How to get circus work – Agencies

So you have the skills, you have the act, what’s next? How do you find the work that you see everyone else doing?!

There are many different ways you can go about getting yourself circus work. The method described here is applicable for all kinds of use but we will be specifically focusing on Agencies for this post.


An agency is an organisation that provides a service on behalf of other people. There are agencies for all types of work; we are looking at either ‘circus’ specific or broader ‘entertainment’ or ‘events’ type agencies. Essentially when a client is looking to hire circus performers for any event or occasion it’s likely that they will go through an agency rather than contacting individual performers. Through an agency the client gets a trusted professional opinion, a range of options and the ease of having somebody to organise each aspect of the entertainment for their event.

Each agency that deals with circus acts has a list of different performers and acts in their ‘books’. They are primarily concerned with quality and professionalism as each act they send out will be representing them. They also need a variety; they want to be able to provide for any request a client may have, this is why it’s important for you to offer something unique.

E.g.
A lot of established agencies are likely to have a ‘juggler’ on their books. One particular agency works with a juggler that is quite cliché but technically very well rounded. He offers great short acts and also a longer solo show.
If you contact the agency as a juggler without any unique qualities, it’s far less likely for them to be interested in working with you. They already have someone they have built up a working relationship with and they know that he is reliable and gets great feedback. You will have far higher chances if you stand out within the ‘juggler’ category with something unique to you: LED, Fire, uncommon props, themed costumes, world record for most balls juggled, etc.

Once you’ve been accepted into an agency they will advertise you as their product and if you receive work through them they will typically either take 20%-30% from your fee as their payment (this will be discussed in the contract) or they will charge a fee directly to the client on top of your fee (this is usually better as the amount you get is unaffected but it will depend on the type of job they are dealing with).

Exclusive agencies are less common within the circus industry; within things like modelling and acting it’s more likely that when you sign with an agent you will sign a contract to work exclusively with them rather than signing up to multiple agencies. This can happen with circus too but you will need to be sure that the agency will be able to get you enough work to make it worthwhile as you will be more limited with opportunities.

Advantages of working with agencies are:

  • More work opportunities
  • Can be a better medium to negotiate fees and details, you won’t have to deal with any complications from the client.
  • Less work for you as most of the technical aspects should be sorted out by the agency.

Here is a simple break down of the 3-step process for you to apply and become involved with agencies.

Step 1 – Your promotional package

This is crucial to your career in any job-seeking situation, you need to present yourself in the best light possible.

You will need:

  • Several relevant high quality show/photoshoot pictures
  • Your showreel
  • Performance CV
  • A well thought out paragraph

This should all be prepared in your toolkit folder, this will really emphasise the use of having everything in one place; when you are sending 100 emails in a day you will realise how much more efficient it is to select all your attachments from one place, saving valuable time and energy.

First make a template of text which is roughly the same for each email and add personal touches wherever you can; we are definitely go for quality but quantity is a major factor and it’s unnecessary to change the introductory text too much.

E.g.
Dear … ,
I’m writing to introduce myself and to enquire about joining your agency to work with you in the future.
I am a professional circus performer living in London. I have acts in Cyr wheel and Aerial Hoop. I also have skills with fire staff & poi which I perform as walkabout entertainment.
Your Showreel
I have attached some photos but if you need anything else or have any questions please ask.
Look forward to hearing back from you.
Kind regards,
….

In addition to this I will usually include a slightly more personalised paragraph depending on the agency; what they’re looking for specifically, how I’m suitable for the events they do, what I can offer to them, and so on.

Step 2 – Find the agencies

Now you need to make a list of all the agencies you want to approach, with their contact information and any specific notes you would make to personalise your message to them. (E.g. If it were a dance agency and I have strong dance skills I would mention this more than I would to a circus specific agency).

Where to look?

  • Google – A classic searching tool; keywords here would be ‘circus agency’, ‘dance agency’, ‘performance agency’, ‘variety acts’ etc.
  • Facebook – My favourite tool, you can use the search feature in the same way as Google. A great tip is to find a performer that works a lot and look at their ‘liked pages’, you can find 100s of agencies this way. Pick a person within the industry that doesn’t offer the same as you, to avoid compromising their work.
  • Word of mouth – Ask people for agency recommendations, if that particular person is kind and well known within an agency they may put a word in for you which will probably have the best result. Failing that just a mention of ‘I was recommended to contact you by xxx” would be great (with their permission of course).

Set yourself a target number, you could go through them for hours so set a cap at 100/200 or where you see fit.

Step 3 – Send it off!

Now you have your promotional package and a list of agencies to contact you need to put 1 & 2 together, go through the list and send off your emails!

Don’t expect a reply from everyone, some may be automated and some may need you to fill in separate forms and give more information. Don’t be disheartened by no responses. Certainly, some people will get back to you but probably not as many as you would like, persistence is crucial. Look up ‘the law of averages’

There is an 80:20 rule that isn’t completely based in fact but it gives you a rough idea of what to expect, basically saying that you will only get around a 20% response rate. I’ve found it’s usually slightly higher with initial emails to agencies, most are willing to put you on their books rather than turn you away because it could be useful to them.

After the initial email the 80:20 rule is more accurate in terms of enquiries of jobs from your new agencies. Of the 20% of enquiries only around half will ever amount to anything. This is why the quantity of emails you send is important, you really need to try to contact as many people as possible to give yourself the maximum amount of opportunities.

Once the relationships have been established; you’ve got a positive reply, you’re on the agencies books and they are keen to work with you. It’s important to maintain and strengthen these relationships. Some ways to do this are:

  • Update them with new videos, photos, acts and availability.
  • Reply promptly as soon as feasibly possible when they send you an email.
  • Always be polite and friendly but make sure you keep the relationship professional and business orientated.

These free guides all build up to the complete e-book ‘Circus Business – Starting Out’. For updates and information feel free to sign up to our mailing list and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Instagram.

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