"Should you work 'overtime' for free?"
by Gary Cole

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It only takes working your first ten, "painting for hire", events to run across the opportunity or challenge of working "overtime" for free. This is an often asked question of, what do I do here? If you were hired for three hours and you know there is no opportunity to get paid extra and you find you have another ten children that need to be painted. You are forced to make a choice of packing up and leave or paint for free.

There are many opinions on this, but first let me tell you that USUALLY this can be addressed up front with your customer. I'm not going to go into the subject of cutting off your line, as this is addressed in other faqs on the list. We are assuming that you have already followed the suggestions given in other areas of the SNAZAROO web site. By the way you can see the index for the other faqs at http://www.snazaroo.com/faq.htm If you are new to face painting we strongly encourage for you to look here first. Questions sent to the discussion list, that are already addressed here, often will go ignored by those list veterans.

The debate to be complete should include the issue that if you work, lets say thirty minutes extra, for no charge, you are setting a precedent for not only all of your future events with this customer, all of your customers or even all of your peers that you compete with in your area. Certainly you have been addressed with the issue that so-and-so never has a problem when they have to work overtime to paint the last few children. When you work extra time for free, I don't think that anyone will argue that your fee per hour has slid downward, simply because you worked extra time for no charge. There is also little debate that by working extra time on this event can set a new standard for future events, especially for yourself.

This is one of those issues where you are going to have to set your own rules. People that paint professionally (work for money) all set their own rules. Some burger restaurants allow you to choose everything from what condiments you want added, to how you would like your meat cooked (rare, well done, etc.). Then other restaurants will tell you that you, your burger is well done, with lettuce, onions and ketchup as it comes on every burger. This does not mean that one is right and one is wrong. They simply have their own business practices, marketing strategies and policies. It is very easy to get fed up with individuals on this list (or any e-mail discussion list) that wish to dictate that there is only way to handle this or that situation. My advice is for you to absorb all of the opinions (and that is all they are, including the one you are currently reading) and then make your own choice. Never let single minded people dictate to you how to set your personal business policy. Some people just seem to get very carried away and think for some reason that they know more than anyone else simply because 1) they have been doing it longer than you, 2) they earn more money than you or 3) they belong to the "face painter's elitist club" and their rule book says this or that. My opinion is to let ninety percent of it all go in one ear and out the other.

God gave you a brain to use for yourself. To be honest, you also have the flexibility to do it this time one way and next time do it another way. Also, time constraints alone, could dictate your policy at any given time or day. You are the one that generally is signing the check book, so you do as you see fit. That is one of the best things about having your own face painting business and that is you get to do whatever you want.

In our case, we have a number of painters that go out and paint. If the contract was to do a three hour event and it is going to run over then we put the decision ability in the hands of the painter. They, like we, understand the event is booked for a certain number of hours. We train our staff very clearly on the skills of ending the line. For arguments sake, lets again agree, that they have already done their job in ending the line. Lets agree, for arguments sake, that it boiled down to working thirty minutes for free and painting another eight children or simply stopping painting and calling the day over. I can not over emphasize that GENERALLY you can end the line in a manner that is fair to both the host, those at the event wanting to get painted and yourself. I'm telling you that this will be an almost constant decision you will have to make. Our painters clearly know that if they work over, without renegotiating with the host, that they can work over for free if that is their desire. I'll tell you, much more often than not, our workers (including myself) go ahead and work about five minutes over and call it done. The rest are encouraged to look for us at the next event in the area. We realize that some children or parents are discouraged by this.

With this said, here is the decision factors that I throw into the mix, to help me decide if I am willing to work for free. A great deal depends on if I feel I was treated fairly, kindly, my fatigue factor and my personal perception is I am being taken advantage of. Here is a list of questions you should ask yourself when you decide to work extra for free.

1) Walking into the event was it obvious from the start that there was no way all of the children could be painted? If you knew this from the start then you should have addressed this with the host in the very beginning. In the end you have to ask yourself... "did you provide the quality and speed that you advertise"? Is this made clear? In our case we advertise that we paint twelve to fifteen faces per hour. If we met that guideline then the customer will probably not take you on in argument. MOST PEOPLE understand standard working hours.
2) Are you enjoying yourself? Think of all of the factors involved. Are you working in scorching heat, high humidity, the direct sun, the cold, the wind, the rain etc. etc.? Are the people treating you like the hired help or a guest at the party? If you are simply tired or feel like it is just time to go, then pack up and head out the door guilt free because you already gave the customer what they ordered.
3) I generally gear my personal decision on the type of event I'm working. You will find that some events, you really enjoy doing and others you are simply "on the job". Once you get serious about face painting and you turn it into your lively hood, you tend to take it all a great deal more serious. There is nothing wrong with ending the face painting when the time runs out. You should be able to do this guilt free or business will always be a struggle for you. Also, there is also nothing wrong with working an extra thirty minutes if time allows. If the working conditions are good, then I generally am willing to work an extra fifteen minutes for free. If it is longer than fifteen minutes then I simply ask my question is this a customer or event where I'm willing to "donate" extra personal time. Is it an investment, am I being taken advantage of, or am I just having fun?
4) Is this one of your "special events"? I think going out and doing volunteer face painting for your personal charities or other fun events can be rewarding, if so, then just consider this an extension of your personal charity work. If you would normally not consider doing a half hour of free work then end your line and pack up.
5) You should also consider it important if it is a very important repeat customer. You might work thirty minutes over on this gig and they let you go home early on the next event. Business is an ongoing exercise of give and take. Make sure you are giving more than you are taking. Remember the rule "what goes around comes around".
6) Are you setting yourself up for the kill on future events? If this is a repeat customer, is it know that this is your gift to them, or is it telling the customer that you like the personal abuse. I consider myself very fair and I always try to give 110%. I'm pretty vocal and people generally know where I stand. There are many on this list that these situations are very intimidating. I always go out of my way to make sure that the customer is happy. If I feel like people are taking advantage of me, I do not have a problem in speaking up. When you do this it is the exception when they try to take advantage of you. If I felt I was being taken advantage of, my personality would simply hold firm to cutting off the time when I have worked five to fifteen minutes overtime. Most professional relationships are built around fairness. We do a great deal of corporate work and generally they are just as interested in being fair as we are. In the individual birthday party events, that tend to be one timers, I would simply try to renegotiate the time. Again, my personality is one that I would not generally let someone outright take advantage of me. If you are the more timid sort that is ok. For this I would suggest that you always restate AT THE VERY BEGINNING WITH THE HOST, that you are scheduled to end painting at XXX o'clock. This ends 99.9% of the debate when the time is over. When you do this they generally either tell you to stop or agree to pay a little extra.

The bottom line it is your time you are giving away. You are under no obligation to give away your time. No other person no matter how experienced at face painting can set YOUR RULES. You decide for yourself if you want to work over for free. You should be concerned about your particular face painting business and your future.

Well, I'm sure this will not totally resolve this problem in the future, but I hope it does give you some confidence to help you with this decision in the future. Simply stop the line when your time is done or work for free. In this case your destiny is in your hands. My last suggestion is if you are going to end up being grumpy because you worked extra time for free then it would have been better if you would have just ended the line. No one wants a grouch to paint their face and you have no one to blame but yourself. On the other hand if you preformed a service of extra work for free pat yourself on the back for your good deed for the day.

Gary Cole
www.snazaroo.com gary@snazaroo.com

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