If you are good enough at what you do, surely you will always find work under the conditions that you prefer.Indoor Work
- Garth, the Jolly Juggler
Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called "C-shells." These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.
All malls are different. We took a bit of advice that T. Myers published once about approaching an individual store in a mall and getting permission to twist in front of the store. This is not all I do but it is our bread and butter. I work for tips. I am on store space, not mall space, and the store wants me there for as many hours as I can stand, as I increase traffic to their store. It is a big chain candy store, and I have unlimited accsess to and store in any mall they are in in 3 states. This does not always work however as some malls will override the store and tell them they are a candy store and the contract with the mall does not allow them to sell balloons (tips for them was the same as sell). But when it does work it works great. There is a great difference in how much money you will make in different malls. We have our favorites. We get begged by everybody to stand in front of their store. I hand lots of cards out.
At our best store, security lets us have a lot of free reign, and we can go almost anywhere "in front of the store". At others, I can toe the mark that divides the store from the mall. At one I could make balloons but only to the customers in the store, and passersby were not allowed to see me (this was a wannabe cop that I later complained to mall management about. He managed to start an argument while I had a line of kids).
Anyway this works for me. It gets me inside and I don't have to pay rent to the mall. The store does not hire me either but I make up for it in tips. 300 C-shells for a Saturday is not unusual.
Want to get balloons banned from more places? Just leave balloon bits behind everywhere you twist.
Marvin Hardy teaches that twisters should carry a garbage bag and not throw their balloon pieces on the ground, that twisters should keep their area clean while twisting, and that twisters should leave the area as clean as you found it.
At the last balloon Jam I attended, we made sure we picked up all the balloon bits under and around the table before we left the restaurant (and no, it wasn't at my suggestion; one of the other twisters mentioned it, and all those present complied without hesitation).
Too much work for you? Well, in the Guide you'll find a number of ways to get the kids to clean up for you: http://www.balloonhq.com/faq/twister_children.html#helpers
With experience, balloonists discover what they can tolerate, and they can make stipulations about breaks, etc. before accepting a gig. If the prospective employer balks at a break, you should probably let that job go - working for a type "A" person will increase your stress, not reduce it.
Never buy drinks. You don't want to leave your spot while working. I don't usually carry drinks either. It's just extra bulk to carry around. I like to offer a special sculpture to anyone that buys a drink for me when I'm thirsty. It gives me an excuse to make something big every so often and usually I get a tip in addition to the drink. I also offer to pay for the drink, but they rarely take the money from me.
I hope I'm not sounding too jaded, but I did my time and it was a good experience and good press when we got home but then again we didn't pay airfare or hotel (we drove and stayed with friends), but I don't think I will ever do it again.
I hate to be the only negative person responding to this query, but if you enjoy being the nice person making balloons at the grocery store and you have the time and desire (and possibly need the work or practice) please feel free, I won't be offended.
I set up a clown area with large umbrella (a must in the hot S. Cal sun), clown cart - I paint faces on one side and make balloons on the other side, my pumpo, two stools, and cooler of cold drinks. The physical set up is about five feet wide by 3 feet deep much smaller than most "booth spaces" and I can set up anywhere and usually prefer to be in the middle of all the action. Of course that doesn't count the space for the line which can be very long depending on the event.
When I contact an event promoter I sell them on including me in their plans - I attract lots of attention, kids (and their parents) expect to find a facepainter/balloon twister (or just twister) at these events. I don't take up much room, and any other features that relate to the event.
Since I don't charge very much for what I do, I am willing to pay the event a % of my gross income for the day usually 10-15%. If they want more, then I have to raise my minimum price.
My real purpose is to entertain people and promote myself for birthday parties and special events. Because I am an official part of the event, not just a person who wandered by, I am perceived as the professional that I am.
I have been working these types of events for several years and do many year after year. Some people don't charge me at all and some a modest fee compared to what they charge crafters and food vendors. And 10% for the opportunity of being an official part of the event and for the prime location - I usually get to set up wherever I choose since I don't take up much space is a cheap price for what I get.
At some events that also have a stage for entertainment, I offer to do a magic show which always includes balloons and end by telling people where they can find me - there's always a line waiting for me - and I get someone from the event staff to watch my setup while I'm performing.
I always have lots of business cards at these events and I give away activity pages with a coloring section and a word search puzzle section - I give these away to everyone even if they don't purchase a face painting or a balloon. So I have something for free but my painting and balloons have a value - a minimum price that I've set.
I also have an arrangement with a large Saturday morning Farmers Market that attracts lots of shoppers and I'm the only "kids attraction." The kids want a balloon or their face painted and I get lots of birthday parties as a result. The 10% fee is well worth it.
Not enough for ya? A book called Balloon Biz by Norm Barnhard has 53 places to try. Good luck!