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What It’s Like to Be a Pole Star

By on April 7, 2018

For many, but certainly not all of us, a full-time career in pole dancing sounds like a dream come true. GLITTER!!! Self-love and Expression! Never wearing a real bra EVER AGAIN!!! I don’t know about you, but it’s that last one really driving me towards wanting to be a full-time pole-fessional =)

Whatever your reasons, there is often a lot of romanticizing around the idea of pole as a full time career. But is it really that wonderful? Or does it become a job just like any other job? To find out what it’s really like to do full time pole, I asked a few to share the good, the bad, and all the bits in between.

For the sake of transparency, I would like to let the readers know that I only interviewed U.S. based female artists and only people I actually knew. This article is not an exhaustive industry study, but rather a small sampling of what it really means to do full time pole. The approach to the interviews was a very practical “How do you actually manage pay your bills?” I focused on touring and teaching pole stars rather than pole studio owners, which I’ve covered before with my co-writer Veruca Blue.

I’ve summed up some interesting notes from the stars’ responses below, under each question. For the full interviews please stay tuned. The  individual links below will become active with a new pole star each week:

  • Heidi Coker
  • Jeni Janover
  • Jordan Kensley
  • Nadia Sharif
  • Natasha Wang

Describe your daily routine. How long to you spend training in the studio or gym and how long to you spend at a computer doing the administrative stuff?

Most pole stars cited a changing routine driven by their tour schedule or in some cases freelance or other forms of teaching. Some, when they were home, were incredibly specific with their schedules (Natasha’s schedule looks as strict as mine!), while others were more fluid. Heidi for instance, cites meditation and coffee as her only daily constants.

Do you work with any other service professionals to help with the stuff you’re not good at or don’t like? Such as accounting, social media, tour scheduling?

Answers to this were mixed. Some, like Jeni, have a significant amount of help to manage their business. Others like Heidi, do everything themselves including accounting and taxes!

Broadly, can you describe your income streams and frequency? For instance, do you make a regular salary at a studio + some merchandise sales? Or does all your income come in batches like from doing a tour?

Natasha Wang, touring pole instructor and 2013 IPC Ultimate Champion

This answer had the most variety. Everyone had different streams of revenue such as teaching, merchandise, touring, dancing, and/or freelancing for a previous career but the reliance on each of those streams were different between pole dancers. Jordan relies more on dancing for instance and hopes to grow into her new body work career and have clients. Natasha counts more on tour revenue.

 How do you manage your daily/monthly budget?

No one shared their monthly spreadsheet (maybe it’s just me that does that!) but all shared a concern for being frugal and living within their means with a fluctuating monthly income. Jeni recently started working with a financial planner to help her understand budgeting for both her business and her personal finances and hopes to buy a home soon for her family.

Are you saving for retirement?

The pole stars who had careers before were more likely to have structures set up for this such as IRAs, 401K and simply the habit of saving. Some are saving in general and formally, while others are not. All inferred that savings but not necessarily for retirement was important.

Do you have a partner, spouse, parent, roommate or other person that helps you with meeting your budget, acting as support “staff,” or other?

Also, a very mixed answer – some have a support “staff” like a partner or family member who contributes in some way (financially/emotionally) to the household whereas Heidi enjoys solitude and her kitties.

If you had another job before, What do you miss about it?

All of the pole stars I interviewed did have other jobs, some very formal and corporate and some less so. While many (but not all) of them cited the regular paycheck and benefits as something they sorta missed, ALL of them agreed that they didn’t miss their former lives enough to consider going back.

If you didn’t have a job before, what do you think you’re missing out on?

All of them had jobs.

Are you worried at all about longevity of your career? And of your body?

Each pole star took this question in a very different way. There wasn’t any sort of generalization I can make about their concerns about longevity. To some it seemed a big concern and to others it didn’t. Some took it more as a financial question while others took it more to being creatively relevant. Nadia shared what I thought to be one of the most poignant comments: “I’m not worried about my body. I am a creative person and will always create in one way or another. When my body no longer wants to dance for a living, I will find a new path.”

What is your self-care and recovery regime?

Most had a very specific self-care and recovery regime and employ body work professionals such as acupuncture, dry needling, massage and chiropractic in addition to taking specific rest days regular or rest weeks after coming off touring. The theme of listening to your body and resting when it tells you to, was very common.

Have you ever been injured? How did that affect your career?

Everyone had been injured – some more than others. The ones who were injured more almost exclusively were injured early in their careers or early in their pole training (before they had a career) due to over training, improper training or not cross training. The older and wiser they all became, they were able to decrease or eliminate injuries.

Is there anything you wish you knew before you started on this road?

A few cited concerns about making your hobby into a career – it absolutely changes the way they interacted with pole. Others were concerned about more practical matters like being better about money. 

Anything else you’d like to share with someone who is thinking of making the leap to being a full time pole-fessional (teacher, touring teacher, other)?

Jeni shared a concern that for those of us who have made the jump to full time pole needed to “be careful what they wished for.” Pole is a small community and privacy especially with 24/7 social media seems to disappear. People will not always love your material.

Other pearls of wisdom: People may not always be as trustworthy as they appear. Never stop learning and ask questions of people in industry before making the leap. This career is not for everyone. Really make sure this is what you want and something you can handle – it’s not an industry to get rich financially in although it may be rich/fulfilling in many other ways. Carve out your own niche and be prepared to evolve your offering. Always have a back-up plan.

 

In my humble opinion and from this limited research, being a full-time pole teacher/performer/touring star does seem pretty awesome (especially when compared to a general corporate-type or retail-based job) but it’s not without its challenges and discipline. You must be disciplined not only in how to train to keep your body healthy, but also how you budget and who you trust to help you grow and manage your business. It’s not a business that will necessarily bring you tons and tons of cash, but it does have other less tangible benefits and less tangible concerns. Our industry is small and evolving quickly. Pole may be a great way for you to make a side or a primary income. Or maybe it should stay as an awesome hobby. Only you can truly examine what you want, what you need and what you’re prepared to sacrifice to live a lifestyle like these polers who so graciously shared the details of their lives.

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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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