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 Post subject: Of Business and Balloons
PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 4:53 am 
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I wrote this rather long essay to educate on how to make money with balloons. It has been in the idea phase for a long time but here it is. I will be adding to it over time so check back every now and again.


Of Business and Balloons

By Dylan Gelinas


Balloons are one of few objects that can be used to create joy wherever you go. They involve no concentration on the recipient’s part but to watch a piece of art form in front of their eyes. It allows them to take part in choosing what they want made and being interacted with one on one while it happens. In this essay I will go over how to become an entertainer with balloons. You will learn to know what the people want and how to give it to them, how to get promoted by others for little to nothing, and how to get paid.

I will start assuming you are a beginner with no prior knowledge in ballooning. Balloons come in many different shapes and sizes. The normal twisting balloon is a 260, they are 2 inches in diameter and 60 inches in length. The best brand to buy is Qualatex found here, http://www.penguinmagic.com/product.php?ID=229. As you get farther into balloons you should start to experiment with other balloons like 160s, 350s, and even the huge 646s. A good starting place for learning to twist is Balloon School ( http://www.penguinmagic.com/product.php?ID=940 ). Balloon School will teach you the basics but after that I highly suggest you visit www.balloonhq.com it answers all questions. But enough with starters, lets get down to business.

By now you should have a good foundation in ballooning. You should be able to make the basics and a fair share of the advanced stuff. The next step on your journey is charity work. This may seem like a waste of time seeing as working for free has no immediate benefits, but it does make things easier in the long run. First find out about a local charity that is having some sort of public function and contact them. Tell them that you are a balloon entertainer and wish to work for free at their function. Some good charities that often have public fairs or sponsored walks are the Red Ribbon Group and Relay for Life. Opportunities like these are almost never denied and have a few benefits on your side. The first is you get exposure. You could get in the paper, people will ask you who you are and if you do parties, and word of mouth will spread your name like wildfire. Another benefit is you will learn what the people want. The pressure is off with charity work. If you can’t do something then what, you’re working for free. This gives you an opportunity to learn what people ask for the most and go home and work on it for next time. When I did charity jobs I would get asked all the time to make weird things like books and light bulbs, I had vague ideas how to make these but went home and perfected them. Now when I get asked to make something I have probably done it already.

Now we get to being paid. It is important to first get a business license which can be applied for at your town hall or local job office. This is often required to work on your own and “Bonus Bonus” you can buy wholesale. Next is to ask yourself “What am I worth?” A good price I went with is $30 for the first hour and 15 dollars for every additional hour. This covers the price of balloons and is a good working wage. This was my starting fee when I was just beginning but as you grow so should your price.

Now look around you. Who will want your services? Do you want to do into the private party scene or the public one? I started in the public because I found it was a good way to branch off. A good place to start is your county or state fair. They are often open to entertainers and will pay nicely. (An important note is to try to avoid instances where you pay to busk and work for, say, a dollar a balloon. It is hard to make this work unless you do it just right because if you are like me you will not be able to tell a little kid to come back with some cash. These kids can add up to a big loss and soon people will assume you are working for free. Some people combat this by having a sign stating their price. This I find can turn people off even if they would have paid because no one likes to see the price of enjoyment. So I always try to work at a fixed rate and that eliminates all problems.)

Fairs will often hire you to work every day for around four hours. This sounds good but there will be some health problems that need to be addressed. Making balloons for hours straight will tear your hands up, because the latex literally sucks the life from them. Your fingertips will dry completely and the skin will start to crack and fall off painfully. I use Curel fast-absorbing hand and cuticle cream along with a finger nail strengthening polish (I am a guy so I do not use the shiny kind) to combat these risks.

You will need many balloons for a large gig. For a regular party a bag of 100 should be fine but for an average four day fair, count on needing about 1000. I go through about 40 balloons an hour but it is good to have a safety net. I try to avoid making huge 4+ balloons early in the day because if it is big and someone has it everyone will want it. Colors are also a factor that must be considered. Some colors get requested more often than others. Black, pink, red, and baby blue can run out fast so be sure to have a lot of them. Others like yellow, white, and purple seem to never get picked but you never know. I tend to hide specialty balloons like bee bodies and hearts so I can use them for something that requires them and not for the kid who wants “The funny lookin one”.

Fair work is all about giving the people what they want without upsetting anyone. Surprisingly the people that tend to complain are the ones who run the rides. They don’t like kids walking on with huge monstrosities that can get thrown over the edge of the ride and cause problems. So I make several models that fit on the wrist. I often wear one of them while working and offer it as a choice to kids that are unsure of what they want.

Hats are a favorite with everyone and can be altered to make many designs. I have a few models that I can make fast and can be worn in different ways. My favorite involves no twists to make. Look around and find a good two balloon hat that can be made fast and with few twists. A great book on the subject, http://www.tmyers.com/book/myers5003.html

Kids are nice but can often be trouble. I use a balloon apron when I work and kids love to touch the balloons. This can be a problem as I mouth inflate and could get sick. A humorous way I have found to get everyone to move back a few steps is while twisting say “Oh this one feels like it is going to pop” as you take a large step toward them. Often they will take a few steps back while you just smile and step back where you were.

Another problem comes up at the end of the day when you have to find a way to end the constant stream of kids without seeming like a jerk. If you are like me and can’t say no to a bright eyed child you could use a partner. Some use a partner to say no for them but I find that no one has to feel bad so I came up with this method. When you are done for the day and have your partner close ask the remaining kids what they want and the colors. Pull the necessary balloons out of your pouch or bag and then have your partner take the other balloons away. Simple. If more people come you don’t have anymore balloons.

So it is the end of the day and you are tired but had fun. Money is in hand and you have learned a lot. Where next? It is up to you. I have said it once and I will say it again, www.balloonhq.com Best place to further educate yourself on this wonderful topic. I will be adding to this essay as time passes but for now feel free to ask questions and tell me what you think.


Juliegel


Last edited by juliegel on Fri Jul 03, 2009 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 4:02 pm 
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Nice essay! I will definatley have to get into balloons!


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 5:56 pm 
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A good essay, I do have a few points to give though.

1: To avoid needing to tell a kid to come back with money - wear a button that says "Balloons $1 each". I tell people that it's a dollar if they have one (most people will fess-up if they have a dollar), if they don't, that's not a big deal - this strategy makes me look like a nice guy and often gets extra cash out of the next guy.

2: Working for a fixed rate is all well and good, but tips are blood to a balloonist. I make balloons at a local mall for 3-4hours each weekend. Working freelance (no fees - tips only) I regularly make $200+ per day.

3: I don't suggest taking - only as many as you need - unless you don't expect to make very many (ie. you're doing strolling magic and only expect to make 10 or less). I bring a full rig with no less than 50 of each of the more popular colors (red, blue, pink, black, green) as well as 100 or so assorted colors. This same rig, goes to every gig. I also keep back-ups in my car.

4: Never try to "end a stream of kids". Partner or no partner - you look like a jerk and kids are disappointed. Customer service is your #1 perogative. If you worked overtime, mention it to the manager (for fee based pay) and get your overage. If you're working for tips, tell people that you need to leave because you're already over your booked time - many of them will tip you extra for staying past your scheduled time.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:47 pm 
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^ $200 in 3-4 hours from tips?

I don't know anything about balloon making but how! Busy mall, or you make life size balloon t-rexes or you're just awesome :D ?

(if I ever did start balloon making, is it okay to use a pump to blow up the balloons in public or do people expect you to use your mouth -.- )


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:20 pm 
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sebishungry wrote:
(if I ever did start balloon making, is it okay to use a pump to blow up the balloons in public or do people expect you to use your mouth -.- )


Using a pump is fine but I have always felt that if you can mouth inflate you should because it makes things seem more personal. I know a lot of performers that mouth inflate but find it wise to have a pump just in case.


Juliegel


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:33 pm 
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i've never used balloons made specially for performers, are they easy to blow up by mouth? I just hate that my-vein-is-about-to-burst-in-my-brain feeling when I can't blow up a balloon :/


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 12:03 am 
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sebishungry wrote:
i've never used balloons made specially for performers, are they easy to blow up by mouth? I just hate that my-vein-is-about-to-burst-in-my-brain feeling when I can't blow up a balloon :/


Twisting balloons are normally very hard to inflate by mouth. Some people get it right away but most must work at it for a while. You are most likely using the "blow like crazy" technique and that is why you are having the pain in your head. The best advice I can give is to keep your cheeks in and try to focus the air into the balloon. It is all about practice but like I said it is not for everybody.


Juliegel


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 9:57 pm 
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sebishungry wrote:
^ $200 in 3-4 hours from tips?

I don't know anything about balloon making but how! Busy mall, or you make life size balloon t-rexes or you're just awesome :D ?

(if I ever did start balloon making, is it okay to use a pump to blow up the balloons in public or do people expect you to use your mouth -.- )


Don't forget, this is summer numbers. People go to malls to get out of the heat, and are more than happy to pay $1 to shut their kids up for a bit - though to be fair, I AM just that awesome :wink: :roll:

On another note - stay away from mouth inflating if you're going to be serious about balloons. Your lungs will be burning after the first 20 balloons and your voice will start to choke out.

I use the standard Qualatex pump (the red one) and have used the same one for a little over 2 years.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 10:12 pm 
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dbaker_creator wrote:
On another note - stay away from mouth inflating if you're going to be serious about balloons. Your lungs will be burning after the first 20 balloons and your voice will start to choke out.

I use the standard Qualatex pump (the red one) and have used the same one for a little over 2 years.


I don't know man, Don Caldwell inflates without a pump. I myself can blow up around 200 balloons before my lungs start to feel weird and my voice never has any problems. It is all practice, your lungs will grow stronger and faster. I also find that mouth inflating is also a neat spectacle. Not too many can do it and if you let someone in line try if will make you look a lot more inpressive. But to each his own. Mouth inflating can be risky business if you don't know what you are doing. Using a pump is a great way to go if you wish to take no chances. Listen to Dbaker as well, his advice is good if you choose to follow it. My essay is based on problems I have had in the past and how I worked around them. Find what works best for your situation and go with it.


Juliegel


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 10:56 pm 
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juliegel wrote:
. . . I myself can blow up around 200 balloons before my lungs start to feel weird and my voice never has any problems. It is all practice, your lungs will grow stronger and faster. I also find that mouth inflating is also a neat spectacle. Not too many can do it and if you let someone in line try if will make you look a lot more inpressive.. . .


My point exactly. Most people aren't capable of doing that many balloond without hurting themselves. Secondly, I go through more than 200 balloon at most events - even if I could mouth inflate that many - I'd run out of juice before I was finished.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 11:06 pm 
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as a fellow balloon busker I must say those numbers can be accurate. However I don’t believe in inflating by mouth. It just doesn’t seem sanitary to me. I will inflate by mouth if someone challenges me on it though. For speed I have invested in a stand up pump.
On the concern of money I have a sign that says "average gratuity $1-$5" this tells people that I’m not working for free. Also people will usually give me much more then a dollar for a balloon. Since the majority of us are magicians I will tell you that you MUST promote well your out there. Have your cards obvious.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 4:10 pm 
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Glamourboy wrote:
as a fellow balloon busker I must say those numbers can be accurate. However I don’t believe in inflating by mouth. It just doesn’t seem sanitary to me. I will inflate by mouth if someone challenges me on it though. For speed I have invested in a stand up pump.
On the concern of money I have a sign that says "average gratuity $1-$5" this tells people that I’m not working for free. Also people will usually give me much more then a dollar for a balloon. Since the majority of us are magicians I will tell you that you MUST promote well your out there. Have your cards obvious.


On that note - HAVE SPECIAL CARDS
Don't give out the same card that you give out when you're doing close-up magic. Print up new cards that focus on you as a children's entertainer - there was a rapid and direct change in the number of bookings I got from my balloon work directly after I implemented this.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 4:19 pm 
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I have 2 sets of cards. One focuses on magic but in smaller print says I also do balloons. And the other is the exact opposite. I hand them out accordingly to the venue I am at.


Juliegel


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 9:51 pm 
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I have never really considered getting into balloons, but after reading that post I think I may give it a try. Is it hard twisting balloons?


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 9:55 pm 
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It is not as hard as you think. Most can't get past the popping fear to go very far. If you can get past that then you can go far fast.


Juliegel


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