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How to Run a Face Painting Business - Building a Successful Team
When working as a face painter you will soon find out that there is only so many gigs that you can take any given day without getting burnt out in just a few months. Having a team of professional face painters that you can rely on and share events with is a natural growth path for any professional face painters that want to make a living in the entertainment world.
How to Choose Who to Work With?
Choosing the right set of people to work with is likely the hardest part. You will be sharing a lot of time and responsibilities with your team, and the success of your business depends on the quality of the work of those who will represent you. Think of your team as an extension of yourself: how would you like people to see you and your business as? Professional and organized, or messy and and amateur? Well dressed or shorts and flip flops? Fun and exciting or grumpy and miserable? Smelling like perfume and flowers or like cigarettes and sweat? The list could go on but I think you get the idea. You need to find people that take this business as serious as you do, and that can truly represent you and your brand when they are working for you.
Before you choose someone to join your team it is a great idea to get together with them at a face paint jam. You will have a chance to talk to them and see how friendly or not they are. Checkout their kit, is it nice and clean? Are they using professional products? How about their sanitation when they paint? Do they spend the entire time complaining about bad events and talking badly about their customers, or do they just have fun and have exciting stories to tell about the events they worked for? If someone talks bad all the time about their customers, they might talk bad about you at some point too. Take a look at their website, does it look professional? How about their business card? Have you taken a look at their social media pages? Social media pages can tell you a lot about a business, not only by reading the reviews but by seeing how they react to good and bad reviews. If you notice a lot of drama, you might want to avoid having someone like that on your team. If on the other hand, you see very few negative reviews, and when you see a negative review you notice that the painter handled that in a professional manner, that might be a good team member!
Take the time to talk to other painters in the area that have previously worked with this person, and if you have a chance and the painter doesn't mind, why not go and see how she works at a public event? We don't suggest sneaking into anybody's event to see how they work, it is best to ask if they wouldn't mind if you go check their work because you would like to see if the person would be a good fit for your team.
Although the ideal candidate is one that has it all and can check all boxes, it is important to understand that we are all still learning, and that some things can be taught while they work with you; while others might be deeply embedded into their way of being and might not be changed.
In the end make sure that you make a team of professional painters that are trust worthy and that will conduct themselves in a professional way all the way around.
What is the Agreement Between You and Your Team?
Before you start working on your team you need to decide how you would like it to work. Will you be taking care of all of the booking details, communication with the customer, contracts and everything else needed, and then just choose a team member to go and work the event? If so, we suggest for you to take a commission to cover your work. You will be doing the work of an agency, and you should be compensated for that.
If you don't want to act as an agent, you could send face painter referrals to clients, and ask your team members to take care of booking their own jobs, in which you will not charge a fee for the referral. In return you will also be referred to by other painters when they can't take a job. Being part of a group of professional face painters that are willing to refer gigs to each other for free of charge can prove to be very beneficial for everyone.
There is a third option, that can take either of the two forms mentioned above, which is when you and your team work an event together as a group. In this case, usually the best option for the event organizer is to deal with just one member of the team, which means that you might be taking care of all of the booking details and communication with your customer. While you will be making money at this event, you are also taking on more work. It is up to you and your team to figure if you will be taking an extra payment (commission or booking fee) for your work, or if you have an agreement so that whoever gets first contacted about the event takes care of everything.
Will You Have Contracts for your Team Members?
This is a very personal decision that depends partly on what kind of agreement you have with your team members and partly on the level of trust you have with your team members. I think trust is important, but a short contract can help avoid potential conflicts and reduce stress. If you are running a true agency, then contracts with your team members are a must. You will need to have every detail laid out on paper since they are truly working for you and if the customer has any issue they will come to you.
If you are only passing on referrals to each other and not charging any commissions then I think contracts between team members are not needed.
On top of that, you will also need a contract with your customer. We have written a blog post about face painting contracts and included a FREE contract template for you to use.
Will Your Team be Hired as Sub Contractors or Employees?
Understanding the difference between a sub contractor and an employee is crucial when dealing with taxes and liabilities. Having an employee requires that you to deal with Social Security Taxes, paying a salary, W2 forms, Workers Compensation Insurance, understanding employment laws, etc. This can get very expensive and very complicated so unless you are making a lot of money I would probably suggest you don't go this route.
Having sub contractors is much easier, but you need to make sure that you respect sub contractors laws. If you provide all of the material, if they work every day a fixed schedule, if they earn a flat salary for what they do, even if you call them a contractor the IRS might come for you one day and tell you that those are not subcontractors but rather employees. A sub contractor usually uses their own equipment, in our case, face paints. A sub contractor doesn't have a regular schedule, they just work for the specific events based on your demand. They will have to bill you, and you will pay them for the work performed for you (the customer will pay you).
Last option is simply neither of the two. The team members are free lancers or self employed, and you just charge a commission for your work or a referral fee, but they bill the customer and deal with booking details.
Will You be Forming a Legal Entity to Work as an Agency?
If you have decided to take this to the next level and become a true agency, you might want to form a legal entity (LLC for example) that will handle all of the agency work. Keep in mind that this requires some extra work, so it might only be worth it if you expect to do a lot of work as an agency. You might want to look into this other post that we wrote to cover issues about legal and tax status of your face painting business.
Will your Team Represent Your Business or Theirs?
Not many face painters think about this until they refer someone to an event and this painter passes her business cards at the event. Was she allowed to? Was she supposed to pass your cards? There is no correct answer here, but it should be something that you and your team agreed on beforehand. In general, if it is an event with multiple painters that you booked, then you might want to ask every member of your team to pass on your cards and even maybe wear your attire (aprons or t-shirts with your logos). If instead you just sent a referral, collected a fee or not for it, and send the painter to work the event, you might want to let that painter pass on his or her cards; or you could still request that they pass on your cards since this was your contact to start with. Again, there is no right answer here, but you should agree on it before you send anybody out. If you have done all of the booking, customer billing and kept in touch with your customer, it is reasonable to expect that whoever works the event represents you and your business, hence they promote your business and not theirs. A lot of professional face painters understand that even when promoting your business, if they do a good job, they will likely get more jobs from you; so it is still beneficial to them. Also, some clients might contact the agent requesting a specific painter to go back and do their event next time, so not being able for to promote their business doesn't mean they are on the loosing end.
Is Everyone in Your Team Best at Everything?
Likely, the answer to that question is no. No one is best at everything, that is why having a team is a great idea! Take advantage of everyone's strengths and used them wisely. If your team gets hired for a festival with huge crowds, make sure to hire painters that can work fast and have good crowd control skills, including line management. Did you get hired by a VIP client? Make sure to send someone that will provide that customer with the best customer service and finished product. Where you hired by someone whose speaks a different language? Send someone in your team that speaks their language fluently. As you get hired more and more you will find out that different clients have different needs, and having a good professional and diverse team can be of great help!
We contacted a very successful face painter, Laura Oliver from Face Fancies, who runs a team of professional face painters in Kansas and she gave us her piece of advice on this matter:
"One thing I have learned from working with a crew of subcontracting painters who primarily work for me, is that there can be great differences in communication and work styles between painters. This needs to be assessed and addressed before everyone on your team can feel confident and secure in their job roll. For instance, some painters are planners and don't feel comfortable or even able to create new things on the fly, while other painters consider that sort of challenge fun and invigorating. Some painters are excellent at closing down the line and keeping crowd control while others prefer to never have to assert themselves in those ways. Just being mindful of these differences among painters up front can allow you to make helpful changes that work for the benefit of all on the team. I have found that concessions usually need to be made on both sides for everyone to be able to work comfortably together. Knowing the individual strengths and preferences of your crew can not only arm you with information you need while staffing multiple events, but it can broaden your own understanding on how to keep your team happy and highly motivated. " - Laura Oliver
How Will you Keep things Organized?
For any business, even if it is a one person show, it is important to keep things organized. But, when you work with several people, you have no option other than to be VERY organized because you now have a team to handle. There are several software programs out there that are designed for free lancers and professional entertainers or people in the service industry. If you don't want to spend the money, which we consider money well invested if you are running a big operation, you should at least create some excel sheets. We wrote a short blog post about how to record your bookings and we included a FREE spread sheet to help you organize them.
You will also want to keep good track of your income and expenses. We have another blog post about book keeping tips for face painters, and we included a free spreadsheet as well.
Who is Legally Responsible for your Team Member's Work?
As boring of a topic as this might be, understanding the liability issues of working with others is very important. If you are in charge of booking an event and you are the one billing the customer, likely you will be responsible for what happens at that event, so you want to make sure that your liability insurance will cover you. You will need a liability insurance that can include other painters working for you, and that can issue certificates of insurance to the event planners. If you are only making the referral then you might not need to worry about that, but it is always best to check with a lawyer; they might be able to draft a simple contract that outlines who bares the responsibilities or liabilities in each case. In case you had not even thought about insurance, we have a blog post that talks about the importance of insurance for face painters that you might want to look into.
What Will Happen when Someone Leaves your Team?
Last but not least, you will want to make sure there is some form of understanding, or even written agreement, of what happens when someone leaves your team. If it was an informal organization, then not a lot can be agreed upon other than common courtesies. But, if you were running it like a true agency, you might want to include non compete agreements to prevent members from taking your customers with them. Again this would be something you would need to discuss with a lawyer to get it done properly, since each state has its own regulations.
This particular thing was highlighted as a very important issue by another very successful face painter who runs a large team of professional face paints, Mickey Lower from The Zoo Lady. When asked about for advice in regards to building a team of face painters she told us that:
"My advice is, although it may not hold up in court, is to get a non-compete clause signed by each in order to form a team. That is the only way I train people. I have enough work so that they really have no desire to work for anyone else." - Mickey Lower
No matter what you choose to do, being prepared and having a plan should be your first step. And even if you think managing a team is not for you, having a close group of face painters that you can jam with and work together with for different events and use for referrals is a great thing that every face painter should do. Working with other in your industry instead of seeing them just as competitors is the best advice we can give you. In our own personal experience we get a lot more satisfaction when we work with other vendors as partners than when we treat them as competitors, and when you work as partners you have a chance for both of your businesses to benefit.
Disclaimer: we are not lawyers and our opinion is based on our personal experience. We recommend for you to always check with a lawyer before making any decision. We are not in any ways giving legal advice and we are not liable for any decisions you make or stop making based on the opinions provided above.