There's nothing like a pandemic to make you see your side hustle in a new light. As performance gigs dried up, dancers' just-to-pay-the-bills jobs quickly became their main sources of income. Some found that the shutdowns actually offered them the chance to grow their side gigs into something lucrative and meaningful. Now, as dance schedules happily begin to fill up again, these performers will bring with them a new understanding of the work–art balance—which kinds of jobs complement a dance career, the entrepreneurial skills required, and what it takes to prioritize your passion.
A. Raheim White
Choreographer and dancer, formerly of Lucky Plush Productions
Side hustle: Owner of RahCrystals, a crystal healing adornment business (rahcrystals.com)
A. Raheim White started their crystal adornment business by accident. On the train in Chicago in 2018, they were working on wire-wrapping a piece of jewelry when a woman approached. "She was like, 'That's beautiful! Do you sell those?' " remembers White. "She bought the necklace off my neck." Now based in Atlanta, White has seen RahCrystals take off over the last year. "Business has increased as people wake up to their spiritual selves—the desire to be more in tune with alternate forms of healing."
Day in the life: "I have an hour of my own yoga practice and an hour of meditation and prayer. And then I do marketing—my social media. I look at my list of commissions and suss out which ones I'm going to tackle for an hour and a half. Then I'll take a break before I come back to work more on RahCrystals—plus practicing my Spanish, taking time to just be quiet, tending to my family. And then I teach a private yoga session in the evening. Hopefully I play my PS5."
Advice: "Follow your curiosities. I had no idea about making wire-wrapped jewelry. Now, it's changed my life."
On setting prices: "I have a base rate and an hourly rate. And I won't make anything less than that. At first, I didn't feel worthy enough to charge that. Then I realized that people feel no pain about paying $500 for a bag, so why wouldn't they pay that for a necklace?"
Ian Douglas, Courtesy Allison
Dance artist, teacher, artist advocate
Side hustle: Medical copyeditor
After three years of nannying in New York City, Evvie Allison was ready for a change. When another dancer introduced her in 2013 to the world of medical copyediting—editing medical writing for grammar, style, consistency and factual accuracy, and overseeing revisions—it seemed like a good fit. "I like writing, and editing came naturally to me," she says. Allison completed a medical copyediting course in preparation and eventually found work with an advertising agency. Two months into quarantine, Allison accepted a yearlong project in which she served as lead editor of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine account.
Day in the life: "In the morning, I take class, or ride my bike, or go to the studio by myself. Then in the afternoons and evenings, I work at the computer. I have a regular Monday through Friday shift. As a copyeditor, at each stage of a project, I do quality control and make sure that the changes in the last round were made correctly."
Freelance must-haves: "A good hourly rate. Health insurance. The ability to take time off. And an environment where I'm valued and have a good rapport with my colleagues. At a side-hustle job, I want to know exactly what's expected of me and how to do my job well. I like feeling competent."
What she likes best: "It doesn't drain me creatively. I feel like I can work and still be fresh to go to the studio."
Lauren Archer and Cody Beaton
Lauren Archer (left) and Cody Beaton
Ben Malone, Courtesy Monarch Flower Farm
Dancers with Richmond Ballet
Side hustle: Co-owners of Monarch Flower Farm, a florist and flower delivery service that also designs florals for weddings and events (monarchflower.farm)
When Lauren Archer got married in 2018, she and fellow Richmond Ballet dancer Cody Beaton DIY-ed her flower arrangements. They had such a good time that they began talking about one day owning their own florist shop. When Archer moved down the street from Beaton, one month into the pandemic, they began growing flowers from seed in Archer's sizeable new garden plot. "It's addicting," says Archer. "Something so beautiful comes from something so small."
Though Archer retired from Richmond Ballet in May and will now be focused exclusively on the flower farm, she and Beaton struggled during the pandemic to balance their dance jobs with their florist business. "We have had to turn down some weddings," says Archer. "We started bringing our laptops to the ballet so we could work during our lunch break."
Day in the life: "We once made these beautiful displays for a marriage proposal—on the same day as an opening night. We ended up having class later, at 1 pm, which meant we could do the arrangements at 8:30 am. We created all of them, did the marketing—styled it, took photos, put it up online—and then our clients picked it up. There were a few stressful moments in there," says Archer.
Learning curves: "In the beginning, it was a lot of research: What program can we use to sell our deliveries on? Should we do subscriptions? How do we figure out QuickBooks and taxes?" says Beaton. The pair invested in a subscription-based class offered by another florist, who gave practical business advice about topics like pricing, marketing and client interactions, a step they highly recommend to other new small business owners.
Why they love it: "We never get to see what we really look like when we're dancing," says Archer. "With the flower farm, we have something to show for our work in the end—we get to see and enjoy the art that we're creating."