The Reality of Rates Post # 2 “What to charge when you are starting out”

The Reality of Rates la la la la!

Post #2 I am just starting out!

A lot of beginners ask what they should charge. Because face painting is so much fun to do, it is hard for a lot of people to ask to be paid for doing it. If you read the first post you will see that there is a lot of work, time and expenses behind having all the fun of painting those cute little faces. Even beginners have to pass on personal activities and family moments to go out and face paint on the weekends.

I’ve been painting most weekends of my life since I was about 15 years old.  I took a month off of face painting for the last two winters and I would actually cry the first few weekends when I realized how amazing it was have two days off to spend with my family in the mornings, clean the house and go on little trips. We gain and spread a lot of joy painting faces, but we need to realize that our time is valuable, no matter how new we are.

Are you comfortable to charge for your services?

You might find yourself stressed out about accepting money for your first few gigs. Your designs do not have to be elaborate, just clean line work and smooth blending…and recognizable. Does your penguin really look like a penguin, does your horse really look like a horse, or more of a donkey? Display designs that you are sure you can re-create. If you think you can make kids happy and are ready to charge per hour scroll down a tad. If you still aren’t comfy with the idea,  keep on reading below.

If you don’t feel comfortable charging yet, get practicing like a crazy person! Practicing at home on yourself or your family is great, but doing a fundraising event will really show you what it is to like to paint under the stress of a long line of kids for a long period of time, with actual wiggly models. I recommend choosing a fundraiser for practice because it seems like the most appropriate place to volunteer your services if you were to ever do it again. You could also volunteer for a friend or family party.  Take note of how many faces you paint at this event by marking a dot on a piece of paper with your paint brush each time a new kid pops in your chair. Try to average how many kids you painted in an hour.

If you feel like you  need to practice before you start charging hourly, you can consider asking for  a fee for supplies. You can come up with the fee amount based on the amount of faces that you think you will paint, and let them know that you will be keeping the left over supplies if there are any. Say $20-$30. No one should bat an eye at that. Now at least you are not at a financial loss for your trial runs, but you won’t feel totally guilty if you felt that you bombed. (Don’t worry, you won’t bomb!)

I’ve practiced a lot, I’ve worked under pressure and I am ready to charge.

1. Once you have read post #1 imagine how much you would like to earn per hour.   (A lot of beginners are tempted to charge $20- $30 per hour.  Just remember that that can break down to $8-$10 per hour when looking at the big picture. ) Then think about the maximum dream rate you would like to charge per hour.  If you want to do this for a large part of your income, figure out how much you would need to make per month and break it down from there.

2.  Take time to see the quality of work and speed of other face painters in your area. If you can find out what they are charging, you can get an idea of what the people in your area are used to paying, and what level of work they are expecting for that price.

If there are no other painters in your area,  you can look into what other types of  family entertainers are charging or take into account the rates of face painters who live in  similar communities outside of your own.

4.   Try to fit yourself in as best as you can, really looking into your current quality of designs and speed and your set up.  Do you present yourself  as a professional? Then charge like one. If you think you are missing something that would make you feel more professional, then just  get it or do it.  This includes business cards, a website or fan page, a contract, nice display signs and even just being on time to your events.

5.  If you are nervous about charging the rate you think you are worth, practice saying it over and over and over and over so that it sounds normal to you. And imagine that when you say it to a potential customer, they are happy to hear it and want to hire you! Practice being confident in selling your services with your family too. Mock phone calls can work wonders!

6. How many hours do you want to work each week painting faces? When thinking about your rates, also remember that you probably won’t be working 8 hours a day 5 days a week face painting, so you have to make the most out of the HOT periods for booking parties.  For most painters starting out, one booking every other weekend  is normal, as you get your name out you might be able to fit two or three gigs on a Saturday, and maybe two or three on Sunday.  A lot of gigs will burn you out faster than one or two longer gigs.  Friday nights are also common for parties.  In the summer, weekday events are more frequent due to company picnics, library activities, festivals and city wide events.  You could also spice up the weekdays working at restaurants and day cares all year long.

7. Treasure those Saturdays for your prime gigs. I don’t do volunteer work on Saturdays, or offer reduced rates because of this.  I do encourage those planning fundraisers to find a sponsor for me so that I can be there, and that usually works out well.

8.  Remember that a lot of people will judge you by your rates. If you are charging a very low rate they may feel that the quality of work might not be so good. If you have a website with pictures to show that you actually do a great job painting, they may question your speed. If you stand by the fact that you can paint those types of faces in your gallery at a decent speed (usually 10 kids per hour) then why charge so low in the first place? You are basically a pro!

9. Understand that most  people who take the time to look for entertainment for private parties are also already expecting to pay for it. I never had a face painter come to my party since my parents couldn’t afford it, and that was just the way life was.

Sometimes you will find yourself in a bartering situation on the phone. Don’t feel like you have to work for what they want to pay you. If you do not stand by a fair minimum rate, you will find yourself passing on gigs for the same day for those who were willing to pay you for what you are worth. If a person cannot afford to hire you, you both will just have to deal with that reality.

If you make an amazing deal for one family, word may spread about what you charged and you will get calls from other family members or friends requesting the same low rate. If  you do choose to book a job at your minimum requirement, you may want to stay for a shorter amount of  time or offer less services (e.g. no magic trick at the end, or only simple designs, or coming in plain clothes versus a costume).

10.   Pick a target area that you want to serve. Some face painters try to reach large companies for events by sending out e-mails, post cards or making calls to HR departments. Others serve the less fortunate in their community, and have less concern about making a decent profit to do this good will. You can also try to paint for those who have a lot to spend on their child’s party. You might find that you are willing to serve all areas, but you should also consider charging accordingly.

Charge accordingly? Companies that are looking for entertainment for their events should have a bigger budget to spend than those throwing a family party. They are usually expecting to pay a corporate rate for entertainment. Think of your corporate rate as your real rate, and the smaller rates as discounted rates for those with smaller budgets. This way you don’t feel like you are just charging a company a lot more money for the heck of it.

11.  Respect other face painters in your area. If you are new to the scene, try to understand that many face painters are doing this for a living. If you bring down the value of face painting in your community by charging less to win a job or just because you want to paint faces but don’t really care about how much you make,  you may be hurting a lot of people. After reading the first post you will realize that face painters charge what they charge for many reasons, and they are not getting rich even if their rates seem high to you.

12.  Take the time to find your own customers. There are tons of birthdays and other types of events every year. Look for events that don’t already have a regular artist there first.  Dream up ideas of where your services will be needed and approach those in charge of planning. We all have to support each other in this community. If we stay on good terms with the other artists around us then we can pass on gigs to each other and look to each other for friendship and advice.

13.  If you feel like you need to charge less based on your skill, don’t get stuck with the same rate for the rest of your life. As you improve, keep increasing your rates. Don’t feel bad if the same person calls you for another event and you now have a higher rate. Just tell them that your new rates are…..  People expect people to charge more as they gain experience and skill. Also as gas prices go up, costs for services go up in general too.  You might raise your rates every 6 months, or when you get new supplies and a set up that makes you look more professional.

Rates are a touchy subject to many. People have their own stories about money, what they are worth, what types of services are worth, and even the ethics of  charging for spreading happiness.   It takes time to wrap your head around your real reasons for being a face painter, and what you want to get out of it emotionally and financially. The goal is to come to a place that makes you  feel happy knowing that you considered the whole picture when establishing your rates.