Going Pro: How To Get Private and Corporate Clients

By on July 4, 2015

Most burlesque classes teach you how to perform burlesque, but they don’t tell you what to do to develop your career after you’ve been performing for a while. If you can afford to go to burlesque festivals or conventions, you may be able to get some further training there if they offer those kinds of classes. But until now, there haven’t been many other options.

At Tease! Bang! Boom! we aim to change this! Rosey Booticelli and I sat down with Red Hot Annie and The Shanghai Pearl to get their advice about how to start getting higher profile, more lucrative gigs, and they were very generous with their advice.

Bombshell Betty: For people who’ve been performing for a while, what do you suggest people do to take their career to the next level?

The Shanghai Pearl: What do I think the most important steps are for someone getting out of the newbie phase and being a professional and getting the higher paying gigs and so on? There’s a lot to that. I think that you need to have great costumes and you need to be able to put on a great show. There needs to be some sort of consistency to your performance and consistency to your stage presence. You’ve workshopped your pieces. Your costume doesn’t look like something you can buy off the rack.

Rosey Booticelli: Is there a particular style of an act that you would suggest people have in their repertoire for corporate gigs, versus just a regular show? 


Bombshell Betty’s Showgirl Chorus performers backstage at a corporate event. The client was thrilled and said, “You look like something out of Las Vegas!”

Red Hot Annie: Definitely. I think if you’re looking to go into corporate burlesque work, it’s absolutely imperative that you have what corporate mindsets have as their ideal of burlesque. Typically, that’s really classic type burlesque with nice bump and grind type music. Feather fan acts are really super popular, because they’re that iconic burlesque idea. And in addition to having the style of the act, it’s really important that your aesthetic be spot on. So having really fantastic hair and makeup and a really great costume, those are the kinds of things that are going to go a really long way. But definitely something classic is really ideal for corporate.

Bombshell Betty: What mindset would you say that a performer needs to have to make the shift from new performer to more of a professional?

The Shanghai Pearl: I think the difference between a newbie and a professional performer is that the professional is also thinking about business and community. You’re not just thinking about having fun. We are so lucky! It’s such a gift to have fun and get paid to have fun! But as a professional, you are thinking about it as a business, and you’ve given some thought to, for example, “Okay, this is my rate for x.” Or, “This is my range of rates for x.” You know, these are my non-profit rates, or my friend rates, and so on. You’ve given some thought into what goes into the business of what you’re doing and what goes into your rates, and you’re not just like, “What’s your budget? Oh, it’s this much? Great! That’s my rate for this thing.” You’ve actually given some thought to what you want to charge and what goes into what you’re being paid.

Bombshell Betty: That’s so important! Whenever I’m contacted about a private event or corporate gig, I always respond with 3 options at different price ranges. This way, it’s less likely that I’ll over- or under-price for the particular client. I may offer one rate for one act, another rate for two acts, and a third rate for two acts plus mingling with the crowd. The 3 options I offer vary depending on what the client has told me about their event, so I ask some initial questions about what they’re looking for before I ever start talking about money, and I customize each offer to the individual client. For instance, I always know before I make any offers whether or not they’re looking for one performer or a group of performers, and I structure my 3 options around that.

Rosey Booticelli: Great! Are there any other mindset shifts that are important?

The Shanghai Pearl in a classically glamorous costume that would go over well for private or corporate events. In addition to feather fans, boas are a classic burlesque prop and are sure to please!

The Shanghai Pearl in a classically glamorous costume that would go over well for private or corporate events. In addition to feather fans, boas are a classic burlesque prop and are sure to please! (Image by POC Photo, Seattle.)

The Shanghai Pearl: A professional performer has a firm understanding that this is a job. We’re getting paid to do this thing. We have a job of entertaining, and it’s not about whether the audience claps or cheers. It’s that we are giving a performance, and it’s a gift if they decide to applaud or cheer, because we’re getting paid to perform. And that’s magic! We’re getting paid to play! But you need to know the difference between when you’re performing for your friends and when you’re performing for people who don’t give a fuck about you. Oh, I don’t know if I can say that?

Bombshell Betty: (laughing) You can say that! You can say whatever you want.

The Shanghai Pearl: You also need to kind of have groomed some kind of balance with your ego, because I think that showbiz attracts egos and entitlements. Those are kind of really toxic things in general, and they’re not going to serve you.

Rosey Booticelli: From a marketing perspective, what does someone need to do to start getting corporate gigs?

Red Hot Annie: Once you’ve kind of established yourself as a performer, I think the key to creating more opportunities, including getting access to corporate gigs, is having a really clear online persona and a clear way for people to contact you. It becomes really important at a certain level that every time that you’re out there performing that you’re getting pieces of promotion from that and that you’re performing at your best. So I think that it’s really important to have maybe a website or a really great Facebook page that has great samples of your work, great videos that show what you look like when you move and how you look when you perform, as well as great photos that show off a great costume and a great persona.

Bombshell Betty: Annie, you mentioned that a performer needs to get promotion while performing at shows. How do you recommend that someone do that?

Red Hot Annie: I think it really depends on the shows. One of the things that you can do for that is have cards, have those cards ready, and have your cards be really informative. For example, making sure that they have a photo on them is really important, so people can remember who they’re talking to, as well as your phone number if you feel comfortable with that, otherwise your website and definitely your email address.

Rosey Booticelli: Is there anything else that’s important for a professional performer website?

Beautiful photos from a professional photo shoot will help impress potential clients with your professionalism. (Image by GUD Photography)

Beautiful photos from a professional photo shoot will help impress potential clients with your professionalism.
(Image by GUD Photography)

Red Hot Annie: I think photos and videos are the most important thing that you can have on your website. But in addition to that, obviously you want to have contact information. And anything that gives people a sense of what your personality is like, I think can be really helpful. Especially if they’re trying to decide if they’re going to hire two different performers, that little bit of personality can sometimes be the turning point on that.

The Shanghai Pearl: You also need to have some sort of press kit. The press kit doesn’t have to be incredibly elaborate, but you should have some press quotes. And you should have some sort of resume or artist resume that maybe lists some of your achievements, just so that people can at a glance see what you’ve done.

Bombshell Betty: I’ve also found it very helpful at times to include a booking page. You can have your contact info here as well as some information about the kinds of gigs you’ve done or the kinds of gigs you could do, if you’re just starting to branch out this way. You can also let potential clients know if you’re willing to customize your performances for the theme of their event. This has been very helpful for me in getting bookings with clients who had a very specific vision for their event. For instance, the folks at Yelp! wanted a few performers who would perform to AC/DC songs, and we were able to deliver on that, even though it wasn’t our normal thing. Some clients also want a more conservative show, so it can be helpful to explicitly state that you’ll adjust the performances to their wishes in this way. Letting people know right off the bat that you’ll work with them to give them just what they want can be a big selling point in your favor!

So there you have it. If you want to step up your visibility and start getting higher profile gigs, you need to:

  • Start thinking of your burlesque career from a business standpoint. Think of your performances as a job, rather than as a fun hobby – though you’ll still have fun with it! Decide on a range of rates to start with. If you’re not sure what to charge, ask around! Try to keep a healthy perspective and keep your ego in check. As a rule, private and corporate clients don’t want to work with divas.
  • Take your performance to a higher level. Make sure that you have high-end costumes, that you’ve workshopped and thoroughly polished your acts, and that you have some classic burlesque acts to offer to clients, possibly including a fan dance and holiday themed acts.
  • Make sure that you have beautiful professional photos, both in the studio and of your live performances.
  • Get good quality video of your classic-style acts.
  • Create a website and polish up your presence on social media, especially Facebook. If you’re not sure what your website should look like, look up some of the bigger names locally, nationally, and even internationally, and see what their websites look like. Don’t copy anyone’s website, but you can get a good idea of what a professional performer website looks like this way.
  • Include photos and video on your website, as well as clear contact info, a performer bio, a booking page, and some sort of press kit.
  • Print up postcards and business cards with your contact info, branding, and a beautiful photo. Put these cards out at your shows. You can also put your cards out at coffee shops, lingerie stores, boutique sex shops, and other locations. (It’s a good idea to check with show producers and store staff first to see if this is okay). And don’t be shy about giving your cards to people you meet in person! You never know when someone you meet might book you or recommend you to a friend or coworker.

Was this information helpful? Comment below to let us know!

The founder of Tease! Bang! Boom!, Bombshell Betty began performing in 1996, toured internationally with her first burlesque troupe in 2001-2002, and founded her burlesque school in 2004 in San Francisco. She has released a burlesque training DVD and 2+ hours of free burlesque training videos, published the pinup modeling book “Plain Jane to Pinup Queen” in 2008, and has toured the US performing and teaching classes and workshops.

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