As professional dancers, we spend countless hours in the studio training to sharpen our skill set and be as hireable as possible. We are artists and performers by nature, but how much time do we spend thinking about the business of dance and our personal brand? In this digital age, it’s becoming increasingly important to know how to market yourself to potential employers and casting directors both off and online. We all have (or at least should have) resumes, dance reels, class footage, and headshots, so it only makes sense to have those materials easily accessible to others.
Have an idea of where this is leading? You might’ve already guessed it: let’s talk about building your personal brand online! You can develop your digital presence through various methods, from a simple online profile to making a website. Regardless of the form, bottom line is you’ll always increase your chances of being hired the more you put yourself out there and become accessible. For example, say you’re recommending a friend for a job. What’s the easiest way to share information about your referral? Usually, you’d send over a link to an online profile, like an Instagram handle, or a professional website. Simply put, if you’re able to effectively create your own site that acts as a “one-stop-shop” with all relevant information about yourself, you can get a headstart in building reputability with prospective employers and increase your chances of securing the job!
... there’s no need to feel limited by your financial situation when it comes to building your digital brand awareness.
Everyone has a different financial situation and budgeting plan that she/he is working with, so let’s tackle this from low to high budget perspectives. To make things simple, here are three ways you can strengthen your online presence, based on varying levels of financial resources required.
1. Zero Budget Option: An Online Profile
Honestly, you really don’t have any excuse to not have an online presence since building a digital profile through professional networks, like DancePlug’s, is very straightforward, simple, and free! I created my profile in less than an hour, since the platform is user-friendly and easy to follow. A huge plus side to DancePlug’s platform is that your profile is linked to a semi-personalized URL, which gets pretty close to having your unique domain name without having to pay for it. This helps your profile be easily found through an online search. You can specify where you’re based, add your headshot, dance reel, bio, agency representation, personal stats, and more through simply uploading your materials and completing relevant fields. Additionally, you’re able to cross-link all of your social media handles to increase engagement between your profiles from Instagram and Facebook, to even your LinkedIn page. Make sure to cross-promote all of your online profiles and handles on every relevant platform that you are present on. Doing so costs nothing and will only increase your chances of engagement – a perfect starting point for anyone!
2. Mid-Budget Option: A Templated Website With or Without a Purchased Domain
First thing’s first! Do some preliminary research and look up [your first and last name].com on a domain purchasing site now (check out GoDaddy, Domain.com, Namecheap, for example). If you have a more common name, nine times out of ten, someone already has that domain name. But if your name is unique and the domain is available for purchase, I would highly recommend considering it. Of course, if your first-choice domain name has been taken, you can always be creative! There’s the option of searching for .org, .net, or other domain name alternatives. Additionally, you can add “the”, “official”, “dance”, “dancer”, “artist”, or other keywords that apply to you specifically, to try and find a unique domain that is available and works for your personal branding. If you decide to go with purchasing a domain name, keep in mind that you will need to pay annually to hold onto that active domain.
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Now it’s time to work on your website! A budget-friendly way to tackle this can be through using a templated website hosting company like Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly. However, when it comes to choosing a website company, it’s imperative that you do your research on payment plans and what they may look like long-term. For example, Squarespace offers various monthly and annual pricing plans, but considering the fact that you probably want to keep your website going indefinitely, those prices can quickly add up over time. On that same note, Weebly offers free website creation options; however, with this you deal with ads as well as not being able to choose your own domain name. With Weebly’s low price plan, you gain the freedom to choose your domain, but the ads are still a part of the user experience. In a nutshell, make sure to do your research and consider both the one-time and recurring payments required to keep your site active. Sometimes, it may be a smarter choice to go with a higher upfront cost, rather than get hooked on a cheap starting promotion, only to be stuck with ongoing expenses in the long run; this all depends on your current cash flow situation. Committing to a website hosting company is a significant decision, so make sure to take your time and ensure that you’re happy with your choice.
If you decide to go with a website hosting company, a huge pro is the convenience: you can quickly personalize your own site by uploading all of your media and professional information. Of course, it’s important to note that the free templates offered through these companies are pre-set, so you’ll need to accommodate the given website design capabilities. Nonetheless, it’s an incredibly satisfying feeling when you’re done making a website and can proudly send a quick link to casting directors, your agents, and even your friends where you can flaunt your portfolio of work!
3. Higher Budget Option: A Fully Customized Website
Now, we come to our most expensive option in terms of upfront costs, but also the most unique alternative out there! As artists, it’s crucial to always look for ways to stand out from the crowd. In terms of the digital space, the best way to accomplish this for you may be through website personalization – creating a completely customized website designed in collaboration with a company, like StirStudios, that specializes in websites for artists. With this, communication is key. Based on your unique skills, goals, and desired brand image, an effective website developer will start by getting to know you, through a consultation. From there, the website design will usually follow a workflow starting with project planning and design mock-ups before reaching a finalized, polished product. Because this website will be 100% unique to you, the possibilities are virtually endless. Pricing and quotes are dependent on what the website design project entails. If the quote surpasses your budget expectations, you may find that the company you hired can offer payment plans based on your cash flow capabilities. Being able to walk away with a completely unique website that perfectly captures your personal brand and dance qualifications, is truly priceless.
...it’s becoming increasingly important to know how to market yourself to potential employers and casting directors both off and online.
All in all, I’m here to reassure you that there’s no need to feel limited by your financial situation when it comes to building your digital brand awareness and knowing how to market yourself as a professional dancer; there is an abundance of resources out there that you can use to your advantage. So don't get too wrapped up in how you build your online presence -- starting somewhere is better than nothing! From having the basic necessities like your dance resume, reel, and headshots; to providing supplemental materials like lifestyle photos, an “Artist Statement”, or an “Upcoming Events” page, an online profile or website can efficiently organize your professional materials and information in one place. Remember, the more updated information you have available about yourself, the easier it will be for people to get to know you!