Ms. Tiffany's Dance

Saving the World with Dance

MTD Blog

August Topic- Protecting Yourself as an Independent Contractor/Choreographers

Posted by mstiffy on July 30, 2009 at 1:54 PM

As dancers, dance instructors, and choreographers it is so important to have a business mind. You have to protect yourself first, because in this business you can get messed over very quickly. Sadly, I have experienced this several times. I wanted to focus this month on the importance of protecting yourself as an independent contractor doing choreography.  



Whether you know it or not, as a choreographer you are considered to be an independent contractor. You are hired by a studio, gym, music artist ect., to provide an original work of choreography. Before being booked by the company to provide services, you must have all of your paper work in order.


  • Never sign anything without thoroughly reading through every word. You could be signing your life away and not know it. You could also be agreeing to a lower payment, or dismissal without pay, even if half the piece has been created and set. If you can, you may want to get a lawyer to read over anything you receive to make sure that your best interest is in mind. Only when you feel comfortable and have gotten all the details discussed and understood with the employer, then you may sign. Never feel pressured to sign anything! Even if it means passing an opportunity.

I understand that we sometimes come across opportunities that we feel are once in a lifetime, or something that would really better our businesses. No matter how excited we are about the opportunity, we have to slow down and think. The more excited you are, the more your common sense is blocked, and you can make stupid decisions. Not to sound rude, but it's very true. I have experienced this myself first hand.


  • Have you own contracts in order. You should have a contract drawn up for your employer to sign to protect yourself. This may sound overwhelming at first, but it is really not much work, especially if it means protecting yourself. I found a wonderful contract template for choreographers at The template is available by request only, so you must contact Dance NYC and ask for one. The template helped me tremendously.

Be specific as possible when preparing your contract. Leave no room for loopholes. If you can, get a lawyer to look over it, I suggest you do so. Make sure that each contract is specific to the employer. You can have a standard contract to work from, that can be tweaked for each gig.

  • Keep track of your time at each gig. This is so important. If you are required to fill out a timesheet, make sure you receive a copy, on the spot, for your records. If you don't have a copy, you leave yourself open for the employer to say you didn't work as many hours or none at all. This is also very important to make sure you are compensated properly if you are being paid a hourly rate.


  • Receive payment upfront  or at least half before starting your work. This goes back to the contract you made. Make sure you have clearly stated when payment is due. Receive at least half of your payment upfront if not all. This way you can insure that your time and work is being paid for. Only accept payment that is guaranteed! Checks are not a suitable payment. Cash or money orders are suitable as you have your money right there on the spot. If you absolutely have to accept a check, do not start production until you have cleared the check (deposited and you bank cleared it as being good. Just because it is in your account does not mean it has cleared completely, it could still come back as a bad check) This may take several days depending on your bank and the employer's bank. I would stay away from checks altogether.


  • Have an Invoice ready to give to the employer when work is done. Make sure you have one for your records as well. I keep a copy on my computer, email a PDF copy to myself, and have a hard copy that has been printed. Always have several copies on hand. The more paper work you have the better. It's all about making sure you get what you deserve!

This is an open blog! Please respond and let me know if I have left something out or if you have more to add. Also, if you have questions, feel free to ask away!


Stayed tuned! Next month we will talk about protecting yourself as a dance instructor.


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