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Becoming a Touring Pole Star: Step 2, Travel

By on July 11, 2018

Splits at Notre Dame

So, you want to be a traveling pole star? Do workshops all over the country and maybe even the globe? Pole is a great way see the world and meet all sorts of amazing people while doing something you love. Not to mention you’ll have a boatload of travel photos of you splitting or handstanding in front of important-looking monuments. I’ve traveled to six of the seven continents for various business reasons, set up a UK subsidiary of one of my companies, and have employed several international pole stars, even helping a few of them get work visas to be legally paid in the United States.

But before you’re ready to hit the road – make sure you read Part 1 of this series about how to position and advertise yourself by first making your workshop “menu.” After that, keep reading =)

Go Somewhere Else First

I highly recommend not making your first pole business trip your first trip ever. I can’t say that enough. DO NOT MAKE YOUR FIRST POLE BUSINESS TRIP YOUR FIRST TRIP EVER. Travel can be stressful. It can be weird. You can have all sorts of issues whether you are traveling around the corner or to the other side of the world. Knowing at least the basics of what to expect from traveling (such as time zone differences, travel delays, how much you’ll miss your family/routine and just getting through security with your shoes and your laptop) will make your first pole business trip that much easier and you can focus on the important things like actually conducting a great workshop.

Understand Your Budget and Compensation

Yoga in front of the Himalayas.

Before agreeing to your terms and conditions for any workshop, confirm your actual travel expenses by creating an anticipated travel budget. Can you stay with the organizer? Do you want to? Can you do one of my favorite things and tack on a pole workshop to another trip making it more affordable? Perhaps a family trip or a day-job travel assignment? Understand what currency you are being paid in and when. You might budget that you can make the trip work out so long as you collect actual money along the way but, what if the studios and events you’re visiting expect to send you a hard copy check to your home address several days after your workshop? Or pay you in a local currency that is less than you expected after the exchange rate and foreign transactions fees are accounted for? Build in a budget buffer of at least 20% extra cost and make sure you if possible you have access to credit cards or an emergency contact if you get really, really stuck like having major car problems or having to rebook a flight. While it is possible to mount a GoFundMe from the road to cover extremely surprising costs as some pole stars have done, try your best to expect and plan for the unexpected.

Also budget extra time when making a tour schedule if you’ve got lots of potential stops. One delay, railway strike, weather phenomenon or coup attempt can completely upend your carefully constructed schedule and then depending on the contract, you might be liable for all those workshops you miss.

Read Your Contracts

Handstands in Chicago

I send a lot of contracts out every year with super detailed information (they get more detailed every year as I learn more!). Often times it seems like folks aren’t reading their contracts. Or maybe they forget because they sign them so far in advance. READ YOUR CONTRACT. And after you’ve read it – ask questions! Many things are negotiable. There may be regional or country specific issues that you should be aware of and deadlines you need to pay attention to especially when booking travel. Is there a cancellation period? What happens if you miss your train/plane/bus? And most important—so important I’m gonna say it again—how and when are you getting paid?

Insurance

You need to have insurance. Really. If you’re teaching regularly at a studio and are an employee of that studio (you get a W2 at the end of the year) then you are covered under their insurance policy. If you are contractor, then you are not and should have your own teaching insurance. If you are a traveling teacher and you also own a studio, then your studio policy will cover you. You SHOULD go the extra step and add ANY studio or event where you will be teaching onto your insurance and have a certificate of additional insured (COI) issued in their legal name with their legal address. Many events and studio owners either don’t know this or don’t enforce it unilaterally; it’s still best that you are prepared with an insurance policy if/when they do require it.

Traveling abroad things get a little funny. Some countries don’t have any sort of commercial insurance requirements/standards (like most of Eastern Europe) so beware. If you are a teacher coming from a country that doesn’t require insurance, an event organizer or studio owner may still require you to have insurance if you are teaching in the States—I do. Usually a policy purchased in your locality is sufficient. Insurance for an individual isn’t too expensive but it can be a “one more thing to pay for” deterrent for a lot of folks just starting out. Remember, the potential cost of someone getting injured is SIGNIFICANTLY more than the cost of your insurance for the year so budget accordingly.

Tax Considerations

Splits in front of the Taj Mahal.

Save all of your travel receipts! All travel for legitimate pole business can be listed as a deduction on your taxes. Plane tickets, hotels, food while traveling, admission to pole events, costumes and all other things you need to conduct business while traveling are all legitimate expenses. Curious about taxes? Read my “Tax Tips for Pole-Fessionals” here.

Everywhere that you teach in the United States should report your income to the IRS and to you by January 31st every year (for work done in the prior calendar year) on either a W2 or a 1099 form. Most will only do this in situations when you are paid $600 or more for a 1099 situation which is the minimum that must be reported. If you are a W2 receiving employee then there is no income threshold and you’ll get a document regardless. If you are an international teacher teaching in the States, then you will not receive this documentation. If you have incorporated your business and are an “Inc” legal entity, then you will not receive this. If you are a “LLC” legal entity you might – it depends on how your LLC is set up. You should report all your income, even money made overseas. Consult your tax professionals to understand the best way to maximize your individual tax situation.

International Issues

Fly away!

Several pole stars such as Marlo Fisken and Lux ATL have publicly shared their issues traveling and teaching outside of the United States as have some international folks trying to teach in the States. Most countries require you to have some sort of a work visa to actually make money in their country if you are not a salaried employee. If you are a salaried employee and are required to go to another country for a meeting but you are still paid by your home country, then that is typically ok or may be ok for a period of time.

If you are collecting cold, hard greenbacks or euros or drachma – then you likely need a work visa to actually earn money in that country. Depending on the country, work visas can be really easy to apply for or really hard. The US has changed its stance recently and it is harder than ever before to apply for a visa (depending on your country of origin), especially as an artist which is what most pole dancers fall under.

Pole dancers can also be conflated with sex workers which can also impact the likelihood of a work visa being approved. Traveling with your stripper gear in your luggage can also cause problems, even if the only stage you perform on is in a studio. Getting a visa is often not cheap and can be time consuming. If you seriously want to work in other countries, start researching early (going to their website or embassy is a great start as this stuff can get confusing) and focus on the country or countries you want to teach in. Some countries really love folks to come visit and work and make it easy. Australia has a great program where if you are between 18 and 30 you can live and work as an American for a year.

Splits during a corporate retreat!

A lot of people fly “under the radar” when traveling and working in the pole industry. You might just be the unlucky person that gets stopped at the border of some country or even turned away and sent back to your native land without even setting foot in that country. Educate yourself, ask questions, and if this is going to be your career, you may need to invest in an immigration attorney who can help you file the right paperwork and be 100% legit in all relevant jurisdictions.

Travel can be awesome and fun and absolutely life changing. It is also mentally and physically challenging. Always get things in writing, always budget more time and more money then you expect and always—especially when traveling somewhere very different from your home town—attempt to respect the native culture. Bon voyage!

 

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Colleen Jolly
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Colleen Jolly

is AFAA and elevatED certified pole dance enthusiast and entrepreneur. She has been poling for six years, runs and owns the International Pole Convention (PoleCon), teaches pole and lyra in the DC metro area at FIT4Polers and MyBodyShop, and is a partner and instructor with 123Poling.com. She loves performing, regularly competes, and lives in Washington, DC with her husband and two kitties.
Colleen Jolly
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