I'm going to be honest, up front. This is a different (and longer) post than I typically write. In fact, if I'm being really honest, I don't really write many posts anymore. I started this blog when I relaunched my website several years ago, but have mostly abandoned it since then. Such is life when you're a dad, you work full time during the week, and are a popular, local balloon twister and magician on the weekends. Some things just have to take a back seat.
And, I guess I should also say that I wasn't sure I should share this here, on a blog that has been, until now, entirely for the purposes of marketing myself as a magician and a balloon artist. This is going to be a much more personal post. And possibly a controversial one. The old axiom that "all publicity is good publicity" isn't always true.
But, as I've thought more about this, I've made the decision that I believe everything I'm going to say, and I'm willing to stand by it, no matter what.
As an entertainer and a creative professional, I get asked to work for free. A lot. Like, a real lot. So often, in fact, that I have a very standard reply ready to go when a charity asks me. Because, to be clear, about 95% of the time it is a charity or non-profit event asking. Sometimes it's an animal rescue. Sometimes it's for research for a disease. And sometimes it's just a mom trying to raise awareness for a rare genetic disorder her child suffers from. In almost every instance, I decline.
Please don't think I'm heartless, though. I actually do quite a bit of volunteer work, even though I don't really talk about it much. I've been humbled by the work I've done for organizations like The Make-a-Wish Foundation, The Ronald McDonald House, and other non-profits that do so much for children and members of my community. Later this year I'll be volunteering for Supper With Santa, a fundraiser for a mom in my community who recently lost her six year old daughter.
But, as heart breaking as it is for me - a father of two beautiful girls - to say 'no' to a mom trying raise awareness for a genetic disorder her child is living with, the simple fact is that I can't say yes to all of them, especially when they fall on a weekend. I'm not a big business. I'm just one guy, and the vast majority of the work I get comes on the weekend.
Still, I don't mind them asking. I get it. It's a numbers game, and maybe theirs is the one that I'll choose to say 'yes' to this time.
This is different, however, from the other 5% of the time when I get asked to work for free. In those instances, I'm being asked by for-profit companies. Always companies much larger than mine. Almost always large, national brands. Sometimes these requests come with a thin veil of "charitable" work. "Won't you please volunteer for our 'give back' night?" This is another way of saying, "won't you subsidize our charitable giving?"
However - in some instances, these large companies dispense with even the pretense of helping others and simply ask for me to work for free because. Because what? Who knows, although usually there's an offer of "exposure."
This is no surprise to creative professionals. We deal with this all the time. Whether it's a graphic designer, a writer, or even a balloon artist, some people value our work only until they are asked to pay for it. Actor/Writer Wil Wheaton set off a flurry of conversation on this topic last year when he tweeted and subsequently blogged about it. A British grocery chain found itself in hot water when they tried to find an artist to work for free. And some clever person hilariously answered a Craig's List ad looking for a free band.
But still, it annoys me. And today I experienced perhaps the most annoying and offensive conversation on this topic that I've had. I'm going to share it below with only minor edits to protect the identity of the e-mailer (I'm not trying to name and shame here, I just want to bring a little bit of awareness to the issue).
The one bit of context I want to provide is that this e-mail comes from a Fortune 500 company. Specifically, a company that sells high end items in its field. Think BMW or Apple. It's not either of those companies, but that's the kind of company this is. And they are writing about an event to celebrate a collaboration with another Fortune 500 company that controls a major, world wide brand.
And I replied...
To which they responded... (I've left the grammatical errors in rather than editing their e-mail beyond redacting identifiers):
I believe she's referring to this Facebook post, but I digress. Below is my response, offered with no further comment.
New Haven sure puts on a magical fireworks show, and twisting balloons for the fourth was a blast! (see what I did there?)
I had been contacted by Kyle Yoder from New Haven's department of Arts, Culture and Tourism back in June about appearing and was thrilled to be able to do it. The original date was to be Friday, July 4th, but rain held those plans off. I try to be flexible whenever possible, so when they contacted me to ask if I would work on the fifth instead, I was happy to switch things around.
Here's what Kyle had to say afterward:
If you'd like to book me for your own event, please contact me today!
It was Olafs, Olafs, and more Olafs at the Shoreline Kidz Expo in Branford, CT, this past Saturday. The annual event is hosted by Shoreline Publishing, and I was sponsored by Camp Laurelwood, a Madison-based overnight camp.
The event was packed and I was slammed, non-stop for six hours straight! I must have have made at least 40 Olafs, in addition to everything else!
Once I got home, I found that one of the parents had posted this on my Facebook wall:
No, Debra, you're terrific! I love getting feedback like this! And then came an e-mail from the event's coordinator:
Indeed, the fine folks at Camp Laurelwood offered to help me stop the line to take a break, but with big events like this I just prefer to keep going.
My motto? "Keep Calm and Twist On!"
If you're interested in having me out to your event, please contact me today!
This past June I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to teach a basic course on balloon art to the Wallingford assembly of the Society of American Magicians, the Tom Prete Assembly 127. The Tom Prete Assembly draws magicians from all over the state, including towns like Meriden and North Haven. They even host an annual convention, the New England Magicians Conference, held in Cromwell, Connecticut.
In August, my class was featured in the S.A.M's monthly magazine, M.U.M.
M.U.M is an exclusive magazine to members of the S.A.M, so you won't be able to pick one up on the news stands (though Assembly 127 member, Dick Hodes, graciously gave me his copy as a keepsake! Thanks, Dick - you're a standup guy!)
And as always, to book me for your event or party, check out my party packages or contact me today!