I Joined These Gangsters!

Woo fun news!!! Last sunday I had my very first rehearsals with the Swing ConneXion dance troupe. I think this is going to be a great fit for me because not only is SCX serious about constantly creating new material but they still have that silly-fun aspect of the dance that makes it worth-while. Zack and Maryse have also been nothing but super supportive ever since I came to Montréal and have always felt welcomed to just be myself when I was in CNX last year. Lastly… from the way they dance (they have this super awesome long show, “Swing Du Businessman”), I’m going to lose all my summer fat for sure! Truth be told, I’m a bit scared of all the aerials that I have to learn but hey.. I’m not the one flying through the air right?


Look for a Dance Coach Instead of a Dance Teacher

As September rolls on by, I have been getting a few inquiries about private lessons and classes here in Montreal and Toronto. Most of the times these are one-off privates about a particular technique that someone wants to work on. Those are always really fun for me because I can geek out about something hyper specific. Recently however, I have been getting inquiries about longer periods of training and I honestly couldn’t be more elated.

Having students approach me about training and teaching them dance has really got me reflecting on my own dance growth over the years. After some introspective analysis, what I found interesting was that it really wasn’t going to workshops, exchanges, group classes, or even privates that had the greatest impact on my dance technique and enjoyment of social dancing. Sure those helped me refine and expand my skill-sets but what I’m talking about are really fundamental events that shaped me to find my own dance identity. It really was having mentors and coaches – individuals who were genuinely interested in helping me become a better dancer. People who were there to drill me in technique, answer dance-related questions without being “on the clock”, and in general give me real honest feedback when I really needed it. They were the game changers in my dance life.

Having a coach is like having someone who always has your back. They are there to help you grow and reach your potential because they want to see you succeed and in turn you want to succeed for them. Coaches care about your journey because in a way, them coaching you is part of their journey as well.

Teachers, in our current social dance world setting, really are there to teach you what they have planned for that lesson (in group classes) or to impart their own way of doing things onto you (private lessons). This isn’t to say that all teachers are like that and I know very many teachers who do more outside of the class time for their students than they get credit for. I have nothing but mad respect for these people. However, I believe our way of thinking in terms of social dancing and growth is fundamentally flawed. We go out of our way to far off exchanges and seek private lessons with our international jet-setting dance heroes in the hopes that we might, just a little bit, be able to emulate them. We spend a lot of our energy trying to learn and grow a lot in a short amount of time instead of trying to grow consistently over the long-term. How many dancers have you met in your lifetime who were able to get to a very proficient level in a short amount of time by going balls-out on lessons and workshops then just suddenly stop learning.

One of my favourite descriptions about the difference between a coaching and a teaching is that “teaching is about the teacher and coaching is about the student”.

Think about that for a second and let it sink it.

Have you ever sought private lessons from an instructor because of their “name” or because you have seen them on youtube? Did you go blindly paying for lessons without even knowing if they would be a great match for you? Be honest ;-). I think we can all attest to the fact that the not all the best dancers are great instructors. However, all the best teachers are also coaches.

When you think about other activities such as sports – coaches are not necessarily the current best in their chosen craft because they are focused on skill-sets that are about helping other people succeed. Coaching means spending more time with the students on working on specific techniques or movement ideas and having them pinpoint their weaknesses. Coaches plan on correcting these mistakes and those plans might take a long time but that’s okay – they are there for the long-haul and they are there for you, not just for the time you have paid them for.

If coaching works for sports (even Tiger Woods has a coach) and most other physical activities, why don’t we don’t we have more dance coaches in our own dance communities?

Just like anything worthwhile spending your time on, being a dancer is a life-long process. There really are no short-cuts and it’s all about the repetition of doing your chosen craft day in and day out.

So the next time you are out shopping for instructors to improve your dancing, ask yourself a few questions before making a purchasing decision:

  • Is the instructor genuinely interested in helping me grow as a dancer?
  • Is the instructor committed in the skills required in being a great teacher, mentor and coach?
  • Does the instructor embody the type of dancer that I want to be, not just from a technique stand-point but also from a social dance perspective (we are after all a social dance community)?
  • Will this teacher form a conducive teacher-student relationship that will allow for continual feedback from both parties?

I think by seeking out dance coaches and mentors instead of short-term dance instructors, dancers will not only grow more in the long term, but they’ll also enjoy the process of learning on a weekly basis. Hopefully in the future, these dancers too will get asked by newer dancers to help them in their own dance journey. Wouldn’t that be a great dance world to live in?

In another blog post, I’ll type up some of my own personal dance mentors and how they have really helped me throughout the years. Until next time!

– Randy

Getting Your Clients to Pay Faster

Above is a picture of an espresso and a heated chicken wrap at Presse Café on Notre Dame Ouest. What does this have to do with getting paid? Well, when I was going through my lightroom pictures in order to pick one for this quick post, my initial inclination was to flag stereotypical pictures – money, laptop working, papers, etc. However, on the second pass, I thought, what REALLY is the ideal outcome of getting paid faster by your clients? The freedom of not even have to think about it anymore.

When I am not in the office doing work, I spend a lot in front of my laptop at cafés. I used to think that bringing your laptop to do a bit of work at these establishments was great – you get access to free internet and a bit of space to work for the price of a cup of coffee and maybe a side of pumpkin loaf. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like you’re working (I blame Facebook). It sure beats the drudgery of the nine-to-five every day.

Now that I have been doing this for a while, I have gone full circle and now consider a day to be really successful if I make it out to the café with absolutely nothing to do but chill out and maybe read a book on my ipad.

I’m going to be real honest for a second – I suck at asking people for money. Like reallyyyyy suck. I always feel awkward and forced even it’s the logical conclusion to a project/job or a phase of it. I don’t even like taking money for registrations for dance workshops. That’s why I started using Guestlistapp for online registrations in the first place.

However, I know that life as a vagabond often means that in order to live, you have to sometimes chase clients for your money. I have found that in 99.9% of the time, your clients are not actually being malicious in their intent – they simply either forgot, are over-worked/stressed, or just waiting for their own checks to clear so that they can pay you. One of the best lessons I’ve learned this year is that it is super important to keep in mind that your clients are not out trying to screw you. They want to pay you for a job well done, it’s on you to make it as easy for them as possible to. I would even go so far and say that you shouldn’t expect to get paid immediately as soon as you have completed your end of the deal (unless of course it’s a face-to-face interaction like a private lesson or you are fixing someone’s computer at their house). Always factor in some time after project completion until you get some moolah for more dancing!

There are however two things that I like to do to help speed this process along though and maybe this would help you as well:

1) Personalized Late Payment Notifications

I usually give a grace period of 21 days for clients to pay and send email reminders/late payment reminders in three phases: 7, 14, and 20 days. What is important here is to be straight to the point (hey you owe me money) but at the same time having a touch of personality to not make it seem so serious.

I often change up my messages every couple of months just to keep things fresh but here are my favourite late payment notifications that I stole from my colleague Saul Colt (the smartest man on the internet) a long time ago:

After 7 Days:

“I know paying invoices are no fun but getting paid is. So please take note that your invoice is now 7 days old. Please pay your invoice as soon as you can, so I can feel joy from receiving money and then feel the sorrow of paying my own bills. To access your invoice go to: ::invoice link::”

After 14 Days:

“Now if we were dating, 14 days would be a cool milestone of sorts but since no part of our relationship involves going to movies and sharing milkshakes I feel the need to remind you that your invoice is now 14 days old. Please pay your invoice as soon as you can so the butterflies can return to our relationship. To access your invoice go to: ::invoice link::”

After 20 Days:

“If you have perfect vision it is called having 20/20 vision. We like to think we have 20/20 vision when it comes to watching your taxes so because of this we wanted to remind you that your bill is now 20 days old. Can you please take a look at it and start whatever process you to do to look after this invoice! To access your invoice go to: ::invoice link::”

As you can read above, it’s a bit better than just emailing or calling up your clients and going, “hey remember to pay me” and the best of all, these emails are automated so they get sent out without even me having to remember.

2) Late Payment Fees

The other action item that might work for you is to indicate in your invoice terms of service that you do attach late fees if your client does not pay on time.

You can either go for a percentage value of what they owe you after a specific time or a flat fee.

For the percentage value, you would usually enter in your terms of service something along the lines of, “Please note that if payment has not been received after 30 days, there is a 2.5% late payment fee added to the invoice”.

For a flat fee, that’s pretty easy – “…. $10 late fee per month…”.

I find that implementing a late payment fee structure to your services actually works well in letting your clients know to pay on time. EVERYBODY hates extra fees. To date, I have never actually collected any actual late payment fees from any of my clients but having it there does give you a little bit of peace of mind (unless of course it snowballs and your clients never end up paying you, then they are just scumbags then).

It is worth to point out that I don’t do this for every client I have. Some clients that I work with, I have an extremely good working relationship with and just trust they will pay me at the first possible moment. For those, I don’t even send them reminders or indicate on their terms about late payment fees.

Do some testing and see if these two simple tips help you get paid just that little bit faster the next time you are out vagabonding. The ultimate goal of being a vagabond in my opinion is more dancing and less interwebbing/computerizing. Let me know if you have some tips to share as well.