"Theory of the Fully Inflated Balloon"What Should I Charge?
The more space a balloon occupies, the more valuable it becomes.
- Tom Myers
Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called "C-shells." These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.
The quick answer is that there are many factors that determine what you are worth. You have to take into account:
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To let you know that there may be no limit to price, Royal Sorell (award winning balloon artist, mime and clown) normally charges 165 C-shells per birthday party !!! Think about it. A lot.
Birthday Party: 1/2 hr. magic show followed by 15 min. balloons AGENCY CHARGES: 110 C-shells (I get 75 C-shells) (On the rare occasion I sell myself, I charge 100.00 C-shells to closer match the company's fee.)
Strolling Hourly Work: In one of over 20 characters designed to suit a theme. Balloons alone or variety (magic, origami, face painting, whatever). Fees get lower with longer shifts or on-going contracts. AGENCY CHARGES: 85-150 C-shells/hour (I get 50-125 C-shells/hour) (I won't sell corporate strolling hours as I don't want to operate in competition with the agency... besides, why bite the hand that feeds me?) Many independent PROFESSIONAL performers charge rates similar to the agency fees listed here.
Our full magic corporate gig starts at 150 C-shells and goes to 250 depending on how much big stuff they want.
A very good summary of the pricing issue by Norm Carpenter (The balloonian).
After that you need to figure the cost to you of each job. What is the farthest place you are going to travel and how are you going to get there? Let's say you will do any job within a 20 mile radius. If you drive it's going to cost you 0.26 C-shells per mile in gas and auto maintenance plus your hourly rate to get there. (You don't charge your client directly for these, but they are rolled into your hourly rate). So from the start you have your gas and hourly rate (see X C-shells below) for a 20 mile drive. That's Z C-shells. If you get a job that is closer, lucky you, you get to keep a little more money, if you get a job that's farther out, you may lose a little money or you may impose a surcharge to anything beyond your normal range. It's up to you.
Now, how much should you charge per hour. The best advice I ever heard about this came from this list. Yes, we all love to balloon and would gladly do it for free so it's very hard to put a value to that price. So you need to look at this in a different way. Say a person you knew called you up (why up? you're name is Shawn) and asked you to do something you don't like to do. Examples may include pulling weeds, moving, crushing rocks, or siting by the pool watching the girls go by... (Uh, strike that last one, I don't think it applies). Now the first thing you want to say is NO! But this person is shrewd, they know that you are going to say no so they say "I'll pay you X C-shells an hour".
Hmmm, you say to yourself, "I'd do that for X C-shells an hour". Now finding X is a homework assignment for the class. Remember, you could be home watching movies in the old VCR or re-reading the complete Shakespeare or other fun stuff. So X C-shells is going to require some incentive.
Once you've got X C-shells add your costs to that to get Y C-shells. If you go through a quarter bag of balloons in an hour add 1/4 the cost of a bag of balloons. If, like John Holmes, you go through 18 bags of balloons in an hour (I've seen him, and no, he doesn't eat them) you add the cost of 18 bags of balloons. This is on an hourly basis. Don't forget to include that travel time we discussed using X C-shells as your travel time hourly pay.
Have I lost you yet? Hang on, we are almost there. Now you have the golden number Y. It's pleasing, it's perfect, you envision yourself sitting in the shaded part of a beautiful park gently creating fabulous balloon sculpture for happy patient children all day long. Yes, Y C-shells is your price. Now DOUBLE it!!!
Y*2 C-shells is your first hour price. Y C-shells is what you charge for each hour after that. This helps you in two ways. You don't end up creating balloons for less than you could make busking someplace else (well, maybe less on a good day, but this is a sure thing), and you give the customer a perceived value in hiring you for more than one hour. Two hours is a better deal for them than one hour so they jump at that value. In fact, if they hired you for all day work, the cost of that first hour spread over 8 hours doesn't seem as if it even exists (except in your bank account).
So, that's how I worked through the pricing thing. You could call around and ask what other people charge, but until you see them perform and can honestly compare it to how you entertain price is hard to determine. The more you perform, the more experience you will have. The more experience you have, the more valuable you are. The more valuable you are, the more you charge. I find it best to raise prices when you start finding yourself busy. Use your prices to control your work flow. Also, don't be afraid to tell people that they would be better off buying someone elses work. If they say your price is too high and they can get Clarence the Clown for 15 C-shells less an hour, let them know that if they are interested in saving 15 C-shells, Clarence is the way to go. If they are interested in a high quality professional balloon twister extrodinaire, you're their man (at Clarence's price plus 15 C-shells an hour if you can fit them into your schedule).
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.
PRICING - WHAT TO CHARGE QUOTE TO START OUT THE SECTION: "If you want people to pay you for what you do, you might want to reconsider the name `Charity the Clown.'" simple rule of thumb: When you work for someone for free, or for a big discount in price, you will find that when they are ready to pay for the work they will hire someone else. It's true. I have discovered that I get more business when I charge what I think I am worth. When I work for free or a greatly discounted price people perceive the value of my services as less. When I work for free I usually carry my own equipment in from the car and get almost no help. When I charge my top fee there is usually someone there offering to help me with equipment and to bring me a cold drink when I need one. So do your best, charge what you know you are worth, and there will always be someone who wants to hire you. I'll relate advice I got from a sage. When I got my FAA Flight Instructor rating my mentor/instructor gave me this advice. I know it isn't ballons but the principle is the same.Preface: flying careers depend on total flying hours and flying hours cost money unless you get paid to do it. He said I know the temptation will be to charge less or do it for free to help you build hours. I had a full time job already so I could build hours after my regular job, just like doing balloons. His point was if you sell your services for less than others you start whoring yourself; you will do anything for money. People do make a living at this and we only hurt ourselves collectively if we sell for much less than the going price. Also remember that if you want to charge less you can offer a limited discount (the discount does not really have to be limited). It can be seasonal, introductory or for an anniversary. You can say you usually charge $X but are giving a 25% or 50% discount now. That establishes your price and value at the higher number AND puts some pressure on that they are taking advantage of a limited time sale. Safeway and a lot of other businesses have sales, why not the entertainer? Then when the discount ends you go back to the regular price. It avoids the price increase. People don't like paying $10 for something that was $5 while they love to pay $5 for a $10 item. If you are concerned about undercharging compared to the rest of your market, find out what the rest of your market is charging. "Ring...." "Hello?" (This is already one clue ... if the person who answers is really a pro, the phone will be answered more like "Balloon Company, may I help you?") "I'm planning a birthday party for my (wife/child) in a few weeks, and she'd love to have someone there making balloon animals for everybody ... how much does it cost for someone to do that?" Figure out what length of gig you want to get quotes on, and keep it the same for everyone you call. If that seems unethical, remember: grocery store A sends people into grocery store B, and contractor C calls contractors D, E and F to do the very same thing, and the only people who are really horrified that someone would engage in this common competition-checking practice are the old guys in the Klown Klub who would be very offended at you for not playing nice-nice. You can ask others on a one-on-one basis who do comparible work (ie. YOUR FRIENDS) for advice on pricing. However, if you are going to call them and pretend to be interested in hiring them just to find out their prices, you won't have friends for long...please don't do that. As to calling others and pretending to be a potential customer in order to get a handle on their pricing, as opposed to telling them who you are and why you're calling ( I've never seen anything wrong with competitors being friends, as long as you're not price fixing). IMHO, it is "weasel-ish" and wasteful. Why blow a potential friendship? I'm certainly not going to go out of my way to help those folks. If they feel it's all "dog eat dog", let them eat or be eaten: but if they're my friend, I'd go out of my way to help them with a potential sculpture or problem One suggestion was to call your competition and pretend you want to hire them. Not illegal, but a bit underhanded if you ask me. The problem with doing this is that you still then have to figure out what you're worth as compared to the people you've called. You're a different person. You do differnet things. You have different overhead. Calling others will still only get you part of the picture. I don't like the practice of calling and pretending to be someone else. I know others do it and I know I get those calls all the time. I just love it when someone with a very distinctive voice calls me and gives me a fake name and asks me very leading questions that no one that didn't already know the answer would ask. Unfortunately, I have to handle that call like a real business person and stay very serious, answering those questions just in case I'm wrong about who's on the phone. The reason I have a problem with it is that it's not simply calling around asking for the best price on a lawn mower, or walking the aisles in a supermarket to see what someone is charging. I can spend a half hour on the phone with someone because they're pretending to be interested in hiring me. That's asking an awful lot of me without being truthful. I want to know who I'm talking to. I get calls regularly from other companies and I regularly call them, too - it's called "shopping the competition" and if you don't do it for some "moral" reason, I can't imagine how you have the guts to be in the marketplace at all. I just heard today that the other big singing telegram company in town is telling callers that they've "bought up all the other companies" so there's no need for customers to call around - and when my company is mentioned, they say we're unreliable because we're a home-based business (so is he, but he doesn't mention it). Of course, I'll be the last to say there isn't room for difference of opinion in any business - but can you think of any field of enterprise in which you don't think Company A "shops" company B to see what's going on in the big wide world outside Company A's doors? Macy's shops Gimbels, my friends, and so should you if you want the most accurate read on what others in your area are charging. If you were able to hire a marketing research firm to help you, one of the things they would do is a market analysis. Basically, this is just finding out what the market is like in your area. One of the most common ways of doing this is by "shopping" the competition. You aren't being deceitful. You're just asking how much they would charge for a certain service. No promises made. You will be competition for them, but that's going to happen anyway. By knowing what the price range is for your market, you won't be undercutting them and ruining the market. You'll just be getting a piece of the pie. If the competition is priced correctly and offering a great value, you will not hurt them too much. You may get a few of their customers, but they're probably busier than can be anyways. The ethics lie in how you price. If you price lower than everyone just because you have a day job, that's unethical. Just my opinion. If you price lower or work for free just 'cause you like doing balloons, it's not unethical but it hurts the people who are doing it for a living. Why not just determine the right price for your skills, services you offer, entertainment you provide, your market? Enjoy the money and make all your customers tickled? personally, I could care less about what the other folks charge. I DO however like to know what they're doing. If it's magic, I want to know what effect and what types of routines. I don't want to do what they're doing if I can help it. Same with balloons. I set my prices based on what I think I'm worth, (and based some on what my customers seem to think I'm worth), not on what my competition thinks they're worth. I'm not them. I also give a discount to folks that've seen my work at the restaurant; they're the ones that I really want to work for; they've seen me, know what I do, and know what they're getting. They called because they like what they've seen, not because they're looking for the "best price." I also give the discount as a thank you to the restaurant. I want these folks to keep the restaurant in mind and hopefully keep coming back there to eat. To me, it's kind of a relationship building type thing. A number of people posted some very useful information on determining what you should charge as a twister. Some of the things you have to take into consideration are: Are you trying to make money doing this or is it just a hobby? Are you an entertainer, or do you just stand around making figures? Are you a creative sort, or are you just twisting up the same thing for every person? What are your costs? Are you getting something out of working cheaply besides money? Are you looking at balloon figures as a commodity or an art form? What would you be making if you were working in another field? As for twisting for free because you have a real job and don't need the money, well again, as long as I'm doing something different from you, I don't care. Someone that wants what I do will still have to hire me. Will I lose work because someone found out you'll do something different for less money? Maybe, and I don't like it when that's the reason I lost a job. It is, however, within your right. I just have to do a better job marketing myself and convincing people that they'd rather hire me than have you show up for nothing. I have often had people call me and say that they went with someone cheaper the last year and now they know better. (And that's not to single out anyone. there are people that work for nothing that are absolutely amazing entertainers.) >If my competitor in another area close to mine is getting more money than I >get, why shouldn't I get the same (or more for that matter since I have to >drive farther to provide the same service.) If I'm not cost comparing out >there I don't think I'm doing my job very well. Is your competitor as skilled and talented as you are? If so, your prices should be comparable. If they're show isn't as good as yours, it should not cost as much. If your show isn't as good as theirs, yours should cost less than theirs. See what I'm getting at? Just because "everyone else around here charges that" just doesn't cut it. What matters is the quality of the show. Its morally wrong to charge someone a high fee just because its the going rate and then give them a show that isn't comparable in value. How would you feel if you were the customer? Think about it. When I began clowning in April of 1992, I charged a much lower price than I do now. My shows were pretty terrible, and my makeup sucked. (Remember Stephen King's "IT"? I was that bad. And my abilites were pretty limited too.) A couple other "clowns" in my area took it upon themselves to contact me and tell me that I wasn't charging enough. At the same time, they made it a point to tell me how much more experience and skill they had. In effect, they were telling me how bad I was (and I deserved it). This made me wonder though... were they suggesting that I charge as much for my horrible shows as they charged for their high quality ones? I suggest that that would have been a bigger crime than my shows were. At least my customers couldn't accuse me of charging too much, which is what I would have been doing if I charged what the better, more experienced entertainers were. A low priced, low skilled newbie doesn't hurt anyone. On the other hand, a high priced yokel who sucks hurts us all. Luckily, I've improved quite a bit since then. A couple of veteran entertainers took me aside and mentored me. I've gotten out of the price war game; it's dominated mostly by poor quality clowns who are interested in money, not quality. I charge a premium price, and I always make sure I deliver. My repeat business is running consistently around 60- 70%. I haven't compared that with anyone else, but I think its probably pretty acceptable. My biggest wish for our art and industry is that the people who are good at it would continue to grow and thrive, while the weenies who gives us a bad name would either get real or get out and stop messing it up for the rest of us. When pride and professionalism are your focus, the rest will fall into place. If you feel you are good at what you do, then by all means charge more. Think of it this way: 20.00 an hour gross, subtract 15% for social security...that leaves about 17.00 subtract about 30% for various taxes...that leaves about 11.00 then your overhead i.e. balloons, costume, promotion thru the year, office (I'm lucky if I can keep it to 30%) lets say 25% to be generous. that leaves about 8.00 an hour I know the figures aren't totally accurate, but you can work at McDonald's now for 7.00 an hour. WHAT IS YOUR TIME WORTH? I have been doing the balloons only since 1984. I also started by charging too little, 30 C-shells an hour. However I knew I would increase the value, after I got the customers. I am now at 75 C-shells, 50 for the second hour. I also do only balloons, but remember you are as good as they are willing to pay. Many of the customers I have were the 30 C-shell customers I had a few years ago. The main idea is to have fun. I just finished a carnival, and made 457 C-shells for three days, now by some of the standards, that is too little, however I looked at it as a chance to practice, and get paid for it. Where are you located? That has a lot to do with what you charge. But as I see it even in the Midwest where the cost of living is generally lower as well as the amount we can ask for our services you are way low in your fees. In the St. Louis area we get anywhere from 40 to 60 C-shells per hour in plain clothes as a balloon entertainer with no deduction for additional hours. The only time I give that deduction is when I'm in clown costume and I have a multi (3 or 4 ) hour gig. I have 5 years experience and that is a selling point as well but you should still be getting more than 20 C-shells per hour. Look into your neighborhood establishments which offer children's Birthday entertainment or parties. In my area they are charging upwards of 80 C-shells or more. I don't have to blink an eye to charge 50-75 C-shells per hour for balloon sculpting. If someone is whining about your prices, it is only their own private circumstances. Next time they need entertainment, they will be aware of the rising cost of birthday entertainment. Let them make a few more phone calls. If you are good at what you do, they will most likely call you back. DO PEOPLE REALLY PAY THAT MUCH?! WOW!!! Yes they do. In the old days (pre-multiballoon stuff) I would get between 0.25 and 1 C-shell for a balloon. Multi-balloon stuff gives me at least 3-5 C-shells per piece on the average. A lot of the balloons on my video get me between 5 and 10 C-shells per character. It's all in the way you sell it. On my menu, I don't suggest prices but I divide the balloons by difficulty and put headings on the top like " Worth a Little More," "Worth A Lot More," and "Worth the Most." People get the idea. We've sold balloon sculptures at Arts & Crafts shows and my basic rule of thumb (going back to my days in retail...) is not how much the balloons cost me, or how many are used (altho' this can be a factor in bigger creations and any "negotiations" that may come up ), but how much would I pay for this if I was on the customer side of the booth. how much is it worth to me... how good does it look... how "novel" is it? We might get 2 C-shells for a simple ( and quick ) 5 balloon hat, but using the same 5 balloons to do the Mouses' Dog, can net 10 C-shells. There's little more work and time involved in the dog, but it's still 5 balloons. it's how it looks, and how it strikes the buyer's fancy. balloons cost less than a nickle each, but what you're really charging for is your time. Compare what you're pulling in per hour vs. all of your costs (gas, balloons, printing, "office" tasks, etc.). Balloons are the cheapest part of the equation, almost a non-issue. The ultimate value of a balloon creation isn't reflected by a 10-inch piece of latex but in the art and showmanship you express in its use. When Hollywood makes a feature film on 35mm stock, they're using the same 35mm film that you would use in your camera, but it comes on larger rolls. It costs the same or more as the film you buy, and they use 24 exposures per *second*. A huge proportion of it is thrown out at the end of production. Still, when all is said and done, the *cheapest* thing about making a movie is the cost of the film. I am a professional family entertainer - yes I charge money but what makes me a professional is that I focus on safety, appropriateness, and providing a service with the client's needs uppermost. I don't busk - I always set the price for what I deliver and very frequently people tip me on top of my asking price. As a face painting and balloon twisting clown, I set up a booth at various street fairs, farmers' market and special events. I always work with the manager or event organizer. My booth setup is compact (except for the long lines sometimes) with an umbrella for shade instead of a canopy or tent so I can set up anywhere and frequently do in the middle of the path so everyone sees me and has to walk around me. I set a price for my services. Currently I'm charging 1.25, 1.50, 2, 3 or 4 C-shells for both face painting and balloon creations. I charge based not only on the number of balloons and pieces of balloons I use but on the time, talent and creativity to create the design. I've created my own large scale versions of Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Rabbit, Elmo, and a modified version of Adrienne Vincent's Michael Jordan slam dunking. I display these creations on my balloon display stick and people walk by talking excitedly about Michael or Tigger or Elmo and usually come back with a friend or a family member raving about my balloons. The customers have no problem spending 3 or 4 C-shells with me for these special creations and I sell them as fast as I can make them. Of course I also sell lots of simpler creations but my minimum price for a one balloon creation is more than the other person charges for several balloons. I managed to get most local entertainers to double their prices in the last six years, and I still go out at least 20% higher. When asked, it's good to say 'Yeah, I can give you the names of some cheaper ones!' We all have a service to sell. We value it at different levels depending on what our experience is and what value we place on our own time and talent. In all of my years of experience, I believe that all of us tend to error on the side that sells our own value short. This is especially true when we are just starting out or when we are trying to establish ourselves as a valued entertainer. In general, the whole twisting profession benefits when one of us has the courage to not accept a job the is below ones own established minimum. Sometimes this is a very difficult decision. Human nature is a very strange thing. I always seem to go back to something that my Dad told me about life. "Your better than you think that you are." No matter what level you think you are at, your better. In our case, this translates into "Your worth the money you want to make." Don't settle for less. Establish a price and stick to it. If you have to turn down a show...so be it. You obviously thought that your show was worth that much for certain reasons. Price of a show has many factors including Cost of supplies, number of people, conditions, travel time, etc. If you feel that you overcharged, call the guy back and suggest that for another price you can do a diffenet show. In other words offer something slightly different to justify the change in price. One key thing that I always ask when someone calls for a show is : WHAT'S YOUR BUDGET? They will usually tell you what they have to spend. When they tell you, you can say "Well for that price, I can do a show where....." If it's really low, you can say "Well my minimum price is X and for that I can do......" You may be the greatest twister in the world but if you want to get your price, you have to know how to handle the BUSINESS end of SHOW BUSINESS. Performers who have a hard time handling the business end, have agents or business managers. STICK TO YOUR PRICE! I'd rather do half the work at a higher price then work twice as hard for half of the money (and be degraded for taking work for less than I feel that my entertainment is worth) Let those jobs go to the guy that makes the one balloon animals with irregular bubbles. business expense list: Mileage to town balloons marker costume and costume upkeep business cards promotional materials like posters announcing the days I'll be at that restaurant a balloon menu When you first start out sometimes one of the only ways to get a gig is by undercutting. New businesses usually open with a great big grand opening sale! I hope this does not irritate the "old timers" but often it is the only way to get started. However once your skills and your performance are "up there" you should stick to real prices. Instead of "undercutting" others in our profession and then ending up with possible repeat customers getting angry with a drastic increase in your fees you can always give a "New Business" discount. Doing this enables you to show what you would charge... and then just tell them that you are giving a new business discount to bring your rate to what it is that you feel will give you the job and still maintain your worth. People LOVE a sale, but absolutely hate price increases. Experience has taught me never to reduce my fee, because that particular reduced fee amount will somehow disseminate throughout the community and you'll find yourself in a dilemma when clients phoned you and say something like "Oh but Mr Pizza Hut says he pays you $X." I worked a festival once (never again) as a busker to make some money. Five years later I get this phone call from the festival organizer who left a message on my answering machine saying he wanted nobody but me for a big event - an aussie barney was going to be there, the works! I phoned him back gave her my usually spiel, then my price. Don't get me wrong busking can be a lot of fun and a great way to get started, but I told them that after five years, I'm an accomplished performer now and that I don't busk any more unless I get an appearance fee of $$$. Basically if you want me you have to pay me. Oh but the budget! Well you're paying for aussie barney to be there aren't you? Oh yes but they're entertainers!!!!!! I hung up the phone... I think that is necessary for each twister to evaluate his or her own worth when making a decision on how to price any twisting job. I have always believed that most of us (99.9%) tend to unvalue what our time and takent is worth. I can give you some ideas of the things that I would consider in your position. 1. Where is target for you future business? If you want a large portion to come from resturant type work then you must act a different way then if your target is kids parties. Twisting at a family resturant can provide you a good number of contacts for future parties. You might make the decision to accept a reduced fee from normal to get the contacts for future parties. This does not mean that you should accept a reduced fee. Just that you might consider it. 2. Will the resturant allow you to accept tips from its customers? This can have a large impact on your decision. Some twisters will take resturant work for free to twist for the tips. The down side of this is with the servers in the resturant. I have had some servers who think that the tips for the servers are reduced when twisters are accepting tips. I have worked some resturants where I got my full fee and tips too. Don't be afraid to start high and negotiate to where you wanted to be in the first place. On more that a few ocasions I got the higher fee that I started with. 3. What is the minimum amount of compensation that you will accept for your time and talent? Don't sell yourself short. Most of your customers will have a higher opinion of what your talent and time is worth then you do. You need to live UP to their expectations not DOWN to your own. If the proposed job is below your minimum then negotiate or have the courage to turn work down. 4. Prepare to be flexible in your approach to the manager of the resturant. Instead of naming a specific day of the week that you would like to work, tell him that you can increase his traffic on his slowest night. This is likely to be Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Sometimes this can work into a two or three night deal. Always try to get a commitment from the mangers for a 30 or 60 day period. It will take them that long to see an increase in the traffic. Remember, you are worth more than you think you are!!! it won't be hard for them to find some cheapie who is so desperate to get hired that he'll agree to work for practically nothing. What you should do is AFTER the show, wait a day or two, then call and nicely and courteously offer that if he wants to avoid getting a performer NEXT year who is as lame as the cheapie they hired instead of you, you would be happy offer your services... Once a price is quoted I do not change if they cannot pay it, unless I can give a reason for that change, such as saying well for the two hundred I would have made multi balloon figures but for a hundred I would only be able to do one balloon animals, ect. This lets me offer different rates without making me look too easy. And I only do this if I really want or need the date. If I feel they are trying to play me I do not offer any thing less that the quote. I usually quote prices according to the number of hours I'm booking, with one hour being higher than 2(120 C-shells for 1, 100 for 2, 90 for 3 and up) and I have a minimum of 2 hrs. for special times such as Halloween. My price is usually higher at that time too. You could pay a twisting teen(say that 5 times)to pump up your balloons to an average size for quicky balloons.It wouldn't cost much for an hour. Just an idea. I also will give a reduced rate if it is a longer term contract and I feel I can receive other benefits such as advertising etc. I have worked for the local movie theatre and cut deals with them. I can try out new stuff and have a great time and give out my cards. In the entertainment business, you're selling your skills and your personality. Those aren't commodities. Everyone will determine a value differently. There is no simple rule for how much entertainment is worth. It might be that you're charging exactly the right amount for what you offer and the area in which you offer it. The people that you've heard charge more, might be offering additional services. If you can make enough money to survive on what you charge and you're happy doing it, you're charging the right amount. Someone that charges 4 times as much as you has to do a lot more work to convince people they're worth the higher amount (they may be) and they'll probably book fewer jobs. On the other hand, they may live someplace where the cost of living requires that they charge that much more. But one thing I can suggest is that you shouldn't be surprised when someone complains that whatever you charge is too expensive. No matter what your price, if you doubled your price, some people would pay it. If you cut it in half, some people would complain that it was too high. You see people all the time complaining that $5 is too much for something in a supermarket. If people will complain about something in that price range, expect them to complain about what really are costly services. Charge what you will, but keep this in mind. Later you may want to raise your price. What is your strategy for that? Best to work it out now, or for sure it will come back to haunt you. Also, I find that the people that hire me for 95 apples give me much more respect than the bargain hunters that are used to paying 35 apples. People generaly expect to get what they pay for, and if they know that you charge so much less than average, this helps form their opinion of you from the start. believe me, the LAST impression I want anyone to have is that I work for free. The impression I hoped to have made is that when you're a beginner, you shouldn't expect top dollar. At a beginning level, exposure becomes a much stronger emphasis. If someone is a beginner, they should expect a low salary to start and over time, raise the rates as they move from restaurant to restaurant. Not just because their knowledge of balloon creations is increasing, but because their speed is increasing, their abbility to handle a crowd, and their ability to bring people into the restaurant. ALL of these skills will give them the leverage to raise their prices over time. A professional shouldn't sell him/herself short, but at the same time, it's also wrong for a beginner to expect the same kind of money that a pro gets? We put our sweat and time into it, paid our dues, we should be reaping the top dollar, not a 16 year old beginner. My only point to him was to start somewhere. Better to crawl before trying to run. discounted rates In this world there is Wal-mart, there is Nordstrom. Generally, items cost less at Wal-mart, but are of poorer quality. They are made quickly and cheaply, and sold in a supermarket-like venue. Generally, items cost more at Nordstrom, but they are of better quality and are sold to you by sales professionals highly motivated to give you a thoroughly enjoyable shopping experience. Sometimes, though, you can get the same item in either store. Sometimes you run into a bright, cheerful and helpful sales person at Wal-mart who just makes your day, does an excellent job at a discounted price. If that sales person is really good (and smart), s/he will probably move into management or go work at Nordstrom. The trick for the consumer is to catch those up-and-comers when they're in their Wal-mart phase and get more bang for their buck before that professional has moved into Nordstrom phase. People on a budget will sacrifice some of the polish in order to get what they want. To other people, having only the best is what matters, and cost is no object. The economic concept is "What the Market will Bear." You should charge as much as the public will be willing to pay for your services. Higher prices mean fewer jobs, less exposure (though it's likely to be exposure to others who can afford your prices). Lower prices mean more jobs, greater exposure (to people who are willing to pay the discounted rate). If you're really good and charge a lot, you'd best live in an area where there are plenty of wealthy people willing to pay for the enhanced quality. Otherwise, you'll need to lower your prices to get enough jobs to cover your expenses, or move your business to a different venue. The dollar amount changes from city to city, street to street, door to door. There's no formula, and none of us has the perfect answer. The best people can say is that they have found the price and performance that works best for them. So please don't jump on our valued contributors about "discounts" or "price gouging" or "stealing business" or "hurting the industry." History shows that what people want is a quality product at a fair price. In the balloon business, that's a clean uniform, a pleasant patter, reasonable speed, and an attractive twist at a price the *customer* is willing to pay. You can provide those features and get work, or you won't be around long and your competition will look better by comparison. > Charge what you will, but keep this in mind. Later you may > want to raise your price. What is your strategy for that? "Thank you for your interest in having me appear at your function. I have greatly expanded my entertainment options and now offer a variety of different performance packages. Can I send you an updated brochure with my current selection and price information?" It's also perfectly reasonable to raise prices for the same services to keep up with inflation. But it always goes over better if you say something like "Now offering 30 new twists for 1999" or "now guaranteeing 100 twists per hour." It isn't reasonable, though, to raise your rates just because everyone else charges that much, unless you provide the same level of service as others in your industry (quality, quantity and variety). Newbies charge less, and people who hire them do so because they want to pay less. > Best to work it out now, or for sure it will come back to haunt you. Possibly, but it's not likely that the same people will expect to pay the same amount to have you do the same performance for the same function from year to year. Inflation makes everything costs more, be it napkins, hall rental, soda pop or entertainment. It's not that common for customers to discuss with their guests how much they paid for the entertainment, either, so as your skill level grows you can charge more to your new customers. If you are pricing fairly for your services, you should keep your rates in line with the services you provide. One of the reasons to discount prices is to stimulate growth in the industry where there is little or no market. If a restaurant doesn't have live entertainment and isn't sure they want it, it's entirely reasonable for a twister to offer to work for tips. When several restaurants offer live entertainment and management realizes they are stimulating business, twisters can raise their rates. Usually, they have to change venues to get a raise (that's true in any profession). They shouldn't expect to just walk in one day and say to the manager, "starting tomorrow, I cost double" and expect the manager to go along with that. Keep in mind, too, that if your skills grow and you're able to charge more, you may price yourself out of your current market. That's okay, as long as you can then go out and build a clientele at your higher rate. If not, you're pricing yourself out of work, and you'll have to adjust your prices or offerings. We just hired a magician for our daughter's birthday party. We went to the local magic shop and got some recommendations, checked the yellow pages and called around. We heard prices ranging from X apples to 2X apples. The 2X guy was quick to point out that he offered a levitation trick and other illusions that were clearly a cut above the other magicians we talked to. The X guy was a 17 year old kid just getting into the business. Being frugal but indulgent parents, we went with a 1.5x magician, who threw in some extra tricks for free. We were happy with the performance, and he got the price he asked. If you continually find that you're missing out on jobs because someone is willing to work for fewer apples, and you notice fewer and fewer apples in your cupboard, you may need to look at your marketing skills (one of the guys we phoned sounded like he was either drunk or awakened from a sound sleep at 4:00 in the afternoon - we didn't hire him). Are you advertising in places frequented by people who can afford you? Are your negotiating tactics up to par? Are you making a clear distinction between the services you offer and those that are offered at a lower rate? As someone has said, "There's plenty of room at the top, but no place to sit down." > Also, I find that the people that hire me for 95 apples give me > much more respect than the bargain hunters that are used to paying > 35 apples. People generally expect to get what they pay for, and > if they know that you charge so much less than average, this helps > form their opinion of you from the start. This is true. But that respect will fall way quickly if you give a 35 apple performance but charge 95. Reference my original post. >> The economic concept is "What the Market will Bear." You >> should charge as much as the public will be willing to pay >> for your services. Higher prices mean fewer jobs, less >> exposure (though it's likely to be exposure to others who >> can afford your prices). Lower prices mean more jobs, >> greater exposure (to people who are willing to pay the >> discounted rate). Let's say that you charge 50 barrels of apples to perform for Jonny Appleseed, Inc.'s Company picnic, and you're worth every Pippin. You get lots of exposure to hundreds of people, but that isn't going to get you a lot of 50 barrel jobs doing birthday parties. With luck, a spouse of one of the attendees will enjoy you so much that they'll offer you 50 barrels to appear at Apple Butter Corporation picnic. But more likely, you'll have to send promotional materials, make cold calls, and listen to a lot of "no's" in order to find someone willing to hire you at that higher rate. You need to be in the yellow pages, you need to advertise on the 'net, you need to do direct mailing, to reach that 1-2% of the market that is willing to listen to your spiel and then pay the amount you ask. You also need to make those barrels last between gigs, which will be less frequent than lower paying gigs in smaller arenas. What doesn't work, and will never work, is to sit in the living room watching t.v., waiting for the phone to ring and complaining about how other people are ruining the business by getting more jobs at a lower rate. If my skill level is 35 apples and there are people who want to pay 35 apples for a 35 apple job, that's a match. If I charge 95 apples and nobody wants to pick that many for my bushel basket, I should either settle for fewer apples or look for jobs closer to the orchard where people have more apples to trade. If I charge 50 apples for a 100 apple show, and everyone is willing to give me 100 apples, I'm not asking what the market will bear. * Your customers will always be able to hire somebody at half your price. They may well be able to hire somebody at twice your skill. They may prefer someone else's patter because it's more family friendly. They may prefer someone else's patter because it's more adult oriented. They may prefer someone who makes simple things fast. They may prefer someone who makes elaborate sculptures for the entertainment value. It's a big pie out there, and there's plenty of room for everybody. There's enough work for anyone who's willing to hustle a bit. The success of others in no way takes away from your ability to succeed: in fact, if there's one successful twister in your area, it opens the door for others to succeed as well. BARTERING I have bartered my services for all kinds of things including groceries, dinners out and car repair among a few. He taught me to let what I can imagine be the limit for how far where I want to go. He taught me to think, " What do I need and where do I want to work for it." So when I was working for the movie theatre I got part cash and part tickets. It was great. I go to the movies alot plus I used them for gifts and my teenage daughter was THRILLED! Go for it. I take the what I would ususally earn and barter that value. If it is fifty peanuts an hour then I get that much in groceries, or dinners or a combination of cash and product. I approach them with the deal I want. Sometimes I specifically approach with a barter deal, (as in car repair). Barter can be better than cash for both sides sometimes. I need to buy a new car soon and I am wondering if I can make a deal for a car. You never know till you try. Large dealerships are always having hot dog promotions and stuff for kids. They do it on a regular basis. Frankly, I sat down and made a list of my needs and wants and then started looking at businesses and their needs. I looked for places where we both would be helped by a barter deal. My friend has bartered for gym memberships for his family, theatre tickets, dinners and all sorts of things. I have lately been thinking I would like a vacation. There are some nice hotels around here on the beaches. They have times when they like extras for their occupants, I am going to give it a whirl. The sky is the limit. 4. The work in exchange for credit idea can be great for working in a resturant because there is no cash outlay and nothing to show on the books. You need to ask yourself if resturant credit is really what you want. If you are twisting for a living, it is difficult to send resturant credit in to pay your rent. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE be very careful here. According to the IRS Balloon Barter is the same as CASH! It should be entered in your log the SAME AS CASH. We had a special column that we used. It was marked c for cash / ck for check/ mo for money order/ mc-v for credit cards and T FOR TRADE. You need to use it on your taxes and it is taxed at the same rate as other moneys on your Schedule C. Now, if the guy says "Let me buy your dinner when you're done, that may change the situation. I do now that Barter was one of the top ten in recent years for the IRS when looking for under or non-reported income.