DEAR ABBY: I am a balloon artist, earning my way through college. I entertain children, families, individuals and couples by creating characters in all shapes and sizes. My services are requested in restaurants, at parties and special events, most often without contracted compensation.
Since balloon artistry is not a common occupation, many people do not realize I depend on tips for my income and to cover the cost of supplies. (Some characters require several balloons to make.) Moreover, those that do tip are not quite certain how much is customary. I would like to suggest the following guideline: $1 per balloon used in the character.
It is heartwarming to watch small children enjoying a balloon made especially for them. I wish I could afford to make them free for everyone. -- ENTERTAINER FOR A LIVING
DEAR ENTERTAINER: This is the first I've heard of balloon artists having to make their living on tips, and I'm sure it will be to many of my readers.
Since your college education depends on running a small business, you must guarantee that you at least break even. Do that by informing potential clients that you charge a minimum amount per day or evening. (After that, what you earn in tips can be called a "balloon payment.") Alternatively, you can post a sign listing the price of your creations, at $1 per balloon.