Art Of War For Face Painters: Can You Paint Faster?

Problem: Can you paint faster?

You’ve booked a two hour event from a client who is planning a party with 35 guests who will need face painting. While you’re in the midst of the reservation process, she sends you a quick email. Could you also provide balloon twisting for the 35 children during the two hours without bringing in a second artist? You feel a twinge of concern and send her a quick message explaining that it’s not possible for you to do both face painting and balloon twisting for so many children during the available time. Her response is, “Why not?”

Solution: Be honest about what you can do without compromising your quality

Your first thought might be to reply that it’s because you don’t have four arms and two brains, but realizing this is a common problem face painters and balloon twisters encounter will help you (hopefully) stay calm. It’s more likely to be a question you receive from clients who have never used either type of entertainment for their parties in the past, and while it will require a little of your time, there is only one way to address it. If the client doesn’t understand or take your word for what you can do in an hour’s time, you have to give him a breakdown of exactly what you do and how much time it takes to do it per child so the client will understand.

A friend of mine was a chef, and when he catered events, he would run into this issue as well. Clients didn't understand the logistic constraints involved in moving 200 people through a buffet line until he broke it down into the amount of time needed per person. Once he did, the client would have an “ah ha!” moment, and they could proceed to plan the event.

For face painters, the breakdown for time is something like the following:

• 30 seconds to get the child settled in the chair and find what he or she would like
• 2-3 minutes per guest for face painting
• 30 seconds to see the mirror and climb down

You can subtract time for simple designs or add time for more elaborate ones or for parents who insist that the child sits in the chair while they take a few quick photos. Either way, you’re looking at approximately 4 to 5 minutes per child for most designs at most parties. For high volume events, you can omit the mirror moment (although most artists hate to do this) by hanging one elsewhere for kids to view their design.

Keep in mind that other issues, such as unattended children causing disruption in the line, will also slow you down. If kids get out of hand behind me, I stop painting and tell them that the rowdier they are, the slower I paint. If they’re too much of a distraction or are endangering others or my equipment, I make them leave the line and return with a parent in order to be painted.

There will always be the temptation to compromise what you know you can do in an hour’s time to get bookings, but it’s better to let a booking go than to place yourself in a position to do your job badly, because that can hurt your reputation and your ability to engage future clients.

Giving a client a breakdown of time per person will definitely help him understand what you can do and why, but in the end, only accept the jobs you’re confident you can do well, not only for your own sake, but also for the sake of your client’s event.

Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in the NW Chicago suburbs. Stop by to see other face painting tutorials by Beth. 

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