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My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking and the occasional rant!

Business Tips for Face Painters, Body Artists and Make-Up Artists #7 – Setting Your Rates

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July 1st means it is time for the seventh excerpt from my e-book The Business of Face Painting.  Of course, if you would like to get all the information included in my book right now you can find out how here.

The Business of Face Painting was published in September of 2009 and I am working on the final stages of the companion book The Art of Face Painting which we hope to have out sometime this year.

Beginners all wonder how to set their rates for face painting.  There are many things to take into consideration and the need to cover expenses and actually come out ahead is the desired goal.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Two of  The Business of Face Painting.


Setting Your Rates

A big issue when you are just starting out as a professional face painter is “what do I charge?”

I think we’ve all had to struggle with setting our prices when we first start out in this industry.  Some beginners feel that they should work for less than a more experienced artist – some feel they should volunteer or “work for free” just to gain experience and practice.

While offering your services for free can be good for building your portfolio and gaining work experience, you can be doing yourself and the industry a disservice.  Firstly, it creates the impression with potential customers that if you just shop around and you can find a “beginner” who will work for nothing.  Secondly, you are giving away product and using up supplies that you have spent your own money on.  Neither of which I’m sure any of us really want to do.

When I first started working as a professional make-up artist we were told at trade school that we should charge to cover our costs and expenses incurred to do the job.  Often students and recent graduates were approached to “work for free” but, supplies and expenses were always reimbursed.  My question is why shouldn’t this be applied to face painters as well?

When I started face painting I charged the same hourly rate I did for make-up services.  I quickly realized that I was doing many more faces in the same amount of time so it was working out to be a real deal for the customer but not so great on my bottom line.  After the first year of face painting I increased my hourly rate by 50%, the following year again by 50%, and so on.

So what is your time actually worth?  Have you ever given it much thought?   I did and this is what I have developed to help you figure your own rates out based on your own expenses.

Let’s get some figures down so we have a starting point:

  • What is the legal minimum wage in your jurisdiction?  For illustration purposes I will use      $8.00/hour which is the lowest possible here in Canada.
  • What are your annual operating costs?  Car expenses, insurance, business forms (invoices, flyers, business cards, etc.), furniture and fixtures (table, chairs, gazebo, permanent signage, etc.), utilities (telephone, mobile/cellular, website, etc.), advertising, office and storage space if you have it. (Figure A)
  • What are your annual consumable supply costs?  This is everything that gets used up and replaced – make-up, face paint, tissue, wipes, glitter, tattoos, hand sanitizer, sponges, brushes, etc.  (B)
  • Calculate the actual number of hours you worked last year (C) and multiply by the basic hourly minimum wage. (C x $8=D)
  • Add the total of your combined annual costs.  (A+B=E)
  • Take the number of hours worked (C) and multiply by average number of faces you can paint per hour.  This is the total number of faces you paint in a year. (F)
  • Divide your total costs by the number of faces you painted. (E/F=G) This is your cost per face.
  • Combine your total costs with the wages (E+D=H), then divide by the total number of faces (H/F=I).  This should be your minimum charge per face.
  • To calculate an hourly rate you can do it two ways: Multiply by the number of faces you can paint in an hour by the minimum charge per face, or, divide your total costs and wages by the number of hours worked (the answer will be the same.)

Here is an example based on the above (reasonable estimates of costs):

Operating Costs (A)                            $3,000

Supply Costs (B)                                    2,000

Total Costs (E)                                                            $5,000.00

Hours Worked (C)                                     177

X Minimum Hourly Wage                  $       8

Wages (D)                                                                   $1,416.00

Hours Worked (C)                                      177

X Number of Faces Per Hour                     12

Total Faces Painted (F)                                                 2,124

Total Costs (E)                                    $5,000

Divided by Total Faces (F)                   2,124

Your Cost Per Face                                                             $2.35

Total Costs (E)                                    $5,000

Wages (D)                                                1,416

Total Cost and Wages (H)                                           $6,416.00

Cost and Wages (H)                           $ 6,416

Divided by Total Faces (F)                   2,124

Minimum Charge Per Face (I)                                            $3.02

Minimum Charge Per Face (I)            $    3.02

X Number Painted Per Hour                     12

Minimum Hourly Rate                                                      $36.24

Total Costs and Wages (H)                 $6,416

Divided by Hours Worked (C)                  177

Minimum Hourly Rate                                                      $36.24

Is your result more or less than you currently charge?  If it is substantially less, then you are on the right track.  If it is more than you currently charge you may want to consider increasing your fees so that you are at least making minimum wage!

This exercise was just to look at this from a purely financial standpoint.  I’m sure you will all agree that we are worth more than minimum wage, but how much more?

I have created an Excel spreadsheet that will do all these calculations for you and you can download it from this link: Cost Per Face Excel Spreadsheet

The other side to the question of pricing is the market price for this type of service and what value you place on your time.  What are your priorities?  Do you want to work more to make more or would you like to make more and work less?  Other variables include your market area pricing, competition, and the spending ability of your target markets.

The easiest way to get information on what the current market rates are is to go to the yellow pages and contact other artists in your area and inquire about their fees.  This will give you an idea of what the going rate is.  You then can use this knowledge to price yourself.  Pricing yourself low is not necessarily what you want to do!  Remember, you actually want to be making a profit from this business so please don’t price yourself lower to undercut the competition.  That is not the point.  What you are trying to find out is what the market will bear; what people are accustomed to paying for face painting.  Once you know that, find out what they are getting for that fee.  Is it exactly the same service you are providing?  Or is there more or less being offered?

Look at what you are offering compared to the competition.  What are your selling features?  Have you won awards, taken classes, attended conventions, have art degrees?  What is it that makes you special and unique?  And, what is the premium you can add to your fee for this special talent and training?  If you are able to offer more, you should be charging more!

Rates for face painting vary widely from area to area.  Also the skill and experience of the artist can be reflected in what they charge, or it should be!  You will have to investigate to see what the going rate is in your area – don’t be sneaky, just call up and ask!

Consider also, how many hours you work.  If you could make the same amount of money but work fewer hours would you do it?  Or would you like to make more money without increasing your hours of work?

Say you are charging $60/hour now, and you are fully booked.  You turn away work as you cannot fit it in.  What would happen if you increased your rate to $80/hour?  Would you lose bookings?  If you are booking, for example, 20 hours a week at $60/hour you are making $1,200/week  If you wanted to maintain $1,200/week you would only need to work 15 hours instead of 20 at the new rate.  And if you stayed at 20 hours you would be taking in $1,600, that’s $400 more a week.

What actually tends to happen is that you may get more inquiries that don’t book at the higher rate, but you would still be fully booked as you have made room for the people you were unable to book before.

To help generate more inquiries you need to get your name out there by advertising and passing out business cards, making sure that there is good word of mouth about you, and being sure to impress your customers so they will tell their friends!  Don’t be shy; you have to be able to sell yourself to people when they call.

To continue following the example above, if you have raised your rates and you are still fully booked… raise them again!  Put them up to $90/hour.  Keep track of the number of inquiries you get compared to the number of bookings.  If you are booking three or four out of every ten, that is a great confirmation rate.  You will work fewer hours but you’ll be making more money!

You can continue this pattern until you find your “sweet spot” which is the rate where you are making maximum return for minimum effort.  It is all about your life and lifestyle and if you want to earn to your maximum potential and increase your time with your children or give yourself time for other things, don’t be afraid to give this a try.

And remember to review this all regularly as your markets will change with the economy, your target markets might change with your interests, and your perceived value to your clientele may increase with your experience, talent and training.

© Shannon Fennell, 2009

with material from “Designs and Templates Volume 1” © November 2007

and “Designs and Templates Volume 2” © March 2008

Author: Shannon Fennell

Multidisciplinary artist, world traveller, make-up artist, and cheese lover. I follow a low carb lifestyle to keep my diabetes in remission. Canadian expat in the UK.

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