Entertainers perform a variety of acts, such as dance, drama or acrobatics, to entertain an audience.
Pay rates for entertainers vary depending on your ability, how often you work and what type of work you do.
There are no set pay rates for entertainers and what you earn depends largely on your ability, how often you work and what type of work you do.
Work may be irregular, and many entertainers rely on supplementary jobs to make a living.
Internet entertainers such as YouTube personalities can earn money from the number of views and subscriptions to their videos.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Entertainers may do some or all of the following:
- write and research performance routines
- rehearse their acts
- design and dress in costumes to suit their performances
- perform their acts in front of an audience
- record and edit their videos and photos for social media
- promote and publicise their acts.
Skills and knowledge
Entertainers need to have:
- excellent performance skills
- creative ability and skill in their speciality area
- knowledge of different performance and acting techniques
- knowledge of body posture and movement
- knowledge of human behaviour and character development.
Business, marketing, networking and planning skills are important, as most entertainers are self-employed and need to be able to create their own work opportunities.
- work irregular hours, including weekends and evenings, and often work only part time
- work at a range of places including theatres, conferences and corporate functions, weddings and children's birthday parties
- may travel nationally and internationally to perform.
What's the job really like?
Emily Buttle is artistic director and manager of her own company, Empress Stiltdance.
Crossing cultural barriers
After she finished her degree in sculpture and theatre in 1992, Emily got her dad to design a very specific pair of aluminium stilts, and went to Europe to become a large-scale spectacular performance artist, turning professional after a couple of years.
"I think physical theatre and spectacular theatre have a way of travelling and crossing all kinds of cultural barriers," says Emily. "There's no language and you're completely visual, so everyone immediately understands it, but it's also a unique image."
Working in Europe
Emily's passion has taken her to a range of international locations – from the Love Parade in Berlin, with a crowd of a million people, to an eight-metre-high stage at a rave in Amsterdam. She has stiltdanced at a David Bowie concert in Denmark, and performed a three-and-a-half-hour samba on stilts at the Notting Hill Carnival in London.
Determining her own lifestyle
"I love everything about this job," says Emily. "I love the colour, the completely self-determined lifestyle, the performing, and the directing. I love choreography, dance, movement, festivals, events – I just love that whole world."
To become an entertainer you need to have ability in your chosen area. Some employers may prefer you to have experience in performing and entertaining.
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become an entertainer. However, useful subjects include drama, history and classics.
Entertainers need to be:
- able to communicate ideas and feelings
- good communicators
- outgoing, confident and comfortable working in front of an audience and dealing with potentially negative feedback
- adaptable, as they need to be able to respond to the audience
- disciplined and motivated
- patient and persistent enough to keep practising and perfecting their act.
Children's entertainers need to relate well to children.
Useful experience for entertainers includes:
- public speaking
- theatre sports and debating
- acting, dancing or singing
- other experience performing in front of an audience
- artistic or creative work.
Some forms of entertainment, such as juggling and stilt walking, are mostly self-taught. It may be useful to join a local club to learn the basics and meet other interested people.
Physical requirements for an entertainer depend largely on what kind of performance work they do. For instance, human statues need to have a good level of stamina and concentration, jugglers need to have good hand-eye co-ordination, and stilt walkers must have good balance.
Find out more about training
- The Big Idea
- (09) 373 2054 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.thebigidea.co.nz/work/jobs-opportunities
What are the chances of getting a job?
Best entertaining opportunities in main centres
There are more opportunities for entertainers in the main centres of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton where they are employed for street events, corporate functions, store openings and weddings.
Most entertainers work for themselves
Most entertainers are self-employed and may work on contract for businesses such as entertainment events companies.
It can be useful to list with an entertainment agent. Many entertainers supplement their income with other jobs.
Internet creates more opportunities
Easy access to the internet and social media mean that nowadays anyone can become an internet personality or entertainer. However, it can be hard to build up a large enough following of viewers to make money as an online entertainer.
- Careers New Zealand research, February 2017.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Entertainers usually specialise in one role, such as:
- Acrobats use trapezes to perform feats of balance and agility, often high off the ground.
- Aerial Dancer and Circus Artist
- Aerial dancers and circus artists perform dances and feats, sometimes above an audience's head.
- Clowns use physical performance and humour to entertain audiences.
- Comedians use humour to entertain audiences.
- Hypnotists use the power of suggestion to persuade their subjects to amuse an audience.
- Magicians use illusion and sleight of hand to perform magic tricks.
Last updated 9 June 2017