so you oblige. On stage your act was spectacular and dropless, the audience gave you a standing ovation, back stage energy was high and everyone agreed it was one of the best shows they had been a part of!

Next morning you contact the client because they said they would pay you and nothing had arrived in your account. Several emails later, still nothing. You leave answerphone messages, texts and a final email asking to get paid but no one responds.

Revisiting the venue the next day it’s closed and it all looks like a dead end.

You’ve done extra work than agreed and received nothing.

This is a situation I know many young entertainers have found themselves in and it can be avoided by having a contract and taking a deposit. If everything else fails you have at least been paid a potion of your fee.

It’s important that you are in control of what you are selling, it’s your act, your time and expertise.

What should you include in a performer’s contract?

A basic contract should have the following information-

  • Client name
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Venue Address
  • Start/finish times
  • Acts/Entertainment provided
  • Fee and deposit fee
  • Signature and date from client and yourself
  • What happens if a client refuses to pay. (I charge interest per day of non payment for example)
  • Terms and conditions

Before agreeing to a gig, get all of the details above on a contract and have it signed and returned to you. Ask for a deposit (this is up to you but bookers will take you more seriously if you do, I know some people who ask for 50% up front and 50% on completion as a safe guard).

You can find templates online to get you started and for years I just used Word to generate contracts and invoices…

This was not only slow but left me open to making mistakes in data management.

I’ve been using the online software ‘Giggio’ now since 2020 and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It manages contracts, invoices, client data, sets reminders, schedules invoices and is highly customisable. It’s a subscription per month but worth every single penny!

It’s important to protect yourself as a performer, you’re brilliant at what you do, take the time to be brilliant at the paperwork too.

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