In the amazing world of balloon decor, an explosion of colors, whimsical shapes, and enchanting arrangements take you on a dreamy journey. But, mastering the crucial aspect of pricing balloon decor is the real magic behind this industry. Yet, striking the right balance can feel as complicated as tying a hundred balloon animals in an hour. If we price too high you risk scaring away potential clients. And if we price too low you might undermine your artistry while squeezing profit margins.

So, to assist you through this intricate process, I’ve compiled a comprehensive guide. We’ll be exploring the unique challenges associated with helium balloons, deciphering the complexities of weekend rates, learning how to accurately value your time, and much more. Let’s begin! 

Please Note: 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.

Pricing Long-Lasting Balloon Decor

First, let’s delve into the specifics of pricing long-lasting decor, a critical component in the balloon decor industry. For designs that need to look good for a long time, I charge my usual delivery charge once per week to go out and check the design. If it’s just a few balloons or adjustments, I do not charge them an additional fee; I just go ahead and make the replacements.

The cost of those weekly visits are included in my original quote and are specified in my contract (i.e. a nearby client may get charged 10 C-shells per week to check the design and a client 30 miles away will get charged 50 C-shells per week).

Within the contract we note that repair costs of over 5 C-shells will be billed to the client as they occur. We give them credit against future decorating work if they call us and let us know everything is OK – which is usually the case. It hammers home the fact that our structures look good for a long time and that we do a good job.

In our environment we find the need to have displays up for extended periods of time… weeks or even months! We build our displays with this in mind… and therefore we must either: Offer our customer a maintenance package (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) which is usually 3-5% of the total sale price. Or, charge up front. Meaning bundle it into your price and explain that your price includes a weekly touchup. Or, design your display using foil balloons. This requires less touch-ups.

When I do a long term sculpture for a mall, I inquire how picky they are. If they want it perfect *all the time* I tell them I’ll come by every other day and will be on call in case something is knocked over or if a few pop at the same time. I then charge accordingly, based on the time required. If I feel I’ll need to replace a major part in 4 weeks, I charge whatever I would charge to redo that part.I do NOT however, charge my customers for minor repairs. I plan well, using lots of white balloons (they fade less), under inflated 16-inch balloons, and keep the balloons out of reach as much as possible. I do tell them that I will replace balloons that deflate or even a balloon or two popped by a visitor.

I say, “If someone walks off with a major part of the sculpture, or goes crazy and pops lots of them, treat them like you do anybody else that destroys mall property. I will, of course, need to bill you to recreate the missing or destroyed parts.”

One customer liked what I did for a weekend event, then asked what it would cost to keep it up for a week, then another week, then another. It started looking ratty. I have learned to tell certain customers that ‘because I only want to provide balloons that reflect well on you (the client) and on me (the decorator) I will be back on _____ to remove the decor.’ I make it clear they DO NOT have the option to leave the balloons up indefinitely without paying me to keep them looking good.

Moreover, price outdoor jobs higher than indoor jobs. You may need more people on site, you may need someone to remain in the area if it’s a really important job (whether client requests it or not), it’s going to be hot and uncomfortable and your staff is accustomed to working in an air conditioned shop. Access to the area is likely to be difficult and cumbersome. Bring additional balloons, helium, cords, and weights.

Pricing Helium Balloons

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s discuss how to charge for helium-filled balloons.

  1. Identify the capacity of your helium tank. An 11″ helium balloon typically holds 0.5 cubic feet of helium. Note that helium tanks come in various sizes, so you should ask your supplier for the exact capacity of your specific tank.
  2. Calculate the total cost of your helium tank. Make sure to include the rental and portage charges in this calculation.
  3. Divide the total cost of your helium tank by the cubic feet it holds to determine the cost per cubic foot of helium.
  4. Since an 11″ helium balloon holds 0.5 cubic foot of helium, divide the cost per cubic foot by two. This will give you the cost per balloon.


Here’s an example to help you better understand: 

  • Determine the total cost of your helium tank, including all charges. In our example, let’s say the cost is 30 C-shells.
  • Divide the total cost of the tank by its capacity in cubic feet. For instance, if our tank has a capacity of 200 cubic feet, we would calculate 30 C-shells divided by 200 cubic feet, which equals 0.15 C-shells per cubic foot.
  • As an 11″ balloon holds 0.5 cubic foot of helium, divide the cost per cubic foot by two to find the cost per balloon. Continuing our example, we would divide 0.15 C-shells by 2, resulting in 0.075 C-shells per 11″ balloon.
  • Account for potential loss of helium and popping balloons by adding a small margin to the final price per balloon. This is a good business practice and helps ensure you don’t undercharge.
  • Don’t forget to factor in any additional costs, such as:
    • The Hazardous Materials Charge, if applicable.
    • Delivery charges, if your service includes delivering the balloons to the client’s location.

Following these steps allows for accurate calculation of your cost per balloon, ensuring that your pricing fully encompasses all associated costs.

Pricing Balloon Arches

Next, let’s turn our attention to the specifics of pricing arches, a staple in the world of balloon decor. 

We price both the Packed Arch and String of Pearls by the foot. Here’s how we arrived at the pricing:

  • Select a specific type of arch for pricing. For instance, consider a 75-foot packed arch.
  • Calculate the price of this arch using the QBN cost sheet or a formula from your own accounting. (If you don’t have your own formula, most accountants can provide one for you.)

One caveat to keep in mind is that these are merely examples and do not represent the actual prices we use; my aim here is solely to demonstrate how to establish a price.

Let’s assume you determine that to maintain a proper profit margin, a 75-foot packed arch should be priced at 500 C-shells. By dividing 500 C-shells by the length of the arch (75 feet), you get a price of 6.67 C-shells per foot. To simplify, I suggest rounding this up to 7.00 C-shells per foot. This becomes your price for a Helium Packed Arch.

The same process applies to an “Air” Packed Garland. For instance, if your calculations lead you to price a 75-foot garland at 450 C-shells, dividing the cost by the length would give you a price of 6.00 C-shells per foot.

Lastly, for a 75-foot String of Pearls (made with 11″ balloons) priced at 150 C-shells, the division results in a price of 2.00 C-shells per foot.

In each case, the process is the same: Determine your overall cost, divide by the length in feet, and you’ll have your price per foot.

So now you have started a pricing sheet.

  • Helium Packed arches 7.00 C-shells per foot
  • Air Packed Arches/Garlands 6.00 C-shells per foot
  • String of pearls (11″) 2.00 C-shells per foot

When it comes to pricing a 3, 4, or 5 balloon packed arch, we don’t differentiate between them. Instead, I recommend basing the calculation on the 5 pack and applying it across all three. While you could certainly do separate calculations for each, in my opinion, it might lead to confusion. By sticking to one price, it’s easier to remember and quote to customers swiftly when needed.

Frequently Asked Question: Pricing Balloon Arches

Here’s the Question: 

I recently created a 23 linear foot arch, measuring 8 feet in height and 8 feet in length, but I’m encountering difficulty when it comes to pricing. I have two main questions: Realistically, how long should it take to create an 8’X8′ arch? For context, being my first attempt and working solo, it took me about 6-7 hours in total. What would be an average selling price for an 8X8′ Arch? Initially, my calculations, considering a loaded overhead cost of 75%, put my total cost at 700 C-shells. This seems high, and I suspect it might exceed what the market can bear. I’m thinking a price range of 300-400 C-shells might be more reasonable. Could anyone provide a reality check on this pricing estimate? I would greatly appreciate some guidance.


Here’s My Answer: 

Creating a 23′ linear strand, 4-balloon garland cluster with 11″ helium balloons (sized to approximately 10.5 inches), wrapped onto 50 lb monofilament, typically requires around a gross of balloons, with a few leftovers. This would consume about 70 cu. ft. of helium and approximately 10 yards of monofilament. From these details, you should be able to calculate your material costs.

As for labor, a skilled balloon artist should be able to inflate, tie, and wrap clusters of four onto a line at a rate of 150 to 300 balloons per hour. This rate can vary based on the environment and skill level, with factors such as outdoor conditions or a crowded area adding to the time required. Your labor costs will depend on these rates and your own speed.

Your material costs for the setup described above might total less than 50 C-shells, while your labor cost depends on yourself-set hourly rate. Let’s consider it as 50 C-shells, thus bringing your total cost to 100 C-shells. Further costs might include travel and the question of whether the arch is part of a bigger package or a standalone sale.

Consider your competition and business overheads as well. If this is your only job for the month and your monthly overheads (rent, utilities, phone bill) total 1000 C-shells, the cost for the arch would be 1100 C-shells. However, if you can manage 5 arches a month, your overhead per arch drops to 200 C-shells, making the cost now 300 C-shells per arch.

Finally, once you’ve calculated your cost plus overhead, add a profit margin. If your cost for the arch is 300 C-shells and you add a 1/3 profit margin, your selling price will be 400 C-shells.

Remember, pricing involves considering many variables. Several business books and courses cover it in-depth, including the QBN curriculum which provides a perspective tailored to balloon business.

Holiday Pricing

Nailing down holiday fees for decorating jobs and balloon deliveries can be a bit of a puzzle. You might be wondering whether these fees should align with regular rates or incorporate an additional service charge for early morning, late evening, holiday, or Sunday work?

It’s absolutely reasonable to apply an extra charge during these timeframes. After all, you may need to compensate your staff more generously to motivate them to start earlier or wrap up later for a special project.

When it comes to specific requests like 1-hour delivery windows, it’s okay to ask for a little more. Such requests necessitate giving the order top priority, often involving assigning an exclusive employee just for that job. Think about it – courier services like UPS charge higher rates for expedited deliveries. Weekend deliveries often come with a significant markup, so why shouldn’t we follow the same logic?

Price Setting Strategy

Balloons cost less than a quarter each, meaning what you’re primarily charging for is your time. Compare your hourly income against all your costs – gas, balloons, printing, “office” tasks, and more. Balloons, in fact, are the least expensive part of the equation, almost negligible. The true value of a balloon creation isn’t embodied in an 11-inch piece of latex, but in the artistry and showmanship conveyed through its use.

Consider Hollywood making a feature film on 35mm stock. They use the same 35mm film that anyone could use, but in larger rolls. It costs the same or even more, and they use 24 exposures per second. A significant portion is discarded at the end of production. Nevertheless, when everything is accounted for, the cheapest part of making a movie is the cost of the film.

We can’t let our customers or competitors set our prices. As long as we incorporate “cheap” products and labor into our creations to secure a job, the industry will never command the “right price”. How long before someone uses sewing cotton on a balloon because it’s cheaper than a ribbon?

Absolutely, work within your customer’s budget. But when they want 12 centerpieces and only have enough budget for 10 or 11, you’re the loser either way. In 99 out of 100 cases, they’ll “find” the extra budget if they desire your work and reputation. The real secret is this: Get them to desire YOUR balloon work, not just a price.

Lindy Bell taught me a valuable lesson in a class a few years ago: the “R.I.P. Pricing Exercise”. This exercise illuminates the important difference between turnover dollars and net profit. I recommend everyone to attend Bell’s educational classes and seminars.

Resisting the urge to compromise on pricing, even for seemingly good reasons, is challenging but essential. Every job should be priced individually according to the Job Cost Forms, unless you have standard packages. Pricing should reflect your costs, expenses, labor costs, and can differ across different areas.

There’s an insightful article in the January/February 1997 edition of Images called “Love to Make Money”. It provides useful formulas, a sample Job Cost Form, and abundant information for those considering professional decorating.

If a few popped balloons significantly impact your profits, your pricing structure may need revisiting. Balloons are the smallest part of the costs. Perhaps, your initial pricing for your work wasn’t high enough.

The QBN Formula Explained

The QBN formula is effective for us, and I encourage all my class attendees to use it. Here is the formula and everything you need to know:

SELLING PRICE = MATERIALS + LABOR + EXPENSES divided by 1 – (overhead % + profit %)

For example: SP = $47 + $42 + $11 divided by 1 – (30% + 25%), resulting in $100 divided by 1 – 0.55. Therefore, the Selling Price equals $222.22.

Remember, your salary as the owner/manager is part of your OVERHEAD. If you’re also doing the decor work, it counts as LABOR.

Using this formula ensures consistent PROFIT. This is the key difference between merely earning a wage and achieving business success.

Addressing when it’s appropriate to offer reduced prices and how to maintain price integrity:

Lower prices are situation-dependent. Several situations may warrant a discount. For instance, we offer prospective customers at Bridal Fairs a coupon for a free item if they book their wedding within a specific timeframe (like a free three-foot heart if they buy a minimum package within 30 days of the Fair).

“Exposure” often doesn’t justify reduced pricing, but there can be valid reasons. For instance, it might be worth accepting a job at a venue where I’ve never decorated just to add photos of my work at that location to my portfolio. Compare the cost of a newspaper ad or two with a discounted job to get a good set of photos, and then make an informed decision.

To maintain price integrity, ensure your customer knows the full retail value of your work and the discount amount. Always have a reason for the discount and include the full amount on the invoice to avoid future discount expectations.

Ultimately, there are many variables to consider. Use the pricing form to understand your costs and the actual cost of a discount. Gauge the return value of the discount and make an informed decision.

For longer-term contracts offering additional benefits like advertising, I might also consider a reduced rate.

They’ll Pay For Great Work

We often felt that we attracted customers who desired high-quality work but were unable to pay for it. However, a few months ago, we began collaborating with an exceptional artist known for creating spectacular centerpieces. This artist could accomplish tasks beyond my skill set. As a result, we’ve been able to command higher prices for the same balloon work. 

The truth is that customers are willing to pay once they see work that resonates with them. So, don’t hesitate to partner with talented individuals who can enhance your business. Consequently, our business has more than doubled. We’re earning more per job, working less, and experiencing significantly fewer headaches.

What Is Your Time Worth?

Ultimately, this is the million-dollar question. To answer, you must carefully consider two questions: 

  • How do you decide how much to charge for “your time?” 
  • How do you figure out what your time is worth?

These are the steps I suggest taking to find your answers:

Step 1: Calculate Total Hours Worked Annually

Determine the total number of hours you spend at work per year, taking into account holidays. For example, if you work 280 days per year and 8 hours per day, you have a total of 2240 hours per year.

Step 2: Deduct Unproductive Time

Deduct unproductive time from this figure to calculate the number of productive labor hours available. Non-chargeable hours include tasks like answering the phone, bookkeeping, customer interactions, and administrative work. It is crucial to determine the amount of time that is not directly billable to customers. Failure to account for unproductive time is a common reason for business failure in the service industry.

For instance, let’s say your productive hours amount to 1400 hours (this is an arbitrary example for illustration purposes). While each week may vary, it is best to work with an average of the hours spent directly on decorating or selling.

Step 3: Calculate Indirect Costs

Determine your indirect costs, which encompass overhead expenses such as rent, electricity, interest on business loans, insurance, and advertising. Your accountant should be able to provide specific details about your indirect costs. This figure will differ from one business to another, even among similar businesses in your area. Let’s assume, in this example, the amount is $20,000.

Step 4: Determine Direct Labor Costs

Calculate your direct labor costs. As the business owner, this includes your desired annual income. If your business generates enough income, let’s say $28,000 per year, that could be your desired income (although it may not always be the case). Note that if you have a business loan to repay, the principal repayment amount should be added to your desired income. Additionally, consider adding an amount as a return on investment (ROI) if applicable.

Thus, the breakdown would be as follows:

Indirect Costs: $20,000

Desired Income: $28,000

Loan Repayments: $5,000

ROI: $1,000

Total: $54,000

Step 5: Calculate Total Hourly Charge-Out Rate

Divide the total amount to be recouped by the number of productive labor hours available to determine your hourly charge-out rate. For example, $54,000 divided by 1,400 hours equals $38.57 per hour. If you find the hourly rate too high, you can consider increasing the number of chargeable hours, reducing overhead expenses, or adjusting your desired income.

Step 6: Final Check to Account for Materials Required

When providing a job quote, consider the materials required for the job and add your chargeable rate to it. For instance:

Materials Cost: $40.00

Labor (2 hours at $38/hour): $76.00

Total Quote for the Job: $116.00

 If you were to keep records of what hours you charged per week, per  year, then you could adjust your calculations accordingly.

Weekend Rates

Should we have different hourly rates for various days and after office hours?

Determining whether to implement different hourly rates based on the day or time of service is a highly personal decision influenced by local market conditions and competition. As small business managers, we must weigh these factors when establishing our pricing policy. Here’s how we approached this matter:

As a consumer, I am wary of service industry salespeople who provide a base price and then tack on additional charges for heavy-duty work, after-hours service, specific colors, and so on. When I request a price, I prefer straightforward answers without any hidden fees. It’s also frustrating when a price is given, only for the provider to immediately justify it by saying, “It’s more expensive because it’s a Sunday.” I would be displeased if I entered a balloon shop and heard the person behind the counter say, “Jewel Tone balloons cost an extra 5 cents each!”

As a consumer, I appreciate hearing phrases like, “No, we don’t charge extra for weekends” or “You can have pearl-tone decor at no additional cost!” These responses create a positive experience and build trust.

If you adopt the pricing formula advocated in the QBN program, you would charge according to your actual costs. Consequently, your charge-out rates may vary if you pay staff different rates for different days or if you have varying prices for different types of 11″ balloons. However, there’s no rule preventing you from charging more than what the formula calculates. To simplify our pricing process and avoid potentially offending customers during the sales process, we take a streamlined approach.

For example, pearltone balloons are the most costly for us, and the majority of Dolly’s decor jobs involve pearltone balloons. Therefore, we calculate ALL jobs based on the assumption that the balloons used will be pearltone. The second rate level applies when all the balloons in a job are all-around prints. If the majority of balloons in a job are prints, we consider them ALL prints for pricing purposes.

We operate in the events and celebration industry, where a majority of our decor jobs require working on weekends, in malls during late hours, or delivering bouquets after 5pm. For our customers, all decorating and celebrating happens outside of regular office hours. As a result, we price ALL jobs at premium labor charge-out rates. Even for a Wednesday luncheon with standard red, white, and blue decor, we maintain higher pricing to maximize profitability. Competition isn’t overly fierce, and the additional revenue acts as a buffer for any occasional oversights. It provides our business with a comfortable margin.

I recall a valuable marketing tip I received years ago: We are not simply selling “balloons.” Instead, we offer emotions and solutions to our customers. They are not purchasing six hours of our time along with 698 latex balloons. What they truly seek is a resolution to their problem or a positive experience. Balloons happen to be the vehicle through which we deliver what they desire. By focusing on selling the solution or the desired feeling, the price becomes a secondary concern.

Our approach involves utilizing the highest applicable rate and confidently pursuing it. We emphasize selling emotions, solutions, quality, service, relationships, and our unique value proposition. We never discount balloons simply to secure a sale. Profitability remains our primary objective. Smart businesses only offer discounts to clear unwanted stock or as part of a targeted marketing plan to promote high-profit potential products. While balloon decor may tempt you to fall into this category, it is essential to conduct thorough research and analysis before making any decisions.

These practices have proven successful for us in Sydney. However, circumstances may vary in your city or region. It’s crucial to consider alternative approaches that others on this platform may suggest. What works for us may not be the ideal strategy for everyone, as each business operates within its unique context.

Community Size And Pricing

Should the size of your community dictate the prices you can charge? It’s an important consideration. When presenting a price to a customer, you have three options to consider:

  • The Right Price: This is based on a proven formula that ensures a minimum acceptable profit margin.
  • Higher than the Right Price: This approach targets the “top end” of the market and allows you to charge accordingly.
  • Lower than the Right Price: This occurs when external influences, such as competitor prices or manufacturer’s “recommended retail” prices, sway your better business judgment. It can also happen when you offer discounts that erode your minimum percentage for growth. Small businesses often fall into the trap of thinking that customers have a better understanding of the value of their work than they do.

Here’s an exercise to consider: Are there enough people in the area you wish to serve to support a new car dealership? If the answer is yes, you need to determine the demographics of that area. Are the majority of cars made in Asia, indicating a lower financial demographic? Are they Fords/GM, reflecting middle America? Or are they European cars, suggesting a higher-end market? If there is no existing dealership in your desired service area, you have the option to expand your territory or be content with selling balloons as a hobby. However, it’s important to recognize that you won’t be able to make a comfortable living from it unless you pursue it as a legitimate business enterprise. It’s that simple.

When creating balloon decor to showcase or sell, avoid wasting time on products that don’t align with the socioeconomic demographics of your service area unless it’s a specific request. By following this approach, you’ll find that “one-off” requests begin to grow in regularity, as it is human nature for all of us to want each party or event to surpass the last.

Being in a small town can be rewarding, but only if customers are willing to pay the right price or even a higher price. Anything else will eventually lead to failure. The future success of your small business is not determined by what customers want to pay; it’s determined by what you make them pay. The key is to avoid asking them to pay more than they can afford. Instead, customize your products to cater to your economic market, and your prices will be right. Do you understand the concept?

Frequently asked questions 

How do I determine the right pricing strategy for balloon decorations?

Determining the right pricing strategy for balloon decorations involves considering several factors. You should assess your costs, competitor prices, target market, and the value you provide. Conduct market research, analyze your expenses, and evaluate customer preferences to develop a competitive and profitable pricing strategy.

What factors should I consider when setting prices for balloon decor?

When setting prices for balloon decor, consider factors such as the type and complexity of the design, size of the installation, materials used, labor involved, delivery or setup fees, and any additional services offered. Additionally, analyze market demand, competition, and your target customer’s willingness to pay to ensure your prices are both competitive and profitable.

How can I accurately calculate the cost of long-lasting balloon decor?

To accurately calculate the cost of long-lasting balloon decor, consider the cost of the balloons, helium (if applicable), any structural elements needed, additional decorations, labor hours required for setup, and any delivery or transportation costs. Break down these expenses per installation or design to determine an accurate cost estimate.

What are the considerations for pricing helium-filled balloons?

Pricing helium-filled balloons requires factoring in the cost of helium, the number of balloons used, the size and quality of the balloons, and any additional decorations or customization. Take into account the helium costs, which can vary, and consider whether you’ll pass the cost onto the customer or include it in the overall price.

How do I calculate the cost per balloon for helium-filled balloons?

To calculate the cost per balloon for helium-filled balloons, divide the total cost of the helium (including tank rental or refill) by the number of balloons filled. This will give you a per-balloon cost, which you can then incorporate into your pricing strategy.

What are some best practices for pricing balloon arches?

When pricing balloon arches, consider factors such as the length and size of the arch, complexity of the design, types of balloons used, additional decorations or embellishments, and the time and labor involved in construction and installation. Research local market prices, analyze competitor rates, and ensure your pricing reflects the value you provide.

How can I determine the average selling price for different sizes of balloon arches?

To determine the average selling price for different sizes of balloon arches, analyze market trends and competitor pricing in your area. Consider the length, complexity, and materials required for each size. Factor in your costs, including labor, materials, and any additional services, and set your prices based on market demand and your desired profit margin.

Should I incorporate a holiday fee or additional service charge for balloon decorations during special occasions?

Incorporating a holiday fee or additional service charge for balloon decorations during special occasions is a common practice. Special occasions often involve increased demand and may require additional preparation or customization. Consider the extra time, effort, and materials required during these periods, and determine a reasonable fee to account for the added value and workload.

What is the QBN formula for pricing balloon decorations, and how can it be applied effectively?

The QBN formula (Qualatex Balloon Network) is a pricing formula developed specifically for balloon professionals. It considers the cost of balloons, helium, and other materials, labor, overhead costs, and profit margins. It can be applied effectively by accurately tracking your expenses, estimating labor hours, and using the formula to calculate a competitive yet profitable price for your balloon decorations.

How do I create a pricing sheet for balloon decor services?

To create a pricing sheet for balloon decor services, start by listing the different types of decorations you offer, along with their descriptions and sizes. Then, break down the pricing structure by considering factors such as labor, materials, delivery or setup fees, and any optional add-ons. Ensure your pricing sheet is clear, organized, and easily understandable for potential customers.

What is the impact of labor costs on pricing balloon decorations?

Labor costs have a significant impact on pricing balloon decorations. Balloon decor often requires skilled labor, especially for complex designs or large installations. Factor in the time and effort required for design, construction, transportation, setup, and takedown. Ensure that your pricing accounts for the expertise and labor involved to maintain profitability.

How can I factor in overhead costs when determining the selling price of balloon decor?

To factor in overhead costs when determining the selling price of balloon decor, calculate your monthly or yearly overhead expenses, including rent, utilities, insurance, marketing, and administrative costs. Divide the total overhead by the number of projects or sales you expect in the same period. Add the resulting overhead cost per project or sale to your pricing to cover these expenses and maintain profitability.