Art of war for face painters: when to hand off a job

Problem: You've booked an event as a face painter for a large adult birthday party, but two days before the event, you get a call from the host. It turns out that the guest of honor would rather have realistic airbrushing instead of face painting, as the guests will all be adults. Your heart sinks just a little, because you were looking forward to this event, and while you've been planning to invest in a more extensive grouping of stencils, you feel what you have available is not adequate for their party. Even if you order now, you won't have time to practice with the new ones before their party. 

Solution: I recently experienced this scenario personally. I had invested in airbrush equipment almost two years before, and had done some airbrushing previous to becoming set up (minimally) for airbrushing as a face painter and body artist. But airbrushing stencils can be costly, and I hadn't purchased a lot of them just yet. To service clients adequately, I knew I would definitely need more, but had put off the purchase. 

In addition to not having the stencils, I knew that using each one would require practice so I would be aware of potential problems I could run into with them. Even if I put in a rush order and got the stencils in time, I would have very little opportunity to practice with them before the event. 

I decided that the best thing for the client in this case would be to hand him over to another artist, so I discussed it with him and then contacted an experienced airbrush artist in my area and had her take the event in my place. (And from what I heard later, the party went well and the airbrushing was a success.)

Often the decisions we make aren't about us when it comes to our businesses. Ultimately, we must consider what is best for our clients and their events. This might mean taking more time to train before going into business at all, or investing in new skills to better serve clients. 

In retrospect, could I have made it through the event successfully myself? Perhaps, as long as my equipment had arrived in time, because I already had airbrushing experience. But for this client, I wanted his event entertainment to be great—not just good—and I felt "great" required a better equipped and more experienced airbrush artist than I was at that time. I wasn't willing to risk my client's entertainment to find out if I could be that artist for them. 

Although I didn't take the event personally, I still feel the story has a happy ending. This particular client had a wonderful event, and the artist did a great job for him. I learned a lesson in not procrastinating, and I ordered a more complete set of stencils the next day so I would have time to prepare for the next client. In my opinion, it was still a win-win for everyone involved, which is just the way it should be when we do business.

Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in Elgin, Illinois, and her artwork has appeared in The Colored Palette and SkinMarkz magazines. She services the western and northwestern Chicago suburbs, Chicago’s north side, and the eastern and southeastern suburbs of Rockford. Stop by Clownantics.com to enjoy more of Beth’s face painting tutorials.


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