So, you want
a professional henna artist?
an artist craftsman from 1969 to 2004
When you have done henna
for a while,
doing it well enough that people have started offering you money and
you up to do it, you may begin to consider seeing if you can earn a
regular money at it.
When is it time to start
If you have hennaed
are improving rapidly, and have a few months experience with different
skins, different parts of the body, and are getting consistent results,
you can go forwards a bit. Don't be in a rush to make money,
with henna, experience is the best teacher, and you'll need a LOT of
to not make mistakes. You can learn to do henna in a day, but to
perfect your henna art takes a lifetime of learning! Start
It is truly terrible to make mistakes in a big expensive setting (like
a huge rock concert, trendy shop or festival setting), but forgivable
make mistakes in a small place, at a small price.
How do you get people to
to you for henna?
Start by ALWAYS having your
wonderfully hennaed, and always having henna with you. Be charming,
to people, and offer a little TINY henna FREE. (When you're sitting at
a party, dorm lounge, park, breach, outside on a lovely day.... be
be friendly, and just go do it!) (I said FREE...it is frequently
or uncool to charge in such places) Let them fall in love with
henna. Let then know where to find you when they want more! (When they
want more they can pay.) Always have a purse full of business
If you can afford to do color copies with a lovely picture of your
and business info, pin up flyers everywhere you can think of (well,
place that’s legal to do so). Let people know you exist, and what
you do. If you're GOOD, your henna and your pictures of it will tell
Look on bulletin boards
raves, and events
Call up the phone numbers
organizers and see what the vending fees and arrangements. Set a goal
doing one event every week. Start with small inexpensive events. Make
mistakes at the small places. When you have more experience, go to the
larger events. When you start to do events, and not just having people
come to you for the occasional henna ... you need to switch over to the
"business rant" rules. As long as you're very, very small time.... cash
only, no place of business, no DBA...you can get by without real
For an excellent model
time business practices....
Think about the way a
school or college supplier of recreational pharmaceuticals goes about
and maintaining a clientele. Many of them have excellent business
small free samples, cordiality, keeping a very low profile, relying on
word of mouth ... this is very good for beginning and maintaining
part time henna business. (There is a crucial legal and ethical issue
the "happy candy" line of work though that many of them overlook, and
at some point, their business, life and everything else comes to a
halt). (Henna artists need not fear being arrested in their underwear.)
Other than that, the "purveyor of small pleasures" model of part time
is very instructive. With a little luck, you will have, by word of
a group of happy henna addicts who MUST have their henna fix every
But, where should you meet your henna addicts, and how can you attract
A college situation, or a
workplace, or a large circle of friends is ideal for a very small part
time henna business. Word of mouth is always best for getting a part
business going. It makes your business grow slowly enough for you
to do your learning and experimenting, so you will become a better
When you are regularly busy, and it gets to the point that you need to
buy supplies wholesale, be a vendor at shows, have a business name,
to expand and grow and even depend on henna to help pay your bills....
THEN you need to think about henna as a business rather than a pleasant
profitable hobby, wherein the Business Rant applies.
When you are confident that
do a good job on anyone without running into trouble, think about
yourself up a weekend business as a henna artist. Think about
a table at a nail parlor, a henna salon in your house, or some regular
place of business. This will require setting up your business as
outlined in the "full-time rant" but without committing yourself to
your day job. Henna is very suitable for a part time
Read on to the "full time
rant" and use the business rules that apply!
Here are the next
Full Time Artist's Business Rant,
are two reasons
to begin a business of your own in the arts, Love or Money.
You may begin a business
love art and want to do it a lot, and want to make money at it.
This works, but often not very
because once you've done something a few thousand times for money, and
experienced all the difficulties that go along with doing business, the
thing you once loved accumulates a lot of emotional baggage and it's
much fun anymore. Love is not a particularly good reason to begin
a business. Love is an excellent reason to keep your art
part time, or as a hobby.
Two, you may begin a
because you NEED MONEY!
A sudden change in
that forces you to find a way to make money to survive with whatever
and resources you can muster in a hurry is an excellent way to
Impoverishment is a great motivator and clarifier of
Most artists I know who are making a full time living in the arts are
because they lost their steady job and found themselves desperate to
the bills. Dire necessity forces an artist to make more realistic
business decisions, and work much more effectively than would usually
If, for whatever reason you
yourself in a position to earn money as an artist, you will need to
care of several things which artists are unaccustomed to doing.
things are absolutely essential, and if you don't do them, you will not
stay in business long. You must do your bookkeeping. You
have all your legal permits and banking arrangements in order.
must have no complications in terms of health or personal
You must be boundlessly energetic, intense and highly motivated, with a
strong ego and undauntable will. You must be unquestionably
in your art. You will need a reliable car. You must have an
answering machine. You must have no difficulty making
what you need to earn.
Add up all your monthly
Double that. (Things screw up.)
Add up what you can reasonably
to earn in a month's art business, minus all the expenses. Divide
that in half. (Things screw up.) In your grimmest, most
evaluation, will this work? It takes at least $750 a week to
a middle class family of four comfortably. If you pace yourself to earn
double that, the money should even out to where you just squeak
Always put 10% off the top of your earnings aside for hard times and
If those numbers really
do your art business part time
make peace with some job that pays the bills. Actually, it's a
easier to bear a dreary job that pays the bills if you have a little
of your own where you maintain your sanity and do something
Every single day,
you must record your expenses and income.
It does not matter very much
you do it in a small one-person business, as long as you understand
you have written down. What makes your bookkeeping system good
If you can find any expense, any receipt, and any income amount in less
than 20 minutes, your system is good enough. If you cannot tell
how much you spent on travel, or on supplies, or how much you earned in
any particular month in the last 5 years within 20 minutes...your
is NOT good enough. Use a notebook, or use software, but USE it
use it daily! Keep records of everything. Keep the records
If you've never kept
a business before,
go to a big bookstore and ask
see books on home businesses. Buy one or two that seem to make
Bookkeeping software is a wonderful thing, and not
Bookkeeping is tedious, like flossing your teeth and doing the dishes,
but it is crucial. If you don't have well-kept books, when you
audited by the IRS or try to improve your financial situation at the
you will go down in flames. Never, ever, throw away a
Any receipt you don't have will be the one that someone behind a desk
absolutely require to approve you for some loan or audit, refund or
Buy receipt books.
Use them. Either
purchase order books and invoice books at your local office supply
or use your bookkeeping software to create them. When you
supplies, make out a purchase order with a number. When you sell
something, give that person a receipt. When you do henna at a
write up an invoice for the person paying you. Have them sign it when
are paid. Keep ALL of these in meticulous order. Most
artists find this oppressive and tedious, but your tax auditor and bank
loan manager will adore you for it. It may help you get yourself
into a more stable business situation, like a mall kiosk, if you have a
provable track record of sales.
Visit your local city
and see what permits you need
have a home business. Get them. See what paperwork you need
to file to have a name for your business. Do that. Go to
bank and set up a business account. Keep all these
where you can find them. File your returns on time. Find
what liability insurance you need for a business in your state and get
it. If you want your business to grow and stay afloat, you
will have to have these things and keep them up to date.
Make sure what you're
safe and legal.
Make sure you HURT NO
No quick profit is ever worth a lawsuit for pain and suffering!
you considering using black henna?
Every day, without fail, make
least one of the ugly phone calls that you have been avoiding.
What is your payback for
bookkeeping and permit holding?
As an artist running a home
a world of thumbing your nose at the IRS will open before you!
will legally be eligible to deduct from your income part or all of the
following as legitimate business expenses: mileage allowance when
traveling, food allowance when traveling, accommodations when
other transportation expenses, your mortgage, rentals related to
insurance, all your supplies, costumes, books, internet access, banking
expenses, utilities in your home, all the purchases you make that can
be regarded as business related, phone line, home repairs or
if they can be related to your business, computer upgrades, promotions,
festival fees, business lunches with other artists, commissions,
to non-profit organizations ... and you can get quite creative with
as long as you can make a bullet-proof paper trail that implies that
expense was part of your business.
In short, virtually every
you are in business as an artist-craftsman, you can arrange your
deductible home business expenses to very nearly cancel out your
and you will pay little or no income tax on your earnings. If you
do this and have children, you can receive low income-related benefits
such as EIC, and later your children will be eligible for outstanding
and scholarships based on financial need as they enter college.
The IRS WILL audit you
to 7 years.
The IRS deeply fears and
home businesses. Be ready for them. If you have
bulletproof bookkeeping, you can win your audit. I did. Twice.
Running a home business
a strain on your health
You will need to be
energetic and enthusiastic, and working about 70 hours a week for many
weeks on end as your business grows. There is no sick leave in a
artist's home business. You have to be producing your art, or no
money comes in. Take care of yourself! You can get health
for yourself as self-employed, but it is expensive and may be difficult
to find if you have any pre-existing conditions. If you have a
problem, you may need to stay with a "straight job” and do your art
time, unless you can get good medical coverage from your spouse's
A pregnancy can be an excellent reason for you to go into a home arts
so you can both have an income and be with your child, but it is unwise
to put your pregnancy and child at risk with no medical care. Be
as sensible and well advised as you can in terms of combining mothering
and business. If you have not been pregnant and had children
you may underestimate the time and energy required to manage infants
business in the same space. It certainly can be done, and done
but it is NOT EASY!
Running a home business
strains in your personal relationships.
Spouse, lovers, and children
become very jealous of the time you spend on your business, and can
very inventive at creating distractions to draw your attention back to
them. People often do not understand that being at home doing art
is for you serious employment. If people continually interrupt
work, to the point of reducing your productivity and money, set firm
in terms of time and space. You may find it useful to have
hours" or a "business space" and make it clear to people that you are
work, and are not to be bothered until you take a break.
space" and "business hours" are also useful in making YOU leave
behind you when it is time to be a spouse, lover, or parent.
It's very easy to become
consumed by your art and business, and to drag it around physically or
mentally with you always. This will annoy the hell out of all the
people who love you. Learn to separate yourself from your arts
and remember to set it aside as you prefer other people to leave their
business at the office too.
To succeed in your art
you will need to get visible and stay visible.
Find out how to get into
concerts, street fairs, open markets, mall kiosks, coffee houses,
that looks promising. Sometimes you can find out by
to the place and asking, or try the local city hall or chamber of
state arts commission, or Internet. Get the application
Send them in on time. Make sure you have an excellent
simple enough to be understood at a glance. Your biggest
in time and resources early on in your business will be in making sure
people know you exist, and presenting yourself well. Take clear,
beautiful, uncomplicated slides of your work for festival
A great looking website with beautiful pictures of your work is very
Subtlety, cunning, complexity and mystery in these presentations is a
idea. The arts world is very competitive, and you need to get
attention instantly, and hold it.
The business managers of
where you hope to do business may know little about your art and care
about it. You will have to market yourself aggressively and
Go for every bit of public exposure you possibly can. Every time
you are out, you must look charming, be eager and cheerful, and be,
a work of art. You are selling yourself as much as your
If you can get out in
your art 40 weekends in the first year, you will be well on your way to
either being a success in business, or you will have found out that
way of life is not for you.
All contracts must be in
This protects you. There
books and software with lovely sample contracts for all sorts of
Have a look at them! You may not have thought about copyright,
release forms, billing, delivery, and bookings for parties and such,
you may need to think about them soon!
To endure in business,
need patience and a vast sense of humor.
Ever worked with the general
before? This is not a terribly clever species, and henna often
stupidity right to the surface. See:
Gryphoemia. Gryphoemia is an inevitable affliction of henna
Keep little cards with
info on it with you at all times.
Always keep your hands
hennaed. Never pass up an opportunity to promote yourself, short
of being a real pain in the ass.
When you talk to artists
to yourself, ask them what works, and what doesn't work.
If they are honest, open and
they are wonderful people and try to keep them as your friends.
they are secretive and unhelpful about business, they suck.
them. Karma will take care of them.
When you chose festivals
try to get maximum exposure for minimum expense.
In your first year of work,
well-kept books will show you those that are the most profitable
Aim for situations where your fees bring back 10 times as much in
That will help your cash flow a great deal. The most expensive
may not be the best moneymakers for you. In henna art, particularly,
are limited by the number of hours you are hennaing, rather than the
you can bring, unless you can arrange to do both. Every
will find a niche.... search diligently for it, then work it for all
worth! It is very difficult to guess what venue will be the best
moneymaker for you.... good instincts may help, or cast whatever
oracle you have at hand. Seeking auspices of one business project
by casting an oracle is as valid as trying to forecast what will happen
by any other means. Personally, I prefer the I Ching, and the
published by Asiapac is particularly helpful. Most artists I know
have small household shrines where they offer modest bribes to deities,
to better their chances of business success, and to relieve themselves
of the strain of worrying unnecessarily about circumstances they really
If a festival or
begins to suck and waste your time beyond reason, pack up, leave and
There are some situations
it is truly useless to keep trying. Don't spend time or money
If you find that festivals
best place for you to earn money as an artist, establish a bank account
and put the fees for each show away in that account for a year, as you
do shows. Show fees can be cash flow headache. The sooner
establish a fund for this, the better. Show fees also cause
for your regular bank account because the promoters can wait months
they deposit the check...and cause you a sudden overdraft if you've
It is very useful to
banking arrangements to accept credit cards.
When you have improved in your
enough that you can do larger jobs and charge more, you can improve
sales hugely by accepting credit cards. Keep excellent books for
the first year, and go to the bank where you have your business account
and ask about accepting credit cards. They will want to
how much your average sale is, and your rate will be based on
It will cost you to do this, but most art businesses triple in sales
they accept credit cards, because you can encourage people to choose a
much more expensive piece of artistry. If people can only spend
you the cash they have in their pockets, they will spend very
Visa and MasterCard are by far the most useful cards to accept.
It may not be all that crucial
have business capital to run an arts business. If you have very
money, you spend what you have very, very carefully, and that is an
thing in business.
Earn as much as you
Spend as little as you
Businesses that depend on
manufacturing or importing require more capital, and the strategy for
those businesses is very different than running a business based on
artistic output. If you must go into debt to finance your
do so at the lowest possible interest rate, and pay it off
A henna artist's business is similar to the strategy of a performer....
where money is produced by time spent doing the art rather than
objects and selling them.
If you are a henna artist,
carrying inventory, it is important to have lots of hours hennaing, at
as little expense as possible. If an artist is producing works
then taking them to a festival, it is often far more profitable to
with samples and take custom orders than to travel with inventory and
that the stuff sells. Take plenty of photos of the work you have
done. That is your resume. People will order from you if
can see that you've delivered well in the past.
Consignment is a great
get no money fast.
In 30 years of business, I
exactly one gallery that paid honestly and promptly for consigned
If you want to take
business the direction of importing and distributing, that is an
different matter, and requires very different management skills.
If you are expanding your business in a way that will require
loans and inventory, you may need to talk to someone experienced in
business and finances, or read books on such. Business and money
management is not a difficult game, but you do have to know the
Importing, also has rules, and you will have to learn to love your
permits, phone and paperwork in ways that a single henna artist would
I never expanded my business beyond the one-artist, one-home-business,
no employees point, so I can't offer much advice on major business
Learn to be very firm
money that is owed you.
Decide what you want out
Do you want adulation, time
your kids, money, security, and control over your own time, job
independence, or relief from boredom? What do you want
Structure your business in the way that will deliver what you want
best. Decide what you want your business to be in 5 years.
Figure out how to get to that point in 5 years. Write these
down and re-evaluate them once a year.
Do not fear making
Being wrong is no big deal,
being indecisive is a killer. If you must decide between artistic
integrity and making the mortgage payment or feeding your children, go
for the money. You can have artistic integrity AFTER the mortgage
check clears the bank and the children are fed.
Failure is a bitch.
Failure in your own business
an expensive bitch, and can be overwhelming and depressing.
misery is not very useful. When you have, for whatever reason,
down in flames with bounced checks, a disastrous show, wrecked art, or
abject humiliation ... allow yourself one hour to hide in the bathroom
crying, then stop and evaluate the situation. Does this disaster
require a lawyer, a policeman, a bail bondsman, a physician, a
a mortician, a coroner's inquest or a priest? If it does, things
really suck, and you should call for help. Does this disaster
require a large infusion of money, time or apologies? If
is all that's needed to repair the damage, it's is not a very big deal
then, and you can sort it out, though it will be painful and take some
Never avoid dealing with
They fester and go septic if
do not take care of them directly. The faster and more honestly
confront difficult situations, the easier they are to get
Cultivate a circle of friends who have also been
You'll quickly find out from them that not only are disasters and
inevitable, but that they can be dealt with, and most of them are not a
very big deal. If you must go into debt to cure a disaster, seek
professional debt management advice. Money is difficult only if
do not understand it well.
Success in your own
a magnificent high.
Allow yourself one hour of
insufferably pleased with yourself. Treat yourself to something
that costs no more than $25. After that, get a grip.
Don't trust anyone
you can throw them if there is money involved.
This doesn't mean you have to
paranoid and evil tempered ... it just means that you must get
in writing, and keep all your papers in order. Arguing over money
is very tiresome, broken promises leave a bad taste in everyone's
and true rip-off artists turn up where least expected. Don't
in people's good intentions and generosity. Put everything in
and keep your eyes open.
Never risk what you
I ran a home business as an
for 30 years, and in many years it was the sole source of income for a
family of four. In nearly all other years, it was still equal to
or more than other sources of income. It was never boring.
Other useful stuff for
Get Insurance if you're going
work at festivals! Many larger festivals will require proof of
before you set up!
just in case you're thinking of using "black henna"
read everything HERE!
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