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The Best Halloween! Booking Tips for Face Painters
Halloween is upon us! This can be the busiest time of the year for face painters, which makes it really fun and a little overwhelming, or vise versa depending on how prepared you are. The beginning of September is a great time to make sure that you are doing everything you can to have the best Halloween yet! Take a moment to read this post and see if you can use any of the advice to improve your Halloween game!
If you Haven't Started Planning your Halloween Playbook, Do it Now!
To begin planning how to tackle Halloween this year, I recommend sitting down and reflecting on your past Halloween seasons. Jot down events or private bookings that were your favorites and why, and then take note of the ones that really didn’t go as planned. Once you have made notes of all of the things that you loved, and the parts that were a struggle, you can start brainstorm ways to change your plan this year to make it the most profitable and less stressful Halloween yet. This also includes deciding how much time you want to spend working during the Halloween season versus how much time you want to spend enjoying Halloween with your friends and family.
The next step I take when tackling a new Halloween season is looking at all the potential gigs I could get and then choosing where I want to focus my attention. Trying to work at a haunted house, do private make overs, paint at schools and libraries during the week, and host a Halloween party for your kids will just lead to chaos if not carefully thought out and planned. I find that choosing one or two areas to really put all my energy into is best for me. Here is a list of events and places that you could face paint at this Halloween. Google search events in your town and consider your own unique local options too.
Private make overs for kids or adults
Private Halloween Parties
Large Company Parties
City Sponsored Events
Museums and Library Events
Charity Events and Fundraisers
Shopping Mall Events
Costume Contests at Bars or Dance Clubs
Events at Bowling Alleys /Lazer Tag/ Paintball Places
Casino Halloween Parties
Hospital Parties for Patients or Staff
Parties at Woman and Children Shelters
Juvenile Home Parties
Trunk o Treats
Movie Theater Events
Church Harvest Festivals
Weekday or Weekend School fairs
Tips for Private Bookings
Private bookings can be a fun way to work over the Halloween weekends. People come to you, and you get to paint custom designs that you may have never painted before. With good planning you can have a lot of success with private bookings.
Some challenges to private bookings are that instead of booking two or three regular long gigs for a day, you might be booking 10 or more individual sessions. This means that you will have to communicate with a lot of people and schedule them in carefully so that everyone gets done when needed. If doing the secretarial work is your least favorite part of being a face painter, private bookings might not be for you.
Most people will want their makeup done in the evening, and you will have to convince them to come in earlier once your evening spots are filled up. You could set their water based or powder based designs with a makeup sealer, use cream based paints set with powder, or use water resistant paints like Proaiir Hybrids for a long lasting results. The mouth area is one spot that will wear off the fastest. If you are going to be painting details like skeleton teeth on the lips, check out this lipstick sealer by Mehron if you need to keep your clients looking great for hours and hours. For an additional charge you could provide a mini touch up kit or they could come back to your location for a quick touch up if they need it in a few hours.
Contracts and Deposits
"Make sure you take deposits and use contracts to avoid schedule delays and cancellations."
When I started out doing private bookings I had some issues with people arriving late to their bookings because they were rushing to finish the rest of their costume or were held up by friends or family. I also had issues with folks cancelling all together. I found out that the best way to deal with this is to make everyone sign a booking contract and pay a deposit or pay in full before the day. Make sure that it is clear that they have to show up on time. Let them know that if they show up late you will have to do a simpler design so that you can be done when it is time for your next appointment, and if they miss their time block all together they forfeit their deposit. Being very clear about these policies will help motivate people to be there on time and not cancel. Always contact each client a week before and the day before to check in with them and make sure that you are still on the same page.
Some makeup requests might be above your current skill level and may require you to find materials or special paints to complete the look. It is not rare that someone will ask you to paint something they saw online, but it is actually a photo-shopped image of a face paint design. You will need to explain this and show them a more realistic version of the design. Take into account when quoting your rate that you may need to practice some designs ahead of time to make sure that you can do them well and get them done in the time you estimated.
Body Painting Requests
Full body painting is a common request on Halloween. Once a client finds out that it could take 3-6 hours to paint them entirely they usually go for less paint and more costume. Make sure that your client knows the risk of the paint wearing off over time with friction, that they consider if it will be appropriate for the event they are attending, and the chill factor of walking around with out clothes. Another issue is spreading their paint on other surfaces like chairs or couches or other peoples clothing if they will be dancing. If you do a full body painting you can help stop with spread by using products like Proaiir Hybrid Paints, or by setting the design well with a barrier spray. If this will be your first time body painting do as much research as possible and walk through the design step by step to get an idea of how long it will take to paint. Cover the most important parts first so that if you run out of time the customer can cover the rest with clothes or you can just do a plain base of color without details. Body Art Stencils are a great way to cover a lot of area with detail in a super fast manner if you need to paint a quick body painting design or if you find yourself running out of time and need to speed things up.
It is best if the customer is in charge of getting any accessories like fake teeth, false eye lashes, or prosthetic appliances. If they ask you to buy everything for them, make sure that they pay you in advance for the products, shipping costs and make over. Ordering online is risky because a shipping delay could leave you with out the things you need. If you can’t get the items locally, order online far in advanced and contact the company before you place your order to make sure they will be shipping soon. Choose Express Shipping if you really need it right away.
Where to set up for Private Bookings?
You will need to find a safe, bright and easy to find place to host your bookings. You could have people come to your house or apartment lobby but it might not be the safest option if you do no know the people you will be painting. Many artists rent booth spaces in hair salons and sometimes face painters band together and rent the entire salon and turn it into a wild event! Do some research in your community to see if you can find an appropriate place to invite people to get their makeovers done.
Maximize your Profits by Quoting Realistic Rates and Scheduling Smart!
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I started doing private appointments was that I charged to litter per face and ended up making much less that I would have made if I just stuck to booking regular hourly gigs.
Painting a face for a private booking usually takes longer than painting a face at a birthday party. There is a lot more chit chat and detail work when you are focusing on doing a really good job. I would quote a face thinking I could do it in ten minutes, but it ended up taking 30. I fixed this by charging more than usual for private appointments on Halloween. A lot of your customers will be adults who are heading off to costume contests hoping to win a big prize. You will be surprised what some are willing to pay to be transformed by you! For those who don’t want a super elaborate makeover you could require that that they come in groups so that it would equal your Halloween hourly rate. For example, if you charge $100 per hour on Halloween, you can offer $20 make overs for 20 minutes per person with a 5 person minimum. Groups of friends can all come together and have fun watching you paint them up. Another suggestion is to charge $50 for 30 minute makeovers after 6pm. Try to book your gigs close together so that you don't have a lot of long empty blocks and schedule in breaks as needed so that you don’t fizzle out before the night is over.
If you would rather set up a booth and have people show up first come first serve, some good locations to do this include parks, popular restaurants, festivals, block parties, malls, bowling alleys and more. Make sure to work out all of the details with the owner of the business so that there is no confusion on the day of the event. Some may want to take a cut in exchange for you charging there, while others will not because they will see you as a draw to their location, and you come at no cost to them. I recommend selling your presence in a manner that they will just let you work with no fees and enjoy the amazing atmosphere that you will create with their clients. It is nice to find a place to paint indoors because Halloween is known to have unpredictable weather depending where you live. It could rain, snow or be 90 degrees out. Also, the sun will set, so working outside will require lighting at some point.
Booking for Season Long Events
There are a lot of face painters who spend the Halloween season face painting at pumpkin patches and zombie events like Zombie Paint Ball Runs. Some coordinators will hire face painters and pay them hourly, while others will allow them to set up a booth and paint for cash, or tickets, which they will then turn in for payment at the end of the day. Since you can work a lot of hours back to back day after day this can be a very profitable gig. The one drawback for some painters can be the unpredictability of the weather during the fall in parts of the U.S.. You may find yourself unable to paint because of rainstorms or freezing weather, or you might be able to paint through the weather but be quite uncomfortable, especially if you are set up in a grass field that could get muddy and windy. Make sure to plan your location and set up carefully to minimize the effects of rain, snow and wind. You will also want to have good lighting because they might have you paint after the sun goes down. You may want to work together with other artists to share the hours, or work as a team if the demand is really high. Keep the designs simple so that you can keep up with the demand.
Trick or Treating Events at Malls and other Large Venues
If you are hired to paint at a large venue during Halloween make sure that you have researched popular costumes and have thought out simple ways to enhance the look with face paint. I remember one year when Darth Vader was super popular and I showed up to a mall with a ton of little boys draped in black and no idea how to paint a Darth Vader mask. I spent too much time staring at a picture on my phone and still wasn’t happy with the look. Now I just paint light sabers on the cheeks and tell the parents that painting their kids face all black could be a disaster in the car or at home. To keep people happy you will want to keep the line moving so that the kids can go trick or treating and participate in other actives. You can have a board with just Halloween designs like pumpkins, spiders and ghosts, and not even try to match their costume if you just have time to do 1 or 2 minute designs. Kids will love it, and everyone will love the fast moving line. Make sure that you have a plan set up to close your line when your time is up. These huge events have a never-ending supply of kids that want to get painted, so ask for stanchions to close off the line, or ask for a staff member to help you close down. Use Line Closed Vests to help send the message that you are closed and have a large sign that posts when the last person will be painted.
Working at Haunted Houses
I have only worked at a haunted house once at Knot's Scary Farm when I was taking a theater makeup class. Our instructor brought us a long to attach prosthetics, airbrush bases on the characters masks and splatter a lot of blood. It was a completely different world than my face painting one! If you have not had experience working in a Haunt you will want to find out the expectations of those running the haunts makeup department and make sure you are prepared, or will have time to learn special fx makeup while on the job. Working at a haunted house means hours and hours of work, but you will probably not make the same hourly rate that you are used to with private parties. Due to the demanding schedule, you may not have time to book other events. Talk to other artists who have done haunts to get all the ins and outs and make sure that you and your family are ready for this type of commitment. Google local haunts to find when and where they are hosting interviews right away because the season has already begun in some towns!
So many of us look forward to Halloween throughout the year! It is the time where our skills are most in demand and we get to step out side our comfort zone and expand on our talents. I hope that you found this blog post helpful and are inspired a little more to plan out the best Halloween yet. Please feel free to leave comments on this post if you have any other advice your your fellow face or body painters so that they can make the most out of their Halloween Season! -Anna Wilinski (Celebrating 30 years of painting faces on Halloween, yeah, I started when I was 10!)