Member of the week: Jim Manning, children's entertainer

We are proud to announce our first member of the week from outside New York City. His name is Jim Manning and he's a freelancer in Boston, Massachusetts. Jim is a children’s entertainer at birthday parties, but he's a world away from that clichéd clown or magician you remember. Jim has four unique themes from which his clients choose--including Superhero Training and Jungle Jim's Safari Adventure. In the photos on his website, you can clearly see the delight he brings to the children he entertains. Learn more about Jim below and in his Yellow Pages profile (and keep him in mind when your kid's birthday is coming up!).

Jungle Jim

1. What has been your most interesting project?

I would say my most interesting project has been the development of my Jungle Jim character. I first decided to become a professional children’s entertainer while traveling through Australia. I was making balloon animals for Aboriginal children in the Outback when it occurred to me that this was what I should do full time. I came back to the States having planned on starting the business, and the Jungle Jim character seemed a natural fit. It started out simply, grew slowly with costuming and character development, and then grew exponentially into the basis and spirit of a whole company. I’ve finally learned to do what I love, and the power and beauty that come with that inspires me daily.

2. Why did you decide to go freelance?

I think it a lot to do with who I am, and what I’m trying to be. I grew frustrated trying to fit into a mold that I didn’t belong to (nor desired to belong to). I wanted something that every day I woke up excited and passionate about. The best year of my life was spent in the South as a team leader for the AmeriCorps* National Civilian Community Corps. It wasn’t always easy (in fact it never was), but every day I woke up knowing that what I did that day would make a difference, and that the people my team and I helped were left for the better. I wanted to recapture that feeling. Granted, one might argue about how much of a difference a children’s entertainer can make, but this is what I do best, and I try and contribute to the betterment of my clients’ lives, especially their children. Being freelance not only allows me that wonderful freedom in my day, it allows me to reach out in ways not possible with a corporate job.

3. What tip would you give to a new freelancer or someone who is considering going freelance?

I would suggest researching your field to the umpteenth degree. There is always something to learn, always something you can do to improve your craft, whatever that craft may be. You also have to keep in mind that inasmuch as you may be an artist, you also need to be a businessperson as well. If that is a weak point for you, you need to make it a strong point, even if it means spending a Sunday afternoon curled up on the couch with the tax code. Marketing is key, as it does not matter how good of an artist you are, if people cannot find you, you will not work. Lastly, have humility, for you are not the only one out there plying your trade, nor are you necessarily the best, no matter what Mom or your college professor may have told you. Be smart enough to learn from those who’ve gone before you, since they’ve already made numerous journeys down the path which you have barely touched upon.

4. What is your favorite spot in the city in which you live?

My favorite spot in Boston is Titus Sparrow Park. It’s near my house, so I often play guitar and/or make balloon animals for children there. Kids from all over come to play (with mothers or nannies or neither) and the cross-section of the population is pretty cool. People walk their dogs there, kids play basketball, old people play tennis, teenagers stare at each other, new moms complain to each other, older moms nod knowingly, twenty-somethings chat on their cell phones, thirty-somethings turn off their cell phones, and forty-somethings curse their cell-phones. The kids inspire me, everyone else amuses me, and I’m happy to be part of the throng.

5. What is your inspiration?

My inspiration is when I give a good party, and children chase me down the street, since they’ve enjoyed themselves so much they don’t want me to leave. I’m inspired when a parent calls me and asks my availability for a particular weekend since their child has not stopped talking about so-and-so’s birthday party for six weeks, and they know of no other way to get Cameron or Dawn to change the subject. I’m inspired when parents murmur to each other in the background when I have complete command of the toughest audience (8-year old boys), and can actually get them to listen to me. My clients, who are less than four feet tall, inspire me.
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