The business side of face painting- The Reality of Rates.

This is the first of a  super series on the  Business Side of  Face painting.

Over the next week I am going to make more posts about the much fretted  RATES issue.

  As an artist I have struggled a lot over the years about my rates, and I know I am not alone. I am going to take the time to reflect on what I have learned by experience.  I would love your input as well, so feel free to agree, or disagree with my posts in the comment box below or e-mail me if you would like me to post your comment anonymously.

Post #1 from the Reality of Rates Series (ooh sounds so fancy)

   Consider the time and money you invest into each gig when calculating your rates

After doing my taxes for the last 14  years I realize that my expenses really add up.  Those who do face painting as a hobby may be able to face paint with just a small kit and they are set, but professional face painters usually  incur more and more expenses as they grow.

Normal Face Painting Expenses:

-Face painting Supplies

-Set up

-Costumes or uniforms

 -Day care expenses if you have children


-Insurance, booth fees, conventions, learning materials, and party give aways.

-Cell phone and or internet fees, advertising fees, office supplies and so on.

Though these costs are considered deductions…paying less in taxes will not equal how much you spent.

Time invested into going to one gig is more than you may think:

  1. I spend about 30 minutes talking to the client,  creating and e-mailing an invoice, and then more time with any follow up e-mails if questions come up or changes are made.

  2. The day of the gig, I usually spend about an hour cleaning my kit, getting dressed,  Google mapping the location, and  calling to let them know I am on my way.

  3. My radius from gigs averages about 10 miles per gig…so that is 20 miles per gig…usually 30 minutes of driving.

  4.  I take about 10 minutes to set up at a party, and then, if I don’t not stay longer for free, I take  about 15 minutes to clean up and find the hostess to collect my balance.  So that is an extra 25 minutes.

All in all I spend about 2.5 hours doing things for an event besides actually working at the event.

That 1 hour party is really taking up 3.5 hours of my time.

If  I charged $100 (for one hour) and divided it by 3.5 hours of total working time I would actually be making $28.57 per hour.  If I also  look at the expenses that I had to do the party…then my hourly rate is even less.

Below are some things that you might  want to do to increase your actual hourly rate.

Consider requiring  a 1.5 to 2 hour minimum booking.

Many entertainers have a 1.5 to 2 hour minimum requirement for an event, so that they are not investing so much time for one small event.   If I worked a 2 hour gig…I can add the 2.5 hours prep time to the two hours painting time, and then  divide 4.5 hours of total time  by $200, giving me  $44.50 per hour before expenses.

Consider offering a reduced rate for additional hours to encourage longer gigs.

Other entertainers offer reduced prices for each additional hour  since they already took to the time to prep and drive to the gig anyway, and it motivates the customer to hire them for longer.  $175 for 2 hours painting  divided by 4.5 hours of total work time will give you $38.80 per hour.

Consider raising your rates or charging more for travel time:

If the reality of making much less per hour when looking at the big picture bothers you, consider raising your rates. I have slowly raised my rates over the years and I have also had a gradual increase in gigs. Time lost traveling to gigs outside of your city should be compensated by either charging just for the travel time or by requiring a minimum  booking time that is bigger than normal.

I will talk more in the next blog post about other things to consider when choosing or changing your rates, so keep posted!

18 comments on “The business side of face painting- The Reality of Rates.

  1. I 100% agree with you! I raised my rate to $75/hr about 6 months ago (from $60 and before that, it was $40/hr) and I get double the gigs AND a higher rate! I’m at the “going rate” for my area now. If I go outside of my city, I charge $90/hr (in a more affluent area + it covers my extra gas money) or 2 hours for $160.

  2. Very Practical and Reasonable Advice! Thanks. I also put in quite a few extra hours prior to arriving and after returning home, but I never really did the math except for the deductions at tax time… when I realized that I was still in a negative net position… mileage from driving is the biggest annual expense. And there’s a lot of errands that add up… at $.59/mile I will be deducting almost 3 times as much in mileage as in supplies and nearly half of all deductions are from mileage.

  3. Wonderful post!, the difference in “Billable” hours vs. Working hours can be even larger for those willing to increase their driving radius or if one lives with the California Freeways! Perhaps a future topic will be on taxes one needs to pay to be a more legitimate business and how position oneself for future growth. Because my target demographic is highly focused I am able to charge higher rates and surprisingly, each time I raise my rates I seem to get more, not less work. Keep up the great postings.
    Super K

  4. I’m starting to insist on more time for private parties. I’m still at the same hourly rate, but just requiring more time for exactly the reasons you stated. There are a lot of “behind the scenes” hours that aren’t billed and they add up quickly; plus, I’m coming to their home, on their timetable and I’m hauling all my stuff too. 🙂 I should at least make what I would at the fair.

  5. Great article Anna! I’d like to add my experience into this. I’ve found that you & your services are valued more if you are not super cheap. I am average cost to higher cost than most face painters in my area. I get very few difficult clients now that my rates are higher. I have less people that try to barter me down. I still am face painting in all demographics, just with people that really want ME & not just A face painter.

  6. Thank you for the valuable insight… I’m a “newbie” & so far have only done charity events. I’ve based my price at the low end of the spectrum due to my experience. However, I’ve invested several hundreds of $$ in products & presentation (business cards, signage, etc. I believe you need to look professional to be treated like one. I hope to start scheduling paying customers via upcoming community events as I’ve built up my confidence & greatly improved my work. I’m planning on renting a week-end booth at our local flea market – there’s an entire section reserved for children activities and they’ve never had a face painter there. A 10 x 10 booth is only $35/day & this place is so busy you can barely find parking after noon. I’d appreciate any advice! Thank you!

    PS… I am attending FABAIC in May (my first)… anyone else?

  7. Pingback: The Reality of Rates Post # 2 “What to charge when you are starting out” | Annawilinski's Blog

  8. I am really impressed with your tips. I am adding your blog to my favorites so I can come back more often. Not a lot of painters what to really give such great details and tips on face painting. Thank you!!

    • I’d like to add this comment as maybe a word of caution… I have a website & it hosts my face painting blog page also. I used to blog all about the issues of pricing, dealing with different types of customers, etc. Most of these matters would be of interest to other face painters. However, my readers (followers) are current/past/future customers and I found it hindered my business for them to know about these issues that we face painters deal with. I now post exclusively about what matters to my customers… not what is going on behind the scenes. Maybe this is the reason Lisa that you’re not able to find the information you’re seeking. We face painters are just being careful about what we post… like with any business, you never know who’s reading what you write. For example, does a potential customer need to know that your prices went from $40 to $60 to $90 an hour in a short span of time or that your charging according to demographics?

      I do know from past experience that face painters are a wonderful group of people & if you have an issue you’re struggling with, I suggest you email your face painter hero/guru/mentor & ask for advice. You’d be surprised at how helpful these people can be to their peers… especially if you’re not competing for the same space!

      Good luck!


      • If I have questions I text Christina Davidson. I have been painting for almost ten years and I absolutely love it. I rarely have questions, but my Sister is learning and I am not good at explaining or teaching, so I research what others say about the subject do she can make her own opinion based on many opinions not just mine 🙂 Also, not just on their sites do some painters seem secretive, but a painter I worked with recently said she doesn’t add her work to her site because she doesn’t want other painters to steal her ideas. I thought that was odd.

  9. I am considering opening up a facepainting business… I owned a hair salon for years and am relocating to ny state and am looking for another small business. I would appreciate any advice or suggestions. Email is thank you!

  10. I noticed other painters get upset if your prices are lower than theirs. I price what I feel is right for me, as my skill level grows my prices will increase. I doubt I will ever charge the prices I see others charging. I am better than many of the ones who charge more than I do. I am a mom and I know how expensive birthdays can be so I believe in a budget and helping out other parents by keeping my prices reasonable. I do see painters who charge as little as 25 an hour and that is a bit ridiculous on their part. Thank you for writing this article, its really helpful for people to know how to break things down.

  11. I am aware that there is a lot of time that goes into preparing for an event. So I charge 100 for the first hour. But I REALLY want to encourage them to hire me for more than one hour, because their guests/children always want me to stay for longer than they schedule me for. When I discount the 2nd hour so much I am always hired for at least 2 hours.

  12. ** I forgot to say I charge $50 for the 2nd hour. I used to charge $50 per hour but now that I have 2 young children it wouldn’t be worth it to me if I didn’t charge at least $100 for that first hour, considering my husband has to change his work schedule around to be available to watch our kids when I paint.

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