How Much Does a Burlesque act really cost?

ShowgirlsLife Blog – How Much Does a Burlesque Act Cost to Produce?

How much does a burlesque act cost to produce, really?

My first big burlesque purchase was a pair of feather fans. They are gorgeous,
huge and have a real wow factor when I use them. Figuring out if the expense was worth the cost made me wonder, how much a burlesque act costs.

They cost me almost $1,000.

I purchased those fans my very first year of burlesque, and I didn’t use my personal money to do so. I told myself that I would save up every penny of my burlesque earnings in order to “afford” them. It took me about 9 months of performing in order to save up enough money to purchase those fans. A looooooonnnnnnggg time, in my opinion.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that if I was going to treat this as a business, 100% of those payouts didn’t belong to me. At least 30% of each payout should have been saved to pay Uncle Sam, even though the purchase was to be considered a deduction.

Are you a Hobbyist or are you a Hustler?

If you are wishing to deduct your burlesque purchases as expenses from your income, you must treat burlesque as a business. That means keeping track of expenses, income and keeping your performance payouts separate from your personal income.

If you perform as often as I do, you will probably receive 1099s at the end of the year from all your paying producers. Luckier performers receive w2s and taxes are taken out through the year. If you are not so lucky, you can set yourself up for a nice return or the ability to pay Uncle Sam his cut, as I will describe below on building a sustainable business.

How I treat burlesque income

ShowgirlsLife Blog – How Much Does a Burlesque Act Cost to Produce?

Isn’t that amazing?!? When looking at it this way, it’s a little discouraging to see just how little we get paid. Pay does not cover the time/energy and cost to rehearse, choreograph, train, buy or make costumes, travel, park, etc.

The good news is that if you can book a certain act, over and over, you might be able to recoup the costs that you incurred in the creation of it. Just keep that in mind next time you are hit with the latest brilliant act idea that you simply cannot stop yourself from “investing” in.

Burlesque act cost + recouping investments

How many times do you have to perform that act to actually make a profit?

Seaside is one of my most requested acts. The crowd loves it. It’s fun, upbeat and playful and it can usually be plugged into any theme. I originally created it for a theme show, as a throwaway act. Funny knowing that now, I probably would have taken more time and effort to put it together. Though it has definitely paid for itself in the long run.

I have been performing that act for almost 4 years now, and have had to replace the parasol a few times, and remake the bra. But overall, it is one of the most profitable acts in my repertoire, as you can see below:

ShowgirlsLife Blog – How Much Does a Burlesque Act Cost to Produce?

Setting up sustainability when creating burlesque acts

If you want to make burlesque more sustainable and profitable for you, there are just a few things to set up in order to be on your way to a happier performer.

  • Open separate bank accounts. Spending, Tax Savings, Savings
  • Register your business entity. Only if you treat this as a biz and deduct all the feathers, rhinestones, parking, mileage, classes, show tickets etc. at the end of every year.
  • Keep track of expenses for deductions (I use the quickbooks self-employed app)(affiliate link)
  • Keep track of income. Create all the spreadsheets you need to keep all of this info organized

Once you start treating each payout as business income, you will start to see just how much money, time and effort goes into creating each act. And if that next crazy act idea is going to be a sound business decision.

Consider that 20%

Reinvesting 20% can add up if you are disciplined enough to let it accumulate for a bit. Then you won’t be going into debt to pay for act creation. Which is a whole other animal and adds to the overall cost of your act too—just something to keep in mind.

It’s not easy being an independent contract performer, but setting up systems to protect yourself, your investments and your sanity can extend your run as a performer. And consequently, ease your relationship with your partner if you have money issues.

If you have any additional insight to this, how you handle payouts, expenses, etc. I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.


Disclaimer: I am not a licensed accountant. This information is based on my own experience. Make sure to check with your accountant before making any adjustments to your formulas for tax purposes.

Amplify You | A podcast series created to inspire you to take up more space and shine in a world that has conditioned you to be small.

Amplify You Podcast

A podcast series created to inspire you to take up more space and shine in a world that has conditioned you to be small.

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