But you will be getting great exposure!
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If you have been face painting any time at all you have probably been invited to a local festival, school, church or community event and told that there is no budget for a professional face painter but they would love to have you come. You would benefit because there will be a lot of families there and you would be getting great exposure. Look, you can pass out your cards to a lot of people and your time would be well rewarded with future bookings. My quick response to this is... you know you can die from exposure???
I am all for doing my part for charity, doing events for my children's school or for my church but I have my limits and/or boundaries as I call them. I'm sure you will get many such requests so I have done the hard thing for you and written you up a series of responses and you can use the one that fits you the best for that specific event.
1) It is for your child's school or for your church and they are having a carnival and they would love to have a face painter. Just go and do that one and do it for free. If you go to the church or your child goes to that school you owe it to the event to be a volunteer. You get your choice... you can go and work the cake walk (boring), you can go and work in the cafeteria and smell like a bad taco by the end of the evening or you can go and face paint, put smiles on the children and get some great exposure in your local market. Now remember you are doing this for free so you get to set the rules. Don't let them go and push you around. Your work, your time, your rules. It is just very important for you to understand that you will never be able to paint all of the kids. You should work at your own pace and simply paint as many children as you can during the allotted time. Paint good quick faces. You are not going to get future bookings if you dumb down your art work to rainbows and hearts or you try to be a speed demon and put out crappy one minute faces. If you would average five minutes per face at a normal event, do the same at the school festival. Remember there will be mom's there taking photos of the event and you will be the photos that are put in the monthly parent's magazine. Do your best and understand your objective is to put out as many little painted face billboards you can during the event. If there are going to be other face painters there I suggest you print out some little stickers and put those on the children that you paint. You want credit for your good work and you don't want credit for the low-end work or that kid that got the allergic reaction because the other painter was using craft paints.
2) They want you there to face paint but there is no budget. Well as the saying goes "there is more than one way to skin a cat". I also like the saying "you do not get what you want in life, you get what you negotiate". You are going to have to do some salesmanship if you don't want to work for free. Remember you do want the exposure but you also want to get paid for your time. Here are some options for you...
a) Have them find a sponsor for you. I have gone to community events before where they wanted a face painter and they got a local establishment to pay my normal hourly fees and they put out a sign that says "The face painter today was sponsored by XYZ". I have been sponsored before by a residential house painter, an attorney, a restaurant, a dentist, a orthodontist and the list goes on. Who cares who is paying the tab if you are getting paid your hourly fee and getting to pass out your business card?
b) If it is a church, school or charity group try the "tip bucket method". You will get your normal hourly rate but you put out a in-your-face tip bucket with a sign that says this "The face painter today is a professional that was hired. In an effort to make sure we have a good face painter next year we are asking for an extra contribution and 100% of the contribution goes to Saint Mary's Church (fill in your desired event)." If they see that you are getting paid and all the money goes to the church, the parents will be more willing to be generous. Sometimes the tips will end up above what you are getting paid and other times it will fall short. It should not matter to you as you are getting your agreed upon rate.
c) Try the profit sharing method. This one can be a bit risky but if you are honest with yourself you can probably guess the three key areas 1) How many potential faces will you be able to paint 2) How fast can you paint per hour 3) How much will they be willing to pay. You have to be realistic as if you are at a school carnival where they get all of the activities for free they are going to be less likely to fork out even more money when there are so many free things for them to do. I encourage beginner face painters to use this method in order to get their speed up to par. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Humane Society. I assure you they are have an adopt-a-pet activity at least once a month in your area. Call them up and tell them you are a beginner face painter trying to build your skills and speed. Tell the you use safe face paints, have your own table and chairs and you would like a small area to face paint cat and dog faces on the kids. Tell them you want to charge $3 per face (or what you want) and half of the money will go to replenish your supplies and the other half can go to the Humane Society. I assure you they will not turn you down as long as they have room for your little table. It is a win/win and you get to pass out your cards.
d) Then there is the true profit
sharing. This is common when they are selling booths. I tell you over the years
I have done this many different ways and with mixed results. Personally I would
rather work off of a percentage instead of a flat rate for a booth. I know some
painters are the opposite. I do a number of festivals and the best deal I
have is I give them 20% and I have another high volume festival where I give
them 46%. I do them both because in the end I am still earning well above my
normal hourly rate. You just have to be very careful as vendors selling booth
space can be a bit sneaky. You want to make sure you are the exclusive face
painter and I tell you they all stretch the truth when they tell you how many
people will be at the event. A child there with no money wanting to get their
face painted is worse than not having anyone there at all in most cases. You
should be looking for events where the parent is present. When you have a parent
there you are more likely to get paid and more likely to get a tip and you are
more likely to have them take and hold onto your business card. If they see your
good work, see how fast you are, see how much their child enjoyed the experience
the more likely they are to think of you for their child's next birthday party.
3) One of the last options is to go to the event and work for tips. I tell you this can be a real mixed bag as some parts of the world (like ours) you can get pretty good tips and other parts of the world you will not get any tips. I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas in the USA and in our area you can average $20 to $30 an hour just with tips if you do it right. Your normal hourly fee might be much higher but you also might be getting a lot of good bookings from the event. We used to do face painting at a large mall down in Dallas and at the start, we worked for tips. That was twenty years ago and at the time our normal rates was $50 an hour and we could get $25 to $30 an hour in tips. I let my workers keep the tips and I got all of the bookings from the event. It was a unique situation because near the mall you could find both low income families (who still like their kids to have fun birthday parties) as well as those that were quite wealthy and certainly with the budget for the children's parties. It was a great win/win for all.
In the end it boils down to your time, your skills and what your time is worth. Certainly in the beginning when I was trying to build my business I was willing to work for a lower rate if I was getting true real exposure. You just have to be very honest with yourself as I tell you there are people out there willing to take advantage of you and there certainly are a lot of people with very unrealistic or ill thought out logic on how well you will do at their event. IF YOU ARE FEELING LIKE YOU WERE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF you probably were. Live and learn. If you find yourself getting burned then negotiate better or stop doing that kind of event. Now that we are well established we do not go anywhere and work for tips. These days I do about four unpaid events a year and those are events that tug at my heart from the humane society to the handicap (physical and mental) run we do each year. When someone calls and tells you of their good cause you can give them an honest reply. No doubt there are many good causes out there. I can reply with "I agree that yours is a very valiant cause. I tell you we establish a charity budget each year and we have already allocated our budget for this year. Can I offer you a few suggestions on how you can still get us to come to your event this year?" That is when you suggest they find a sponsor or you try the tip bucket method to help offset the cost of the face painter.
Well I have given you a lot to think about. In closing I encourage you to also to think of the "Karma method". If you go out there and do good, it somehow comes back to you with good down the road. In the meantime, bundle up so you don't get exposure. GOOD LUCK!!!
President/Owner of Ruby Red Paints, Inc. & Party Faces Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org
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