To P.P.F or Not to P.P.F?
By Jane Harding
Hello everyone… Happy New Year! Assuming you are all up to your necks in Tax Returns and Event Planning for the rest of January, I thought it might be helpful to some of you if I shared my views on Pay Per Face (PPF) events. Love it or hate it, PPF is something all face painters have done at some point and constantly get requested to work events on that basis.
It does seem to divide opinion as to if people should do them or if they are good money makers. I’ve certainly come across people from both camps.
For me personally, in an ideal world all jobs would be paid by my hourly rate, but I can’t imagine a world in which that actually happens, especially when you consider the really big events, like music festivals which can be huge earners on a PPF basis, but you do need the large pitch fees in the first place to even consider doing those. But I’m not really talking about those types of PPF events here; I’m focusing more on your local community events, carnivals etc.
For me, I feel it’s ultimately about picking your PPF jobs carefully, so I thought I’d share with you some of the points I consider before committing to a PPF job.
1. What is the event? Are there guaranteed to be children of an appropriate age attending? There’s not much point attending an event during the week at a soft play venue on a PPF basis, especially if your policy (like mine) is to only paint children aged 3yrs and over, because the vast majority of children aged 3+ will be at school. Believe me, places will ask you and promise lots of children to paint, so it’s easy to forget about something as obvious as this!
2. What is the expected footfall? Most well established events will be able to tell you the footfall for previous years and potentially how many tickets they have sold for the event coming up, so these can make your decision making much easier. If they are only expecting a few hundred attendees, it’s unlikely to be a great earner. You may think 500 people is a lot, but consider what percentage of those 500 people are going to be your target market? If you are primarily aiming your services at children, then that number will probably reduce by more than 2/3 because most children come with 2 adults. Then factor in, some of those children won’t be old enough, some won’t want it, some won’t be allowed it and some possibly can’t have it. Obviously I can’t predict exact numbers, but hopefully you can see that the 500 soon dwindles down.
3. When is it? If it’s a ‘prime time’ i.e. school holidays, Halloween, Christmas etc. then you are VERY likely to get offered well paid work for your hourly rate (or more) so it’s certainly worth considering if you are willing to take the risk of committing to an event at these times on a PPF basis.
4. What is the pitch fee? I see this question quite a lot in the different groups, asking for people’s opinions on what is an appropriate amount to pay for a pitch. Ultimately it’s a personal choice, but in my opinion, obviously free is best! From my experience most events either ask for a set fee which is normally between £10-£25 (possibly more depending on your location, I imagine London would be more?) or they ask for a percentage. I would always encourage everyone to barter. Sell yourself, your skills, what you can add to the event, I’ve always had great success when doing this, even if it a reduction of 5% or £5, it’s still a saving. There is always the exception when there isn’t movement on the fee, so in these cases I just weigh up all of the points I’m sharing now and decide if it’s worth the risk for ME? If free isn’t an option, I would always prefer to give a percentage of my profits and would push to agree on 10%.
5. What type of event is it? Who is it aimed at? I get a lot of requests to do Charity Events, Dog Shows, and School Fetes etc. Hands up, who’s done one or more of these events in the past? I know I have when I first started out, TBH it was probably a good learning experience having done a couple, it helped me to see what I needed for these types of events, but they certainly weren’t worth doing to earn money. When you consider the time to prepare, set up, attend for 5-6 hours, pack up, clean your kit etc. you probably won’t have covered your petrol, let alone your pitch fee or normal hourly rate. Events like this take a lot of hard work just to set up your pitch. So I really encourage you to consider if it’s truly worth it. Think how much you could have earnt by doing two birthday parties that day and how much easier to set up! It’s a no brainer! Organisers for these events always like to point out all the “exposure” you’ll get… honestly, you will likely get more real interest and bookings from attending one birthday party with 20 kids, than from sitting under a gazebo in a field for 5 hours!
6. Can they get funding? Now this might change my answer to the point above. I always mention and encourage the organisers of those types of events to seek funding/sponsorship for their event from larger local companies, which may agree, for some advertising at the event, to cover the cost of face painting etc. we are after all providing entertainment which will enhance their event and bring more people in. It won’t be possible every time, but definitely worth mentioning as you never know your luck!
7. What is the weather likely to be like? If you’re in the UK like me, then it’s not really worth considering what season it is, because it’s likely to rain anytime! Lol. Last year alone I turned down a couple of large events where footfall and children were guaranteed to be high based on previous years, and the numbers were growing. But when they insisted on a £100 pitch fee, I politely declined, obviously explaining my reasoning. Unfortunately all it would take is for it to rain that day and I’d be £100 down, wet, potentially muddy… but worse than that, I’d then have to clean the wet and mud off my kit, chairs, gazebo, banners… everything! Ugh no thank you! Organisers often throw back at you that everyone is in the same boat, but I like to point out that people still eat when it’s raining, people still buy crafts and gifts when it’s raining, people do not pay for a service that will instantly run away when they leave the stall! There is always the chance that the sun does shine, but unless you plan on painting at lightning speed, it’s still going to take a LOT of painted faces to make back your pitch fee, and earn more than you could if you had just taken on two or three parties instead.
8. Can you widen your audience? If you have additional services that you offer, then PPF is definitely a good place to offer them all to increase your income. It’s also worth thinking about what else you could offer to expand your customer base as far as you can. For example; Glitter Tattoos, Graffiti Arms, Festival Glitter etc. will appeal to old kids and adults too. So these make perfect add ons.
9. Work with others? Can you join forces with another local face painter and work a pitch together? For larger events this can be great on several levels. You split the pitch fee, you can offer more services, reduce queue times, makes set up easier, you can nip off for a toilet break whenever you like and its great fun!
10. Will it help to grow your business? We all joke about the whole “exposure” thing, which I am totally in agreement with. But there may be an exception to this rule, when YOU feel it’s the exposure YOU want. For example; it may give you the opportunity to make links with local businesses or provide an introduction to a specific person or business that you know have real potential to lead into future paid work. I would still always discuss being paid an hourly rate, but if getting your ‘foot in the door’ means taking a risk at PPF, then as long as it’s a calculated move on your part, it may just be worth it.
So there you have it, I hope you found that helpful or interesting to read from someone else’s perspective. Ultimately I really think it comes down to personal preference and what risk you’re willing to take. If you are in this to bring in a profit, then always consider the risks. I personally do one regular job as PPF, as it ticks all the boxes for me and is a good little earner throughout the year. Of course, I do very large events during the summer, but the only other time is if I see potential to grow my business and the pitch is free!
Over the last year I have significantly reduced the amount of PPF events I do because I have learnt quickly that people are actually willing to pay you! And for every rubbish PPF event I did in the past; I have turned away numerous paid jobs… I won’t make that mistake again!
And finally, you might think I am contradicting myself a bit here, but one can hope right? I really think it is up to us as a community, to start pulling together and refusing these huge pitch fees and big financial risks and start asking for what we are worth. We all know how popular our services are at these types of events, and that people flock to our stands to get painted, so why shouldn’t we all get paid for adding such a popular and sought after activity. I truly believe that if we work together, we can change the perception of what our service is to organisers and they will start to pay us what we are worth, as they already do for other Children’s Entertainers!
Let’s do this!