There are a lot of party entertainers out there. And I mean, A LOT! So how do you find the perfect face painter/balloon twister/magician/party host for your party? This kind of depends on whether or not you know exactly what you’re looking for. If your child has asked for a bouncy castle & face painter then you’re halfway there. If your child wants a bouncy castle and magic and face painting and crafts and a disco and Spider-man, then you’re going to have to pin them down somehow. It’s even worse if they have no idea what they’d like, and you’re the one who has to decide for them, and take the rap if they didn’t have a good time. Mind you, I once knew a child who had a particular kind of party because he knew his friends would love it, even though the activity wasn’t his thing at all – which was probably taking altruism too far.
If you really haven’t a clue about what kind of party to go for, or are looking for something new and different, then putting a request on the local buy/sell Facebook forum will generate loads of ideas and contacts. This is also quite a good way of getting recommendations for entertainers. The only trouble is that some entertainers are extremely good at their jobs, but less good at social media, so you’re not always going to find them on Facebook. Conversely, I have seen some face painters that I personally wouldn’t hire, being recommended over and over again on Facebook. Social media is a good starting point, but it isn’t as good as ‘word of mouth’ because you don’t know the people who are doing the recommending.
So what should you do with the recommendations? Well, the first and most obvious thing is to check them out. Start by Googling them. You should find a website or a business page. Somewhere, there may be photos of their work. But even here, you need to be wary, for pictures can lie…
Have you seen this photo before? Gorgeous, isn’t it? These two faces were painted by an extremely talented Australian face painter called Jenny Saunders, but the photo appears in the advertising bumpf for other painters.
So when you check out the website or Facebook page, look at all the photos- not just the most beautiful. Ask the entertainer straight out: “Are the photos on your page all your own work?” And remember: if there’s a mix of poor quality and high quality painting, expect the poorer quality painter to show up at your party. If there are photos or video of the painter in action, then these are generally more reliable than a gallery of paintings in different styles.
An event planning website can also be an efficient way of finding an entertainer, especially if you want to have your party on a popular date. It certainly saves time in ringing everyone who appears on a Google search for ‘local entertainers’. Event websites are generally free for the client to use, because the entertainer pays the fee. Add to Event, EventSense, and PopTop are examples of these sites. Just remember that these companies do not check out the quality of their entertainers so you might want to Google them yourself.
Obviously, seeing your entertainer in action at another event is the best way of judging their quality. They’ll be happy to give you their business card, but don’t be offended if they can’t give you a price there and then.
Whether you have an unlimited budget or are looking for the cheapest entertainment available, there is an entertainer out there for you. But as somebody who gets a lot of requests to cover events where ‘they’ve been let down by their face painter’, please be aware that somebody who quotes you significantly less than the other entertainers may well dump you if a better paying job comes along. And if they get sick and can’t cover your event, then they will be unable to find a replacement, leaving you to have to find a last minute entertainer, who won’t be at all inclined to match the original quote!