Apr 05

The need for speed – Part 1: Quality versus Quantity

Face Painting Speed

Like it or loathe it, we live in a fast-food, fast-lane, disposable society. Increasingly it’s all about HOW MUCH can I get, and how can I get it FAST. This goes for everything you consume, from your coffee, to your food, right through to your entertainment. So it’s not surprising that more than ever, clients are expecting more for less when hiring a face painter too.

Let’s say you’re in the market to hire a face painter. Which category do you fall into: Are you the kind of person that sees face painting as a special rare treat, and don’t mind spending a little extra on high quality because you want to enhance the experience for your little munchkins? Or do you see face painting as a basic essential, and would rather spend less and get as many faces painted for the lowest possible price to feel like you’ve got value out of hiring a face painter?

More and more clients are falling into the second category than ever, seeing value only in the number of people painted, rather than the quality of the art work. As artists we can get caught up in this emphasis on quantity over quality, and trip over ourselves in the attempt to give our clients everything they want at lightning speed.

But what most clients in this category don’t realise is that there is a limit to how many designs a face painter can produce while maintaining expectations of safety and quality. Good face painting takes time. If you want your face painter to churn out a huge number of designs in the minimum booking time, something has got to give. Their sanity for a start! But even worse for you and your guests – in the attempt to paint at breakneck speed, it’s very likely that your face painter’s quality and hygiene are compromised in the process.

Hygiene takes time. Washing brushes and stencils thoroughly between customers, sanitising your hands frequently, quarantining sponges once they touch a face, and changing your spent water regularly – all take a good several minutes out of every hour of painting. If you’re trying to paint 30 people per hour and you’re focused on making every second count, hygiene tends to go out the window. Sometimes it’s not a conscious mistake either – it’s just that you’re working at such a stressful, frantic pace that remembering to change the paint water just doesn’t even cross your mind. Face painters aren’t robots, after all. Human beings can and do get flustered under pressure. If your clients were aware that their request could compromise people’s health, perhaps they wouldn’t be so keen on such high volume output.

But perhaps the biggest catch-22 is compromising quality. I’m not just talking about the quality of the art work, although that’s a huge part of it; it’s also about the quality of the customers’ experience.

Whether you’re a face painter yourself or thinking of hiring one, let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine this – you’ve been hired as the only face painter at a huge event, with thousands of guests. Upon booking you advised the organiser that more artists are necessary for that volume of guests, but the client doesn’t have the budget for more than one, and just wants you to paint as many faces as possible. On the day of the event you’re painting at lightning speed, but no matter how fast you work, the line grows and grows and grows and soon parents and children are waiting for well over an hour for their turn. Once they get to you, do you think that after waiting all that time they’ll be happy with a hurried greeting, a quick 30-second rainbow and some glitter before being quickly ushered out of the chair? What’s the point of waiting so long for a face paint that anyone with the most basic skill could have achieved? Their expectations have been met with crashing disappointment. Parents are upset, children are disappointed, the event organiser isn’t happy, and you are stressed out and completely exhausted. Nobody wins. It’s bad PR for you, and it may have been better if you had just turned down the booking in the first place.

Children love face painting because it makes them feel special. It’s all about creating a lovely experience for the child, and making them feel like an important individual for that magical few minutes. When they feel like cattle herded through a long boring line then quickly branded and unceremoniously booted off, it’s clear that the reason for hiring a face painter in the first place has been forgotten. When you have to compromise the quality of the experience to such a degree just to get through the line, it completely defeats the purpose of hiring an excellent artist in the first place, and undermines the experience for everyone involved. Without maintaining quality, you may as well not be there.

So many face painters use high-volume as their main selling point to get a foothold in the market. Why? Because it’s what customers want to hear. What customers don’t hear is the subtext of “poor hygiene” and “low quality”. Perhaps if they knew what they were giving up in return for high volume, they would rethink their priorities.

High-volume face painters and their clients have forgotten one important thing – we’re there to create a great experience for the kids. At the end of the day, if we compromise on the quality of that experience it’s the children that lose out, and that’s really sad.

Good face painting is a delicate balance between quality and quantity. If you are a professional face painter, it’s up to you as to where you draw the line. What do you want to be remembered for after a booking? Do you want people saying “It was so worth the wait – my daughter looked and felt like a million bucks!” or “The face paint was pretty basic, but at least it was fast so I could get on with my day.” Both have their merits. Whatever you choose, be honest and up front with your clients about your output, and be careful not to over promise. This gives customers a false sense of what can be achieved, and they don’t realise that the emphasis on quantity will negatively affect the quality of the experience. It’s up to you to help your clients recognise this difference, and talk them through their requirements so that they know exactly what they’re getting.

I personally feel comfortable taking the middle ground, leaning towards quality over quantity. I only ever promise my clients that I can achieve a maximum output of 15 simple faces per hour. In cases like these, I work from a limited list of simplified designs that I know I can achieve quickly and with confidence. I’m still working fast – the whole encounter per child is under 4 minutes, including cheerful greetings and goodbyes, the face painting itself, the all-important mirror moment, and resetting my kit between children. Despite being fast, these designs still have great impact so that customers feel like they got value from the experience. This is the fastest I’m willing to go without compromising a certain level of quality, and my hygiene standards. If a client wants more faces per hour, I advise them that the only way around that is to hire more artists to speed things up.

So if you’re organising an event and you’re in the market for a fast face painter, stop and have a think about what you’re willing to compromise to achieve the output you want. If your purpose for hiring a face painter is to create a positive experience for the customer and therefore a positive connection to your event, rethink the emphasis on quantity and consider the impact quality will have on your guests. At the end of the day we all want to save money, but consider paring back another part of the budget so you can afford the number of quality professional face painters you really need to ensure that face painting at your event brings the positive experience you’re hoping for.

If you’re a face painter looking to speed things up a little while maintaining quality, stay tuned for part 2 of this post where I share some of my best tips for faster face painting!

Artfully yours,

Juicy Body Art & Face Painting, Melbourne

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