The Importance of Sideline Businesses in Burlesque

Burlesque performers are a creative bunch. Well, that almost goes without saying; you need an imagination and a flair for creativity if you’re going to succeed in this business, but it goes beyond stage-craft, costuming, choreography skills and all the other stuff you actually see onstage in the final performance. The creativity of burlesquers extends to their often seemingly innate ability to channel their creative talents into multiple projects at once and this arguably, is one of the key components of making a successful career in the world of burly-q.

Performance alone won’t cut it. As mentioned in our blog last summer, ‘For The Love of Burlesque‘ even Dita has a number of other ‘sideline businesses’ that are burlesque-related and it is a combination of these different revenue streams which help make her a lucrative career in the cut-throat world of showbiz. As is the case in many arts jobs, performers do struggle to make a sustainable living out of performing burlesque alone, so this is where they begin to channel their creative energies into sideline projects, utilising their existing skillset to boost their earnings. So what are the more common jobs when it comes to a burlesque bit-on-the-side?

Costume / Prop / Accessories Design
In our recent blog series ‘Burlesque: Budgets for Beginners‘ we discussed making and embellishing your own costumes. Not only is this a way to save money on your own wardrobe, it’s also a potential way to make a little extra cash on top of your performance fees. Not all performers make their own costumes and accessories, so if you find you have a particular flair for corsetry or a penchant for pastie-making, it’s well worth considering if there’s a gap in the market for your wares. Do your research though; you wouldn’t want to inadvertantly rip off someone else’s designs.

Teaching Classes and Workshops
Many performers also choose to pass on the things they’ve learned in burlesque, through classes and workshops. Right now, the UK is brimming with workshops on everything from burlesque basics, to marketing yourself, to self-confidence classes, character workshops, the business side of burlesque as well as workshops to help people hone their crafty skills. So if you feel you have the experience and something a little different to offer, you could look into teaching options. As with the design job mentioned above though, make sure you do some thorough research as the market is quite saturated at present and you wouldn’t be doing yourself or anyone else a favour by treading on someone’s toes. Try to find a niche that fits you and that you truly feel you could offer something of value in to your potential students.

British burlesque performer Frankii Wilde also works as a very successful model and photographer, utilising her varied creative talents well.
British burlesque star Frankii Wilde: a successful performer, model and photographer who makes brilliant use of her varied creative talents. (Image copyright Loraine Ross Photography).

Due to the crossover between burlesque and the pin-up and alternative modelling styles, many performers supplement their income from stage time with some modelling on the side. Your unique look might make your perfect for this line of work and unlike mainstream / fashion modelling, there don’t tend to be as many restrictions (height, weight etc).

TV / Film Extras Work
Having a wardrobe that resembles an Aladdin’s cave of costumes and props can be handy when it comes to the world of film and television. Many performers are registered with extras agencies and when castings for cabaret / burlesque / carnival / showgirl extras come up, having your own attire already in hand can really boost your chances of landing a part. This kind of work often takes place on weekdays too, which is handy for performers who are busy with shows at the weekend but have a more flexible schedule in the week.

We hope this week’s blog has given you some food for thought. Or perhaps you have your own burly sideline business that we’ve not covered; we’d love to hear from you in the comments below if so.