No truer words have been spoken.
We have all heard this phrase and know that it usually refers to a situation when one will experience an inferior product or service. This topic arose recently while having my oil changed at my usual service station.
A vehicle pulled up and the driver asked how much for the oil change, the owner of the shop replied with prices of the basic and full service, the driver muttered something and drove off. I joked with the owner saying, “they must want the $8.00 oil change,” to which she replied “you get what you pay for!” I feel this oil change shop is competitive in the pricing but more importantly are trust worthy and use only manufacturer recommended parts and fluids for the vehicle. For me, paying a little extra to have confidence there will be no issues is worth every penny. As our conversation continued about the cheap oil change shops, the owner shared how they fix the mistakes of these low price shops on a regular basis. With confidence, I refer people to this establishment trusting they will receive the same excellent service as do I.
What does this all have to do with we the family entertainers? Absolutely everything! We should strive to be honest and deliver quality service and sometimes “fix” the mistakes of other entertainers.
Worth our weight in gold:
As we grow in our field of expertise, the quality of our work should become exceptional and our fee should reflect that level of service. When first learning a trade one may work as an unpaid intern or be paid a lesser wage than that of a the seasoned worker. This is very common in the skilled trade industry and also holds true in the field of entertainment. Many mentors of clowning, magic and face painting will encourage their students to volunteer their services as they gain experience in the field. Using a performer who is just starting out and working for free, the client should understand that this person is still learning and the level of performance will be less than that of a seasoned pro. This situation can work for both parties, the client gets free entertainment and the student has real world experience to help grow as a performer. At a point in time, the quality of performance should be that of a professional and we are ready to ask a fair wage for our talents.
You want how much?
Calling around for a quote on services for anything can be an eye opening experience. A plumber, electrician or heating/cooling repair technician usually has a service fee just to show up to the door, often more than $80.00. This fee typically applies to the work performed, but a fee none the less. A master plumber will most certainly charge more than the plumber just starting in the field. So where as entertainers do we fit in this pricing scale? For me to suggest a dollar amount is tricky as pricing is contingent on the area in which you work. A sound method; find out what other professionals with your talents are charging in your neck of the woods and work out pricing from there. This is known as an industry standard and will keep you in the ranks with fellow artists. Charging too little for similar services is considered undercutting and will not gain you many friends in your industry. Set your fee too high above others and you may not get much work at all. Most importantly, make sure your skills and services rendered are worth the fee you expect the client to pay. As your skills improve you may wish to increase the fee, this is perfectly acceptable. The fee to hire a carpenter to build a simple tool shed verses hiring a master carpenter to make custom furniture would not be the same. Therefore if we become a master in our skills, we certainly can increase our fee reflective of a higher level of service.
The last guy:
When talking to a perspective client you may hear them speak of “the last guy I hired” usually followed by a horror story of some kind. This can be a result of hiring the cheapest performer….you get what you pay for. We now find ourselves trying to leap over that hurdle of bad service the client received once before. To best overcome this obstacle, do not dwell on how bad this other performer may have been, rather focus on the expectations of the client. During the conversation, we the performer should also be interviewing the client to see if we are able to meet their expectations with the services and skill set we posses. Part of being a professional in your trade is to recognize your limits, not that you are inferior, you may just not yet posses the skills for a particular situation. Trying to take on a job for which you are not prepared can be a bad idea and may turn you into “the last guy I hired.”
The other guy:
Strive to be “the other guy” the one who found the solution best suited for the performer and the client both. Sometimes the client isn’t sure what they want in a clown, magic show or face painter. Part of our job is to help navigate the conversation in order find out what are the clients needs, what they are imagining the event to be, how you the entertainer could meet those needs and finally, come up with a plan at a price that makes everyone happy. This may sound like a lot of work but not if you are willing to listen and ask a few questions: what is that you like about clowns, magic, face painting etc. This allows your client to express their personal interest in your line of work. The answer may be; my child was at a friends party and they came home with a cool balloon animal or amazing face paint and they asked to have this for their party. (We can count ourselves lucky that the call did not go to the performer of that show.) Now that you have some insight into the situation, you could ask to email sample photos of your work or refer to your website for them to look things over. In this world of electronic communication, this exchange can take place while still on the phone or better yet if in person, show them samples from your smart phone or tablet.
All of this preparedness will help make the clients part in this interaction easier, in turn making you a more valuable person in their event planning. Having answers to questions, suggestions for the event and samples of your work could mean they look no further and book you for the event immediately. All of this took place without you ever mentioning the bad experience they had with the last guy they hired, rather how you intend to make this the best event they could plan. Once you live up to their expectations, the new story the client will share with friends is how going with “their guy” is a good choice.
Being professional in your skills as well as the manner in which you deal with clients will gain you a reputation of a worthwhile investment rather than a costly entertainer. This is always a great reputation to have. So in that conversation between friends about a product or service not being worth the money spent, rest assured they won’t be speaking of you when the phrase ” you get what you pay for” is uttered in a negative tone.
A final note:
Always strive for excellence no matter what the job or the fee charged. Many family entertainers do charity work often where the fee is vastly reduced or waived entirely. My performance is never less for a free show than when I charge full price. My reputation is too valuable to ever give less than my best. Bedsides, it is my choice to work the charity event for free, therefore it would be very selfish of me to “hold back” and not give my all.
Go forward and be awesome!