No matter where you are or what you’re doing, it’s the same: money comes from work, and that work involves some kind of financial risk. At any event we face painters choose to work at, there’s always someone at the end of the day who’s asking the question, “Was it worth it??” That person may be the parent after a birthday party, the restaurant manager after a Kid’s Night, or the face painter herself after a long festival, but recognizing who’s assuming the risk shows us exactly what type of work we are doing. There are three main categories of face painting work, each with it’s own level of risk and it’s own pros and cons. Knowing the category of work that appeals to you the most helps enormously as you block out your calendar and chart your face painting journey.
What they are: These are events where you are hired to work (usually at a per-hour rate). You assume little to no risk at these events; as long as you are there, ready to paint, it doesn’t matter if no one even comes to the event—you are doing your job, and you will get paid. Examples include birthday parties, corporate events, benefits, school functions, etc.
What to expect: A host will run the event, taking care of your needs and the needs of those being painted. You will be a part of a much bigger operation and your number one person to please is that host. There is little to no flexibility, although some events will ask you to stay longer if things are going well.
Earning potential: Fixed. Although you may receive a tip from the event, typically you earn exactly the rate you agreed upon. There is often a deposit collected, invoices turned in, and checks mailed out.
How to find: They find you. The more business cards you have circulating the better. Look for opportunities to put cards out at local businesses—especially kid friendly ones—like party stores and play places. Join networking groups so the movers and shakers in the community can get to know you. Introduce yourself to local preschools and daycares, and perhaps donate some fun art supplies to make a connection.
Tips: Make them happy! Your job is to be low maintenance and serve those in attendance with professional service and care. A job well done can bring you many referrals, whereas a failing, even a small one, can haunt your reputation for years.
Medium-Risk (or Shared-Risk) Events
What they are: Here you are entering into a joint venture, often with another business. They pay you a reduced rate while opening avenues for you to receive additional compensation. This payment may be in advertising/marketing opportunities, trade arrangements, or tipping from customers, but whatever it is, that additional compensation is not a sure thing, and that is how you share the risk with your partner. Examples include painting at restaurants, events for local businesses, practice sessions, and non-profits. These often become recurring arrangements, sometimes as frequent as once per week.
What to expect: While there is still normally a host to meet your needs, that person will look to you for help making their event amazing. You may be expected to find ways to draw customers, like advertising on your own social media channels. While there is typically a set time frame, you are often welcome to come early or stay late and continue to collect tips. Because you are ‘partnering’ on the event, you can suggest changes in timing, location of your set up, etc. The host may even defer to you, respecting that you know your own business better than they do.
Earning potential: Medium. You are guaranteed some money, but most often you will make less than your full rate. The added benefits of marketing opportunities and the chance for a standing gig make it well worth it.
How to find: You usually need to create these opportunities. Brainstorm businesses you would love to work with, develop a win-win plan, and propose it to their marketing department. It can be stressful and intense to set up, but remember: once you land a gig, it can be there for YEARS.
Tips: You are creating a long-term relationship, so be a team player. Look for ways this can be a success for everyone involved. Remember to self-advocate and expect your partners to do the same. There is room here for respectful negotiations. Expect that most responses to your proposals will be a ‘no,’ and that’s okay. I am VERY choosy when I go into a medium-risk arrangement, because it can feel horrible if it doesn’t seem worth it week after week.
What they are: High-risk is when you start with nothing but faith that this will be a good opportunity. Often you have to ‘pay to play’; booth fees are common, whether a flat fee or a percentage of your earnings, and it takes time to recognize a good opportunity when you see it. Examples include fairs, festivals, and all kinds of local celebrations.
What to expect: You are basically ‘renting’ your own space. Events usually have an application or contract that you sign with certain boundaries, but within those boundaries you are completely free to create a magical environment just the way you like it. It’s like being the boss of your own little store where you are charging customers for your work. Instead of being paid by the hour, you are paid by the painting. Sometimes you can give your feelings about where you’d like to be, but normally the coordinators assign you a 10x10 spot and you are on your own. Once you know the do’s and dont’s, have fun with all the freedom that is yours. In an environment like this, it is much easier to say ‘no’ to certain designs, age limits, etc, when you don’t have that master host you are trying to please.
Earning potential: Huge! You get to set your own prices, so the more you charge (as long as people are willing to pay it), the more you make. Also, the faster you work and the longer days you work, the more you make.
How to find: Look for promising shows on local event calendars. By the time they appear on signs and ads, it is often too late to get in. Past events posted on Facebook are useful because many are annual and will be coming around again. You may need to travel some, but since every city/town usually hosts several annual things, a 2-hour radius from where you live can yield lots of work.
Tips: Plan ahead and take care of yourself. While painting for ten hours straight can be a big HIGH, going a full day in the sun without enough water or sunscreen can make you sick. If you are looking to maximize your earnings, pack food so you don’t have to wait in a long food line. Learn to define for yourself what ‘enough’ is. Feeling pressure to always earn ‘more, more, more’ can be psychologically hard, so set some reasonable goals for yourself. Do some research on how to be a good vendor, and how to be kind to the vendors next to you; you may need each other from time to time. If your event is large enough, you may also have the chance to hire other painters to work with you.
So there you have it: three wonderful ways to work and earn money as a face painter. Now go out there and paint some faces!!!