Can you believe it?
I’m about a week out from touring DC and Raleigh, and I’m still decompressing. Actually, “touring” should be in quotes, because I was booked at a party in DC months in advance and built a mini-tour around that, picking up other bookings without paid advertising.
As for Raleigh, an enterprising gentleman booked me for a dinner date, and I put up an ad and built a short tour around that (with a smidge of paid advertising), tacked on after my DC trip.
And now I’m back in NYC, nursing a slight hangover after sipping bubbly with a client late into the night, sipping tea and staring at the gray cityscape outside my window.
I don’t know how I feel about touring. I don’t know if it’s sustainable, or whether it helps me grow and thrive as a companion. I honestly don’t. More to the point: I know what elements need to be tweaked, and yet, I’m hesitant to institute them. And I’m realizing that touring can bring out my self-sabotaging side.
Last year, I built tours around places I was going anyway. Life took me to the West Coast and Ann Arbor, so I built tours around those trips. It worked pretty well. My goal was modest: to pay for the trip through bookings, and I did that plus more. I’ve done straightforward, no-outside-plans tours in only two places: DC and Philly, both fairly short train rides from NYC, markets I felt compelled to explore.
More recently, I’ve toured places where I’ve agreed to go, because a client has already booked me for a 3+ hour date. That is, one gentleman in each city effectively sponsored my tour. (On one hand, that’s a lovely scheme — to kick off a tour flush and glowing from a wonderful appointment with a favorite client. On the other hand, I’m haunted by the sunk cost fallacy — why can’t I just enjoy the big date, then go home to NYC?)
Especially recently, my tours have gone swimmingly. Most or all of my bookings have been arranged in advance, so I know my schedule before I board a train or plane. My clients have been charming, punctual and complete gentlemen. I’ve had no issues collecting deposits. I’ve had downtime to explore the city and decompress. I haven’t had any travel snafus. I’ve even been able to bring my tiny canine sidekick to assuage the loneliness of being away from home.
At the same time, though, I’m starting to think that touring is a contradiction in terms, a set of competing interests.
I am a luxury companion, yet touring puts me on the most inexpensive journeys I can arrange, nibbling on grocery store morsels in a hotel room that’s juuuust nice enough for my clients. The economics of touring are brutal, and they bring out my cheapskate, self-denying tendencies. On tour, it’s way too easy to neglect myself, cheat myself out of the creature comforts that keep me happy and sane, because they ruthlessly cut into my take.
I deny myself, all while thinking: I want clients to spoil me, to reach out and bet big on me. I want clients to compel me to visit their cities. Not just with words, but with renumeration. Fly-Me-To-You dates exist for a reason. I’m worth it, dammit. Whisk me to an Irish castle or an alpaca farm or simply the nicest restaurant in your city — this is what this is all about. I shouldn’t have to go out on a limb for you. I’m a prize.
I think these things, while sprinting to catch a train or eating crackers for dinner. Do I really believe them, though?
Touring — any sort of touring — requires risk, upfront expenses, extensive sunk costs, and a million logistical nightmares (yes, I do all planning myself). In the final analysis, is it worth it?
The solution is staring me in the face: I should increase my touring rates, and/or institute a minimum booking time for touring appointments. I should invest in myself, elevate myself. No one will do it for me.
My touring rates, at present, are basically the same as my normal NYC rates, with only a $100 increase for a one-hour appointment. This is bonkers, cuckoo, pure stupidity. My college degree should be taken away, it’s so dumb.
And yet…I’m holding myself back from walking through that open door. My own hesitation, my own doubt. What if a rate increase makes my bookings dry up? Even as I write that, I realize how dumb it sounds. Advertise at a higher rate and see if the bookings and deposits come. So damn simple.
I struggle with the scarcity mindset.What if there aren’t enough generous clients to go around? It’s an ugly myth that — as in this case — leads me to cut off my nose to spite my face. Why the hell would a client book me for a long date or Fly-Me-to-You when he hasn’t even met me yet? An ugly myth that my lived experience has shown to be false. And yet, it persists like a scratchy burr stuck in my sweater. What if only way to win is to be available last minute, the most flexible, the most accommodating, the most at everything, a steal, constantly gambling on new markets? Sheer bollocks, toxic rubbish, a disgusting lie. I wish to shed all these myths, wash them off me like dust. It’s difficult, and it’s necessary.
So, where do I go from here?
I’m making a few promises to myself. I hope I can keep them.
I’ll increase my touring rates, and/or formalize the sponsorship model I’ve accidentally landed on. The deal would be: book me for a three-hour date anywhere in the U.S and pay a 50% deposit in advance rather than the customary 20%, and I’ll build a tour around it. (If you are anywhere in the U.S. outside the tri-state area and wish to take advantage of this offer, please get in touch.)
I’ll focus more on Fly-Me-to-Yous and the clients who invest in me in significant and concrete ways.
I’ll work on quelling my self-sabotaging inner dialogue.
I will settle more deeply into my place in the universe. My perch as a prize, a movable feast, an experience. Can you believe it?