My business cards are hypercolor. When they are warm they are pink and when they are cold they are purple.
How Should I Advertise/ Promote Myself?
- Balloon Care Cards
- Business Cards
- Photographing and Filming Your Work
- Newspaper Ads
- Sell yourself!
- Yellow Pages
Balloon Care Cards
- Care cards serve 3 purposes: provides customer with important product info, provides customer with important safety info, serves as a marketing tool. QBN does have generic care cards available or you can design your own.
- The idea for balloon tags came a long time ago when my friend Alan Kratish (formally of Biscayne Magic ) opened up a restaurant in Florida called THE SPICE OF LIFE. As the owner, he would go around making balloon animals for the patrons. He invented the balloon tag to advertise his establishment. When he showed it to me, I added my own touches and I started using them in the 1980’s. I added the tags into my magic lecture and a lot of people liked them. Although Alan used rubber bands to attach them to the balloons, I don’t like the idea of having to take the time of putting a rubber band on the tags. (I worry enough about the dangers of balloons. I don’t want to add the choking possibility of the rubber band.) I just tuck them in the folds of the balloon. People take them off and put them in their pockets. I don’t think you have to spend the extra money and print them like calling cards – regular 20 bond paper is fine. They do work and I get a lot of shows because of them. I always do is give out a Balloon Tag to everyone. The front of the balloon tag is sort of a name tag for the animal. It says:
MY NAME IS: MY OWNER IS: This balloon pet has been specially crafted for you by The Magic of Bruce Kalver If you would like to meet the rest of the balloon family, invite Bruce's magic to your next party! Then I have my phone number.
The back of the tag has the following:
CARING FOR YOUR NEW PET * Keep your pet out of extreme heat and direct sunlight. * Avoid rough handling. Do not twist or bounce me. * Keep your balloon away from cigarettes. (You should stay away from them too!) * Never put a balloon in your mouth. This is very dangerous! * When walking your pet, keep it on a rubber band. BALLOON PET FACTS: Father: Goodyear Blimp Mother: Steel Belted Radial Favorite dance: The Twist Favorite Song: Up Up and Away Ambition: To be in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!
These are printed 8 to a page and photocopied on 20 bond paper (Bright yellow or pink) They are cheap to make, everyone reads them, they’ll have your phone number for shows, and you’ve warned them about the care and cautions of a balloon. It is a habit of mine to tuck one of these papers in the fold of a balloon as I hand it to the child. Everyone reads them. In my own way, I feel that I’ve told them about the dangers of a balloon without lecturing them.
- I attended a Frank Thurston lecture, where he talked about Balloon pet tags. I tried them and they are cute and work great. I use a heart shaped hole puncher, and put a hole near the corner, then loop a rubber band through the hole. The rubber band can go over the head of the animal, and be called a Pet Care and Feeding manual. The great thing about the tags, is when the balloon is gone, the pet care and feeding manual is still there. Frank also suggested punching a hole in a business card, and using it the same way. More details are available in Inflation Information. I have also provided customized balloon tags, when hired by someone to give away balloons. The first page has the information on that business with a funny saying having to do with that business, my name and phone are on the back – the parents love them because they get the puns.
- I have been give out a brightly colored piece of paper a little larger than a business card…. I fold it in half and punch a small hole in the corner and add a rubber band to it. I make a balloon pet for a person and I tell them “Here is the care and Feeding Instructions for your new balloon pet” as I put the card around the pet’s neck. It has some very interesting tidbits of caring instructions that are funny, along with your information on where to find you. I have had many return clients from this and long after the pet has popped they tend to keep the “CARE and FEEDING INSTRUCTIONS” If you would like a FREE SAMPLE in which you are free to copy and use. Please send a self addressed stamped envelope to:
The ABC KOOKI FACTORY
1320 Amberwick Lane
Anaheim, CA 92804
Kooki the Clown
- Your ‘balloon cards’ are exactly what you need to give to prospective clients. Portraying yourself as a professional, in every sense of the word, is very important.
- Instead of printing expensive full page flyers to pass out, design small flyers to fit six to a page and print them on card stock. Have the copier place cut them for you (they do a nice job, and it’s fairly cheap). You’ll save money, and people are more likely to stick them in their purse or pocket and have them around when it’s time to call.
- If you find your cards on the floor w/footprints on them as you head out the door at eves end, you might be a tad too aggressive at passing out cards. I’ve found that using a 6 balloon braided heart to display business cards work extremely well and it will hold up to 20 of them. Cards in plain sight disappear much faster than out of a pocket and it saves you time. You can replenish the supply during slow moments. If they’re available people will take them, I guarantee.
________ \/ / \ / /\ / / / \/ \ /\ \ BRAID \/ \ \ / /\ / / / \/ \ /\ \ \/ \ \ / /\ / / / \/ \__/\___\ ________ | | CARD |________|
First, take three fully inflated, slightly burped, and tied off 260’s. twist off a 1 to 2 inch bubble on each. Twist these together, so that all three 260’s are joined. Just as you would braid hair, rope, or anything, braid the three 260’s . When you reach the end, join this end as you did the other. Now do the same with three more 260’s. At this point you should have two braids. Bend the ends in on one end only of each braid, so as to make them look like candy canes. Join the bent ends together by twisting the three bubbles of one in with the three bubbles of the other. Do the same with the unbent ends. You should now be holding a 6 balloon braided heart. To display your cards, place them the inside of the heart, on each of the sides. Anchor the heart to a chair, table, railing, or some handy, stationary item with scraps of balloon &/or plastic balloon straws.
- I just had Teledex cards printed. Basically, they are business cards on a postcard with all of your pertinent information on a pop- out rolodex card. The postcard portion also carries some information. and the whole thing is mailable. Then whom ever you mail them to can just pop them out and into their rolodex and can refer to them later. They have an attention getting top reference tab that can’t be missed. I have only just started using them so I can’t tell you how effective they are but they were cheaper than my fold over cards I had printed before. I’m sure almost any printer can order them for you.
- I make my own color business cards and stickers. Some with a caricature and some with a color photo that I’ve had scanned. The cards get rave reviews and I can print a small quantity with a special message. Marketing a clown in color means business – more business. I shopped very carefully for a color ink jet printer and bought the top-of-the-line model.
- I buy Avery business cards for ink jet printers which print 10 on a page. You can also buy 10 to a page business cards from paper computer stores that have pre-printed designs. I used to use one called Confetti when I printed the cards on my black and white laser printer. The round Avery labels make great stickers and I really enjoy giving away stickers with my name and phone number on them. I also use the color printer to make price signs and other promotional material. The software is so easy to use that we may no longer need to use typesetters and printers in the future.
- Marketing anything using color will get more business because more people will read and comprehend it. Doesn’t have to be four- color. The use of a single spot color in advertisements increases readership and retention by as much as 60 percent.
- My business cards are hypercolor. When they are warm they are pink and when they are cold they are purple. So when people touch them they change color. You can even do magic tricks for the kids by showing them the card and then placing the card next to a cold/hot drink to change the color. Everyone thinks they are really neat and they keep them and show them to people (advertising for me).
- Always bring your business cards when doing freebies. When asked for a card, I’ve found making them magically appear using the Buddha Papers trick is very effective and makes a nice impression.At a clown convention I went to, someone overfilled a 6 inch heart with Helium. They hung a small ‘Dixie’ paper drinking cup from the heart with string. Then they put business cards in the cup until it floated around the room just above head level.
- When someone asks you for a business card, hand them a balloon with your business name and phone number on it. Throw a couple of these balloons into every drop that you do. Donate them to all those PAIN IN THE ASKING FOR MONEY charities.
- Try approaching them with a flyer, like the one shown below. Of course, it looks better with my logo on top, and printed on rainbow, or colored paper. This is my flyer from a year and a half ago. Anyone who wants to use my flyer ideas may, but the business name is mine.
Lorna Paris 4377 39TH ST #5 SAN DIEGO, CA 92105 TEL: (619)282-7155 Extraordinary Balloon Art (pretend that this is large and snakes across the page. (FEATURING THE BALLOON AGILITY OF LORNA PARIS) With well over 200 creations to choose from and a very active imagination, I'll show you that "balloon art is not just dogs, anymore!!!!" When most people think "Balloon Art," they aren't thrilled or amazed by the images created in their minds, because the "art" they've seen was probably unimaginative work, made by inartistic individuals. I'm proud of my art. I'll never hand someone a balloon that I'm less than satisfied with, by my own standards. With over fourteen years of experience behind me, I've never disappointed a client. Why a Balloon Artist? * When clients are waiting for their meal to be served, or their check to be brought, a balloon artist provides them with entertainment to pass the time, whether or not the artist is at their table. * When thinking of a restaurant to bring a large "party" of people, to celebrate recent or upcoming events, people often pick the restaurant with the fun environment and those "crazy balloon hats" to add to the festivities. * Obviously, its a wonderful source of entertainment for the kids and surprisingly enough, for the adults as well. Why Extraordinary Balloon Art? * I'm a professional who takes pride in my work. * I have a repertoire of well over 200 creations to choose from, and this list is always growing. With choices from a "huge, crazy hat" to "Princess Jasmine" to the "Lion King" it's an art and entertainment all in one. * I can tell when I'm not wanted at a table and will very quickly and gracefully make an exit. * I'm always prompt and well-groomed. * Courtesy to the others I'm working with as well as my clients is part of the "show." A constant patter of conversation is also part of the act, designed to entertain and breed a comfortable environment between my audience and myself. If interested in my proposal, I can be contacted at the above address and phone number.
- I tried something new and I REALLY dig it! I made a blinking tag that says “ask me about birthdays”. It generated at LEAST 20 questions tonight at Chili’s and I gave out as many cards. The point is, It could have said anything! It’s the blinking bulb that made em look! Wow I am shocked. I also put it next to my dollar bill in my pocket and it made me about ten more bucks in tips the last hour. It’s easy to make want to know how? Several companies in my area are doing the promotions where you buy a drink and get a button. The button blinks and is glued together with hot glue. You have all seen these type of buttons, so go get one and rip her apart! (a button). Now turn off your Netscape and turn on your graphics program. Make yourself a button, go to Kinkos and have it laminated. Poke a hole in it and glue the blinking light on. The light itself has one of those pins to stick it on your shirt. By attaching it you turn it on. Now stick that puppy on! Can you imagine if it was real big and read “Want a balloon?” “Can I twist you up something?” How about adding one to T’s suggested tip badge?
Photographing and Filming Your Work
- Great photos can be taken on a shoestring budget. Your lens will come in handy, depending on what you’ve got. A wide angle and a zoom lens are both good to have. The wide angle is useful for large sculptures and the zoom allows for getting in on the details (In some cases a macro lens is needed). My zoom lens can be clicked over to a macro setting.As far as lighting and backdrops. The answer is, “”Yes, use them.” It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A couple of clamp-on work lights, the kind with an aluminum shield, will work just fine. I use them on opposite sides of my camera set-up to help eliminate harsh shadows. See diagram below.
| Balloon | | \ / | | \/ | | /\ | | / \ | | / ^ \ | | / | \ | | / | \ | Light Camera Light
For background, use long sheets of school craft paper, they come on a roll about 3-4 feet wide and can be found at any office supply store. For larger items, you may need two or three sheets placed side by side. I use a small card table to support items to be photographed. The backdrop paper gets tacked to the wall 3-4 feet above the table. It then is draped over the table and attached at the tables’ edge, nearest the camera. The critical thing is to have a nice curve in the backdrop where it leaves the wall and meets the table top. Something like this:
|| || || <---- backdrop paper || || || | \ | \ <--- nice curve | \ | \________________________ <---- paper to table top edge |=============================== | | | | | <-- table | | | | |
If you're shooting color or black and white, always use a backdrop that give you the best or great amount of contrast. I shoot a lot of B/W and use a very dark gray, almost black, backdrop, and use lighter colors of balloons... mostly red, orange, yellow, light blue, and gray. White is almost always too much contrast and you lose detail. Clears work OK when an effect is needed.
Depending on whether you camera has automatic settings or not, you need to 'burn' at least one test roll. I always use manual settings, because it gives me more control over focus and depth. I shoot a test roll, at different shutter speeds and f-stops. Keep a log of your film (frame#, subject, camera setting, and date), so you can identify the best setting when you get your film back. Varying f-stop will allow for greater depth of focus at least, it works for me and my camera.
- I have had some pretty good luck shooting my work. I've found that Fuji 400 speed film works better for me. For a backdrop, start with a piece of either grey or light blue 100% polyester fabric. Scrunch it up on the grass outside. Let it stay a rectangle (for example) but scrunch it up so it is about half the original size. Spray it lightly with spray paint held at an angle. Use black paint on the grey cloth and dark blue paint on the light blue cloth. (It has to be polyester. Cotton will absorb the color and it'll bleed and not look right). Set a barstool up against the wall and pin the cloth so it drapes over the top of the stool and then down the front a bit.
- Don't take the film into K-Mart, use a photo lab. If the colors aren't exact, if it doesn't look right, take in actual balloons and show them... they may be able to adjust the colors. Avoid fluorescent lights. They will really mess up your colors.
- When doing balloons for TV:
Lighting isn't too big a problem,. but watch the colors and contrast with clothing. Plain colors (pink, light blue) work best.Slightly under-inflate (or burp) to allow for any expansion due to heat from the studio lights.
Watch the mics. They pick up every little squeak. Those lapel and overhead mics are very sensitive and can take an ordinary balloon squeek and magnify it seemingly many decibels. If you are absolutely going to do balloons, be as far from the mic as possible or hold you hands as far from you personal mic as possible.
- I have used just about every kind of advertising that I could afford at one time or another. In keeping close track of where jobs come from I found that the most gigs come from advertisements that are always in the same place... such as a small classified ad in the paper every week. If your community notices a 2 x 2 ad, then you should put the dashed line with a scissors "clip and save" border around your next ad.
- Place an ad in those freebie newspapers that go to preschools, libraries, etc. Mine costs me about $20/month. Some can go as high as $180/month. Check them out. Some are really willing to work with you on graphics, etc. at no charge, too.
- I run a permanent ad in our local Thrifty Nickle (as tabloid weekly ad newspaper). A 26 week display in the business directory runs slightly over 200 bucks a year, and they throw in a couple free miscellaneous ads throughout the paper. It has worked wonders for me.
- As far as the cost of a weekly ad, I have found that it is much cheaper to keep an ad in the free 'classified paper' (Little Nickel, Trader, I Wanna, etc.) even if you buy a bold header and frame. I back this up by littering bulletin boards and handing out postcards to everyone that will take one.
- Saying, ``You need to hire me'' gives the potential employer all the weight on the negotiation seesaw. If you can get them to think, "I need to hire this guy." you have the weight.
- The more people see you twisting the more work you will get. The more you work, the more you work.
- I've gone full time this year and sometimes it seems like the phone will never ring!! But take heart, depending on your area and your ability to promote yourself, things should pick up. In the summer there seems to be slow times when it is too hot to plan anything outside. We have been having good (cool) temps here. Now all of a sudden we are in a heat wave. My suggestion to you would be to try to line up some steady things, restaurants, malls etc. to hold you through the rough times. The pay may not be the same as your going rate but anytime you are in the public eye you are promoting yourself and can hand out cards. I also am signed on with several agents (all of which know that I take independent work first) and they keep me busy all the way up to Christmas. Then things slow down to a crawl until March.
- If they've seen me work then it's no problem, but if they're 'shopping' for an entertainer (or worse, they're looking for the best price..) then it's tougher. When they call about a show, as opposed to an event where they want balloons in every kids hand, it's easy: "What makes my show unique is the use of balloons as an integral part of the performance. I don't simply hand out balloons to every child in the audience. I work balloons into the show itself and use them to tell a story." It is significantly harder when they want someone to do walk around and expect a balloon in everyones' hands (or on their heads as the case may be). That's when I try to hook them on the idea and try to get them to look at my web pages while I'm on the phone with them. I haven't been able to do that too many times yet, but as more people get on the 'net and have a second phone line or some other connection that doesn't rely on the phone, it will get easier. If they tell me they're shopping around (subtext: you haven't convinced me you're better than the cheaper guy), I ask them to wait until they receive my promotional material in the mail before they make a decision. Let them know it will be in the mail today, and tell them exactly when to expect it. You don't want to lose a job because someone was too impatient to wait for your materials. The best advice I can give briefly (there is a lot more of this in the Guide) is to sell yourself, not what you do. You'll be much happier with the jobs you end up getting and you can't be a accused of charging more than some other balloon twister. You're not some balloon twister. You've got a personality that's different from everyone else (I hope). If you get someone interested in hiring *you* they'll do that. If you get them interested in hiring a balloon twister, they'll go shopping for the best price. If they had a bad experience with another balloon twister, you want them to know quickly that you aren't that person. You aren't just one of the crowd.
- More often than not, the skill that one needs is salesmanship rather than twistmanship.
- It's never *this* job that's important. It's the *ten* jobs you get as a result of this job you have to keep in mind. If you're not getting good word of mouth, you have to examine whether you're paying enough attention to this end of the business.
- Try the largest tourist city near you. Try local restaurants - many people busk at TGI Fridays-type restaurants where you will be an addition to their fun atmosphere. If worse comes to worse get a part time job - don't give up your dream. In my business, I have found that entertainment biz picks up in summer and decor slows way down. I'm trying to change that but its going slowly. Full time and able to pay rent on time does not come overnight. You must build a business and a reputation for your entertainment.
- One thing I can say about the way people use the phone book is that the jobs I get tend to be the ones I'm more interested in. It is the bigger businesses that will hire me for several hours and give my name out to their employees.
- My experience with the yellow pages is that people go down the whole list of folks listed. They'll listen to your sales pitch, but only the big companies seem to care what you have to say. People looking for birthday party entertainers seem to be looking for the best price. I can't give it to them. Most of my business comes from referrals.
- I agree with Jay Levinson in Guerrilla Marketing. He says that you should never send your customers to the yellow pages unless you have the biggest ad there. But you should be there with all your competition.
Wait, don't go away - there's more! Additional material for this chapter has been saved from posts on the mailing lists. Rather than keeping it hidden away, it has been temporarily placed here until the guide editors get a chance to move it to its proper location in this chapter. Feel free to make use of it.
-- ADVERTISING MARKET YOURSELF - WAYS TWISTERS CAN ATTRACT ATTENTION TO A BUSINESS: REFERENCES CARE CARDS BUSINESS CARDS IDEA BOOKS -- ADVERTISING I try to avoid the "out of sight out of mind" trap. I stay in the public line of sight with a classified ad and the sign on my van. I try to stay in the corporate line of sight by mailing original postcards them at least 4 times each year. This includes Party Planners, Talent Agents, Mall Managers, Car Dealers, Radio Station Salesmen (these guys are great for referrals), Amusement Parks, Fairs, Festivals, Private RV Parks, and anyone else who might hire some kind of entertainment. We held a coloring contest. We asked for permission to distribute line drawings through the school and the principals said okay. We broke it down into three age groups. They had to drop off their colored picture at the store (to bring them in). Everyone that participated received a piece of candy (could be a small toy) just for participating and then there were winners in each age group. We picked the main winners randomly and then gave honorable mentions to those that did a particularly good job but you could set that up anyway you preferred. When we selected the winners, we sent them a letter telling them to stop by the store at a specific time and date to claim their prize and that we would be taking a picture of all the winners. We had over 100 children participate in a town of 4000 people and we had a press release beforehand and then we had a story and photo of the winners afterwards plus all those people came into the store to drop off their pictures and yes, most of the parents did come in with their children. There are lots of wonderful opportunities for publicity here and the only cost was photocopying the picture (we had a friend draw an original picture for us) and the prizes (McDonald's gift certificates, pizza house gift certificate etc.) If you have a college in your area it might be possible to find one of the better students in the advertising design class to help you out. Some schools even have a separate dept. that handles projects like that. All around the country there are many printers that offer full color runs in small quantities at reasonable prices and at a quick turn around. Don't "lift" photos from the industry publications for your promotional use. That would be the worst way to leave yourself open for one incredibly expensive copyright lawsuit... not from the publisher but from the person that contributed the photo... and you would lose BIG TIME! I have always felt that originality is what makes a business stand out, particularly in its promotion material. The most important things are who you market to and how you relate to them! If you wish, e-mail my designer (Ken Skistimas) at Meddle0001@aol.com. He could help you out on printed material, and he is fair! I once had a job at an event that was covered by the local news. I talked to the TV crew and asked if they could use me to do something specific. After talking to the crew, they used a tight shot of my hands twisting a poodle as their lead-in shot for the story. As I finished they pulled the shot back and showed my menu board which has my name and phone number on it. Make sure you have a good visual for them that has your name and phone number on it. Free advetising is great. Start by going to the local library and do a show for them. Have lots of cards and brochures and handouts and give them to all the kids that show up. Also, go to your local Hairdressers and leave a stand at the register with your brochures and cards. Keep checking every couple of weeks to refill it. A couple of times when things have gotten slow for me I have loaded-up my balloons and headed for a local park on the weekend. I have set-up and started making balloons for the kids for tips or for free. It's amazing how many people will come buy and talk and inquire about parties or promotions or whatever. A sign will help giving your phone number and the kind of work you do. I have received calls from people who didn't talk to me at an event or at the park but just made a note of the phone number and called later. It doesn't have to be a park...just go where the people are and you will generate interest. Get out among 'em and let 'em see 'ya. After the jobs start to happen then the best advertising in the world, Word Of Mouth, will take over. Always remember that you are better then you think you are! I've just created a killer promo kit and i am making them available to fellow balloon people at a reasonable cost. It includes a customized brochure, a fact sheet, business card and a glossy promo pic, all placed in a nice glossy portfolio with you business name on the front. call me for any details or email me - they have doubled my bookings with large corporate events michael lynn jr. the balloon animal http://www.balloonanimal.com 508-676-6536 other services include : custom biz cards, resumes , flyers with tearoffs, labels of any sort Includes your *name* in all advertising and in any promotional literature you hand out, and don't hide it in tiny print in the middle either. I'm a performer. I tell the promoters that using the *name* of a performer, rather than the generic "Clowns! Magicians! Balloons for the kids!" type listing is more interesting to potential attendees- because hey, that performer must be worth something to have their name listed and all. advertise in places frequented by people who can afford you advertising with a web page As far as actually booking shows from someone cruising the net for clowns/magicians/entertainers... very little if any business is gained that way. As you said, most people will get entertainment from looking locally before cruising the Net - mainly because the net goes worldwide, and obviously most of our business is done locally. So, why have a website... you may wonder. Several reasons! Thoush you won't get many new customers from websurfers... here is how to use your site: What a great advertising tool a website is! Put your website address on business cards, flyers, mailings... everywhere. Unlike brochures or business cards, you have a huge amount of space to work with - it can be changed at anytime with no cost - and you can have all the imformation and photos a customer could want. When you get that call, and they would like some more info... or would like to see some photos or whatever, they can be directed to your site! While a customer is on your site, they can take as much time learning more about your services - plus, if they are booking for a company, now they have something they can show the boss or board members who are deciding who to hire for this year's event. If you do children's entertainment (like I do), a website is a great way to have more fun with kids. I designed my site to be fun for kids, clowns and adults alike. When I do shows, I hand out my coloring pages - I don't put my phone number on them (kids aren't going to be hiring you), I put only my website address: Kids think that is truly cool... if they don't have a computer at home, most can access your site from school. Trust me... kids will love to see your website! I do not expect the site to find the customers for me. It is used mainly to add to the information available for my customers. The web site address is on all of my advertising so if they want more detail or wish to see photos they can go to the web site and find what they want. I have gotten a few shows each year from people who find my web site. If even one books the web site pays for itself and I still get the added use for the customers that find me through other sources. When you figure how little the site cost me it is a great investment. I pay only for registering my site url (about $35 per year) the server I use is free, I do all my own web page designing. So cost is kept very low a web page is best used by customers who would like to see your picture... It's a way for them to learn about you. It can be used to state your schedule for regular gigs and to provide additional information. You should include the area that you work. I have seen a lot of clown and balloon artist web sites on web rings and you cannot tell if they are in Los Angeles or Peoria. I am convinced that email and my web site get me buisness. I have my web page and email address on my buisness cards and on my brochures. I have a lot of people inquire about my services thru email. It's not the future, it's now. A Web page is such a simple venture that there is really no reason not to have one. If you have internet access (from any system) you can have free Web Pages all the way up to spending thousands of dollars a month for shopping cart systems & online credit cards...etc. One of the wonderful things about the internet is that you can present a professional image very inexpensively. You do not have the great expenses of printing a full color brochure, you can change your images at will, you can update your site daily. A well done site is NEVER obsolete. I get alot of hits on my sites (I have several) and I would have to say that I book about 50% thru the site...(from persons looking me up from an ad, or my biz card...from other sites...etc.) In 1999 people expect business owners to use all the current electronic resources. I refer them to my website where they can get more information about my clients, experience, see photos and have fun with my coloring page and puzzle page. Potential clients frequently send e-mail to check on my availability and to send me directions and maps to the parties. They sometimes send thank you e-mails after the party, too. Almost all internet providers allow space for your own website at no extra monthly cost... for non business use. If they find out you are using it to advertise your business then you get hit with a charge or you will try to go there one day and find that your web pages are all gone. If you want your own domain name (ie: http://www.yournamehere.com) you must pay extra. While having a domain name is very cool... and makes it easy for people to remember your address, having one is really not that important in this field. I find it very important if you want to look professional to the people you sell to. I deal with business people and I want the professional look to my site. And it is much easier for them to remember to goto themagicman.com over clinton.net/~magicman or whatever your address may be, how many know that the ~ is called a tittle then you have to explain it to them as the little wigglly sign over the number 1, no thanks. Obviously, if you have someone else design your website... that is probably going to cost you. And if you have someone maintaining (updating when needed) the site that can also be an additional cost. Also, you should never be forced to have advertising on your site... so avoid those as they make your site look cheap. In order to make your website most cost effective is to design your own. This may take time, and maybe a little learning on your part - but there is a great deal of pride when you know you were the creative force behind the look of your site. If you must pay someone to design a site (which is just fine, you will get a very professional looking site), try to either: A) have them design it so you won't have to update it regularly, or B) learn a little about web design, and make sure you have access to the site to do your own updating. There are tons of programs available from the internet for building a website - some are made for the very beginner... and pretty much designs the site for you after you fill in a few blanks here and there. These will look ok, but they really limit your creativity as you can imagine. There are many programs that mix in beginner and advanced techniques... and most all programs have a help section explaining how to design a site. The problem with programs you download off the internet will be: They are shareware, which means they are A) limited on how much you can do, or B) have a time limit on how long you use it without paying for it. There are many programs available for sale. Many of the inexpensive ones are the 'fill-in-the-blank' style... while some of the fancier ones are pricier. If you are interested in purchasing one - I would download the shareware version and see how you like it. One super-duper website designer I have seen on the net is called 'HotDog'... which retails for around 200 bucks. Very expensive, but a very nice program. Another good program is called 'HomeSite' - which is what I used to design my site originally. Since then, I have moved on (mainly because the time limit expired on the shareware!). Currently, I use Hot Metal Pro... because the company I work for sells it and I get a good discount. I have been happy with this one as well - it is a little tricky to work some parts of it if you are unfamiliar with HTML. Just so you know, I pay 20 dollars a month for my internet service - with that I get 10 mb of space for a website (10 mb is extremely generous... most websites won't come near that!). If you have visited my site, you know it is very large - I pay nothing extra for my site (and luckily, I design and maintain it on my own). So there - an absolutely no extra cost website can be obtained. does anyone really get work from Web Pages? Here's my short answer: for the most part, a website for magicians, twisters, et.al. is not a sales vehicle, but rather a support tool. In other words, I don't expect someone to stumble across my site and then hire me (although it has happened). Rather I use my site as one more resource to compliment my mailings, phone calls, and other marketing methods. For example, if someone calls why make 'em wait a day or two for materials, when they can log on and get photos, testimonials, etc. immediately? That's the advantage I get from a website. Make sure your site is listed on the search engine sites or no-one will find out about it (kind of like advertising your advertising) A good place to send your link to is your local tourism office or Chamber of Commerce. Perhaps you could join or set up a local entertainers web ring (where everybody's sites link to each other). One thing I've found is that if a site is not maintained and has stale information I am unlikely too revisit it and I get a poor impression of the business (if your website is your storefront make sure the windows are clean and the sidewalk is swept). I think it is important to have your promotional material online since the cost is minimal and the potential exposure is great. Like others, I agree that very few people are going to just discover you on the 'net and hire you. It happens, and that's really cool, but other ways of getting your name out will work better. What's more important is that once they know your name, they can find you and learn everything there is to know about you as a professional entertainer. I just wanted to add one more thing that I think will interest a lot of you. This is available on Balloon HQ. Consider buying for a personalized domain name. The advantage of owning your own domain goes beyond looking professional and having a name that's easy to remember (although those are both important). If you own your own domain name, your address will never change. You can print business cards and brochures, register with search engines, and work your way into people's bookmarks. You'll never have to worry about those people that found you in the past losing you, even if you change service providers. So, as a compromise for those of you that don't want to pay the costs of owning a domain but do want all of the above-mentioned benefits, we offer BHQ addresses for all balloon artists. Many of the people I ran this past earlier even thought this was better than having their own domain since it will establish you as part of a community of professional artists and give you an address that's already established in all of the major search engines on the 'net. What we offer for a small yearly fee is an e-mail address of the form email@example.com and a URL of the form http://www.balloonhq.com/artists/your-name. We won't host web pages or email boxes. We'll just forward mail from here to wherever you want. This will all be completely transparent to everyone involved. Your mail will be delivered in the way you're used to receiving it but it will look more professional than just a random address you have elsewhere. If your address changes, just let us know and we'll update your record so the address that other people have is still accurate and your mail will be delivered without interruption. The summary is that you'll be able to have a steady address that looks good and tells the world what you do without actually costing you much or changing the way you work. If you want to use a free email/web hosting service, you can without the world knowing that. MARKET YOURSELF - WAYS TWISTERS CAN ATTRACT ATTENTION TO A BUSINESS: Have people fill out an info card in exchange for a balloon figure. Put rubber banded business cards on the balloon figures. Stick printed pencils in the figure as handles. REFERENCES we provide new clients with a list of 5-6 client references. Since we always follow up with our clients after an event, both with a phone call and a written questionnaire, one of the questions we ask is ... "May we use us as a reference? If so, how would you like to be contacted?" This is the information we put on the list -- Client's Name ( if it's a corporated account, our contact), address & phone number. Some clients do ask, not to be contact by phone, so the phone # is excluded and that requested is stated on our reference list. Nothing more. I only list clients, who have given us permission. Most are very happy to do this . And our future clients are pleased they have the information. After a performance of any type we send the party that hired us a questionnaire along with a stamped return envelope. The cover letter thanks them for hiring us and explains that we would like them to complete the questionnaire. It also explains that while we like positive comments we learn from negative comments, so both are appreciated. The questionnaire consists of five or six generic questions such as was the appearance what you expected? Were the makeup and costumes professional looking? Each question line is followed by a line with "Yes", "No" and "Comments" We always have a two part question on each questionnaire; "Would you recommend us for other engagements?" and "If yes, may we use your name, address and phone number as references for other engagements if we are required to provide them?" Every questionaire we have sent has been returned. Most of them will fill in the comments section which we then use in our literature. Usually by stating "Our post show questionaires frequently contain comments such as ---------." Most important is we are building up a reference list. When we are contacted by a potential customer that requires references, I will go through the questionnaires to find the ones that had similar services to the requesting the references. I would probably not send a reference from someone who had balloons only to a business that wanted a stage show only. This has been the best tool we have used to gauge how we are doing. Even after an engagement that you felt bad about because of the kids responses, the questionnaire will come back stating that we did a terrific job trying to get the kids to be involved but they were tired from all the running run around they had done prior to our appearance. These are just little things, but they do help to hear how the clients feel. We have almost never received a negative comment and everyone has always agreed to giving the reference. For smaller parties, like home shows, I give out a self addressed stamped postcard with a few questions on their response to the show, and a space for comments. There is a box they can check if they don't mind being used as a referral. I'm running a business; most people appreciate that and with few exceptions are very willing to help me out. For larger corporate functions I have just recently started the practice of *asking* for comments on their business'/organization's letterhead, and whether they would mind being a personal reference. Include a SASE. CARE CARDS by all means....DO IT! Just whip up the balloon & carefully slide a card - whoops! I always manage to get a 2nd card stuck to it. Oh well, just give it to a friend - into the custom created sculpture. there are so many reasons why you should give out cards, the most important one being that if you were to create a painting, take a photograph, design a web page or do anything unique & creative that requires some skill, talent & even training, THEN YOU SHOULD SIGN YOUR WORK! If time allows, I use the sharpie & initial it, but I always include a card with my name and services, and with balloon care and cautions on them. Make them very visible and available for the taking. When I am working parties, I make a swan figure and insert about 10 cards in the "pocket" and gently remind the children of balloon care as I go. Ahead of time, I have the parents sign a contract that (among other things) makes them responsible for informing their guests of the potential hazards related to balloons, with instructions on how to prevent them. When you are done, leave the balloon figure and cards there. Care cards are especially handy at birthday parties so that 1) you get to know the kids' names and 2) They always know who's balloon is who's! when doing balloons for young kids I give the parents a special business card which on the back has a parents advisery about the choking hazard of balloons this will not only help out if you ever get in legal trouble for a kid choking on a balloon but it also shows the parents in black and white that you care for their kids. BUSINESS CARDS color changing business cards...my printer called the paper "Sensor paper" Charged me $75 per 1000. Comes in a rainbow assortment or you can get just one color. In my opinion, only two colors are worth it; Dark green which turns to yellow, or grey which turns white. http://www.teachersource.com/color.htm A better web page on Touch it paper would be their web site which is: http://www.touch-it.com/ A little cheaper directly from the source. Too much light on it will stop the color change effect. When this happens, it stays on the changed color. I remember my first flyer with touchit paper. It said: Sometimes you need some magic for children... Sometimes you need some magic for adults... Sometimes this brochure is pink... Sometimes this brochure is white... THE MAGIC BEGINS when doing balloons for young kids give the parents a special business card which on the back has a parents advisery about the choking hazard of balloons this will not only help out if you ever get in legal trouble for a kid choking on a balloon but it also shows the parents in black and white that you care for their kids. IDEA BOOKS An EXCELLENT book on advertising, especially on a limited budget is Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. It has a lot of "non-traditional" advertising methods that we can use to get things off the ground.