Many examples of how people started their business, practical business ideas, marketing ideas, etc. all from people doing face painting.
This is a growing list so you better pack a lunch before you start reading.
From: "Shannon Fennell"
I took Gary's email and inserted my comments... so it's a bit on the long side! I look forward to seeing everyone else's input!!! I'd like people with the following SPECIFIC business models to give us a detailed strategy.
1) the stand alone painter specifically targeting birthday parties
2) the stand alone painter specifically targeting corporate events
I am both of these.
1) tell us how long you have been in the business Face Painting - 5 years; make-up - 14 years
2) how you have evolved as a painter and why this niche - Was always an artsy type. Obtained a diploma in Make-Up Artistry and worked as a professional make-up artist. Discovered face painting by accident when I purchased a book by a FACE member in a sale bin at a department store. Went WOW, this looks like fun, and haven't looked back. It's fun, I'm good at it, the customers enjoy it, and it's profitable. I have very little competition in this market area as there are no other full-face painters (as opposed to cheek art) that regularly work here, i.e. live in the region. I target corporate and birthday parties as I find them to be less stressful overall. I come, I paint, I go. I am comfortable in the corporate/birthday party niche as I don't like handling cash while working and I feel that I am more profitable billing out at an hourly rate as opposed to by-the-face in this market area.
3) in the school of hard knocks what was your greatest positive change and biggest mistake
Positive change - I have to admit to not having taken any really hard knocks, but have learned that marketing is very important. If you want to build your business you have to promote yourself and your services wherever and whenever you can. I have learned that good marketing materials are important and now constantly create, update and distribute my information. Biggest mistake - Busking. It was the worst financial experience of my make-up/face painting career - It is not appropriate for this market as people are not familiar with the service or know how to value it. Thing I learned - know your market!
Also, I have to admit to jumping into things or buying new products and equipment, and then evaluating the need for it! I have some lovely things lying around my office that don't get used. I could have saved thousands by waiting to see if I really needed something.
AND... this is NOT A MISTAKE, but something that I have had to seriously reconsider... As I was establishing myself as a face painter I decided I would become a clown (went to clown camp and everything!) ... and was marketing myself as a face painting clown. However, over time, I have gotten away from face painting in clown. It adds prep time and really doesn't add anything to the face painting, from my point of view. If a customer asks specifically for the clown I will provide her, but I am trying now to keep the clown and the face painter separated! Part of this decision was a result of burning my nose badly due to a reaction to adhesives when I was in clown for about 20 hours one day when I had two face painting jobs, and then had to go right to the theatre for a full session... I had to then do the face painting job the next day sans clown face and it made no difference to the customer or the kids in line! So... I made the decision to keep the clown, but not face paint as the clown (except on request) ... and let me repeat the was NOT A MISTAKE but a learning experience, and opportunity to assess and re-evaluate my goals for my business!
4) tell us about your environment (large city, small?) (target low income, high income?) etc - My market is a small city (pop 45,000) and the surrounding county (pop 18,000) with agriculture, oil, gas, and forestry being the major industries. I target mostly corporate (mall, racetrack, fairs, social clubs of large
companies, non-profit groups, trade shows, store openings, etc.) and mid-to high income bracket for birthday parties.
5) tell us how you advertise - I do not do paid advertising or yellow pages. I am strictly word-of-mouth or direct contact, and the occasional "free" listing. I have good community contacts and the local theatre and park give out my name constantly. Referrals from past customers are also a large source of new work. I'll also distribute business cards and flyers to locations where people may be looking for face painters or some sort of entertainment for groups. I do a
direct mail campaign to target customers annually.
6) tell us about your literature from business card to flyer I have two business cards: one is full colour photo (six faces and me) that is for face painting only, and the other is for general make-up services which also lists face painting. I have a three-fold full colour brochure (I design myself and print on colour laser printer) for my whole Make-Up business which is sectioned with the headings "Make-Up Services" and "Face Painting" and includes a brief bio and contact information. I have a full colour 8.5" x 11" flyer that I print on commercially available border paper that simple says "Need a Face Painter..." with multiple photos and contact information. I make magnetic face painting business cards for my annual direct mail campaign using my full colour card layout. I do a "letter" for my annual direct mail campaign to past and potential customers.
7) how many workers? Just me, but for large jobs I recruit an assistant to do tattoos or be a runner/line control.
8) how do you train - Hasn't come up yet for face painting as my assistants don't paint.
9) how do you motivate (carrot... stick) Carrot! I pay my assistants $20/hour in province where minimum wage is $5.90
10) your annual bookings (roughly over the last five to ten years) I am only available weekends as I have full time employment elsewhere, so my numbers may seem low but reality is that I am pretty busy! Last year I had approximately 40 bookings, and turned down a lot of birthday parties as they didn't fit my schedule or were too short notice. Also, these are just the face painting bookings; I also have make-up bookings too. Every year the numbers of face painting bookings has increased and now I am at a point where I have to block off an occasional day so that I have a day off to rest. I started out slowly, just doing the occasional birthday, and some discounted rates for local charities the first year. The next year it doubled, and then it doubled again.
11) anything else you would like to share - Reputation is paramount! Don't do anything to damage your reputation as you will never recover from it! Always do what you say you will, always stick to your price quote, always arrive on time, always clean-up, always be polite, always be sanitary. Be professional in your appearance, demeanor, equipment and supplies, and in your paperwork. The customer isn't always right, but they are paying you, so be accommodating but hold your ground and be firm if what they want isn't right or not what you were hired to do. Above all else, have fun! Face Painting is fun and if it isn't for you... then maybe you need to find something else to do.
In the Great White North!
I Usually I don't write to the list very often, but I have been very interested in reading the different business overviews. So I thought that I would write to you and share mine as it is so different to yours.
Firstly I live in Bermuda where we only have a base population of 60,000, which makes a huge difference.
I have been face painting for about ten years, it is not my primary job so I only do this at week ends, holidays or evenings. (Everybody's play times are my work times!)
I started out by volunteering at my children's annual school fair, and ended up by managing the children's area. We needed some face paints as this was just beginning to grow in popularity. My parents had a art shop in the Uk and sold Snazaroo paints, they sent me the address and I wrote to Lauren and Paul ( correct me if I am wrong but they were the founders of Snazaroo) They were then traveling to fairs promoting the product, so the committee wrote to them and invited them to come over here for the event..... Well who would refuse an invitation to Bermuda!!!! They stayed with me, and attended the fair which is a three day event, they were very impressed by it and taught us the basic faces and that's how it all started. After the fair and out of the blue, someone phoned me to paint people at a corporate event, then someone else called for me to paint at a birthday party. I thought WOW and I am getting paid too.. so this is how it was launched.
We began our company is 1987. We both had a background in theatre, and I
had worked extensively with theatre makeup. We have always worked in Alaska,
started as one balloon artist/clown, and I was the facepainter. Our market
area is approximately 250,000. When we started, we did more work in the
balloon and clown arena, than in facepainting, and we did improvisational
theatre, had a comedy troupe, wrote and produced shows, and taught
improvisational theatre throughout Alaska in the Artists in the Schools
program. This was a full-time business, and when we started our family, I
went back to college, received a teaching degree, and planned to be a
full-time teacher, and work at our business part time. The business
continued to grow, Marky had a chance to go to Japan twice for fairly
lengthy performing contracts, and our company continued to grow, evolve and
change. Currently-- We are now a company that can provide multiple clowns,
facepainters, balloon artists, magicians, jugglers, musicians, and we work
with jobs from the small, private, birthday party, to corporate parties
requiring a full range of entertainment, to select fairs and festivals. We
work be the hour, by the day, by the contract, and also by the face. It just
depends on the venue--we have package prices, individual prices, etc. We
start as low as $150 for Marky for a private birthday party, $100 for a
facepainter, and if they book both of us, we give them a reduced rate.
Company and corporate starts at $250 an hour for the two of us. I don't want
to get into too many of the numbers, we do have a standard rate card, but so
many jobs require individual consideration, so we do a lot of negotiation.
I'm just trying to give a range of what we do. We also sometimes work just
for tips, but only at high-traffic festival-type environments, and we do
that with our balloon business, rather than facepainting. One of the
facepainters we work with does the Saturday market for tips, we do the
balloons. OK, so I gave the low end, our high end has been in the thousands
of dollars for huge projects. We also work with trade contracts, where we
have received hotel rooms, food, radio advertising, and other benefits. We
consider ourselves on the elite end. Quality, go for the best, that kind of
theme running. I haven't worked out our total percentages, but our business
has definitely changed. We do not have the theatre, performing group any
more. It was fun, but not a lot of money in it. Most of our work now is with
clowning, balloon work and entertainment, and facepainting. Then we also
book corporate events with other entertainers, so that we can provide them
with an entire package of activities and acts. We work the State fair, a
12-day event, providing facepainting and crazy hair, and we charge per face
and head. We have eight facepainters working the fair, and three to five
hairdressers going. We consider our business full-time, and we are doing
this with three children. Our teenage son is now apprentice in the
balloon-making business, and my little one, a girl who is six, is very
interested in the facepainting. Our annual numbers are proprietary, but we
have established ourselves as full-time, year-round, and that's how we
approach it. We develop goals year-round, and I do a final analysis at the
end of the year, and we fine-tune, and review every year. We advertise in
some local directories, do direct mail up to three times a year, always have
business cards and half page card stock hand-outs. This year, we added
personal calls, with an introductory package, and then either mail follow
ups, or do another personal delivery. We have hired artists to produce our
sales pieces, and most recently, we've done them ourselves. We use our
digital camera, computer, and printer. Training--we have always considered
the elite position, the high-end, so when we look for people we want to work
with, we start with talent--artists, art students, actors, painters. Then we
train. Our training is an overview of the products, how to use a sponge and
apply the base, and then step by step on some of the designs. We start them
out with simple cheek designs, and then as they feel comfortable, they take
on more and more difficult designs. Then we talk about what can be added,
changed, etc. I feel we need to develop our training aspect more than we
have, it's usually kind of a sink or swim situation, usually right before
the fair, and the balloon artists have all been trained by Marky. I work
with him about once a week on balloons, so does our son. We have used
balloon artists already skilled in a few balloons, and then they learn more
while working. Our facepainters have come from all sources--we found one at
a Renaissance festival painting dragons for 50cents. We found one working
for tips at the Saturday market..some have contacted us. We have placed ads
in the local newspaper advertising for face painters and hair people. I took
an art class at the university, and found a couple possible candidates. We
currently provide each facepainter with a kit--some of them have the
initiative to develop their own kits, most of them don't. We do not give
them the kit to keep or require a deposit. We give them the kit per job, and
I clean them up, restock them, set them up, etc. If they develop their own
kit, we offer to provide them with refills on whatever they need. Gary is
right with the artistic people, many of them have "time-challenges"--(like
showing up on time for a job)--or artistic temperaments, and quirks, but we
still prefer to start with talent--then learning facepainting is usually
pretty easy. Some of our facepainters are really fast, some are really good,
and some are both fast and good. The fast and good ones are the ones that
continue to work with us throughout the year. We can use all kinds of styles
during big events like the fair, but when we are doing high money corporate
jobs, or the individual birthday parties, I want the best people we can get
for those jobs. So our goal is quality, and then speed. I have set the
designs for per face events, so all our facepainters are working off a menu
board, and we must provide consistency. However, at per hour corporate
events, when I go and bring my best painters, we are free to paint whatever
the patron wants--cheek designs, full-faces, or body work. We do
pre-established faces, and we do custom, all the time. Things I have learned
over time-- 1. When the event is free to people, you will always have a
line. So when you're time is over, you are done, even if somebody has been
"standing in line forever" (I've been told that) 2. No matter how fast you
paint, there will always be another person to paint (unless it's a private
party with five kids) 3. Some of the wiggliest wiggle worms will sit
absolutely still when you start painting them. 4. Some of the youngest will
set absolutely still for their face. 5. Some of the oldest won't. 6. There
is usually an interesting story behind that person sitting there. Sometimes
they will share it. 7. We are in their private space, and it is a personal
experience. 8. We provide a lot of happiness and create a lot of smiles. 9.
There is so much more to learn, and many directions to grow and aim for. 10.
Usually the person you will have a problem with is the parent, not the child
Biggest problem--and biggest blessing--the people we work with. Usually it's
great, sometimes we have a prima donna or two, and it's attitude that gets
most people in trouble--so we've cut some people loose, but then turned
around and found somebody willing to work, happy to get the job, enjoy the
money, and work really hard. I don't consider these problems or failures,
but we have tried events and venues that didn't work for one reason or
another. We then evaluate what we could do to change it, is it worth it to
continue with that event, and we move on from there. We've picked some real
stinkers, where we barely made lunch money, but then, we've tried some
things, and they have turned into a permanent part of our schedule. The only
way to grow is to keep trying new things. Rewards and incentives--when we
charge per hour, we pay our painters between $30 and $50 an hour, when we
work per face, they get 50% of what we charge. That is usually for a fair or
festival situation, where we are vendors, and we have paid all fees. The
facepainters work longer, faster, and harder when they are making 50%. We
have tried other percentage arrangements, and this works the best for our
company. Our signs are made using our digital camera, and computer, and
software. We have found the best way to sell our faces, is to have samples
available for people to see. We mount our big signs on foam core, and hand
laminate. We re-do our signs every year, and this year, found ourselves
making signs throughout the year for various events and situations. Our
digital camera has helped us big time, and sold the facepainting better than
any other way. We also have a photo-menu, so the patron and the painter can
make sure it's the same design they are talking about. The photo menu is
only used at fairs and festivals. At most other events, we do not have a
book or photos to choose from. It limits people to what is in the book. We
usually paint what the patron wants, at almost all other functions, where we
work by the hour. We do not use anybody else's work on our signs. Whether
it's OK or legal to take a book or magazine, cut the pictures out and put on
a sign, it's not something we do. We do not want to have anyone assume that
is our work. If I love the design, I will do it on a model and take a
picture of it. The work continues to evolve. Now, I'm not saying I haven't
bought books, I have tons of the Snaz books, and other books, including the
Creative Facepainting book that many of you have mentioned. I also continue
to purchase books, and have started on a video collection. These are also
used in training our facepainters. I subscribe to Facepainting
International, and read it cover to cover, and check out all the websites,
and then share the magazine with my facepainters. Our business plan--we have
a small advertising budget, mainly producing business cards, 1/2 page card
stock fliers, full-page with pictures...In January we put together a direct
mail, and direct deliver piece, we hand pick a list to send or deliver, and
then we follow up and follow through. We call all our groups we expect work
from, and get the dates down for the year. We brainstorm on any new
directions, and send in paperwork for fair and festivals we are currently
involved with. Year round we accept bookings, by phone, email, through our
website, and in person. When we go out to public events, our goal is not
only to provide the entertainment at the time, but also cultivate future
bookings, so we are always there with cards, information, and a sign to let
people know we are available. The best thing we ever did? finally decide our
part-time business had the potential to be a full-time business, and put the
effort forth to make it happen. We have created our dream, and now it is a
reality. We did it, so now our future goals seem attainable, instead of just
more dreams. I love this career, it fullfills everything I could want from a
job. Goals? I want to get to the facepainting convention in Florida,
continue to develop my own designs, continue to add to our designs, explore
new products, continue taking art classes. Work on fairies, dragons, develop
an Alaskan line of faces, a range of princesses, and more male designs.
Continue to work on balloons and training, have a facepainting jam. Ms. PJ,
and Marky To View samples of Facepainting and Balloon art Visit Marky and
Friends Online at www.markydclown.com
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