There is this perception that salsa dancers squander their money, dance for free or are completely broke. Some of that perception is true, however, when I was dancing salsa professionally, like in this video here, I knew that it was a business. I also knew that I needed to take my craft, finances and myself very seriously. I trained hard, danced late and dreamed about salsa. Those elements combined helped me make more than $100,000 during one of my years as a professional salsa dancer. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t say that it was easy because all these years later my body still feels the pain from the shakes, shimmies and body rolls I was doing. However, body aches aside, if you are a good (or better yet great) salsa dancer with some financial knowledge and drive You too can possibly make $100,000 a year as a salsa dancer.
You Must Have Some Salsa Dancing Talent
Let’s be real if you can’t dance to save your life than reading this post will be purely for fun. If you don’t have some dance talent then you might want to look into another profession because you won’t even make a dime. There are other lucrative careers in the salsa business but this is about dancing salsa and how I made $100,000 in one year. Anyway, where was I? Ah yes… if you have some talent and a lot of drive it is possible to make a lot of money sharing your talent with the world. You might have noticed that I didn’t say you have to be the best salsa dancer. I didn’t even say you have to be great. I just said you have to be good. During my time in the salsa scene, I knew plenty of cats who were much more talented than I was but didn’t have a pot to piss in. I knew my worth. I wasn’t the best salsa dancer in the world but I had talent, drive and plenty of business savvy. Those things alone put me over the $100,000 mark one year in the early 2000’s and here is how I did it.
Tip – If you want to become a great salsa dancer here is a blog post I wrote a few years ago on how to do it.
Teaching Salsa Classes
After several years as an Eddie Torres dancer, my then dance partner and I opened up a school and started teaching salsa classes in various parts of New Jersey. We finally settled in Belleville where we were considered a young, popular and arguably the hottest couple in NJ at the time. Point blank… our classes were packed. During my salsa reign I had salsa classes nearly everyday of the week and was always looking to expand. Some nights we saw 60 people in a class. Naturally we had package deals for regular students and prices varied due to other factors (during the year) but on average, there were 30 people per class at $12 per class. In addition to that we sold merchandise and bottled water as well. The great part about it was our rent wasn’t too expensive and the only other bills we had to pay were the electric, insurance and cell phone bill. In less than a week all of our monthly expenses were out of the way and the only other things that would cut into our monthly income was paying people to teach for us when we were dancing salsa in another part of the world. All in, after bills were paid (minus taxes), my partner and I split around $8600 a month teaching salsa classes.
Monthly Total $4200.00
Tip – Make sure to set aside money for quarterly taxes and get a great accountant to find every tax deduction possible.
Although selling merchandise was rare on the east coast during the early 2000s, we did have a salsa store which included a DVD series, a timing CD and T-Shirts. We were so likeable and excellent at our craft that items sold regularly. On average we would sell 2 items a day at an average price of $20 an item. That totaled an extra $1200 in profit every month which split was an extra $600 a month for me.
Tip – Open up a paid subscription Youtube or Vimeo channel teaching your best stuff for those who can’t attend your classes.
Monthly Total $600.00
Private Salsa Classes
Private salsa classes helped round out the monthly income when weather and holidays cut into profits. I personally taught about 2 private classes a week which brought in another $150 on average. I always tried to sell merchandise during my privates as well to add to the financial gains. So, it wouldn’t be uncommon to pull in another $700 a month teaching 1 on 1 salsa classes. My private classes were my private classes so I never had to split that money.
Tip – If you have a regular class remind students that you teach private classes without overselling the idea.
Monthly Total $700.00
Dancing Salsa Abroad: Shows, Workshops & Privates
There was always a balance between traveling to teach salsa and teaching locally. Traveling gave us larger exposure which allowed me to sell merchandise and strengthen our brand. We received about $250 per show and $250 per workshop on average. However, it was the merchandise that made the most money for us. If we taught 4 workshops during a weekend we would make $1000 but it wasn’t uncommon to sell 50 DVD’s during the weekend at $35 a pop. Yes our local classes would take a hit but the risk of trying to pull in $3000 a weekend made it worth it. We didn’t travel every week but we definitely traveled at least once a month. All the monies were split, except for privates, but I would pocket an additional $1500.00 a month and sometimes a lot more.
Tip – If you are bringing physical items, nationally or internationally, don’t over pack and always have “for promotional sticker” with you to avoid possibly being questioned.
Monthly Total $1500.00
Dancing at the Copacabana in NYC
Every salsa dancer has heard of a Copa girl but have you ever heard of a Cabana Boy? No I didn’t think so but I was one for 4 years dancing 3 times a week at $125.00 a night. I even fought for pay equality as the girls always made more than the boys. Don’t feel sorry for me though as I brought in another $1500 a month dancing at the Copa. The best part about it was I never had to cancel a private or group class. The Copa dancers started at 11pm which was more than enough time for me to finish teaching in NJ to drive across the river to dance salsa at the famous Copacabana.
Tip – Visit the local salsa clubs in your city and ask the manager if they have a budget for dancers. You might even start off doing it for free to build your brand.
Monthly Total $1500.00
Extra Dancing Gigs
Throughout the year dancing gigs came up all the time. Depending on the venue and what they wanted we were able to command $250 for a 3 minute number. It wasn’t uncommon to do at least 2 extra dancing gig a month. Again I had to split my earnings but doing extra gigs each month was like doing a paid dress rehearsal.
Tip – Never do a show for free unless there is a BIG benefit to you and your brand. Everyone and their mother wants dancers for nothing I said no to 90% of them.
Monthly Total $250.00
It has been many years since I danced salsa professionally. However, aside from the $100,000 year I was able to make a very good living dancing for the few years that I had a passion to do it. Undoubtedly, there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into those salsa years but the financial gains and savings made it worth it. When I knew the time was right I decided to make a career change which ultimately ended that financial bloodline and my salsa reign. I can’t lie, I miss those days from time to time but I wouldn’t change anything for the world. Why? Well… I went on to do other things that make me equally proud. I commentated for the World Salsa Championships on ESPN here, my photography work has been displayed on Forbes Magazine here and Fortune 100 here and this website, Beyond Debt, has been instrumental in helping many of the readers who stop by. Thankfully it continues to grow due to people like You who crave creativity and inspiration on saving and money making ideas. With that said, who could ask for anything more?