HOW MUCH SHOULD I CHARGE FOR FACE PAINTING?
by Gary Cole
One of the most often asked questions I receive is, "How much should I charge for face painting?" Unfortunately, it is not a question that can be answered without listing an array of relevant issues. It is kind of like asking, "How much should I pay for my next automobile?" You might pay $1000 for a 1960 Chevrolet, Nova that could use a new engine or you might pay $100,000 for the latest Chevrolet, Corvette. If you just need a car that can get your 16 year old son, to and from home to school and then to his job at the fast food restaurant you might want the $1,000 car and if you just got that big bonus, have money to burn and have a desire for speed then move up to the Corvette. So, for one to ask me how much should I charge, many factors apply. Hopefully, I can walk you through a number of issues that you should consider when you give our your price schedule for your next face painting opportunity.
1) How long have you been painting faces?
If you are just learning, your range of painting skills are probably narrow and you are pretty slow. If this is true, then you might just work for free or at best charge just enough to cover your face painting supplies. Also, volunteer at one of the local school, churches or humane society fund raising events. Do it for the experience or exposure rather than money. You could also go where there are a lot of children and just work for tips and then it leaves the value of your efforts to be determined by the customer. I really encourage you to not start charging until you have mastered at least 10 or so faces. Depending on the market you are working toward, this may include cheek art, full faces or a combination of the two. If you plan on charging you might want to consider NOT charging until you can average this array of faces in at least 7 minutes each or less. As you develop your style of painting, expand your capabilities and get the speed down then your value per face or per hour will increase just like the value of the Corvette. A "pro" in my definition should be able to do at least 15 different popular faces, and on occasion wing a new request. Know your limits and you might want to pass on a request if you feel it is beyond your capabilities. Your target (to be a "pro") should be to paint easily under the 6 minute per face target. Most of those that earn the best money will do a nice job on a full face in the three to four minutes per face. If you are at the stage of developing your talents, you will find many opportunities to practice or work for tips. Try to at least pay for your supplies, and slowly build up until you have a range of quality face paint colors (at least 8, preferably 12) and get a good set of artist brushes designed for face painting. Practice and you will find your quality, range of abilities and speed improve dramatically. I feel I can take a non-artistic person with 2 hours hands-on training and put them right to work along side a stronger more experienced painter. After 6 hours of painting they will already have down 15 faces and the time per face is down to an average of 6 or 7 minutes per face. Remember the goal is to get down to three or four minutes per face.
If you are working for tips you should EASILY be able to earn $1 per face on an average. That is $8.50 per hour (at 7 minute faces). Even though an experience painter can earn $50 to $120 per hour, consider it as a training wage. Don't get greedy when you are building your skills.
For the next series of questions lets assume you have gotten up to the 15 faces you can paint and you can paint them in under 7 minutes per face.
2) What part of the world do you live?
Every area of the world merits a different rate. If you are face painting in New York City you will certainly be able to ask a higher price than busking on the plaza in Mexico City. Sometimes it boils down to expendable income. No doubt parents all over the world like to spoil their children. They all enjoy seeing that large bright smile on the children's faces when you hold up the mirror. I've been (in Dallas, TX) to $2,000,000 homes and to those that looked like they were about to be condemned. In either case they paid the same rate per hour. Moms and dads like their children happy. In your price equation, population has a lot to do with what you can charge. It is a lot harder to earn a higher rate in a small rural community that in a city of over 500,000 people. I don't really understand this point but it is certain reality.
Where ever you live pick up the phone and call around. See what other people are charging. Then compare your quality and speed to theirs. If you are better and faster then you should be able to charge more.
3) Assuming you now have the skills and you have checked out the competition, set a rate. In reality you might have several rates depending on the circumstances. What ever those are, stick to them. It will pay off in the long run.
a) How far do you have to drive?
I suggest you map out a perimeter on where you figure it is worth your while to drive for $XX per hour. For every additional 15 minutes of driving add some to at least the first hours work. I suggest you add $10 on the first hour for each additional 15 minutes driving. Again, I suggest you map out your base perimeter and add concentric circles. This way you can show the map and your customer won't think you keep moving the price to get more.
b) What is your minimum time?
I suggest your minimum is at least one hour. Many people say two hours for corporate or discounted rates. Never drive across town for a 30 minute face painting job.
c) Are you working solo?
In other words, is it a private event, that very well could be a one time event. Or possibly is it a corporate event, that is repeated many times per year? If you are doing multiple events, most people or companies expect some kind of volume discount. If you are going through a booking agency they will be adding a dollar amount or percentage as their overhead. That is to be negotiated between you and them. Either way may sure you are getting the fair market value for the work within your ability. If someone else is paying for the ad space or booth fee it is unrealistic to think that a cut of your action shouldn't go to the one that brought you to the party.
d) Do you have to wear special clothing?
For example do you go dressed casually or do you go in your $500 clown costume? Professional clowns that have also mastered the art of entertaining, on top of face painting, should be able to get close to double that of someone that only goes and paints for one hour. The expectations for a professional clown painting is much higher that one that has good face painting skills. I'm not suggesting you go as a clown by any means. I'm just saying that apparel and your other skills should be considered when you set your rates.
4) Who is supplying the painting materials?
To gather a professional set up for volume face painting is going to cost you between $150 and $300 by the time you include paint, brushes, books, glitter gel and any other accents you use. Doing full face quality face painting is going to cost you in the range of $.04 to $.10 per face. This adds up and you want this to be a factor in your rates.
5) What conditions are you going to be working under?
My opinion, if you are inside a nice area, that is climate controlled, is much better than painting in Texas 104 degree (in the summer) or 25 degree weather (in the winter). If you are going to be miserable while you work, you might as well get paid extra for it.
6) What is the purpose of your event?
If you are out helping your favorite charity you might be willing to work to cover your expenses. However if you are giving up everyone of your weekends then you might as well get what you are worth.
7) Was the event booked in advance or at the last minute?
If it was booked two days before the event and you had to reschedule your life, then you should be able to charge a little more. Set a cut off, something like 3 days in advance before an additional fee is charged.
8) Are you working by the hour or by the number of faces you paint? When possible agree on a rate per hour. If there are not large crowds to keep you busy constantly, you could be loosing money. Figure your rate per hour and divide it by your average number of faces you can paint in the hour. Your rate if charging by the face, should AT LEAST be equal to the hourly rate you would charge.
9) Are you doing cheek art or full faces?
A lot of people will disagree with me on this, but you should charge the same rate for cheek art as you do for full faces. I reason I say this is it takes about the same time or more to do cheek art. I can paint a full face tiger faster than I can paint a unicorn on the cheek. Paint as fast as you can, in doing quality face painting. Regardless if it is cheek or full faces, get your desired hourly rate.
10) How much in demand are you?
If you are charging $3 per face and the wait in line is 1.5 hours then you are throwing away money. Once the wait in line is longer than 30 minutes it is an indicator that you CAN charge more money. Tell everyone in line, that THEIR price is still $3 per face but all new people in line will pay $5 per face. You will be quite surprised, that your line only goes down a little bit and you are now earning $2 per face more. When your air conditioner goes out in the heat of the Texas summer you would pay double time to get it fixed. The same rules apply to face painting.
Now we are nearing the end and we still have not give you the amount you should charge. Well, I guess you are not going to get a straight answer. A beginner should be able to earn $8 to $20 per hour or $2 per face. A pro that can effectively get "wows" on 15 to 20 faces and can paint a face every 4 or 5 minutes should be able to easily get $40 to $70 per hour depending on where you live (or $5 -$6 per face). You will find once you get a reputation for speed and quality they will be calling you every time. When you can not keep up with the bookings then it is time to hire an assistant and have part of their money go in your pocket or it is time to raise your rates.
In aggressively building a face painting business part time (10+ hours per week) you can contribute significantly to your personal cash flow. I know many face painters that earn, on the side, $30,000 per year and I know several that earn close to or over $100,000 per year face painting as their only source of income. Yes, it takes some blood, sweat and tears but it will happen if you improve, do the following...
a) Improve your quality
b) Improve your speed
c) Paint and act like a professional
d) When you can't keep up hire and train help
e) Your first year put the profits back into building the business (ads, business cards, incorporation, dedicated phone, flyers)
Now go out and raise your rates. You are probably worth it.
Ongoing on the discussion list there are fears of "price fixing". Where we do not want people to attempt price fixing in any form, Moogie made the following comments that are well worth repeating...
"where competitors agree to sell their goods or services at a specified price,
minimum price or maximum price and they receive profits from such an agreement,
they are in violation of price fixing. Additionally, setting a price to be
charged only within a certain area in order to get rid of competition or to
create a monopoly is generally illegal under most state laws. "
So according to my interpretation of that, not only do will all have to agree on prices, we all have to profit from them. I haven't yet seen an email list that agrees on anything, never mind prices! I also don't think that we as face painters are sufficiently organized to be accused of that type of conspiracy. I find the info on pricing to be very 'valuable'.
Moogie (not a lawyer, don't play one on TV)
Repeated from the link above...
WHAT IS PRICE FIXING?
state statutes provide that
fixing the price of a product or service in agreement with another
individual or business is illegal. The general rule provides that a vendor
may not in combination with another vendor agree to set a certain price
thereby creating a
fixed price within a certain market. A business acting on its own and
not in concert with another may use legitimate efforts to obtain the best
price they can, including their ability to raise prices to the detriment of
the general public. Also, conformity of prices within a given product is not
illegal unless such conformity was created by a combination of vendors
agreeing on a set price. For example, where competitors agree to sell their
goods or services at a specified price, minimum price or maximum price and
they receive profits from such an agreement, they are in violation of price
fixing. Additionally, setting a price to be charged only within a certain
area in order to get rid of competition or to create a monopoly is generally
illegal under most state laws. A majority of states have also enacted a
"Below-Sales-Cost" law wherein businesses may not sell goods below cost if
they do so with anti-competitive intent or effect.
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