What are the guidelines for receiving tips when face painting?
by Gary Cole


We often get questions to the face painting discussion list on accepting tips at face painting events. This would also apply to just about any family entertainer event from magic to ballooning. Just adapt as needed. I thought it would be helpful to define some acceptable parameters. I'll also define for those events where it is acceptable to receive tips and provide some both delicate, as well as bold ways to bring in those extra funds.
 
If you are working at an event where you are already being paid by the hour or at a location where tipping is not considered acceptable, then you should go out of your way to not accept tips. This goes beyond not being obvious about tips. This means when you are offered a tip, the appropriate response would be something like "oh, thank you, but that isn't necessary, we are being paid by (enter establishment or host name here)" and when you do this, you should say it like you really mean it. Also do this with a grateful smile. Now I might start some controversy here, but if the person still is pushing the $5 bill your way, quietly take the bill, say a quiet thank you, and slip the bill into your pocket. Never leave it on the table as then it is perceived as a solicitation for more tips or a hint that others are invited to tip also. Again, just in case it wasn't obvious, you should go out of your way to not accept a tip but if a repeated attempt comes, after you turn it down, you may accept it and stash it in your pocket. I tell my workers to use this approach rather than offending someone that is just trying to be a nice guy. You will have to trust me on this one, if you follow this you won't make the host angry.
 
My "step two" would be one of those areas where it is the middle of the road. In other words, your life is not going to depend on the tip but it sure is nice, acceptable and appreciated if a tip comes your way. This is typically a more public event where you really feel your work is worth more that what you are getting paid. It might be an area where, for example, you feel like you should be getting paid $5 per face but it seems like the market would only bear a $3 per face rate. This might also be one of those events where your wife or husband once again signed you up for the children's Halloween carnival at your child's school and you would at least like to recoup some of the costs to replenish your face painting supplies. What I suggest for this is for you to put out a modest size clear jar about four inches in diameter and about eight inches tall. Always a clear job just to say subliminally, "yes, I'm taking tips." Depending on your expectations, add a small sign (about 2 inches tall to 3 inches wide) that says  a variation on one of the following 1) tips are not required but gratefully accepted 2) We are face painting today for free, tips are used to help pay for the cost of supplies 3) tip here 4) I'm not getting paid diddly squat, please tip here 5) All tips will be given to "The American Red Cross", "Gary Cole vacation fund" (or whatever) 6) these are volunteer painters please tip according to the value you receive.
 
"Step three" is one of those areas generally where you are working for money and there really isn't a viable way to get paid other than in tips. In this arena you would be obviously looking AND EXPECTING a tip of some sort. A lot of beginners as well as professionally work on tips. If your success or failure depends on getting tips then you need to be more obvious. There are a number of approaches, but if you really need to generate tips then you might as well go for it and be bold. Many of the clown shops, mail order catalogues or internet sites sell buttons. My three favorites are (and be bold on the size of the pin, perhaps 1-1/2 inches tall to 3 inches wide) 1) yes, tips are gratefully accepted 2) suggested tip is $2,437.35 and 3) tipping is not a city in China. Then on your table get the largest CLEAR container you can find. I suggest something about ten inches in diameter and about sixteen to eighteen inches tall. You want to make sure they can see into the jar and see the expected tips. If you expect change, drop in a handful of quarters and a couple of one dollar bills. If your expectations are a couple of dollars, drop in three one dollar bills and an obvious $5 bill. If you are expecting $3 or more I suggest your sign also say "a suggested tip is in the range of $3 to $5". This is not for the timid, but depending on the area you are working, if you are not bold you will be working for $.35 per hour over the cost of your painting supplies and gasoline to drive to the event.
 
If you are putting out any tip container then put it close to the front. If you put it on the table out of reach in the least, you can forget it. GO BOLD if you want tips. Another secret is, when your tip bucket starts to get 1/3rd full then you need to empty it down and put some of the bills in your pocket. If they perceive you are about to make a down payment on a house they will stop giving. This is even true for fund raisers.
 
For a beginner face painter or ballooner working for tips is an excellent way to accomplish several objectives. Just about anyone will let you come to an event and work for tips. This is especially if you share the take (perhaps 20%) with the event. It seems like there is a fund raiser in every town just about any given weekend. Oh... back to those objectives, 1) exposure, exposure, exposure, make sure you have your business cards out for the taking 2) a perfect opportunity to get practice in your new found skill 3) a great way to generate funds to help build up your face painting supplies 4) learn what faces are popular and what faces draws out the "WOW! factor" 5) learn what the market will bear for your skill level. If you keep getting $.50 tips then you need to work on your skills. If you get $3 to $5 then you are well on your way.
 
I suggest you work for tips only at the start. It is definitely a hard way to earn a living and if the weather drives away the crowds then you can end up greatly disappointed. No doubt the best way to work is for an agreed upon fee per hour but in the beginning it is a cost effective way to pay your way until you are established. If you genuinely are doing the work for an obvious charity you will find that people will generally tip quite well.
 
Anyway, I hope this is helpful and you get plenty of tips and by-the-way, I'm not expecting a tip for the free advise.
 
Gary Cole
SNAZAROO USA Inc.

 


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