How to start an entertainment business

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If you're a musician, live performer or children's entertainer, providing entertainment services at parties and events is a great way to monetise your skills. Here's everything you need to know to get your entertainment business off the ground and running.

What is an entertainment business?

An entertainment business is engaged to keep the crowd entertained at parties, engagements, weddings and corporate events. Popular types of entertainers include children's entertainers, singers, musicians, clowns and magicians.

How to start an entertainment business

Here are the key steps involved in starting your own entertainment business:

  1. Pick your niche. Consider your talent and experience in picking out your entertainment niche. If you're good at arts and crafts, you can provide face painting and balloon making services at children's parties. If you're a musician, you can perform at weddings, funerals and events or work as a DJ.
  2. Develop a business plan. Research competing entertainers in your local area to find out the services they provide and their pricing. Write down a business plan that sets out one-off costs, ongoing costs and marketing plans. Consider if you need a small business loan to meet the initial set-up costs.
  3. Create a brand name and logo. As an entertainer, you will be the face of the business, so you can trade under your legal name without officially registering it. However, in some instances, you may choose to use a business name that describes the nature of the services you provide. Once you have picked a name, make sure you check the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) website to make sure the name is available. For branding, it's a good idea to have a logo that you can use on your marketing materials and invoices. Here are some graphic design tools and services to help you.
  4. Get the right equipment. As an entertainer, you may need additional equipment depending on what services you provide. For example, as a children's entertainer you may need to purchase costumes, face paint and balloons. As a musician, you will need to provide your own microphone and sound equipment.
  5. Choose the right structure for your business. If you're running the business on your own or with a business partner, setting up the business as a Sole Trader or Partnership can be easy and cost effective. But if you want to better protect your personal assets or have external investors involved, there are advantages to setting up your business as a Company. We explain the different structures in further detail below.
  6. Consider legal requirements. As you will be dealing with customers on a regular basis, it's important to prepare legal paperwork to protect your business if things go wrong. As an entertainer, it's important to have a well-written Service Agreement and Cancellation Policy.
  7. Market your business. Many entertainment businesses trade on the personal brand of entertainers, so it's important to have a website or social media page that showcases your skills. For example, as a wedding singer you might want to curate a YouTube channel or Instagram page where you post your best live performances at weddings. In addition, you can actively seek out customers by responding to job requests on online job platforms like Airtasker and Oneflare.

staff of an entertainment business

Skills needed to start an entertainment business

As an entertainer, you need to be skilled in your area of expertise, whether it's as a musician, comedian, magician or another type of entertainment.

Along with these specific skills, you'll need to understand how to run the back end of your business, which includes finances, marketing and customer service.

Courses and qualifications

Starting an entertainment business doesn't strictly require any qualifications. Of course, you'll need to be skilled in the entertainment that you're providing, but having a formal qualification is not a must. Taking an online course is a great way to refresh your skills or pick up something new.

If you're worried about the business management side of things, you can get certificates and degree qualifications for this too. Undergraduate courses in entertainment typically last 3 to 4 years and cost upwards of $10,000 per year. Relevant degrees include:

  • Bachelor in Creative Business, Media Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Entertainment Business
  • BA (Hons) in Music, Theatre and Entertainment Management
  • Bachelor in Communication and Entertainment Management
  • Bachelor of Music

If you'd prefer a short course or certificate that only lasts a year or so, you also have the option of:

  • Diploma of Entertainment Business Management
  • Diploma of Creative Arts
  • Certificate IV in Screen and Media

Want to learn more?

Access thousands of courses from some of Australia's leading providers.

    Equipment and software needed to start an entertainment business

    The equipment you need to run your business will depend on your talent and the audience you perform for. Here are some of the common items used by entertainers:

    • Props such as balloons and face paint
    • Costumes
    • Backdrops
    • Performance equipment

    To run the administrative aspects of the business, such as finances and marketing, you might also need:

    How to structure your entertainment business

    One of the most important initial steps in starting an entertainment business is to decide how you would like to structure your business. Generally, your structure will be determined by how many people own the business and how much you plan on growing it. As a local entertainment business, you'll typically structure your business as a Sole Trader, Partnership or even as a Company.

    • A Sole Trader is a simple and cheap business structure. A Sole Trader is an individual who trades on their own, manages daily operations by themselves and is responsible for the debts of the business.
    • A Partnership is similar to a Sole Trader. However, there are usually two or more people sharing in the decision making and who are responsible for the financial liabilities of the business.
    • If you're hoping to scale your business considerably in the future, you may want to consider changing your structure to a Company at a later stage. The advantages of a Company include limited personal liability and possible tax deductions, but it is more costly and complex to set up.

    Before you take on clients, it's important to have all the necessary legal documents in place. Here are a few agreements and policies that could be useful for your business:

    • As an entertainment business, it's important to have a Service Agreement that sets out the service you provide, the expected standards of behaviour and payment terms.
    • It's important to have a Cancellation Policy to protect your business from last-minute cancellations or no shows.
    • If you decide to structure your business as a Partnership, establishing a Partnership Agreement will safeguard all parties involved. This document outlines the duties and obligations of each partner, so everyone knows where they stand from the outset.
    • As your business grows, you may want to hire assistants or other entertainers to keep things running smoothly. To do this, you'll need to use an Employment Agreement to set out things like an employee's day-to-day responsibilities, salary and working hours.

    To make sure you've covered all bases, you might want to reach out to an online legal service who will be able to advise you as to exactly which documents you need for your entertainment business.

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    How to find customers

    As an entertainer, your customers may range from private clients hoping to put on an unforgettable party to large corporations hosting a staff Christmas party. With such a huge range of clientele, you'll need to spread your brand far and wide. You can do this by establishing a strong marketing plan and building a website.

    In addition to your website, social media and promotional materials, you may want to consider joining an online job marketplace. Using a website like Airtasker and posting ads on local Facebook groups will connect you to locals in your area who are looking for your entertainment services. You can reply to any local advertisements and provide a quote. Alternatively, you can post your own advertisement for the services you offer and for what price.

    How much should I charge my customers?

    Rates vary across the entertainment industry and performers tend to charge on a per show or hourly basis. Rates can change depending on:

    • Your reputation
    • The area you're working in
    • The services you're offering

    Entertainers typically charge for each engagement, although you can also charge hourly rates. According to Airtasker, the average cost of popular entertainers are:

    • Singers: $100 to $250
    • Children's entertainers: $100 to $186
    • DJs: $180 to $408
    • Magicians: $128 to $182
    Accept payments from your customers in person and online with Square's card readers, payment terminals, digital invoicing and e-commerce tools.

    When you first start your entertainment business, you may need to charge a lower rate while you build up your customer base. As your reputation grows in your local area, you will be able to charge more for your services.

    It's always worth checking out the local competition to see what they're charging before setting your rates too, as you don't want to price yourself out of the market accidentally.

    Frequently asked questions

    What does an entertainment company do?

    Entertainment companies come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, but they all share one goal: To entertain an audience. It could be one man who puts on local comedy shows, a large orchestra that travels the country to entertain the masses, or a huge conglomerate that produces films and TV shows.

    How do you write a business plan for an entertainment business?

    Your business plan should provide a basic outline of your business aims and how it will evolve over time. By establishing clear milestones and objectives, it will give you a goal to work towards. Your business plan should also address your business's marketing strategy, budget and growth plan.

    How do I run an entertainment business during COVID-19?

    With coronavirus forcing restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, many entertainment businesses have moved online. For example, children's entertainers are now providing virtual character visits, personalised video messages and Zoom kids parties. If you still want to provide your services in person, you may need a COVID-19 safety policy to enforce social distancing at events.

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