By Kylie Gomez (Bunbury Face Painting and Entertainment)
As a professional artist/face painter/entertainer we get asked on a weekly basis if we will donate our services for free. Firstly, let me start by saying that we acknowledge the amazing job that charities and fundraisers do, and that without them a lot of people in need would go without. People who run these events work tirelessly to raise money and are amazing people.
As for the title of this article… Why we CAN’T...Actually why we WONT work for FREE. I felt that can’t implied it wasn't solely our choice, where as I felt that won’t signified that it was our choice. Because it is our conscious choice not to work for free. I take my hat off to people who are in a financial position where they can constantly donate their time to charity/fundraising events. It is a noble thing to do, and believe me, if I didn’t need the money I would love to spend my time helping out charities more and painting for free because I do love to do it.
As I stated earlier on, we do get asked almost weekly (and during warmer months more often) if we will donate our time for free for a charity event. We always decline, and get met with various reactions. The most common being annoyance and disgust that we wont help out. I just want to explain why, and put a few things in perspective for our clients.
A majority of us have face painting as our only source of income. The money we make goes towards; feeding our families, clothing our kids, paying our bills etc. We have houses like you, bills like you and general needs. For many of us this is our only income. Our work (say more than 90%) is weekend based, followed by during the week on school holidays and the odd job during the week. So effectively you can say our work week consist of 2 days most of the time.
So for the purposes of this article, let’s just say you, the client, are requesting we donate our time to paint at your event for FREE from say 11am—2pm, just 3 hours you say, it’s not very long at all right? Surely we can donate 3 measly hours. Let me break down what 3 hours painting actually means for us. It means at least a half hour drive to your event, 15 minutes to unload our items from the car and say another 15 minutes to walk to where we need to be. So already there is another hour. Let’s also add in another 15 minutes to find the person in charge and find where to set up. (1 hr 15 mins) Now we need to set up before we can paint, another 15 minutes. So already we have clocked up an hour an a half before we have even started. We paint for 3 hours, and lets face it...we almost never finish on time, always a bit over. By the time we finish the line and pack up there is another half hour, and drive home...another half hour. And once we get home we need to clean our kit...another 30 minutes. So before the event, 1.5 hrs...paint at the event 3 hours….after the event 1.5 hours. All of a sudden 3 hours has turned into 6! Crazy right?
Another way to look at it is this. It’s not just 3 hours at your event. We can’t squeeze a job in before, and due to pack up, travel and set up, we can’t do a job afterwards. So only 3 hours really means we can’t earn any money that day at all.
Now let’s put that in perspective. 1 days pay doesn’t seem too bad does it? Well, in our industry it does actually mean a lot. Remember earlier in the article I said our potential earning days is only 2 days a week? So effectively missing one days work is like a full time employee working 5 days a week, missing 2.5 days of work. Can I ask, could you afford to give up HALF of your weekly income to a charity event? Hmmmm when you put it into perspective like that, I think that there would be very few people who could afford to do that.
BUT WAIT! You say, we can get exposure from your event (People die from exposure you know?, hahaha sorry couldn’t help myself, long standing joke amongst entertainers) . Exposure might be great if you need to get known or get your business out there. It is also great if you are a newbie who needs to practice. But as seasoned professionals who have had a businesses for many years, most of us find that working for exposure really isn’t something that works well for us.
And just a little side note, I personally feel a bit insulted when people only think my work is good enough to be used for free events, and not good enough to be paid. I am a professional who puts in countless hours to my craft. I buy books and magaiznes, watch youtube channels, practice new designs, buy top quality paints and products to ensure my work is the best it can be. I am not a ‘backyardie’ who does it for fun or a few dollars here and there. I am a serious professional who strives for excellence. I deserve to be paid for something that I have worked hard at. I also pay to have my working with children checks and public liability insurance. As a professional who runs a business I pay for many things such as; tax, website costs, accounting fees, top quality products, just to name a few. I also do support at least 4 charities a year in various ways, so I do donate my time and expertise. Unfortunately, I have to be selective and say no when asked otherwise most weeks I would be painting for free.
As I said earlier on, without the amazing work that charities do, many people in need would go without. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we don’t want to help, it is that we cant afford to work for free. There are many other options that we can offer charity events such as; a discounted rate, you pay us and we collect donations back for you, allowing us to charge and us donating a portion back to you. All of these options help to support us artists and is a win—win for both parties involved.