Careers Clinic: How can I delegate my gigs?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I’m partially funding my drama studies by singing opera at corporate events, weddings and other functions. I’m classically trained, and over the past few years have built up good relationships with several promoters who get me well paid, fairly high-class work.

My course includes some weekends which I can normally work around but a promoter I do a lot of work for booked me for a very posh wedding and when our final showcase date was announced they clashed.

I met an excellent singer at a recital we both did a few months ago and we had swapped numbers. I didn’t want to let my regular client down, but nor did I want to miss the showcase so I suggested she -deputise for me.

You probably know where this is going. I got offstage from the showcase to a series of angry voicemail messages from a livid organiser. He says my replacement turned up an hour late, didn’t have time to rehearse and gave a very mediocre -performance when she did get going.

Not only am I worried about losing the client but I’m also now wondering if going forward I now need to choose between -singing and acting until I graduate.

Identifying somebody who can deputise for you when needed is a very good safety net for any corporate singer. In principle what you were trying to do was an excellent idea and, despite things going pear-shaped on this occasion, I wouldn’t rule out having another go. Whether that second go involves this particular performer is another matter.

Let’s get the ‘telling off’ out of the way first: in any business the most valuable asset you have is your reputation, and that reputation can be affected not only by what you do or don’t do yourself but also by anybody who comes with your recommendation.

In fairness to you, at least you had seen the other person perform, so you were confident about their work, but, talent aside, professionalism and reliability are two equally important qualities in business. This seems to be where things went wrong on this occasion.

I say ‘seems’ because it might just be worth following up with your substitute to get their side of the story before you go on the warpath or remove them from your contact book.

There might be a genuine reason for why things went so badly wrong.

The problem, of course, is that this was their first time -covering, so it is hard to make a judgement as to how much of the fiasco really was down to unforeseen circumstances and how much to sloppiness.

One immediate lesson for the future is to make sure that, when looking for a regular ‘dep’, you try out the arrangement on a smaller and less crucial job the first time.

Whatever the reasons things went wrong, it is ultimately your responsibility to try to put things right. Contact the promoter and let them know you are taking full responsibility.

If there are any extenuating circumstances you can tell them about, do, but don’t be -surprised if that doesn’t change how they feel: their reputation will have been dented too.

Offer what you can by way of redress. If it is a really valuable regular customer you may have to work quite hard to win their trust back.

The one thing you do have going for you is that it would appear your own reputation for reliability has been built up over several years, so you may just have built up enough ‘integrity points’ to cushion the blow from this once-off disaster. If you do get another chance, it goes without saying that you will need to pull out all the stops to deliver a memorable show.

Hopefully the ‘you’re only as good as your last gig’ rule will then work in your favour, for once.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne