How much to charge for your face and body art services
This is without a doubt one of the TOP questions asked in face painting groups. Not just from new painters, but also seasoned painters who are starting to clock onto the idea that their art is worth more!
The face and body art industry is undergoing rapid expansion. It has become a common occurrence to see painters at a local funday and at festivals. Despite this leap into the public eye, there is still a lot of work to be done in changing the perception that we are 'just face painters'. This is why maintaining similar rates for the average painter is so important.
If you later go on to become famous for your work and/or super high in demand, then you can pretty much charge whatever you want. However, this blog is focussed upon not underselling yourself, so that is the direction I'm going to be coming from.
“Just Face Painters”
The implications in this statement rankle me something rotten. Especially when I hear it coming from people in our own profession! Seriously, there will be enough people outside of the industry misunderstanding what we actually do, we don't need to fuel that fire!
Yes, we are face painters (or body painters, or makeup artists, insert your job title here), but this is actually quite a rare skill to have. I'm not counting all of the volunteer painters who don't take it any further. But YOU. You who have spent countless hours perfecting and practicing your craft. You who have spent a small fortune making sure you get the best products and equipment. You, who have taken the initiative to research thoroughly the health and safety implications of your work.
You are rare. Your skills are worth a decent wage.
You are not just a face painter. You bring a smile to faces, a bit of magic into lives and give people memories that are unforgettable.
Take into account expenses
Aside from the blood, sweat and tears we put into our businesses, we have to take into account all of our outgoings and factor this into our pricing, too. Most businesses in their first year, will either make a loss or break even. This is because they reinvest their earnings to help their business grow. While doing this, you need to make a thorough record of your outgoings and figure out which expenses are likely to be one-offs (or once-in-a-whiles) such as your table and chair, and which expenses are likely to be regular (can you say black and white paint, anyone?)
From your regular expenses, you can work out how much you will need to spend out of your earnings to keep your products topped up.
In addition to that, you need to add on travel time and expenses, set up/take down time, insurance costs, website fees, business card costs, marketing, uniform, time spent answering emails, the fact that most of your bookings will be prime time weekends (which likely means time away from your family and more! Notice that the word 'time' keeps cropping up there. Time really IS money!
Don't worry, I'm getting onto the part of 'what to charge'. Putting all of this into perspective and getting it clear in your mind, will not only help you with setting prices that you feel are 'worth it', but also steer you away from a common struggle a lot of new painters face and that is low self esteem and guilt over their pricing.
What to charge … finally!
So no doubt there are going to be variations in what to charge for your services. Relevant factors to consider are – your location, your skill level & experience and the type of services you offer. Below, I am talking about Face Painting only rates. Body Painting, Airbrush Tattoos, Special FX, Make-up will come under different pricing structures, however, the method to get the information on pricing is the same!
I am based in the UK so I have a better idea of what face painters here charge on average across the board. For those abroad, I have seen many discussions in various face painters forums on pricing and I would advise you all to make good use of the 'search' function to do some research about what other painters are charging in your location. The information you need can be found easily if you look for it!
Setting out an average of prices between face painters in the same area is good for everyone in the long run no matter what your skill level. If you are a beginner and are massively undercharging, the general public is going to get the wrong impression that more experienced painters are 'expensive', when actually they could probably do with pushing their own prices up a bit. It also means that if you start by undercharging, you are going to find it difficult to raise your prices in the future, when you come to realise that you can't build a business and make a living on a pittance. Start as you mean to go on!
In the USA I have seen many face painters advise others to take not a penny less than $100 an hour. Some charge more, if they are in a big city, and some charge slightly less if they are in a less populated area where the cost of living is lower. However, this is a good ballpark figure to give you an idea of what your services are worth.
In the North East of the UK, the average rate is £75 for the first two hours (minimum booking time of 2 hours), and each additional hour priced at around £30. This rate is similar around the UK, with London and the South East having higher rates, probably due to the cost of living being higher there.
There are certain times of the year when you will be in higher demand than at any other time. These include Halloween in particular, and in the UK bank holidays tend to get snapped up pretty quick. One important thing to remember is that higher demand means that you can put your prices up and people will happily pay them, you will likely be booked solid on certain public holidays, and you need to be aware that you are going to be working harder than ever before. You will likely have to take extra time to prepare new designs and possibly buy additional products (for example special fx materials for Halloween). For all of these reasons, consider increasing your prices on these occasions.
Communicate with your peers
Reach out to painters in your area and find out what the average is. Don't do this to deliberately undercut them, though. Networking with local painters with mutual respect, and similar pricing could land you extra work if they are booked and still getting enquiries – trust me, alienating your colleagues is not something you want to do.
I am very very transparent about my prices on my website, and while I understand not everyone feels comfortable doing this, I believe it creates a general acceptance of what I charge. These are not state secrets, they are my prices and they are non negotiable. Any painter in my area who reaches out to me for advice on pricing, I always tell them what I can, because I know that it has a long term good result for me as well. There is plenty of work to go around, and prices continue to go up year on year as we become more accepted as a worthwhile skill provider.
On that note, do stay current with your pricing. If the cost of living is going up, and your prices haven't budged for quite some time, you might want to give it some thought of pushing those up a little. What is interesting is how price perception works with the public. If they are paying more for your services, they will value you more, fact. You may price yourself out of a certain market (and don't worry there will always be painters willing to fill that gap who don't have the pricing knowledge you do), but you will open yourself up to a market of people that appreciates what you do.
Make it worth your while
A key point I want to make is that the price you charge has to be WORTH IT for you! It has to be worth getting out of bed for. Worth all of those painstaking hours of practice. Worth leaving your own children on prime time Saturday and Sundays for. If it isn't, I can guarantee you will fall out of love with this work very quickly, and all of that time and effort will be redundant. So know your worth!
If you are a painter and wish to contribute to a standardization and acceptance of our rates, feel free to comment with your location and rates for the record. You may just prevent other painters from undercutting you, when they realise how much they could be fetching!
Raising the profile of Face Painting and Body Art is something I am absolutely passionate about. I believe this can only be achieved by working together for our mutual benefit and a great way to start, is by making sure we are charging a fair amount and most importantly, not apologising for it.
I hope this has given you some food for thought in setting your pricing, and most importantly in not underselling yourself! You are worth more!