So how do you get started as a professional face painter? That’s a question I’m asked often at events.
I got lucky when a friend asked me to face paint every week at a new farmer’s market. From there I got booked for all sorts of jobs like birthday parties, block parties, community celebrations, and company picnics. I’ve been featured in the local newspaper and write about face painting on websites like this.
I’m sure every professional face painter has their own unique success story, but there are several things all pros should consider when building their business.
You don’t need to invest in a large pro kit right away, but it’s important to look professional from the start. Once you begin working regularly, you’ll need to expand your kit, but that’s a topic for another post. For now, keep it simple as you learn what works for you.
Some Basics I Recommend
Compact Face Paint Kit: Diamond FX Face Paint Palette
Brushes: Loew-Cornell are some of my favorites, but I use several different brands. To start out, I’d suggest a couple of small and medium round brushes and a 3/4” flat brush.
Sponges: I like these
- 2 mesh bags for clean and dirty sponges
- A brush holder to prop up your brushes
- Folding table and chairs (unless client will provide)
- Mirror for kids
- Container for clean water, 2 cups for rinsing brushes, and empty container for dirty water
- Wet wipes or clean towels
- Tote for carrying supplies
Set a Budget
It’s crucial that you know how much you plan to spend annually on supplies, insurance, travel, and any other expenses. This is a big factor when determining your rate and will keep you on track to staying profitable.
I base my face painting supplies budget on a percentage of my income. And I use every penny! Having a professional kit does wonders for your reputation. I can’t tell you how many kids and adults have commented on my split cakes saying they’ve never seen anything like them. Yes, the split cakes cost a little more per ounce than solid pans, but it’s totally worth it. I’m certain that I’ve booked jobs based on my fancy face paints alone!
For things like tables, chairs, and anything else that you expect to use time and time again, consider buying quality gear that will not have to be replaced as often as the cheaper versions.
Set Your Rate
As a self-employed face painter, you decide what you get paid.
Just because you choose your rate, doesn’t mean clients will pay it. Too high a rate will result in not enough bookings, while too low a rate means you have to work twice as hard as other face painters to break even.
When figuring out what you will charge, ask yourself these questions:
- What are my expenses?
- How many faces can I paint in an hour?
- Do I have insurance?
- How much experience do I have?
- Is my work on par with that of other pros?
- What are other face painters in my area charging?
- What else sets me apart from the competition?
- How much time am I spending on pre and post job tasks (like cleaning tools, traveling, etc.)?
For more information on how much to charge for a face paint design, check out this post:
There’s no magic formula to determine your rate, but it’s not guesswork either. Do some research and be confident with the rate you set. In a couple of years when you’re better, faster, and in-demand, you can increase it. You may not want to raise it too frequently though. Think of your reaction if your hair stylist increased her rate every time you went in for a haircut. Many of your clients will be repeat customers so if you increase your rates, let them know in advance.
Build Up A Client List
Remember that it takes time to build your business.
Have you ever heard a gardener use the expression, first year sleep, second year creep, third year leap when talking about plants? Well, your business is likely to grow at the same pace as newly-planted Black-eyed Susans!
Other than my first weekly face painting gig at a farmer’s market, I only had one other job that first year. The second year, I had about a dozen extra bookings. By the third year, I was booked solid every weekend from spring through fall.
While your career may not follow that pattern exactly, my point is that there are very few overnight success stories when it comes to being self-employed. Many will give up, but if you stick with it and make a promise to yourself to keep improving, you will get there.
Act Like a Pro
Make sure that clients keep coming back by being professional. Showing up on time is so important, but politeness, enthusiasm, and gratitude also do wonders. Things like writing thank you notes, smiling, and staying calm even when you have a long line of impatient kids (and parents) will likely get you booked again and again.
And did I mention smiling? I know it sounds simple, but it matters. The most important thing we do as face painters is make people happy.
I passed a face painter at my local grocery store not long ago who wore such a scowl. My kids and I were walking past her when she shrieked at us, “The line is closed!”
Jeez, I wasn’t even asking.
Can’t imagine she went through a stack of business cards at that event.
Sure we all have off days, but a real pro doesn't let it show.
Kids lovehaving their faces painted. Parents lovewatching their kids get face painted. Do your best to look like you love what you do. If that's a struggle, you're going to have an uphill battle growing your business.
It’s crucial to create a calendar system that works for you. Most likely, you’ll keep your appointments digitally. Get in the habit of setting reminders for upcoming jobs. I like to set two reminders: one a few days in advance so I can confirm the gig with my client and another closer to the job start time.
The worst face painting mistake I’ve made involved scheduling. At the start of a very busy Saturday, I realized that my smart phone had not synced with my laptop calendar. Surprise! One more birthday party to squeeze into an already jam-packed schedule. I just barely made it to all my gigs and with no time for lunch or dinner. I could hardly move once I made it home and vowed to never make that mistake again!
Knowing a face painter or two in your area is especially helpful if you should ever find yourself double booked or seriously ill and unable to make an event. Networking on social media groups specifically for face painters is a great way to find other artists in your neck of the woods.
Here are a few friendly Facebook groups for face painters:
Make Sure You’re Covered
If you are getting paid to face paint on a regular basis you should have liability insurance. There are many carriers out there who cover face painters and a google search will get you started. Do your homework on the carriers you’re considering by researching their reputation and what they cover. The internet makes this all fairly easy.
Another benefit of having insurance is that it may give you an edge over the competition. Letting clients know that you are insured tells them that you are serious about what you do.
Banking and Taxes
Nothing made me feel more professional than opening up a business checking account. Watching your balance grow is so rewarding. Deducting related expenses from your business account will also keep your face painting purchases from draining your personal account.
Your bank will be able to inform you of any documentation needed to open a business account.
Research banks that offer small business checking accounts and compare rates. Choose a bank that allows you to keep a minimum balance in order to avoid fees.
Paying taxes may not be the most glamorous part of being self-employed, but it’s one step you don’t want to miss. The IRS webpage has plenty of resources on the topic. Set aside some time to educate yourself on taxes and consult with an accountant if needed.
Do you have tips on how to become a professional face painter? Please comment below. We'd love to hear from you.
Vanessa Tsumura is a professional face painter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You can find out more about her face painting business at 3 Cartwheels.
Balloons Photo by Hybrid
Calendar Photo by Brooke Lark
Money Photo by Katie Harp - Pinterest Manager