“You charge HOW MUCH?!”
Okay, my clients are too “Minnesota nice” to have been quite that blunt on the phone, but I know that’s what many potential clients are thinking! And I don’t blame you. How and where would a mom planning a birthday party ever have picked up the knowledge of what professional face painters are worth? After all, aren’t face painters just people who were born artistic, bought a set of paints, and started charging exorbitant amounts of money to take advantage of people who can’t draw? Noooo!!
I have wanted to post on this topic for years, but have been hesitant, and this is why. I do not want this to come across as me complaining…”woe is me…I have SO many expenses….you have no idea…” Running a business costs money, yes. And time…oh, the time. But, I love what I do! I am super excited every time I book an event. And I often have to hold myself back from purchasing too many awesome supplies to make your parties all that more AWESOME until I make the money to pay for it. The fact that I love what I do so much is probably one reason you don’t know just how much work, time and money goes into this business…because I don’t complain about that stuff. It’s all worth it!! That being said, it does cost actual money to be a face painter, and the purpose of course of a business is to cover those costs and still make money when all is said and done. So, we do our best to weigh our costs and figure on a price that helps us to recoup our costs, and still have some profit left over to pay our own bills as well. So, please read this through that lens, as my hopes is that this blog post will help people understand what they are really getting when they hire a face painter.
Proving our value is a constant battle for face painters. As professional face painters, we invest a lot…I mean a LOT of time and money into our tools and skills. It takes a lot of hard work and money to make money in this business and professional face painters probably deserve a little more credit than some people give them.
Some people have a hard time paying for face painting because it washes off, and doesn’t last forever. True, it washes off, but the fact that it doesn’t last is not true. You are paying for an experience. You are paying for your kids’ childhood memories of birthday parties or events, which they will have their whole life. Not to mention the fantastic photos you’ll take. The clients whose baby bumps I paint get this concept really well! They do it for the experience, and the photos for their baby books. People don’t complain that concert tickets are a rip off because they can’t take the band members’ guitars home with them, right? They pay for the experience!
And please know that we as face painters are not just trying to take advantage of your desire to give your son or daughter a happy childhood by arbitrarily monetizing the experience. We actually do have real, physical costs involved with our job….we aren’t just artistic people who show up with paint, work for an hour, and make a hundred bucks or whatever the going rate is.
First, let’s break down just the time alone, because this is something you likely didn’t realize…
Behind the Scenes…1 Hour to You = 3.5 for Me.
For the sake of easy math in my illustration, let’s say I charge $100 “per hour” for a one-hour birthday party. It is also important to note that I actually spend 3-3.5 hours on that one-hour party. Here’s how I figure that. You initially contact me, and for an event that is actually booked, I spend at least 15 minutes initially between email and phone contact, writing up the contracts, collecting deposits, etc. (If I’m hiring another artist to go in my place, it doubles this time, although you don’t pay extra for that. But for the purposes of our estimate here, we’ll estimate conservatively with an event I’m doing myself that’s near my home.)
|Paperwork…it adds up! This is my overflowing 2013 binder of sales, invoices, contracts, and expense receipts!|
So once it’s booked, I’ll then spend up to 30 minutes preparing for your event. This includes tailoring my design selection to fit your party theme and assembling the design board (more time if I’m adding custom designs), selecting the supplies I need for your particular event and packing them up (this varies among events), loading up the car with all of my gear, and plugging in your address into GPS. Many artists even paint their own faces in preparation for your event, and clowns especially spend a lot more time preparing! So, now I haven’t left home yet but am up to a very conservative estimate of 45 minutes…
My $100 per hour price includes travel up to 30 minutes one-way. Assuming you’re within a half hour’s drive, I arrive at your doorstep having already put in 1 hour and 15 minutes towards making your event special! I arrive 15 minutes early to each event so I have time to get in, set up, and get ready to paint by the start time. (Although I won’t count it in this estimate, I often arrive more than 15 minutes early just to be safe, and wait in the car for a bit so I don’t surprise the host/hostess too soon!)
So, now we’re at 1.5 hours before I touch a brush to a child’s cheek. Then, paint for one hour…the part you see and the kids remember fondly, hopefully for many years to come. 🙂 Are you still keeping track? That’s 2.5 hours so far to 1 hour of painting…
Once I reach our agreed upon end time, it’s another 15 minutes to pack up my gear, say my goodbyes, collect payment, get back to the car, and load up my gear again…2.75 hours. The 30 minute drive home brings us up to a conservative estimated grand total of 3 hours and 15 minutes. This of course doesn’t account for traffic, the party running late, extra guests arriving towards the end, etc.
(Now I’m not even counting all the time spent customizing design menus, making sure I have just the right tools in my kit for your particular party, and all the time I spend cleaning and sanitizing all of my equipment AFTER the event.)
As you can see, once you take that $100 per hour for a party, and factor in the time spent, it comes to about $30 per hour if you are basing it purely on hourly wages. That’s before taxes. And I also tithe 10% off the top first. I explain all of this only so that you will see that even though we may charge you $100 for “one hour of painting,” we are actually working for you for over 3 hours MINIMUM. This is why many artists have at least a 2 hour minimum for their parties…to make all of that necessary time before and after painting worth their while. After all, this job does often require us to spend weekends, evenings, and even holidays away from our own families too. $30 per hour doesn’t come close to covering all of the costs listed in this post, let alone give us a profit, unless we do a TON of one hour parties! So, I hope this helps you see that while our “hourly” quote for you may seem outlandish, it really is quite modest with all things considered.
True, this may not be a hard cost to those who have natural talent, but it’s actually one of the few major things that I think most clients already are aware of and willing to pay for. I can’t tell you HOW many time’s I’ve heard “Wow, Mommy can’t come even anywhere CLOSE to that when she paints your face at home, can she?” or, “Wow, I can’t even draw a stick person! You make it look so EASY!” And I’m not anything special…these are the things that professional face painters hear at every event…for a reason! There’s a reason we hire specialized professionals, and I think most people get this. They know that while we make it LOOK easy, it’s not something that anybody and everybody can do.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of face painters out there who do an amazing job face painting, who were not born particularly artistic. They work very hard to perfect their craft, if not harder than those for whom it comes naturally, and are very much worth hiring as well! But, to some degree, the level of in-born artistic skill is something that can affect an artist’s hourly rate as well. Someone who has just started may charge much less. Someone who has been in the business for decades and painting since they were a child can probably fetch more, and probably spends more on things like training and insurance. These artists are perfectly comfortable coming up with designs on the fly, and painting special requests that they’ve never painted before. And that’s worth a little something extra.
Talent can not be learned or purchased, but perfecting our skill can, and can really add up too…
Perfecting our Skills
Many, many professional face painters spend a lot of time and money growing and perfecting their skills. Even the most amazing fine artist will find that there are certain skills associated with face painting specifically that they can work on. Setting aside the art, design, and business related college degrees that so many of us have invested in, did you know that there are huge conferences held all over the country and the world, multiple times per year? There’s FABIAC, FPBAC, East and West coast conventions, global conventions… Professional painters spend money on airfare, hotels, food and conference fees to learn from the best and bring it back into your living room. They don’t work for large corporations that fund their trips…they save their hard earned dollars from face painting to go learn more about face painting…because they love it so much!!
Another thing that many professional face painters do is they attend workshops and jams. Many artists will drive for hours to neighboring states and pay hundreds of dollars to attend weekend workshops where other professionals teach.
Besides the expenses involved with traveling to learn, many artists also subscribe to magazines. Unfortunately there are currently no face and body art magazines that I know of available in the United States anymore, but there are several in Europe. I personally subscribe to Illusion magazine, which is published in the UK, and have had my work published in it as well. With shipping to the US, this magazine costs me $100 for a year, and that’s only 4 issues. There are also many great books out there that artists invest in to learn new techniques!
Many artists also subscribe to FABAtv, which is an online subscription service offering hours upon hours of videos of professional painters teaching. FABA TV costs hundreds of dollars per year.
Being a Responsible and Legitimate Business
There are many costs associated with running a legitimate, responsible business, and these are a few of the major things that separate the professionals from amateurs.
Liability Insurance – I have a million dollar general liability policy. It is required by several of my clients, and covers all of my events in the event that something happens. I’ve never had to use it of course, yet I have carried insurance for the last 16 years that I’ve been in business. It’s about $200 per year but varies on the company you use.
Certificate of Assumed Name – It initially cost me about $200 to register my business name with the state by filing my certificate of Assumed Name, which was also required by some of my clients. The initial filing is pretty cheap, but then you have to pay to have a legal notice published for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper found on the state’s list of approved legal papers. This is where most of the cost lied.
Internet Costs – I pay about $120 per year to own my domain name and host my website. I have many additional costs just because I also run an online store, including payment processing fees, shopping cart button hosting, but those of course are not related to my face painting services so I won’t get into that! Luckily my education in graphic design has afforded me the ability to design and maintain my own website, which would be a HUGE expense if I had to hire that out.
Advertising – Many artists spend hundreds each year on internet advertising, such as Google Adwords, and for those websites that help you find entertainers (Gigsalad, Gigmasters, Thumbtack, etc…) Did you know that if we simply want to bid on your event through Thumbtack, a single bid costs $3.33, whether or not you hire us?
Taxes – Yes, I pay taxes on all of my earnings, too. I’ve actually had a client expect to get me for half the price if they paid me in cash. Sorry, no can do…I am a legitimate, tax paying business.
Background Checks – Many painters pay to have a background check available to their clients, to give them that extra peace of mind when inviting them into their homes.
Child Care – It can come across as unprofessional to bring your own children to your job. Many face painters are moms, and many of them need to arrange and pay for child care for their children so that they can attend your event. Those that drop their children off at child care also have that added time factor of driving the Mom Taxi!
Peace of Mind
You are paying for the peace of mind in knowing that the details are going to be taken care of and the ability to check the entertainment off your huge party to-do list. You’re hiring an experienced professional because they already know what type of designs they can do to fit within your budget and allotted time. They know what to expect, and what to suggest. You are hiring them to select and pack up their supplies needed specifically for your event, compile a design menu tailored to your event, drive to your location in a vehicle that must be filled with gas and maintained enough to be trustworthy to make it on time for your party. You are paying for them to come early enough to find your house, and to get all set up and ready to go on time. You are paying for the peace of mind in knowing that you have entertainment taken care of for your guests, while you tend to other things.
Investment in Professional Products
This is the hard costs that are the most obvious and easier to explain. However, the average person still isn’t aware of what the tools of our trade cost. What we use does not compare to the cheap “Made in China” face paint sets you find in craft stores or in the Halloween section at Walmart. You’d have no reason to know this, and I certainly don’t expect you to, so let me give you a little bit of an idea!
The “paints” we use are not actually “paint” at all, and this is why they aren’t cheap. They are high quality, professional grade theatrical makeups, made specially for skin. We use products that are FDA approved and designed for skin, for your children’s safety. (Please take a moment to read this other blog post to further educate yourselves about the dangers of using craft paints on skin.)
Some artists start with palettes that include small amounts of many colors, similar to this one by Mehron, which costs $100 (plus shipping). More of the artists I know have at minimum a kit about this size which costs $135.00 and has larger cakes of paint.
One cake of paint, one color, can cost anywhere from $7.00 to $20, depending on the brand and size. So, setting aside the size of each cake, the most basic set of paints you’d need red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, white, and pink. That’s a minimum of 10 cakes of paint, although most also purchase variations like light and dark versions of each color, neon colors, metallic makeups, etc…as well as one-stroke cakes which add up very quickly but give awesome results!
This would be about as bare-bones as most professionals will get with the paint portion of their kit. Many professionals will spend many hundreds of dollars on just the paint. With brushes, it can really range depending on what the artist likes to use. I have seen some artists who easily carry hundreds of dollars worth of brushes alone in their kit to every event, and others carry much less. But aside from paints and brushes, here are some of the other tools we invest in to be able to provide our services at various events:
– Kit container (many love the FatMax toolbox, which costs about $100, but the kit bags/boxes vary greatly from artist to artist and many spend hours custom making their own containers)
– Pop-up canopy (for outdoor events, $200 and up)
– Water containers or brush well
– Powders (for hot, sweaty events, kids who don’t like paint, or just for painting with)
– Stencils and foam daubers to apply them
– Mirror (along with a backup because they get broken!)
– Glitter (loose cosmetic glitter, glitter gel, spray-on glitter)
– Gemstones (frequently used for princess parties!)
– Adhesives (for gemstones, google eyes, and feathers…both latex and latex-free)
– Chairs (many use tall directors chairs that cost around $100. I also have a zero gravity chair for my belly paintings, which was about $75.)
– Banners and signage (costly to print or make, but necessary)
– Design menu boards (come in the form of photos, banners, booklets, word lists, etc)
– Business cards
– Towels, washcloths, wet wipes
– Sponges, sponges, and more sponges
– Spray bottle of water for keeping paints moist
– Company shirts, aprons, hats, etc
– Fans or heaters, depending on weather and location
I’d estimate that I probably carry in my most basic kit, anywhere from $300-$500 worth of supplies to a typical birthday party. However, my complete collection of supplies and tools that I store at home and draw from for events probably ranges in the thousands.
|My “FatMax”…at a public belly painting event. I probably brought over $1,000 worth of supplies to this event.|
I hope this post has helped to open your eyes to some of the costs and time involved with running a face painting business, and what you are actually paying for when you hire a professional! You are getting someone who really puts their heart and soul into making your event memorable for years to come. What you and your party guests see and enjoy in your living room is only the tip of the iceberg that holds their business afloat…although I’d prefer to call it the icing on the cake! (I love cake…and I’m done with winter…so I’m re-working my iceberg analogy…)
Interested in booking me or one of my fantastic artists for your event, now that you know what a steal we are?! 😉 Check out my website here for more information!!