The Twisting Business

Feb 14, 2023

The Twisting Business

You talk about how hard it is to make a living as a full time twister. Have you ever thought about how hard it is to make a living as a full time *anything*?
– Larry Moss

Starting a Business

Note: good starting place for legal information is the ACLU home page.

Permits and Licenses

  • In California if you are working for tips you do not have to be a business. You are an entertainer and do not need a formal business license. However, my clients like the idea of writing me a check made out to my business and feel more secure about it as well. I got my license almost immediately. In CA, you’ll need to:
    1. Get a business name, in my case: “Extraordinary Balloon Art.”
    2. Go to the city treasurer and get your business license.
    3. Post your business information in a newspaper (there are legal journals who do it for about 25-30 dollars; cheap).
    4. Open a bank account (business acct.) with your information (including license, business name statement, and proof that you were listed for at least 3 weeks.
    5. I also recommend that everyone take the free IRS class on starting your own business. It only takes an afternoon and it is extremely(!!!!!!!) helpful for doing your taxes. Usually, if you are your only employee and you don’t intend to get others, you’ll be able to leave at the lunch break. The copious notes I took are really helpful when I do tax work. They answer questions as they go along and share information about groups in your community available to give with tax advice.

    The requirements do vary from state to state, and between counties. The idea is at least basically the same. In NY, I didn’t have to post a general announcement of a new business. I just filed the DBA (Doing Business As) with the county clerk.

    In many cities or counties when you get a sales tax permit or register with an agency you have to have a business license also. In my city the minimum business license is about $80 per year.

    If I decide to branch out and do ‘free lance’ balloon decorating, will I need a license to do this? What if I hire myself out to florist and work through them on an “as needed” type of work?
    Sure! You’ll need a business license and a tax number just like you should have if you are getting money for clowning or twisting. You’ll also have to pay self employment tax, L&I tax, etc. tax. If the florist employees you (pays the employment taxes and gives you a W-2) you do not need the license.

  • As I understand it, the busking laws vary from state to state and city to city. Here in Texas, a right to work state, it is legal to busk but the rules change from city to city. In Austin you can busk in the city parks but you are not allowed to obstruct pedestrian flow on public side walks. You have to gain permission from store owners to work out of their store fronts or find a closed down store. In San Antonio they charge a 12.00 a day fee, basically to cover sales tax. In Galvaston the only place you can work is in a store front and you must get permission from the city but there is no charge.If your business license person knows nothing about a busking law there may not be any but I doubt it. If a city can tax you they will. You might check with the Parks and Rec. dept. In all the cities I have worked in Texas, this is where I have had to go to gain permission. You may also check with the chamber of commerce. They usually promote fair and festivals and may have some information for you.
  • Most municipalities absolutely do require a business license of some sort, if you’re doing business in any manner, whether it be retail or performing. To arbitrarily assume that one is not required could open many of us up to fines and summons. Call your local City Hall, County Clerk, or Tax & License unit to find out the specific requirements of your town and state. If you need a license, and don’t get one, your insurance company (assuming you have one) could refuse to pay a claim on your behalf.
  • Some folks, who are not doing balloons as their main source of income, may be better served (financially) by not getting a license. At least in the short term. But here in beautiful WA, one must be licensed in order to register a business name or protect a trademark.
  • The issue of paying taxes is related, but separate. Many people choose not to license in order to remain a bit more anonymous and be able to do jobs “under the table”. I personally believe this is wrong.
  • A license is useful if you try to write off losses and want to justify with the IRS. For a hobby, losses are not deductible and you do not get a business license for a hobby. A business license should make your endeavor a legitimate business. Along with some other factors, a profit motive is important. You should advertise and keep good records. Twisting balloons: Not a hobby, a business.


  • The ballooning business can be profitable, with little capital investment. We started with 1 Pogo(tm), one M.E. Perrson Inflator, and one Pump1 ™, assorted stickers from T. Myers for our sign, and a hand made sign for the folks to pick from. Oh yeah, and a cooler, several ice packs, and a couple of duffels to carry around our support equipment.
  • You have to figure out overhead – this is everything else that can’t be directly related to any one job; your car, your phone, an office (even if it’s in your house there’s heat, electric etc.), an accountant to add it all up at the end of the year, insurance (performance and heath), your computer(!!!) and the list goes on and on.


Sales tax

  • If you work as an entertainer (possibly earning tips) you are not selling anything tangible so there should not be sales tax and you may not need permits. The few balloon twisters that I know provide entertainment and no tangible sales. It is easier for them as they don’t want to deal with permits and tax returns.
  • If you work under someone else’s license and permits (like the sales dept.) you may have to provide them with the tax and a portion of the sales.
  • If you start a business, your (business) bank account becomes associated with your sales tax or vendor’s ID. Most people ballooning on the street won’t actually need the sales tax license, unless you’re selling balloons (as opposed to passing the hat).
  • You can make extra money selling balloon related items (ex: Rocket Balloons or Yo Yo balloons) on the side while you are out twisting. Usually, when you sell something there is sales tax on it (except for a few states) and you have to file reports and returns.
  • Once your earnings reach a certain point you’re required to pay the IRS quarterly. If you have a tax ID you are required to send in sales tax information quarterly, whether you’ve collected tax or not.
  • In New York it isn’t necessary to charge sales tax for parties and other events, so if that’s mostly what you do, you don’t have to file anything special.

Income Tax

  • I seem to remember being able to deduct supplies used to better yourself at your trade. Publication subscriptions dealing with your trade, educational materials and classes are deductible. I believe you can deduct books, tapes, and balloon cost as a loss. If you’re already making money and claiming it, you can deduct expenses for materials and training.
  • I suggest that your answer is in advertising! If you use balloons in your lawn mowing and piano lesson business, then I believe they become ‘supplies.’ Giving balloon sculptures to your students for a job well done or a “thanks for letting me cut your grass” would certainly have folks talking.
  • I agree that you cannot deduct the balloons for a lawn mowing business. However as an advertising, promotion or marketing expense, a whole variety of things can be deducted. They do not have to be directly related to your business, but should increase recognition, goodwill, etc. Some businesses give out key chains, pens, letter openers, planners, etc.; you give out balloons and get a lot of repeat business for this. Take some photos of a balloon animal holding your business card and keep it to show any IRS auditor.
  • I know the IRS is sticky about what is a business and what is a hobby. For a hobby you get to pay all the taxes and get none of the deductions (fair deal). Proving you are a business when you do balloons might be a challenge for some, like me.Losses from a business are deductible but losses from a hobby are not. Profits from either are taxable. The main things to do are:
    1. Keep books and records like a business.
    2. Advertise a little with cards etc.
    3. Get a business license from the city
    4. Operate in a business-like manner
  • What if I donate a certain number of hours for a PBS fund raising auction? They sell the hours to raise the money. How about that for deductibility? You can not deduct the ‘value’ of your time no matter what the organization does with it. You can only deduct actual costs associated with donating your time such as mileage, tolls, parking, and supplies. The IRS publications about charitable contributions make this very clear. The fact that PBS sold your time is irrelevant. You donated your time to PBS and your time is not deductible.Similarly, the person who buys your services from PBS can only deduct the difference between what they paid PBS and the fair market value of what they received. Note that I said the fair market value NOT the actual cost. If they paid $100 and what they received had a fair market value of $50, they can only deduct $50 as a contribution even though what they received cost PBS $0.The IRS is getting real sticky about charitable contributions. Last year they started requiring that anyone making a single contribution of $250 or more had to obtain a receipt from the organization stating whether or not any goods or services had been received in exchange. No receipt, no deduction. A canceled check is no longer sufficient for contributions $250 and larger.

    To me, the amount of taxes saved (a $50 deduction does not save $50 in taxes) is not worth the potential hassle and penalties and interest unless you have a very strong case on your side.

  • Anyone can deduct expenses related to volunteer work for charitable (501(c)(3)) organizations. If, for example, you volunteer your time running the gift shop at a local, non- profit, hospital you can deduct the cost of parking, tolls, etc. to get there. For car expenses, you can either deduct actual expenses (which are hard to track) or the standard mileage allowance. If you volunteer and do balloons for a non-profit organization, you can deduct all of your out-of- pocket expenses related to the volunteer work.Paying gigs are a different story. Everything that you get paid (whether for fees or for expenses) is considered income. Everything you spend is an expense. The IRS has rules as to whether what you do is a business or a hobby. That impacts what you can deduct. Whether or not you charge the customer for supplies or travel expenses is irrelevant to whether or not you can deduct them.
  • If a charity pays you and you then donate it back, you can deduct the contribution but you also have to count the pay as income making it a wash. (Not really if you pay SE tax) For years I had a snow plowing business (yes, it was a real, incorporated, business) on the side. I plowed my church parking lot. According to my accountant, I could not deduct what I would have charged to plow the lot. The reason was that I was donating my time (not deductible) and the vehicle was fully depreciated (no expense).Of course, the bottom line is what the IRS thinks about all of this. I suspect that if you ask them several times you’ll get several different answers depending on that individual’s interpretation of the tax rules and regulations.
  • When it comes to donations of goods, you are responsible for determining the value of what you donated (goods over $500 have special rules). You need to be able to substantiate your determination should the IRS ask. For something like balloons, I would deduct the actual cost. You can NOT deduct the value of your time or effort. You can only deduct the cost of the materials, supplies, telephone calls and cost of operating equipment. You can also deduct travel costs (12 cents per mile or actual costs of gas and oil). You can also deduct costs of parking or tolls. My book gives the example of baking a cake and you can deduct the cost of the ingredients.
  • 31.5 cents per mile is for business usage. 12 cents per mile is for charitable contributions use.
  • The IRS will allow 31.5 cents per mile. The Department of Transportation says average cost for operating a vehicle is 34 cents per mile. Depending on what type of vehicle you use–a less-fuel-efficient vehicle, one that needs more repair, one that is more expensive than average–it might be better to track your actual expenses.
  • However if you use your car for charity work you can only deduct 12 cents per mile or the actual cost of gasoline and oil only. You cannot include insurance, repairs, depreciation, etc. I believe that the original post was about volunteer work for a charitable group.


  • #general”>General Information
  • #home”>Home Owners/ Renters, etc. Insurance
  • #wca”>World Clown Association (WCA)

General Information

  • We here in the USA. are in an increasingly litigatious society. Simply stated: we stand a chance of becoming sued for any act that can be deemed to be our fault. It is the deep pocket syndrome.
  • If you are going to do public shows, then the best insurance is to purchase insurance for your act. Yes, it costs, but then you pass it on to the consumer. You have no choice.
  • Here’s where we get our insurance. It is $1M liability *AND* Product, in writing. He is a Farmers Insurance Group Agent. Coverage is from 4/25 – 4/25. A nice part about the policy is that you aren’t charged to have a client or fair (If vending) named as additionally insured. It’s a nice selling point to get a gig 🙂 He can fax a policy declaration page directly to your client at your request. Contact:
    Al Fellerman Insurance Agency/Clowns of the US
    Most of the clowns and ballooners I know that find out about this policy buy in. It covers balloon related injuries . Even though this policy has $1,000,000.00 of liability coverage, it is an aggregate amount. If you know what that means, great, but for those who aren’t sure, it has a total claim amount of $1,000,000.00 over a one year period. Let me try that again. If ten claims of $100,000.00 are paid in one year, there is no more $$$$$ to pay anymore claims.Insurance is rather like a hand-gun; better to have one and not need it, than need one and not have it. I carry this policy. Al’s got adds in several of the national clown publications. If I’m not mistaken, I believe he’s a clown, himself. If it helps any, I think he’s a hand- shake kind of guy, who feels his word is his bond. I do not hesitate to recommend using him.
  • I’ve been told that the insurance company that underwrites clowns (the Society of American Magicians has this type of insurance) will no longer cover you if they find you make balloon animals. sigh.
  • Be sure the insurance policy you carry has a product clause in it. That is, when they take their balloon home and choke on it there, you are still covered.
  • If you twist professionally and have performer’s insurance, you’re probably not covered for any twisting you do while not in costume.
  • Do you have liability insurance?
    My lawyer suggested that if a kid was too young for the balloon make it WELL KNOWN that you are giving the balloon to the PARENT and not to the kid. Explain that a child of 2 is a little young for a balloon but I’ll make one for YOU (pointing to the mother). The liability is now in HER hands.
  • US clowns these days are also advised not to hug children, or for that matter to get close enough to do more than shake hands.
  • I cover myself with warning buttons, tell people that kids mouths and broken balloons don’t mix, AND give out ID tags for each hat and animal that are funny and warn of the dangers of putting balloons in your mouth. A lawyer friend told me that should be enough, but to get insurance if I really wanted too, because you can’t be too careful about things like that.
  • When I got insurance through a clown organization I asked specifically if I was covered if a kid choked on a balloon. The answer I got was – If I was there as an entertainer the insurance would cover me. I don’t have this in writing but it is what I was told.
  • I have a one million dollar liability insurance policy, including $500,000 of product liability. It primarily covers my decorating business, but also covers any situation where an employee or I are entertaining. It does not cover additional independent contractor entertainers that I may hire. Whenever I have had to hire another entertainer for one of my jobs, I have always asked for an ‘additional insured’ from their insurance company.
  • Any insurance company that will insure a florist or caterer should be willing to provide you with a rider that covers you while working off premises in a client’s home, business, or other facility. It is a very common standard item, which any insurance agent should be able to place…
  • Not all insurance companies want to deal with “helium tanks,” especially in California. A great insurance man that will give you a policy underwritten by Hartford Insurance is Jim Bomba of Bomba Insurance. He is a QBN affiliate through the So. CAl Chapter and his phone # is (619)753-6616. I checked around and his prices were the best.
  • Insurance is my game, since I used to be a licensed agent in CA. I have my insurance through State Farm. It is important to know your carrier. If you go through your current carrier, you may have to have your agent do a little work for you. He may have to get special consideration from the underwriter from the company, however, it can be done. Be a bit forceful. After all, you pay a very high premium for your insurance so make your agent work for you. If that doesn’t work, you may need to find another carrier. It may be difficult because the insurance arena is a pretty closed market. Be persistent. When I worked for State Farm, as well as having my part-time balloon business, I had a hard time getting the off-premises coverage. Now that I am full-time with a retail location it was easier. However, it is a standard item on most business policies. However, as I said before you just have to be persistent.

Home Owners/ Renters Insurance

  • When I looked for insurance, I checked with some independent agents that work with several different insurance companies. They check around and try to get you the best price and policy. One agent told me that I would be better off checking with my home owners policy insurance, since I worked out of my home. They were right. State Farm Insurance gave me the best policy for the price. around $250 a year for a million dollar policy. Not only do they cover me as a home-based business, but if I would someday move to a shop. The policy is a great policy and covers all of my equipment (owned or leased), products, products during transportation, inventory, signs, money at the site of the business, liability, and more. The best place is to check with your homeowners/renters insurance agent or with the insurance agent that covers your car (if they offer homeowners/rental insurance.
  • What one needs is personal liability insurance and product liability insurance. Mine is through USFG. It covers me 1,000,000 liability protection, which is what the clown insurance above really is, I also carry 1,000,000 product liability. When you give someone a balloon, you are providing a product. Also on this policy, I have protection for goods stored in my home and in my vehicle, in case of accident or robbery. This may not be important for a balloon sculpture, but if you carry magic props or costumes you may want to consider this. For all of this coverage, I pay approximately $450.00 yearly.

World Clown Association (WCA)

  • The World Clown Association has a Comprehensive General Liability policy which includes premises, operations, products and completed operations. It is through the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. It is $100.00, plus membership in the World Clown Association. It goes from May 1 to May 1. I have been carrying insurance through the World Clown Association for years. They are represented by a reputable insurance agent.Their address is:
    WCA Administrative Office
    Bruce Russell
    07 Crestwood Drive
    Pittsburgh, PA 15237
    Phone:(412) 367-1225 or (800) 336-7922
  • The World Clown Association (WCA) insurance coverage is mainly aimed at clown-type activities, and is rather focused in regards to balloons (popping and going into kids’ eyes). Before buying a policy, from any company, find out specifically what is covered.
  • I attended the general meeting of the World Clown Association in Laughlin, NV. Their insurance is for entertainers not just clowns now. The last few years it was only for clowns. They changed insurance companies. The cost is $100.00. There is no deductible. It has a 2 million dollar aggregate. It also covers performing animals. It does not cover DJs. You must be a WCA member to obtain it.
  • When I called WCA insurance, I was told that the group policy did not cover balloons that were sold or given away. These are products and you must have product liability insurance. The WCA group policy is only personal liability and not product. Please check your policy because this is a very important difference.
  • I talked with the WCA administrator office today (Mrs. Russell). She said the WCA insurance policy would cover me if a child choked on a balloon. She also said I could not get it in writing.
  • I recently dropped my World Clown Association WCA group insurance policy after speaking with their underwriter. It does not cover all of the things that people think (and that WCA claims) it will cover. From my understanding it only covers you for liability for the actual act of blowing up the balloon and twisting it. Once you give it to a person, you are not covered. What the insurance is really designed for is it covers if someone gets hurt during the show. Example: helping you and cutting their hand on a prop. Yes, this does limit what the insurance covers.

Employing your children

  • Aren’t there nationwide child labor laws that say a child CANNOT work until the age of 15? I’d hate to see someone arrested for child labor then lose their child because of a misknowledged parent. I have a 10 year old who sometimes would LOVE to help me twist balloons, but I’m afraid of the laws. Does anyone know different out there?
  • I faced this concern when my 8 year old wanted to work with me at the Spaghetti Warehouse. The law states that if the minor working with you is a son or daughter (as in an apprentice situation) it is perfectly legal to have them with you. When you have a child that is not a son or daughter that you fall into other laws. If it’s your kid, no problem.
  • How is having your children help you with your business any different than a child star working in the movies? I would think it would be better, since they will be having parental supervision. I will definitely have my children help me. I have a 14 and 16 year old. I even have a 10 year granddaughter to help me with minor things. I will put them on salary and pay whatever taxes I need to.
  • My ten and seven year old take turns working with me at public events (never private parties). They twist with me and help with my magic shows. They help to setup and break down my sound system and props. I consider myself very lucky that my kids enjoy helping me. I have never had a problem because of their age.
  • I designed an act for a juggler once where his kid kept coming on stage complaining that he had to wait for his dad. “I wanna go home….are you done yet” sort of thing. Everytime the kid came out and shouted, Dad kept dropping things. Finally the kid “showed” dad what to do. The audience cheered. The kid took over the act and dad kept coming out saying ” are you done yet…” It was so funny. The juggler doesn’t do the act anymore cause the kid grew up.
  • If it’s your kid, no problem. Besides, what law enforcement officer can withstand these arguments:
    1. She wants to be here.
    2. She’s having fun.
    3. She’s not robbing liquor stores to buy crack.
    4. This is how children learn to be responsible, caring, craftspeople.
    5. We’re spending quality time together, being kind to others.

    Child labor laws were created to prevent selling children into slavery or chaining them to sewing machines to make Kathie Lee clothing for Wal-Mart. They are not intended to prevent kids from spending a day in the sun at the fair with mom and dad. One thing though: it should always be a kid’s choice, even if s/he makes a commitment to X number of fairs or whatever. If they just feel like going to the swimming pool that day, let ’em off the hook. There’s a reason that kids under 18 aren’t allowed to sign contracts – they don’t really understand that every Saturday means *every* Saturday. I don’t think anybody should have to be forced to work until they’re grown up (say, around age 65). Just hope the kid isn’t better than you. I don’t know… what could be a greater joy than having your kid say, “but if you add an ear-twist here, it stands up better.” I think that would mean I’d succeeded as a dad!

How Many Balloons Should I Take?

  • As a rule of thumb, I bring 1 1/2 bags per hour. It really depends on how many multiple balloons you do. I always finding myself adding one extra bag “just in case.”
  • For each hour I’m going to work I take a gross of 260’s and I toss in 2 gross hearts and 2 gross 3/4 balls. I use about 3/4’s of that.
  • My top speed is 1 gross per hour. If I am doing a job I will take 1 gross for every hour of work plus 1 extra bag, just in case of overtime. This estimate does not include the special balloons – hearts, geo’s etc. Its always better to have more than enough just in case
  • I carry no less than 2 gross of every color 260Q available, small geo blossoms, 321Q, 350Q assortment, 6 inch hearts, 5 inch water bombs, 130’s, and balloon cello straws. The reason being; I once did a 6 hour gig and almost EVERYBODY wanted almost everything made out of BLACK, of all colors!! I ran out before the event was over. That will never happen again. I carry as many as 4 gross of heavy traffic colors like black, yellow, orange, white, and pink.I mix my own heart assortment to avoid an over-abundance of clear. I use clear hearts for several things, just not enough to always buy jewel-tone assortment. It’s this same reasoning that leads me to buy the small pearl-tone geos. They cost a bit more, but I get a better yield this way.Add to this 1 gross each of 260’s made by Prestige, Gayla, Unique, and Tilly (their colors are slightly different from Qualatex) Be prepared for holidays and team colors! For example, be sure to buy extra red, white, & blue for the 4th of July.

    I also carry: white paper reinforcement rings for eyes, pipe cleaners for cats whiskers, Sharpie markers, scissors, liquid talc for the squeaks, Static Guard spray for, you guessed it, static, and the most important thing of all, a manicure kit. You can’t be a nail nibbler and balloon blower.

    Here’s the hard part. I pack it all in a bag that measures 9X11X18 inches empty. Of course, when I’m done, it’s more like 12X12X22 inches.

Copyrights, trademarks, and balloon art

  • They cannot sue or get you for making a purple dinosaur. The names can be trademarked, but they cannot use the copyright laws to get at you. Copyright laws are flimsy at best and they are to prevent persons from copying in detail a picture or document. Items cannot have a copyright. Now if you were to copy a book, that is a violation. If you were to copy a painting, that is questionable. As long as the piece cannot be distinguished from the original, there is a problem. But no item can have a copyright. The problem with the Disney characters is they are trademarked. I might also add that the name Disney is also a trademark. A trademark distinguishes both items and the name to belong to a company. However if the creature is a balloon animal or sculpture, it will be very hard to prove in court. You cannot use the names in any form if the trademark is in effect, but if the name is different, they are not going to prove that you are in violation unless you admit, “I was copying or making the _____ character.” Note however, court cost are high to prove you are innocent and these guys are loaded with money. On your side however is a counter suit that they are slandering your good name and it is easier for you to win than for them, and I might add, more money! A copyright violation will cost up to three times the value of the items being sold. Slander could cost Millions if done right. If they try to bully you, that is your ace in the hole. Never admit to using the character’s name, after all anyone can make a chicken, skunk, cat, dog, rabbit, duck or whatever they like as long as it was their idea. The problem arrives when you have to prove the design is yours. With a copyright you can make copies as long as you give reference to the original, and the piece is not being sold.
  • My cake club has recently discussed doing Disney Characters on a cake for which Disney has given special permission (because the convention is going to be on Disney property). At this meeting we had a patent lawyer (who belongs to the cake club). She relayed to us that without permission you cannot make anything that even looks close to the original patent, for sale or even for your own personal use (the latter is something I didn’t know before.)Anyway, I do know that when I used to advertise as the purple dinosaur (at no time did I ever elude to BARNEY) the Lyons company wrote me and told me I was in violation of their copyright and were VERY nasty about it. They said if the character could even be construed as Barney in any shape or form, I was in violation.Soooooo, for those of you who are out there…I wouldn’t be doing Disney characters for love nor money. There are people in my area who have been fined for Garfield characters and the Snoopy characters. I, for one, don’t want to be one of those. I don’t want the hassle of having to take the time to go to court because Disney, or anyone else is suing me for doing their character balloons. Take your chances if you wish, but I think it’s just like riding in a car without a seat belt…someday you may get caught and you AREN’T going to like the consequences. Time is money, too. I have a question for your patent lawyer, When a balloon manufacturer puts out foil balloon heads of licensed characters, (Disney, Pooh Bear, Sylvester et al) It is obviously not copyright infringement to sell these balloons, BUT is it illegal to take these balloon heads and add bodies to them, for the purpose of turning them into balloon delivery or children’s birthday sculptures? We are taking a product that has already been given permission for sale and turning it into something else.
  • My dealings with copyright law indicate that if an item is copywritten, it CANNOT be reproduced in any manner. While you can create something that may resemble a copywritten item, you cannot reproduce it exactly unless you wish reprisal from the owners. This is where it helps to be either a poor artist or creative thinker. If it doesn’t look exactly like the famous mouse, you should be fine, if you say it is that *particular* mouse – you get into infringement.
  • Remember, there are copyright laws for reasons. Imagine, if someone used your clown character’s photos in a story about John Wayne Gacy or if someone “borrows” a part of your act. You strive to keep a public appearance which is acceptable, just as the owners of these characters do.
  • When you purchase clip art that is in public domain, read the legal information carefully, some clip art states that it is entirely public domain, while others state that it is for personal use only. When somebody purchases (as mentioned) a candy mold in the shape of a copywritten character, they buy the rights to use it in their private residence (unless otherwise indicated), selling the images is illegal, but often overlooked.However, if you wish to use an idea or concept, if it is not a large corporation, permission can be just as simple as writing a letter asking for permission. I have, on many occasions asked to use music and quotations for my shows and have only been turned down a few times.
  • All I can say is this: if there is any doubt, leave it out.
  • What you’ve heard about Disney is true. There exists an entire department within the company that is responsible for investigating and proceeding against copyright infringement. They act on tips and information, acquired through various means, that pertains to the use of Disney intellectual property without the knowledge or permission of The Walt Disney Company. And the comment about the use of the work for personal use is also true. I work for the company and have had to demand that contractors performing demolition of various sites containing obsolete Disney character-related items destroy these items and furnish photographs of the debris, proving that the items were actually rendered unusable by anyone. Even the trash is subject to such treatment. We go to great lengths to protect this stuff.
  • I used to make all the Fab Five Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto, plus Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, Roger Rabbit and Piglet. I actually became fairly well-known for these creations. Needless to say, I no longer make them.
  • I would advise that one use extreme discretion when making anything remotely looking like a copyrighted entity. The creators of these characters take a dim view of anyone but themselves being allowed to take advantage of the fame they’ve cultivated and nurtured over the years. You do not want to get caught. A preschool with wall murals of Disney characters was court-ordered to whitewash over the work, despite the fact that the artist had volunteered the work and was not paid for its execution.
  • I had thought about writing a book featuring my Disney creations, but reconsidered when faced with this knowledge. I figured I could change their names and be safe. Not true. If a cease and desist order is what you’re after, by all means, highlight your wonderful Disney characters in your upcoming video! Those cassettes taste a little better with some salt and pepper, if you have two dimes to rub together when the lawyers are done with you.
  • I know of one balloon agency that describes our balloon cartoon characters as facsimiles. I think that this sounds like an accurate description. We are making an artistic expression just like a drawing. There’s no way our balloons will look JUST like the original. They are similar, but not a perfect copy. Members of our mail list like to be careful also with the typed print of cartoon characters. It certainly seems important to be careful with typed words when concerning copyrighted materials and the web as a copyright medium too.What it all boils down to is do you have the money to fight? Copyrights do not protect the owner from Similar creations, but a trademark and patent are another story. Probably you could win a suit against you by Disney, but they have a great deal of money and can simply run you in the ground financially. The best way is to stay away from the trademarked creations. If a creation is in a book, it is usually copyrighted, but if it is in a movie, it is usually trademarked.If you make a mouse with pants, don’t call it Mickey, or Minnie. Poo-poo should be a bear, and Tigger is a tiger. Let your customer put the name on it, not you. The burden of proof will be on the suing party. And remember you can counter sue for defamation( I believe that is the proper spelling) of character. If you win, you can retire, but this is a real battle, the big corporations have the stay power in a suit, while you will have to put out a lot of cash to just get clear of them.

    I would never use the trademark name when making a creation. Additionally, putting them in a book or tape could still be risky. Not that you can’t win a case, but you could loose the war, even though you win the battle. That is to say you could win the case, but at a high cost of money and time.

    I do know this… There are several individuals doing balloon animals in various restaurants at Walt Disney World and they tell their guests that they **cannot** take requests for characters like Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Winnie the Pooh, etc., etc., because Disney strictly forbids them to make those characters. Now, I should probably point out that a great many of the restaurants at Walt Disney World are not owned and operated by Disney, but I have no idea how that ultimately effects this subject.


"Trademarked Characters & Art," 
(an article by Rick DeLung who graciously gave 
 BHQ permission to include it in the Guide)
	Now we get into the area of facepainting familiar objects, people,
characters and items.  Basically it is in 99.99% of all cases, illegal to 
paint, draw, copy or make a rendition of any character, likeness, drawing, 
tracing or photograph that can be identified as a character from Disney, 
Warner Bros., United Syndicates, etc. IS ILLEGAL TO DRAW, USE, FACEPAINT OR 
REPRODUCE these characters.  This means you CAN NOT facepaint any trademark 
like Barney, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, etc.  You can not draw them, 
paint them, color them on kids, or even use a stamp and fill in the open areas 
if they are trademarked characters.  

	Now comes the really gray area:  if a child identifies it as a
trademarked character, then you can be held liable in copyright infringement.  
This is one time where it pays to be a lousy facepainter!  If you are good and 
you do a reproduction of the musical symphony with Mickey Mouse and Donald 
Duck, and the kids can recognize it . . . you could be a world of hurts!  You 
also can not use for profit any product (i.e. puppet, mask or costume) that is 
identified as a character.  If you do things for free . . . MOST will allow 
the use of puppets that have been manufactured by the parent company for non-
paid shows.  You can not make a puppet of Mickey Mouse in your own workshop 
and use it at all.  There are cases where the Disney Company has allowed some 
costuming to go with their permission to a clown who was going to do Free 
Shows Only.  They have also confiscated marionette puppets, costume heads and 
the like from people who go out and wear or use them for profit when they are 
recognized as Disney

	In our area we have a lot of companies that sell "characters" to appear
at parties.  You need to protect yourself from a major lawsuit or worse
from a large entertainment company that has popular characters.  That means if 
you get a call from a mother who wants Mickey Mouse to appear at her son's 
party, it would be illegal to go out "AS THAT CHARACTER".  If you claim to be 
Mickey . . . you are breaking the law.  If you go out as a MOUSE, that is at 
least 30% different than Mickey Mouse then you are PROBABLY okay!  I would 
honestly suggest that you follow my Father's advice to me as a child:  IF IN 
DOUBT . . . THROW IT OUT!  Create your own original characters backed up with 
your own original music and then you don't have to worry!

	To sum it all up, there are things that we need to do as entertainers
to add sparkle to our shows.  Music is one, and facepainting can be another. 
If you do either of these things, I implore you to make sure that you are 
doing the right thing, and not breaking the law.  Many of the companies out 
there may not really care about the little guy, but it is quite simply wrong 
to break the law.  Let your conscience be your guide and do what is best.

Rick "Pretzel" De Lung
2034 E. Lincoln Ave. Suite #101
Anaheim, CA 92806
(714) 632-8182
P.D.A. Productions.  Reproduced with permission.

Hello folks I just recently talk to a lawyer whose expertice is in
small businesses and I asked her the age old question can we get in
legal trouble for doing cartoon charectors like tigger and winnie the
pooh. she did some looking into it and she said yes and no. yes if you
call them their reel names like tigger or goofy but no if you call
them names like 
tigger look alikes, or goofy imposter this way you are saying that
these aren't the real things they just looks like them now this is
fine on it's own but if you want to be evan more careful do this
remember the fine details of the charector like how many stripes
tigger has then either make more stripes or less just don't use that
precise number

Well, just to let you all know out there...the Lyons company in particular does
not feel this way.  They say that it's a violation of the copyright if a child
can even remotely "recognize" the character.

Hey, guess you need to talk to other copyright attorneys. I have 
worked with and continue to work closely with lawyers from Disney, Lyons Group,
Warner, CTW, etc. 
The federal statute says that you may call it Tiggie, Tig, Tiger Cat, 
or whatever for Tigger. No one counts all the stripes, if they eyes are 
not quite in the right position. If the creation (drawing , balloon, 
whatever ) LOOKS LIKE what your are making, IT IS AGAINST THE LAW.
Many companies are NOW starting lawsuits against people who MAKE the 
balloons and people who put these copyrighted "creations" in balloon books. 
Make these at your own risk. Most people will be prosecuted for this.

My opinion is...that we don't have to worry about copyrights when doing
balloons.  We are the "little guy," and these corporations don't usually go
after the "little guy."  If we were mass-producing copyrighted figures, that
would be another story, but just to do a Mickey Mouse or a Bugs Bunny (or a
Tigger, or Winnie the Pooh)once in a while when requested, I don't believe
we have anything to worry about.   The odds of a representative of one of
these corporations seeing you do one of their copyrighted figures, is slim
to nil, and even if they did, if they bothered to do anything about it at
all, they  would send you a "cease and desist order" first.  But like I said
earlier, most likely they would never bother with "small potatoes" like us.
Worrying about copyrights is the least of our stead of creating headaches for ourselves about something that
will (in all likelihood) never happen, we should concentrate on doing our
job the best we can.  And it has nothing to do with "ethics."  When a child
asks for a Barney, or a Tigger, or a Pooh Bear, as far as he is concerned,
that particular figure is "his."  That is "his" friend.  He doesn't know or
understand about copyrights, neither does he care.  All he will care about
is if you tell him he can't have "his" friend, in balloon form, because of
some "stupid rule", made up by some "dumb grown-ups" he doesn't even know.
Come on people, let's get real!  These figures are just like celebrities, as
far as the kids are concerned, "in the public domain."  The odds of Michael
Eisner, or his lawyers, coming after you are too remote to even be bothered
with.  And that's just my opinion...

I know for a fact that is is
wrong as I have spoken to the head of Disney legal on the west coast about
this issue.  Most of your are right that NOTHING will ever happen,
at the most the offender will get a cease and desist order to stop.  Just like
with music, Ascap and BMI  have copyright info and it's very unlikely that 
a small performer will get in trouble... BUT my question is: does it make it right
to do it even though it is a copyright violation ??? To me it is a ethical
question each performer must answer for him/her self !!

We've been through all this before. After consulting 3 lawyers, they all said:
"as long as you call them PARODIES of cartoon characters, you are covered.
Saturday Night Live does parodies, cartoons do parodies, You Do Parodies.

As far as copyrights are concerned....I, for one am one of the people who got
a cease and desist letter from the Lyons (Barney) company.  Let me tell you,
they are out for BLOOD!  I know of 2 people who were "caught" red handed.  The
Lyons company thinks nothing of suing for $20,000.  As for me, I have
absolutely NOTHING to do with making copyrighted figures.  I'm told the Disney
company has scouts out there specifically LOOKING for people who are violating
their copyrights.  I know of one lady who was fined $500.  Now, if you are
willing to take the chance, that's your business. There are lots of other
balloons to do, other than copyrighted characters that I can do...and I can
sleep at night knowing that NO ONE is going to come after me.  I can't afford
it, and I don't think that, if caught, most of you could, either.  Besides,
who wants the hassle of having to pay a lawyer and going to court "just in
case" someone should find out.  Not me!

No!  The small performer is not going to have a whole lot of trouble
when it comes to copyrights.  But . . . those of us who work in and
around the areas that Disney, Warner Bros., etc. DO HAVE TO WORRY!  I
live in Anaheim, California!  So does Mickey Mouse!  Get my drift.  It
may not be likely, but I personally have been stopped from making a
balloon "Mickey Mouse".  My out is I call them "a mouse that looks a lot
like him.  But it isn't the real Mickey Mouse."  Now this may sound
petty, but the "suits" in this area DO LOOK FOR VIOLATORS!

With all of the recent talk about copywrights, I just have to put in my 2 cents.

Copywright laws only apply if you are SELLING unauthorized copies, but if
you are GIVING them away (In the hope of recieving a tip, perhaps...) then
the "Personal Use" clauses come into effect.

For Instance:  If I was at a public celebration and I was charging per
balloon, then making a "copyrighted" figure *would* be illegal.  If I was
at that same celebration, but my 'price list' was a button saying "Tips
Greatly Appreciated!" then I could do whatever figure I felt like doing.  If
someone wanted to sue me, then I would (and HAVE!) tell them to "Go ahead
and try.  I am my own legal counsel, and I charge myself $150/hour for going
to the library to read the local lawbooks.  There is no law prohibiting me
from giving away my art, so unless you can prove that I'm taking business
away from your company,  *YOU WILL LOSE!*" I then point out that I am not a
professional lawyer, so I spend a *lot* of time checking the books.  While
the accuser might be quite willing to go for a $20,000 lawsuit, their scouts
probably aren't willing to face a $5,000+ countersuit for harrassment and
"Malicious Prosecution". 

 B.T.W...  The last is considered a violation even more stringent than
harrassment.  It was intended to prevent a big company from elbowing out a
smaller company by tying the smaller company up in Lawsuits. Before its
inception, many large companies would drive a smaller company out of
business by forcing it to spend too much capital on legal fees, even if the
large company had no real case.  By threatening a countersuit of Malicious
Prosecution, the small company can, and often has, forced the larger company
to pay for the legal fees and court costs of their intended victim.  This
not only put the smaller company back on its feet, financially speaking, but
the damages awarded for the "slander" spread by the larger company have
often left the target company in better financial shape than it was before
the original suit.

I don't think that the Lyons corporation would appreciate the publicity
generated by their failure to squash a "small fry". Remember this, and also
remember to *ALWAYS* insist on a Jury trial.  A Jury is usually, (If not
always!),ready to side with the "little guy" in a dispute.

A few months ago, I had someone complain about my creation of a red-haired
mermaid with a purple halter. (I.E. Ariel from Disney's 'The Little
Mermaid')  I used this procedure, and the self-proclaimed "Scout from
Disney" backed down *Immediately*! By this I mean that he was apologizing
for his rude behavior by the time I left the area of his table.

The bottom line:

*MAKE THE TIME* to learn your local copywright laws.  If you know how to
read this E-mail in less than 10 minutes, then you should be able to learn
your local copywright laws with just an hour or so at your local library.  I
would have to say that the intimidation value of telling your 'would-be'
accusers that you will be representing yourself before the judge will
usually get them to back down.  The knowlege that the law is in your favor
is usually enough to get them to look for easier marks.

*KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!* And be wiling to defend them! This will usually keep you
out of trouble.  If it doesn't, then have the paitience to show the big
corporations that they should not underestimate the little guys! (You'll
probably wind up better than you were before!)

The Lyon Corporation owns all rights to BARNEY and if you have
anyone in costume, doing balloons and turning  any other kind  of tricks -
you can get yourself in VERY BIG TROUBLE.  They have copyrights that are
100% in order and they enforce their rights with both large and very small
companies.  The fines in most cases are not small and the do not just send
warning letter or make warning calls.  They go straight to court.  They
also have people who actively work on the phone trying to trick people who
use the phrase "our purple dinosaur will come to your party and yada -yada-
yada" into saying yes he is just like BARNEY.  Zap you are in court.  Protect
your fanny!  Some of the lawsuits have put people out of business and have
caused huge insurance claims."   STOP WITH THE BARNEY - TODAY.

Since we can't distribute instructions for 
why don't we come up with the opposite? A small, light green (check your
color wheel, light green is 180 degrees from ),
non-extinct mammal, like a mole. We could name it Onearl (the opposite
end of the alphabet from ) (B + 13 = O, etc.).

Then, whenever someone invokes the name of  
you can say, "Due to the litigious nature of certain penurious carni-
vorous reptilian PBS stars, I am unable to comply with your request.
May I offer, by way of compensation, Onearl, the small light green mole?
He's the antithesis of said Tyrannosaur."

Granted, the kids will hate it, but ol' dad is sure to pony up with a fin
in gratitude for your refusal.

* Do you really want to make cartoon characters?

Can we legally make our versions of cartoon characters out of balloons?  

It becomes a serious question of what we can do.  I am not a
lawyer.  I have no background at all in law.  I'm just trying to cover my
butt.  So, I called my lawyer.  We talked about it for a while.  His answer
is that what I do is probably legal (he didn't do an extensive search but
he doesn't know of a legal precedent that would apply).  He thought, after
hearing my argument that it would be ok, but cautioned me that it would
take a lot more research (and money) and his recommendation was to avoid it
if possible.  If you're a small time twister, who's gonna know or care that
you make something that happens to look like Taz?  But if you're making a
living at it, is it worth the risk?  Perhaps.  Some of the folks on this
list do almost exclusively cartoon look alikes to pay their bills.  I'd
hate to tell them to stop.  Just keep in mind
that it could be an issue with the owners of those characters.

An old pro mentioned to me the other night that there was a 
lawsuit filed by Disney re a male mouse w/ black ears.
The artist twisted a replica out of 260's & got sued.
He brought up Mighty Mouse.... won the case.

I for one am searching franticly to find documentation of this case.
Anyone else heard of it, or have a good way of finding it?
It would definitely help those of us that are now saying,
"I can't make you a Tigger, but I will make you a tiger."

The following is from:  , the official rules 
from the US copyright office.  I don't know how close this comes to copyright 
protection in other countries.  Also keep in mind that there's a trademark 
issue involved here.

Works Originally Created On or After January 1, 1978 

A work that is created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or
after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its
creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author's life plus
an additional 50 years after the author's death. In the case of "a joint
work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire," the term
lasts for 50 years after the last surviving author's death. For works made
for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author's
identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of
copyright will be 75 years from publication or 100 years from creation,
whichever is shorter.

Works Originally Created Before January 1, 1978, But Not Published or
Registered by That Date 

These works have been automatically brought under the statute and are now
given Federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these
works will generally be computed in the same way as for works created on or
after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-50 or 75/100-year terms will apply to
them as well.  The law provides that in no case will the term of copyright
for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002, and for works
published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not
expire before December 31, 2027.

Works Originally Created and Published or Registered Before January 1,

Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the
date a work was published or on the date of registration if the work was
registered in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured for a
first term of 28 years from the date it was secured. During the last (28th)
year of the first term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The current
copyright law has extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for
copyrights that were subsisting on January 1, 1978, making these works
eligible for a total term of protection of 75 years.

Public Law 102-307, enacted on June 26, 1992, amended the 1976 Copyright
Act to extend automatically the term of copyrights secured between January
1, 1964, and December 31, 1977, to the further term of 47 years. Although
the renewal term is automatically provided, the Copyright Office does not
issue a renewal certificate for these works unless a renewal application
and fee are received and registered in the Copyright Office.

Type up a fake, legal looking paper.  Carry it around in your pocket.  When
a child asks you to make a "Barney", pull out the paper and explain that
its a restraining order that prohibits you from infringing on the Barney
copyright.  I've been doing this for a couple of years now, and so far its 
never failed to get a laugh from mom or dad.  Yes, I know its over the child's 
(unless its an older child), but part of being a clown means being funny to
your ENTIRE audience, not just the three year olds.

I know of some people who have been hit with a
$20,000 lawsuit by the Lyons company.  I know of another who literally had the
Lyons company come in an confiscate his records to see if he was doing
"Barney" at all.  If a child wants a Barney balloon, I just explain that he's 
not available today and would they like a "_______" (you name it.)  

Please, if you are out there doing copywrited characters, DON'T!  The
companies WILL sue you, and there's not a thing you can do to fight them.
According to the Lyons company, anything that can be construed as Barney by a
child is in violation of their copywrite.  Don't take the chance.

Some people in a restaurant asked for a certain cat figure, so I made one.  
then he told me he worked for the company and that the boss would get a kick 
out of the sculpture.  I nearly died!  So in my clown way I said "guess the 
attorneys will like it too - huh?" He said "you are not selling the balloon - 
you are merely working here and working for tips.  We have no complaint with 
that.  You are doing a good job!"  That was about 3 years ago and I'm still 
making that cat and his puppy dog friend!

Living less than 2 miles from Disneyland, I 
don't want to take any chances with a suit from the legal department
of one of the largest (if not largest) entertainment corporations in the
world.  In researching the legalities of doing balloon animals,
facepainting characters, full-bodied characters etc. for Laugh*Makers
magazine,  Volume 14 - No. 6 (February/March 1997).  

And . . . there are two clowns in the Orange County CA area who
have received "Cease and Desist" orders on the spot for
facepainting/full body costume characters.  a wise man once said: "Why take 
the chance?" My advice is: If in doubt . . . throw it out!

After 2 weeks of work, a huge phone bill and gobbs of paper, the verdict is 
  You cannot get permission to do Disney characters because it
goes against strict Disney policies and basically any ideas will be
returned and used at their discretion without any royalties to YOU.
Basically if you call any of their characters by name or sell
anything that you call a tigger etc. you are violating their copyrights
because you do not have permission to do so. However if you make a
balloon and call it bouncy tiger etc. and it is a RENDITION, then they have no
  Warner Brothers is similar but not as stringent. If you are approved by WB 
you can buy a license for a few hundred thousand dollars. 
  Garfield is the only lenient company I know of.
  The nice thing about both Disney and WB is that they consider
balloon twisters small fish not worth frying.
I was told by Disney "you won't have a problem as long as you don't go around 
calling your figures Mickey Mouse or Pluto, and you don't try to use them as a 
promotion.  The minute you use our characters and their copyrighted names, 
we'll be upset." Even if its charity you need to ask permission (which you 
won't get).
  You can also use any character that may have had no copyrights for a
certain period.

The "Fair Use Act" that was passed recently. Basically it is a clarification 
of what is sufficient for a person not to get sued for copyright infringment.
1. Do you do this for profit? 
2. Are you using the same materials to produce this element. 
3. how much of the copywritten element is actually represented in part or 
full. 4. has it affected sales of the copyright holder's products.

It is simple - don't call them a copy written name. 
Don't dress in costumes, use puppets or anything else they have produced in 
any way for profit including stamps of these characters for face painting 
books etc.. out of any materials they have already made them out of and you 
will be safe.
The minute you try to sell a looney tunes party package etc. you are in
for trouble. 
Twist for tips and make a mouse, tiger,duck. running bird or whatever and 
enjoy the fun. If someone calls it a copywritten name tell them "no, this is 
my mouse not -------."

Full time twisting

  • #TMarticle”>T. Myers Article
  • #Lresponse”>Larry’s Response
  • #Bresponse”>Other Responses

T. Myers Article

Please understand that the following article was written for and published in True Inflations. The article is copyright T. Myers Magic.

  • What you are thinking about is going into business for yourself. If you ask a hobbyist to write down his expenses you get a shorter list than someone twisting to make a living. The hobbyist is not likely to include medical, dental, life and auto insurance, retirement plan, kids education, social security, taxes, bookkeeping etc. For a full time twister to make enough to raise a family is difficult and risky. He has to put in more hours and/or get paid more per hour than other twisters. If the buyer thinks he is just buying balloons, the full timer’s job is at risk to less expensive hobbyists. It seems to me the advantage goes to the twister who has a regular job and twists for fun and extra income. He can pick the ripe fruit off the tree of jobs. He is not desperate for a weekday work but happy for a weekend of profitable activity. Everyone has a level of ambition and there is nothing wrong with being a part time twister. There are lots of part time, good pay jobs out there and it’s fun. An ambitious balloon twister will find there are very few full time, high paying jobs in his field. If you don’t have the skills for an above minimum wage job, I’d suggest you work at whatever you can, twist when you can and use the money for more education or training for a better paying job.How Much Preparation Do You Want To Do? Different work situations call for different styles. You have to look at each situation and make decisions about which figures to offer, whether to sell figures or work for tips, whether to do a show or set up a line. As a part time twister, I look for situations that will require the least time in preparation and make me the most money per hour. I don’t mind working hard and I enjoy talking to the kids and being in front of a crowd. The $250 to $350 I can make in a day working for tips at a well attended art fair is satisfying but not necessary for my survival. That I am not doing this for a living makes the whole experience less stressful. If it rains or the crowd is stingy, it is not so bad. The preparation consists of getting permission, tossing my pump, balloons, menu poster and tip basket into the car, driving to the fair, carrying everything in one load to the work site and going to work. My main money limitation is the number of balloons I can twist in a day. If I wanted to make more money in the ‘sea of heads’ type art fair, here are some things I’d try.
    1. Investigate selling twisted balloons in your state. Some states are easy and some states are hard with sales tax, business license, and insurance requirements. In a large crowd, once the balloons are out there and a demand is established, you’ll make more by charging a set price. It is chancy, sometimes a set price will scare customers away.
    2. Run a crew of twisters. This requires a large crowd and setting up the situation.
    3. Make a supply of Angel or Feather sticks (see True Inflations #21). They can be made in front of the TV and they can speed up the point of sale. Other add on sales like Yo-yo balloons or Tattoos can work well with help from non twister employees.
    4. Be willing to travel to more fairs.

    Each of these ideas increases the preparation time, effort and expense but they can all pay off. The More You Work, The More You Work Besides fairs, twisters often find work in restaurants, company picnics, trade shows, business promotions, etc. By working in public, business cards and word of mouth will naturally bring opportunities to work. It’s The More You Work, The More You Work. It’s like a natural law. The situation you want to set up is to have them ask if you are available. If someone asks you to work for them, the negotiating power is on your side. If you are asking someone for a job, the power is on their side. How are your sales/negotiating skills? What about your bookkeeping skills? The more you rely on working for yourself the more non-twisting skills you need to have. You have to convince potential buyers of the benefits they will experience by hiring you to twist balloons. If they have no experience with balloon twisters, few buyers have the imagination to understand or believe these benefits. Promotion by anything but a personal demonstration is difficult at best. Two things you should find out before you quit your day job:

    1. If your market can support a full time twister.
    2. If you have the skills to make it work.

    Try looking at twisting as a second job with the goal of working everyday. Keep good records and save your twisting money. After a year, see where you stand. Could you live on that? If you quit your day job how much more twisting work would be available to you? By trying for a year, you will have some idea of your business skills, the possibilities and difficulties in your market and hopefully a nest egg in savings. I know this sounds discouraging. It is so easy to have a big weekend that full time is a temptation. Full time twisting is not impossible but it is far from easy. I just want you to see where you are stepping.

    The Up Side It’s fun. Fun to learn, fun to create, fun to do for people. Most people, especially kids want what you have made. You experience being the center of attention in a group of people. The ability to be at ease in front of a group is a valuable asset in nearly any field. Getting past your own fear allows your expertise and preparation to shine through. When you twist in front of people you are on stage. The more time you spend in the on-stage mode the less intimidating it is. As you get bored with worrying about yourself you can pay more attention to how they respond to what you do and say. You get to know and shape your character. You get to experiment with timing and reaction, something that’s hard to do without an audience. You will be faced with business questions when you twist for pay. You’ll have to negotiate with the buyer and be responsible. You will have to have your supplies and yourself in order. It’s an opportunity to make money without too much hassle. Extra income generally makes life easier. Twisting can be a family activity that is more valuable than money.

    Beyond Twisting OK, you’re going into this full time no matter what I say. Expand your services to include balloon decorating, bouquet sales and delivery and entertainment. Bouquet sales and delivery is probably the easiest to add immediately. Check the article in True Inflations # 22. There is a whole world of balloon decorators out there. Start by offering to work for them. You wont get paid well as a crew member but you can learn a lot. The decorator may have use for your twisting skills. As you learn enough to sell a decorating job, you can end up subcontracting each other. Learning to be an entertainer is serious work but everyone has to start somewhere. You have a start by being comfortable in front of an audience. Join the clown or magic club in your area and go from there. Offering more than twisting gives you a better chance at making a sale. Each of these skills can enhance the others. These skills can be developed part time and turn into a major part of your business. It depends on what you are good at and the needs of your market.

Larry’s Response

  • You talk about how hard it is to make a living as a full time twister. Have you ever thought about how hard it is to make a living as a full time *anything*? I have a bachelors degree in computer science and a masters in elementary education. Getting a job isn’t a problem. In fact, I’ve been offered some fairly high paying jobs. But that only makes sense. I dedicated 4 years of my life to learning about computers, and 2 years learning about teaching. During that time I had computer jobs, and I had minor teaching jobs that barely paid the bills. Does that mean that I should have been happy as a hobbyist computer teacher and flipped burgers for a living? Only after you know you’ve become an “expert” in your field are you in a position to make a serious living.You suggest that anyone stuck flipping burgers spend whatever extra money they make on education to better themselves. Why does that education have to be academic? If I spent 6 years after high school and $20,000 a year on magic and balloons, where would I be now? I’ve heard people say about some magicians, “he’s only a big name in magic because he was able to spend the money on stage illusions.” I’ve never heard anyone say, “he’s only got a $60,000 a year engineering job because he went to school for 8 years to learn the field.”I agree with you that nobody is going to be an overnight success in the twisting business. I also agree that most people won’t be able to spend $120,000 to get their balloon career started. I don’t know of anyone that offers scholarships for it. I do believe whole-heartedly that anyone that has the dedication, and the time to put into it can succeed as an entertainer every bit as well as a programmer. In fact, an artist creates the need for his own job. Once the artist is good enough, he can work anywhere. A specialized field may require your talents in only a few places.

    I put myself through school as an entertainer. It was only after I did that successfully that I realized how happy I was and how I should do that for a living. It’s not easy, and I have a long time to go before I’m making what I would make as a programmer. I don’t care. I enjoy what I do.

Other Responses

  • Of course, my full-time twisting business has been difficult to create, and difficult to maintain. But like with any self-made business, I am terribly proud that I created it all on my own (with a little help from my friends and family). I especially love that feeling I get when I am entertaining clean adult crowds in fancy places, and everybody is having a great time. I was on cloud nine early on in my business when I entertained at the Fairmont Hotel! Going places twisting can only come about by hard work. Besides creating this all by myself, what’s wonderful about having my own business has been that I am in control of my own destiny. Of course I have to please my customers, but I am my own boss. The only unrealistic expectations going on in my business are mine, and those can be dealt with. Tom, you mentioned, “An ambitious balloon twister will find there are very few full-time, high paying jobs in his field.” What’s great is that I’ve found it. I live in a choice area that has given me enough gigs, and enough to go around for all the other types of entertainers. I did a few hundred gigs last year. I think that the only way to make sufficient cash on balloons has been what I have done – – lived and breathed balloons day and night, until my friends were sick of hearing me talk about them. I don’t see myself as being much different from the local full time magicians and clowns – they are making a living, have families, own homes, and are sane. Granted, I’ll need a good dose of stamina to get there. Funny thing, I’ve only been able to afford my master’s degree in counseling because of the Almighty latex balloon. Balloons have been my only dollar for three years, and has been full time. . My ballooning will be what carries in me into what I’d really like to do in the future- – -balloon therapy- – no, I mean balloons and therapy. Ballooning has supported me and will get me to the place where I will enjoy each of these professions equally. That will still probably mean at least a few gigs a week. And crazy as it has been, these two professions of mine grew (inflated) simultaneously and proportionately. Amazingly, the business skills that I have been learning from running a balloon business will transfer to any job in the future AND my counseling business. As advanced therapists tell me, it will be the dual careerists that will survive in the awful world of managed health care. Personally, it surprises me, Tom, that you’re cutting the profession that you’ve been building for several years in the national community. I think it’s wonderful you’ve given a wholesome look at full-time twisting. You’re right, there is a lot to consider. But your whole business revolves around those items that enables others to increase in their twisting. I believe that everyone on the balloon HQ list would agree and desire that the world’s twisters be **MORE PROFESSIONAL**. Don’t you cringe when you seen a clown in bad makeup doing terrible balloons? Getting part-time twisters to be more professional will be difficult if they cannot model after full-timers. If anything, part-timers need to be as well-seasoned as possible. But, how would you like a part-timer to set fine adjustments on your car brakes or take pictures at your wedding? In many cases, it’s the full-time professionals that provide the utmost quality work. The balloon decorating community and Qualatex is beginning to recognize twisting professionals a lot more. IBAC is the best example of this. It was primarily the full-timers that spent time there. With the increased participation, communication, and visibility of twisters, Qualatex begins to grant new products, new colors, and provide more visibility to our product, the 260Q. Products such as the gray 260Q and the imprinted 260 would have never occurred if twisters didn’t have a voice. Hobbyists and part-timers usually only provide a minimal voice in these issues, and other long-range concerns of the twisting community.If you just do what everyone else does, you will not make it in the entertainment business. You have to find something unique about yourself that separates you from the rest. It might be the balloons that you make, or your personality, or your looks or who you know. It’s your uniqueness that separates you from the pack.If you wait at home for the phone to ring you will never make it in this business. Every day I am making calls, mailing out fliers, thinking up places to contact, etc. 75% of the entertainment business is done offstage. This is a BUSINESS. If you notice, all of us have other things that we do just in case. T has a balloon mail order business, I am a magician, radio talk show host, dinner theatre producer, and manufacturer of my own magic creations.

    If you are single, willing to travel, have no ties, you may make it as a twister exclusively. Keep plugging away!

“What is my profession?”

  • It’s difficult explaining to people what we do, and why it works well in a party setting. If you are having a hard time explaining to customers about how you entertain while making balloons. What better way than to ALWAYS carry balloons and SHOW them! (I’m usually NEVER without balloons. I carry a few in my purse/briefcase.)
  • Clown? Magician? Balloon Bender? It’s a Promotional Printing Problem….
  • First, a Basic Question: What do you consider yourself to be? Can you fill more than one role?I am a magician and a balloon twister. My cards say Magic, but I always verbally add ballooning, and often hand out cards when ballooning. When I book a show it’s for either magic, ballooning, or both. (Usually both.) I have, in the distant past, done clowning, but I charge more for that and since I do so much clowning around in my show they haven’t sprung for it for years.
  • Can you be a great clown? Would you want to be known as one? Could you do a whole gig as a clown without balloons–gasp! I can feel the heat!–even if you never had to? Then hey, put it on the card. Can you do ballooning without a clown costume (colorful clothes allowed, but clearly not a clown) and still feel you’re terrific? Then hey, put it on the card. Are you a whiz with a kitchen knife and can cook for a hundred at the drop of a hat? Well, maybe not on this card…
  • I get this stuff sometimes too – “ooh, the clown’s here, the clown’s here.” I just let it roll off, but it does bug me too. However, I usually just tell kids and adults, “I’m not a clown, I’m Pat in the Hat.” I make my own category. That’s why I think it helps to be a performing character and break the stereotype. As long as your client understands that you’ll be doing balloons only, and not a clown show, then I think it’s ok. Sell yourself on the fact that you’re a balloon entertainer, and not just by declaring that you’re not a clown. Define yourself by what you do, and rather than what you’re not. I do think one thing that affects you out in the South is that possibly people don’t have a mental picture, a common idea of what a balloon twisting professional is supposed to look like (my guess, of course). You see, out here, we have several restaurants with college kids who make a buck twisting, so the public is very accustomed to seeing twisters in restaurants, out in public. It’s very much in the public eye.
  • I’m wondering if you’d be able to create your own image and run with it. Be confident! Clowns don’t have to be the standard of anyone who does kids parties and private gigs. I think we need to establish ourselves with the image of being balloon artists, and in our own right, and not as a lesser type entertainer. I think balloons have historically been associated with clowns, but look at Steve Martin. He didn’t have to be in clown. He did such a great job in his shows, and in the movie Parenthood, establishing himself as an entertainer who used balloons, and was a natural clown. Go out there and break a leg! (not a loon)
  • I take this terminology very seriously. You’re definitely not making it a big deal, it’s important stuff. I began my business by looking at what I had to offer and how I could sell it. In my opinion, the public does not understand what a balloon twister is, and there is confusion in what a balloon artist does. A balloon artist can decorate or twist. I am in one of the more unique categories, and understand myself as a performing character. (see my web page to get a better idea – My specialty is balloons. I don’t do magic, fire-eating, face-painting, nor cat juggling for that matter. I sell myself as a balloon entertainer. I don’t just want to be know as one who makes doggies. Though you do things that a clown does and wears, it sounds like you don’t want to have to deal with the other expectations for clown stuff, such as juggling, magic, etc. Market yourself as someone who specializes in balloons. Here in the Silicon Valley, I’ve seen some techies avoid their serious job title at a technological firm for something fun. For example, one young lady had her title as a camp counselor. It was funny enough that I remembered it.
  • Are you a clown or are you a balloon artist? If you have to ask the question, you should already know you’re a balloon artist. I do both. I twist balloons as a clown, and I work as a twister out of make-up, so I take no offense at anything you’ve said about either. As I’ve said in prior postings, when I do it as a clown, I perform differently.
To the general public, the generic term CLOWN means anyone who 
wears funny clothes and entertains children. Why don't you call 
yourself "Children's Entertainer."

BTW, when someone calls me a clown I usually say:

"Boy I have to get out in the sun. Is my face really that white? Is my 
nose that red? .I really have to wash my face after drinking Kool 

Perhaps some of the clowns of the past played with inflated animal 
parts, but that's not the picture I get of the "traditional" clown.  
You're putting tags of "history" and "tradition" in places based on 
what really is only a few years (2 or 3 decades, max) of ballooning.  
If we're going to base modern characters on a tradition that doesn't 
extend very far, we're really limiting ourselves.

There's an article in the latest LaughMakers about what a 
"traditional" clown is and is not.  I enjoyed reading it since I've had 
this conversation with people in the past.  If you haven't read it and 
you're interested in clown history, you may want to get it.  

look at Steve Martin. He didn't have to be in clown. He did such a 
great job in his shows, and in the movie Parenthood, establishing 
himself as an entertainer who used balloons, and was a natural clown.

I'm not sure if I want to open this can of worms, but I'm going to 
speak up anyway.  You present Steve Martin as an example, and 
even then, you can't seem to decide if he is a clown or he isn't.  I say 
he is.  Does he wear a clown costume and Ringling style make-up?  
No.  But, how many of you have see the Ringling Brothers and 
Barnum & Baily Circus lately?  I went about a month ago.  Most of 
the clowns I saw would not have done well in competitions at clown 
conventions.  They were amazing entertainers with truly unique and 
interesting make-up.  They were not the traditional modern clown.  
Yes, the use of traditional and modern in the same sentence are 
intentional.  I don't believe that what we call a traditional clown now 
has anything at all to do with the traditional clown of a few years 
ago.  When I dress up "in clown" (to me that's any performance 
attire), I often dress up in what I call a traditional clown costume.  I 
just have a different tradition in mind.

You're a clown if you feel 
you are.  You are not a clown because of how your dress 
and what kind of make-up you wear.  I strongly encourage everyone 
to develop their own characters.  Be the entertainer you can be best.  
Don't try to place yourself in an artificial category, or remove 
yourself from a category.  Do your job as an entertainer.  Make your 
audiences happy and you'll be remembered and well rewarded.  
Maybe some of your audiences do see you as being clowns because 
you provide good entertainment.  It's nothing to get upset about.

If marketting is your concern, then avoid the term "clown" altogether 
in your own promotion.  Don't be afraid of what other people call 
you.  As long as you properly describe to them what you do, from 
your dress to your performance style, and they remember your 
actions, you've got nothing to worry about.  I call myself an 
airigamist.  I also call myself a magician, a juggler. and a clown.  I 
market myself as an entertainer and let people know what they're 
going to get when they hire me.

Well, when folks ask me I have a variety of responses:
When in full clown it is obvious that I am a clown, otherwise I am 
a balloonologist (that way I can sound like I had to go to school to do 
this instead of do this to get through school, after all WHO would 
want to inflate balloons for the rest of their life.)

Are you a clown or are you a balloon artist?  If you have to ask the 
question, you should already know you're a balloon artist. I do both.  
I twist balloons as a clown, and I work as a twister out of make-up, 
so I take no offense at anything you've said about either.  As I've 
said in prior postings, when I do it as a clown, I perform differently.

Being a clown embodies a variety of skills that enhance the ability to 
entertain, such as magic, storytelling, balloons, juggling, etc.  Still, the 
bottom line in clowning is the laugh, the entertainment, the 'blow 
off'....and a clown strives to get there, ultimately, without the 
balloons or other "miscellaneous stuff" he carries.  Ideally, it's 
personality and the making funny of a situation that is what makes 
the encounter with the clown most memorable.  This making of that 
moment is the gift a clown strives to give; the balloon is secondary.

I don't mean to imply that balloons or face painting or juggling aren't 
great skills to have, and in fact are often what the employer hires the 
clown to do.  Because so many people do it in make-up, it's become 
expected in many places.  Remember, doing those things doesn't 
make you a clown and being a clown doesn't mean you have to have 
those skills.

From your description, I suggest that you're an entertainer who 
twists balloons.

I want people to know that what we do is not just make balloons. But 
I am having a hard time explaining to customers about how I 
entertain while making balloons. It's difficult explaining to people 
what we do, and why it works well in a party setting. 
You can explain it.  But will they believe you?  It sounds like 
bragging when it comes from you.  It's better to do such a good job 
that your audience does your promo.  They just have to tell their 
friends how great you were.  The party itself is your audition for 
more work. 

Charge more and lose some jobs because of it.  Your price affects 
their opinion of your value.  If they are paying enough they expect 
more than balloons.  You will lose some of the jobs that think they 
just want balloons.  If they get a different twister and are 
disappointed, they will come back.   Maybe balloons is all they really 
want.  Price yourself out of those jobs and prove that you are worth 
your entertainment value.

If your show is good, the more you work, the more you work.  Word 
of mouth ought to drive your number of booked shows up.  In three 
years of working whenever you can, you ought to have more show 
requests than you can do.  If you live in a populous area and you are 
not getting more shows every year, rethink your show.

A friend of mine 'Phil the Pretty Good' is an excellent entertainer, 
does fancy balloons, balloon line work and magic shows.  He's in the 
North East part of the country and in 1/2 a day travel he can get to a 
lot of audiences.  After working balloons for a year he decided to 
raise his prices.  When they said - that much just for twisting 
balloons - he explained they were not paying for the balloons they 
were paying for the show.  It scared some of his jobs off but he 
found them coming back the next year at an even higher price.

On "doing the clown thing" as opposed to being a balloon person; 
I tried the clown thing but I came across
as what they call a lipstick clown - a phoney clown - and real clowns were
polite to me but you could tell they resented the fact that I was a non
professional clown. So I quit the greasepaint9 which was easy to do here in
phoenix where it gets to 112) and dressed nice and concentrated on balloons
and everything has gone great guns ever since. 

In reverse a friend of mine has the clown training and does benefits while his
children make balloon animals. He's just not a balloon person.

Monikers for balloon artists

  • Airigamist
  • Balloonaholic
  • Balloonatic
  • Balloonist
  • Balloon Airteest
  • Balloon Bender
  • Balloon Doc (PhB)
  • Balloon Sculptor (BSc)
  • Balloon Twister
  • Ballooner
  • Balloonologist
  • Balloon guy (and variants: gal, lady, dude, boy, etc.)
  • Blowhard
  • Latex Dispersal Engineer
  • “Latex Pressure Vessel Configuration Specialist” – I don’t twist balloons, I configure them.
  • The Michelin Man
  • Ninja Balloon Folder – and I’ve got the Black Balloon Belt to prove it!
  • Rubber Worker
  • Twistologist
  • Twister of Latex Life Forms

Balloonologist, Ballunatic – I like these as much as everyone else, but Bob Follmer has pointed out that the folks that coined the terms have also claimed them as their own. Jim Sommers made the word “Balloonologist” his own, legally. The same goes for “Balloonatic.” If you read Dwight Damon’s book “Balloonatic”, you will find on the bottom of page 4 a statement from him that the name Balloonatic is a registered trade name of Dwight Damon, and that all rights are reserved. While the use of the names is perhaps picayune, the same question of ethical practices would hold true for us in this business as for the magicians, who are also having some serious discussions on credits, infringements, etc. It is not my intent to start a battle over this, but to get all of us to think about what we call ourselves without checking it all out. Do we merely go and take a name and say the heck with those that invested in protecting their names, or do we attempt to contact these people and see if we have their permission to use it for ourselves?

In reference to the word “Balloonatic”… I did a search on the word “balloon” on Groylier’s(sp?) Multimedia Encyclopedia and found several references to hot air balloons and helium and one on the man Buster Keaton! It seems that Buster did a film entitled _The Balloonatic_ way back around 1922! Hmmm… I wonder if Dwight knows that? So, if you call yourself a Balloonatic, perhaps you could say your a fan of B. K.’s film of the same name? 🙂

#refusing”>Refusing Service #noball”>Handling “Balloons are not allowed here”

Refusing Service

  • Earlier in the year we briefly discussed the legalities of refusing service to lawyers. One thing that was mentioned was that it would be discrimination to do so and I replied that lawyers were a bad risk and insurance companies discriminate against people they consider to be a bad risk everyday.
  • I entertained at the WA Osteopathic Convention yesterday and learned that one of their seminars was on this subject. I was told that the seminar taught that a business has “the right to refuse service”. It was also recommended that these Osteopathic Doctors refuse service to lawyers and their immediate families because of the high risk of related litigation.
  • I found this to be particularly interesting because I had refused service to a law firm only two days before. The gentleman I spoke with told me that I could not do that because it was discrimination. I responded by telling him that I considered them to be a bad risk because of the high percentage of lawsuits that are filed by lawyers. I must have used a magic word because there was no more argument after that.

Handling “Balloons are not allowed here”

Whenever possible, check beforehand about doing balloons, and be ready to substitute something. Last October, I was all set to do balloons at a big fund raising race for a local charity, and we found out at almost the last minute that the state park it was held in didn’t permit balloons. Undoubtedly this was because of the old myths about balloons and animals/birds, but even if you could argue with the government there was no time in this case, and the charity didn’t want to make waves with the park Anyway, no problem… I switched gears and spent the day doing face painting.

Don’t tell them your balloon pump broke; it gives anyone there, adult and child alike, the mistaken impression that you’re unprepared and unprofessional when the truth is you were nothing of the kind.

Be honest with the kids… say the facility doesn’t allow balloons <clown shows he’s disappointed too> but it’s ok because you’ve got this really neat game <or whatever> you want to show them. Kids are pretty resilient with bigger losses than this…emphasize the game that you’re going to do, not the balloons you’re not going to do. I think you can sell it to the kids with a minimum of long-term groaning by emphasizing the positive.

MB 12/13/95
SKB 2/11/96
SKB 9/15/96
SKB 9/25/96
LM 12/?/96
LM 1/29/97
MB 4/4/97
SKB 6/16/97
WNL 12/9/97
SKB 12/20/97
MB 7/7/98
MB 7/9/99

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.




Strange things (both good and bad)
can happen to anyone at anytime. There are quite a number of
responsibilities one inherits when going into business. Some of these
responsibilities relate directly to Joey's predicament.
One of the biggest responsibilities (besides acting like a professional) is
having good BUSINESS sense and practices. Like any other business (in this
day and age) you need a good lawyer, a good accountant, advertising rep and
good insurance coverage. All of the above relates directly to the old adage
" you gotta' spend money to make money." Yes, all of these business needs
cost money, but if good people and programs are selected wisely for your
business, it is almost always money well spent.

Determine what kind of work you
really want; birthday parties, grand openings, fairs, restaurants, etc.
If you want to be a general performer (willing and able to twist for
whatever they call you for) then you should get a promo shot ($60-$100
max.) and a 1000 or so promo cards from ABC Pictures
( ($90).  Forget about business cards as these mini
lithographed pictures work a heck of a lot better for almost the same
amount of cash.

With your promo info at hand, approach a restaurant (Applebee's,
Friday's, Friendly's) and pitch them on having you work their kids'
night.  Offer to work 2 1/2 hours or so for a small fee.  It certainly
isn't much money for the work, but if you are reasonable good and
personable they will take a chance on such a small figure.  Then when
you do the gig, give EVERY SINGLE CHILD YOUR PICTURE!!!!!  (with phone
number and website of course!)

The phone will start ringing very quickly for birthday parties.  In our
business every sale brings you 10-12 more qualified leads and your
business will snowball.  Forget advertising in newspapers and such.  Try
what I just described and inside of one year you will have most of the
work you want or need.

I have just incorpated my business into an S corp. This is going to save me
alot of money in self employment tax. Some of you may want to think about
doing this, it cost about $500  here in VA with lawyers cost. But will save
alot more in the long run. Check with your accountant.

About your question concerning registering a business name.  I dunno exactly how they
do it in your area, but where I live, you go to the County courthouse, to the 
office that handles business licenses.  Now, in some places they treat
 businesses like dirt (visit New York sometime) but in this county of Virginia 
they're very helpful.  And you ask to register a business name - most 
seasoned businessmen here call it a "DBA" ("Doing Business As...").
It costs me $10, and I can register anything that hasn't been taken - so, no, I can't register 
as "The Coca-Cola Company", but I can register as "XYZ Entertainment" or "Joe's Bar 
and Grill" (even if my name isn't Joe) or as "Fidget the Clown", even if my Mom & Dad 
didn't name me "Fidget" at birth, or even as "Ross MacRae", which is my professional 
name as a magician and not anything like my legal name ... it's a "DBA" and I find that for 
me it helps separate my work and private lives.  Here, when I do that, they call it a 
"fictitious name DBA".  So go register as "Whatever the Clown" and if another "Whatever" 
comes along and hassles you, you can tell him you got to the courthouse first and he'd 
better find himself another name.

There are different types of registration - state and federal. 
Federal takes precedence over State. I used to have my
name registered with the State of Ohio for $20.00 but if I do a birthday
party or company picnic out of the state I would be in trouble. Also for
you to register your name with State or Federal, you have to sign a
waiver stating that you have done a name search (Costs from $300.00 and up) 
and that you could not find anybody else with that name. The oldest form 
of proof stands. The federal registration is best and stands strongest. 
I went to a lawyer and paid $600.00 to have my name legally registered 
which means I can use it in any state and I can sue any other balloon 
worker using my name even if they went to the county and state. It is 
in anybodys best interest who has a name they want to protect to go to 
the Federal. By registering with the Federal you are allowed to put the 
circle with the R next to your name.  You are allowed to put TM next to 
any name whether it is registered or not and the copyright symbol on 
printed material even if you have not secured a federal copyright but 
to use the circle with the R it has to be federally registered or
you can be arrested and fined and sued if someone else had that registered.
(Even if you have a State registration) You can do it with
federal without a lawyer by going to the library and picking up books on
how to do it yourself and it would only cost you about $200.00. I
personally like the idea of safety and knowing it was done right and it
takes a lot longer by yourself than it does with a lawyer. Mine took almost
a year to the day to get and that was with one of the best contract lawyers
in the nation.  Hope this helps. It has been researched and used and My
registration will be up for renewal next year (I will be renewing).

1.  Not charging enough
    All of the other clowns were really mad at me, and I was too busy and
    going in the hole (babysitter...)

2.  Trying to do too much at an hour or 2 hour party; juggling, face
   painting, balloons, and of course a magic show; dumb dumb dumb!
   I could not get it all done which ruined the hostesses time for kids to go
   home and made me look bad, like I didn't really know what I was doing, (I didn't). 

3.  Taking checks
        I have had my share of bounced checks.

4.  Making balloon sculptures for employees at restaurants I worked.
        NIGHTMARE...I though I was never going to leave...One lady had 5 kids
        and wanted one for each one and herself and her boyfriend, (free of course) 
        and she was just one of the employees, I had quite a few others as well.
        did I do it, Yes, they don't call me Sugar for nothing.  I wanted a sweet 
        personality as a clown (to compliment the way I really am).  I have found out
        that if I want to appear to be sweet I have to be not so sweet when negotiating
        with a manager before I start work.

So what I have learned through all of my stupid mistakes is that there is
no such thing as too much planning!!

The phone company offers a service called "distinctive ring" or "RINGMATE."  
It requires only one line, but gives you two numbers.  Each number rings your 
phone differently so you know if it is a business or personal call.  In the 
beginning it was designed so parents could avoid having to take messages for 
their kids.  It only costs about $5 more than just one number.  

My regular phone rings like this:  ring.........ring.........ring.........
The ringmate number sounds like this:  ring-ring......... ring-ring.......... 

Another advantage is that if you have small children that can not take 
messages, just tell them not to pick up the phone when it rings 2 times.   
This gives you a really professional image.  It ALSO works with call waiting!  
If you tie it to an answering machine you can cover your calls even when on 
deliveries or decorating job!

I have a separate line so I can get in the yellow pages as well.

Some friends with home businesses have a home business phone plan where for a 
few dollars a month more you get a second number (but only one line) with a 
business listing, including one yellow page listing in the phone book.

If you have a strictly a residential phone plan, you can usually have the name 
of your choice in the phone book. Maybe if your name is John Smith and your 
clown name is Bozo you could be listed as John "Bozo" Smith in the white 

My home telephone is hooked up to my computer.  I don't use it to talk on a
regular basis.  My "other" telephone line is considered my business phone so 
that I can get a line in the telephone book.  Everyone calls me on this line.  
They ask for "Bizzy" or "The Clown" if they want to talk business.  My 
children and husband are trained to be polite.  But, just in case, I log the 
calls that come in through a caller I.D.  If I don't recognize the phone 
number, I return the call as soon as I check the caller I.D..  I also have a 
pager hooked to my telephone.  When I am away from the phone or the phone is 
busy, It transfers all calls to my pager. This makes it very easy to return 
calls quickly.

If you work from home full time and stay very busy, what do you 
do about phone calls when you must be out for long periods 
of time, longer than makes sense to use an anwering machine? 
I checked into an answering service (so that, at least, a "live" 
person could answer.)  But they can not take action on a phone call.
Does anyone have any ideas? 

When ever I was away from my home based business I had my phone calls
diverted to my cellphone. I paid for each call. This meant that I was
always in touch with my clients. When ever I needed something done
immediately, I called a trusted 'competitor' and had them
do the delivery. I billed the client, so the client remained mine. 
I found it was a win-win situation for me.

When Royal and I are out of town whether on a large job or teaching or
attending a convention, we change the tape on our machine.  The tape says
that we are out of town for whatever reason and that we will return on xyz
date.  We say that we will be checking our machine daily and if they would
like to leave a message, will would be happy to call them back.  Otherwise
they can call back after we return.  Those people who need an immediate
reply will leave a message, but most will call back once you have returned.
All of them will appreciate the notice.  Many times when we have said that
we were at a convention, that spurs more interest from them... "Balloon
Artists have conventions?  And you say you won a competition?  Sure I'd
love to see photos!!"  This only makes you look better in the eyes of your

Balloons are wonderful when handled in a safe manner and can easiily
become a danger when handled in an irresponsible manner.
Therefore, liability insurance is VERY important. 
If something happens, both the performer and the establishment are 
responsible. First they go after the establishment (restaurant, etc), 
and then they pass it along to the performer.  I know someone who
works at Disney World. He put a balloon hat on a woman. A few minutes later
the hat poped and now the woman is complaining that she has lost hearing in
one ear as a result of it.  She sued Disney whose lawyers said that the
balloon artist was independently contracted so if they want to sue anyone,
they would have to go to the balloon  twister (which they did) . The case is
still pending.

Also, ask the insurance agent that covers your house and cars about
performing liability insurance.  Sometimes they can give you a better deal.

The group policies available for clowns have a lot of exclusions and
the $1 million limit is total allowable for GROUP - meaning if there
were several claims at one time for more than that, you'd be out of

The World Clown Association does have a liability insurance which is a
comprehensive general liability policy with coverage of $1,000,000 limit per
occurrence/$2,000,000 total aggregate per event. This is different from the
policy mentioned above which does limit it to the entire group. Our policy
has no deductible and costs $100 / year. Current period May 1, 1998 - May 1,
1999. You can also offer additional insured (malls, hotels, etc.) for $30
each. This program is designed for clowns and magicians. If you are twisting
balloons as either a clown or magician, you would be covered. For more
information on this policy, please contact our administrator, Pat Wilson at
800 336-7922.

The only ones that I know about are the WCA (World Clown Assoc.) and the one
in Minnesota.  For the WCA, you have to be a member of the organization.  You
should check with the organization for coverage etc.  (WCA, P.O. Box 1413,
Corona, CA 91718)

The one in Minnesota is:
Clowns of the U.S., Inc
7732 Cayenne Plz. W.
Woodbury MN 55125
(612) 738-0280

I have not talked to him but I believe that Clowns of the US is group for a
group policy.  The group is the policy holders.  It says that is applies to
clowns in the United States.  I know that it covers performers other than
clowns (twisters and jugglers) but there are some exceptions.  If you live in
Canada or elswhere you will probably not be able to get the coverage.  The
policy renews on April 25 so it is time to send in the money.

Also, ask the insurance agent that covers your house and cars about
performing liability insurance.  Sometimes they can give you a better

The group policies available for clowns have a lot of exclusions and
the $1 million limit is total allowable for GROUP - meaning if there
were several claims at one time for more than that, you'd be out of

The cost of insurance is one of
the overhead prices that you have to buld into your cost structure, just as any
business person must do.

Remember, as a twister, or clown or magician, you are first and foremost a
business person, whether or not you realize it. Only if you do these under the
employment of someone else would you be anything else. 

That said, what you need and should have is Business Insurance, of which
liability is the biggest part, although it may have other pieces of coverage
based on what your business is. Call around and ask for Business Policies and I
am sure you will find one. Mine is through American Family Insurance. One
Million in liability is $200 a year. I consider that to be cheap!

get liability coverage if you do a
lot (or intend to do a lot) of work as a performer anywhere.  That's fairly
standard that anywhere you work they expect you to have your own coverage.
Any contract worker has to be prepared for that.  And, unfortunately, you
can see what happens when you don't have it.

The other side of that is if you have your own liability insurance, you
look a lot more professional than "just another balloon guy."  It helps
lend credibility to what you're doing as a real business.  I think it's a
real art form whether you do it for business purposes or as a hobby.  But
to a lot of people, you're just a guy asking for money to hand out balloons
with a couple of twists.  

I would never twist, even for free, without my liability policy. 
There is just too many things and too many people who are suit happy
today.  The cost for an individual should run about a 100 to 125 a
year for a one or two million general liability policy.  VERY CHEAP in
that I can sleep nights.

World Clown Association  also has an insurance, which runs from May 1,
1999 to May 1, 2000 for $100.00 per year.   The coverage is a Comprehensive
General Liability Policy with coverage of $1,000,000 Limit Per
Total Aggregate Per Event--deductible:  none.  The price remains the same, no
matter when during the year you order the insurance.   Members are required to
join the WC Association :   age 16-60:  $24;   retiree: age 60+ U.S.: $18;  or 
family member:  per person $12.; and will also receive the "Clowning Around"
magazine.   They would also have to wear some minimal costume.   The
Association also includes magicians and puppeteers.  I did receive some information
from them and an application. 

If you need additional information, call 1-800-336-7922 and talk to Pat Lay Wilson,
Administrator for WC Assoc.  She will send you the information and an application.  I
am reluctant to send anyone money before I receive any kind of policy information.  I
understand that is the case with the Felerman Insurance--no information, just send a
$95 check.  Does anyone have additional information or know of any suits Felerman 
insurance has had to cover?  That is a question I asked Pat Lay  Wilson about the 
WC Assoc. insurance and she did relate to me a case she knew mabout.

Entertainers insurance is available from

Al Felerman Insurance
7732 Cayenne Plaza W.
Woodbury MN  05125

I got the phone number from one of the Sorell's videos.
I called him and the insurance runs from Apr. 25 - Apr. 25 each year.
Starting this Apr. 25th it will have $2,000,000 coverage.  The cost is
$95 per year.  There isn't a form to fill out.  Just mail him $95 and he
will send you the policy.

Al Fellerman (The guy is a little rough  around the edges - maybe even rude, 
sells insurance - no membership fees, just $85 a year).
I have had an equal number of people say that he does and that he doesn't 
return calls, so I suppose it is a 50/50 chance that you will get to talk to him.
He is only the agent, not the actual insurer.  The group policy is from
Clowns of the U.S., and the insurance carrier is: General Casuality 
(I believe).  I have never filed a claim, so I can't tell anyone about 
that, I just know that it is a $1,000,000 group coverage policy.

while recently renewing my performer's insurance (I have the WCA 
policy), it caught my eye that the fine print excludes claims for trademark 

In a recent post, I mentioned having a performer's insurance policy. I know 
it's a topic that's been discussed here on the list every now and then, but 
I've received so many private e-mails asking me about it I thought it might 
be an appropriate item on which to post.

There are several performer's insurance policies around. The policy offered 
through World Clown Association (WCA) is the only one I've ever had and so 
it's the only one with which I have any familiarity. I've not yet received 
the updated certificate, so a detail or two of what I'll describe may have 
changed, but it's offered to WCA members by Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. 
It's a commercial general liability policy which costs $100 per year and 
which provides coverage as follows:

General Aggregate:			$2,000,000
Products-Comp/Op. Agg:		$1,000,000
Personal & Adv. Injury:		$1,000.000
Each Occurrence:				$1,000,000
Fire Damage (Any one fire):		$50,000
Med. Expenses (Any one person):	$ 5,000

Again, there are other policies available, and it's a matter of individual 
judgment as to which is best. This is just the policy for which I have 
information here. WCA can be reached at P.O. Box 1413, Corona, California 
91718. Their telephone number is (800) 336-7922.

What records should I keep?
Whether you are using computer or manual methods, try this:  find the
appropriate IRS tax form that you will be using to determine profit/loss
and go to the Business Expenses section.  As an example look at Form 1040
Schedule C:

Now make your accounting categories the same as the Business Expenses
categories on the tax form that applies to you.  It sure saves a lot of 
work come tax time...

If you are not sure which categories apply to you and which ones don't, or
you want to know the tax rules for each category, ask your accountant or
download the applicable publications from

and start reading.  I'm no accountant but I hope this helps,

My CPA specializes in Independent Contractors and small businesses. 
I don't pay hundreds of dollars in unnecessary taxes because my accountant stays up 
to date on independent contractor tax strategies.  Find a specialist that understands 
your particular situation and how to take advantage of it.  We are 
in such a wonderful business as entertainers where so much of what we touch can be a 
deduction. Office supplies, stamps, trips to the material store, auto expenses and on and 
on.  Take a trip to San Diego or San Fransisco to see the street performers.  Go to a 
comedy club or a street fair. There are deductions there.   We can hire our children to sort 
our balloons and wash our cars that we use to go to jobs and clean up our balloon 
droppings after practicing.  Deductions.  Pay that money to a retirement account for them 
and it opens up even more possibilities. If your tax man isn't suggesting and explaining 
these things to you then you need a new tax man.  
I had H"R Block 'type' services and an Atty. do my taxes before and when I switched to a 
CPA that specializes in small businesses I realized how much of my 
income I had been giving away over the years. My CPA says he wishes every one of 
his clients had my entertainment business as a side business as it is so rich with legitimate 
deductions.  Of course legitimate is the key word and I don't know your business or how 
you operate it.  A qualified tax consultant has to give you your personal correct answers but 
when they don't think they could defend you in an audit for internet service I would 
become real suspicious of their advice for the big deductions.  Find one that works from 
confidence not from fear. I think it might be unwise to get into a discussion on this line of 
what is or isn't a 'legitimate' deduction because everyone's business is different and not all 
of this applies to you or anyone else.  I am not giving tax advice as I am not a CPA and I 
have never played one on T.V.  What I am saying is that we should get our personal 
information from someone who is fully qualified and understands our unique tax 
opportunities and not from a run of the mill number cruncher.  I share this information to 
give you an idea of what MY CPA has advised ME for MY situation and business for the 
last 15 years. Your mileage may vary. 

I am a CPA and a clown (yes, they are different!). I have not been in public practice
for a while, but I find it hard to believe the laws would have changed that

>are in such a wonderful business as entertainers where so much of what we touch 
>can be a deduction. Office supplies, stamps, trips to the material store, auto 
>expenses and on and on.  Take a trip to San Diego or San Fransisco to see the 
>street performers.  Go to a comedy club or a street fair. There are deductions 
>there.   We can hire our children to sort our balloons and wash our cars that we 
>use to go to jobs and clean up our balloon droppings after practicing.  
>Deductions.  Pay that money to a retirement account for them and it opens up even 
>more possibilities. If your tax man isn't suggesting and explaining these things 
>to you then you need a new tax man.  

Boy, I would get rid of this guy real quick!  Some of these deduction are
possible if you are incorporated.  If you are incorporated I will apologize
right now.  However, if you are not I'd be very careful of these.  You can
hire your children if you are incorporated, however, you are subject to the
same labor laws as any business would be. You must take care of all the
child labor laws and pay all applicable payroll taxes.  In some cases the
child would also have to file a tax return.  If you are not incorporated,
you cannot deduct payments to family members, only arm length transactions
to outside parties.  As for some of the other deductions, he is correct in
his statement that "There are deductions there."  Again, I think you must be
careful.  A business trip is a business trip.  It is not a two week vacation
that you watched a magician perform.  A business trip must have a
justifiable business purpose with very little personal gratification.  I
know a while back that teachers lost (or were limited on) the deductions
they were taking for trips that related to their subject matter, since they
were not a necessary part of their occupation.

>My CPA says he wishes every one of 
>his clients had my entertainment business as a side business as it is so rich with 
>legitimate deductions.  Of course legitimate is the key word and I don't know your 
>business or how you operate it.  A qualified tax consultant has to give you your 
>personal correct answers but when they don't think they could defend you in an 
>audit for internet service I would become real suspicious of their advice for the 
>big deductions.  Find one that works from confidence not from fear. 
>I think it might be unwise to get into a discussion on this line of what is or 
>isn't a 'legitimate' deduction because everyone's business is different and not 
>all of this applies to you or anyone else.  

With this I agree, however if your accountant does not question you on your
deductions, they will never know if they are legitimate.  My personal
philosophy is to claim a deduction that you are entitled to, but do not 
take a questionable deduction to "cheat" Uncle Sam.  (This is a general
statement and not aimed at the accountant in question.)  Do I deduct my
annual trips to Clown Camp?  In the early years yes, however now I go more
because it is a good time and not a necessary part of my business.  Maybe,
every several years taking a deduction because it helps me keep up with the
changes in the art.  THIS IS MY PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY!  If you can justify the
expense as a legitimate business expense every year than go for it.

The key is justification.  My answer to the original question was:  You can
deduct the cost of the internet only to the extent the internet is used for
business purposes.  The only way to justify it is to keep a log by your
computer and record the dates and time of all usage, and whether it was
business or personal.  You can then deduct your business percent of the
cost.  I'm sorry, I'm too honest of a guy (even when it comes to taxes).