The hazards of face painting: when you can’t do just one more

Posted by Elizabeth Mackinney on

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Many face painters run one-artist businesses, which means that they have a vested interest in making their business successful. To make your business stand out, service should be spectacular and clients should be happy, so when problems crop up, it’s best to handle issues efficiently and professionally. This series is designed to help face painters avert potential disasters by creating a plan of action beforehand.

Problem: When you simply can’t do “just one more”

You’ve been face painting at your sweltering summer event for four hours, and it’s time to close up so you can make it to your next gig on time. You take a glance at the hot, sweaty parents and kids who joined the line after you closed it forty minutes ago  and your heart sinks.

You’ve found that in your experience, when you try to shut down the line, people are not understanding, and it’s the one thing about your job you dislike the most. Some cajole over and over for you to paint “just one more.” Some get angry and cause a scene. But your reputation is on the line. You have to be on time for the next event. Even if you had no other event to go to, you are exhausted and you need to eat, use the restroom, and head for home so you can clean your kit for tomorrow. What can you do to fix this unpleasant, continual problem?

Solution: Although it requires a little extra work and planning on your part, there are precautions you can take to create a more successful line shut down. First, always keep an eye on your line. If you have a one hour wait, shut it down one hour before your time is up and provide tickets, stickers, or disposable wrist bracelets for everyone who remains in the line. Do not allow a parent to hold a place in line for five children. The parent must have five tickets or five bracelets if he or she is holding a space for five kids. Each ticket or bracelet represents two to five minutes, so it’s part of your estimation of who you will be able to finish in the time you have remaining.

Hang a sign or labeled sash or cape on the last person in line which says that he or she is the last person. People sometimes try to cut the line, and some folks will allow an child or adult to enter in front of them, but if you use tickets or bracelets as well to mark who are able to be painted, this won’t be a problem for you.

Display a sign that clearly states what time face painting is finished and that you cannot do “just one more” because of other scheduled events. Many people ignore signs, but for those who don’t, this is a clear warning that you’re only available until a specific time.

Invest in a line manager. You will need to figure this into your price when bidding for large public events, but it’s is easier to close the line if you have a good line manager. If you know you will have a high volume event and will need to get out on time, it will be worth the money to invest in someone who can run your line and shut it down on time. Sometimes organizations will offer a volunteer to serve as your line manager if you request one, but if you get a volunteer, be very clear in your instructions. Some are better than others, and a poor line manager who lets extra people in can do more damage than good. Don’t expect a volunteer to know how to close your line without directions. If you also use tickets or wrist bracelets, it will help even a weak line manager do a better job.

Have business cards ready as you’re packing up. If someone approaches you and requests that you paint just one more child, hand him a business card with a smile and tell him you’d love to face paint for his child at their next event, but that for today you have to leave so you can be on time for the next client. Before he can complain, explain that you will take arriving on time just as seriously for his party as you do for the next one you’re packing up for.

Use your supplies strategically. Ending the line quickly is what those split cakes are for. You can fly through a greater number of kids if you do some suggestive selling of quicker designs which utilize split cakes.

Finally, remember that people who haven’t run a face painting business won’t necessarily be understanding because they haven’t experienced face painting from your end. They may not consider that you’re tired, your kit needs to be cleaned, you’d like to find a restroom, and you’re stomach is growling in hopes of getting a quick bite to eat en route to your next party. They don’t realize that “just one more” face painting will matter because those extra minutes are precious, and your time is budgeted for the day.

Sadly, it’s not uncommon to encounter parents who become angry, loudly blaming you rather than gently explaining to their child that it’s too late to be face painted for the day. They’ve had a long day too, but if you remain kind and professional, you can go away with a clear conscience that, while it isn’t fun to deal with a parent who is not understanding, you are not responsible for him or her choosing to not be a good sport when face painting time is up.

Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in the NW Chicago suburbs. Stop by Clownantics.com for more of her face painting tutorials, and if you’re on Facebook, join the Facepaint.com Challenge Group to showcase your artwork and have a chance to win a store credit for each week’s theme.

For other tips on closing the line, check out this online article by professional face painter Lenore Koppelman, the Cheeky Chipmunk.


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