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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Ballooning 101 » » Busking Advice (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Ben Field
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Hey guys

I'm would like any advice you can give me on balloon busking.

I have done a few kids magic shows including some modeling so I can do all the basic models. I will soon have one day a week free (I'm a single parent) and was thinking about getting a busker licence from the council and heading off to the city centre to practice modeling and get some income.

Is it worth shelling out for a quality pump, apron and table? Do I need to do more than just basic models? Should I charge a set price or give away balloons for tips? Any advice would be very welcome!

Ben
Jestnjoker
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A "busking license" doesn't exist in every city. I bought a "transient vendor's licence" for $25. They remind me whenever I miss a deadline to pay my sales taxes.

Don't invest in anything extravagant yet until you feel the need for it and know you can get a return on your investment. Get a nice sturdy handpump and a decent way to access and keep your balloons organized for a start.

If you have license you can charge a set price. If you are going to work for tips make it clear that they are expected. If you have balloon creations worthy of more than a buck you should also have a way to indicate that expectation. A $5 bill in the shirt pocket works nicely, or perhaps a sign or a pin. I've seen a set of pins I really like. A set of 3. The first says "$1" and has a one balloon creation on it. The second says "$5" and has a nice multiple balloon creation on it. The third says "$10" (or "$20") and has a super elaborate many balloon sculpture on it. They get the point across and are good for non-verbal communication. If a kid comes up with a dollar in his hand and asks for a fire-breathing dragon you can look at your pins and the parents and say you don't know how to make it! (Too harsh?)

Speaking of not being able to make it: Go ahead, and start with the simple ones. Often, working high volume, making simple designs is the best way to appease a large crowd, but in most situations the following statement is true: Better shapes, better tips. It's great to see mom put the dollar back and get out a $5 bill as you keep working on her child's creation.

Let's see, what else....you can use a menu. Pictures and prices (Again, with the license, you'll legally have to pay taxes based on these prices and how many you sold). And have business cards ready (and don't charge less than you are worth!)

I started out by going to a public event, sitting down on a ledge and struggling through tigers and flowers in the heat. Made some money and the rest is history. I don't even remember how I held my balloons. Ha. Good luck.
Jeff Wright
www.WrightEntertainment.biz
Voted Best Party Entertainer in Cleveland, Nickelodeon Parents' Picks Awards
pslaughter
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I love the sound of those pins! What a great idea!

Are they available commercially, or did you make them up personally? I'd be interested in picking up a set!
Jestnjoker
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I haven't seen them sold. Places like Fedex/kinko's sometimes have a pin making machine.
Jeff Wright
www.WrightEntertainment.biz
Voted Best Party Entertainer in Cleveland, Nickelodeon Parents' Picks Awards
Ben Field
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Thanks for the advice!

:o)

Ben
Bad to the Balloon
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Mark Byrne
AKA Mark the Balloon Guy
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Jestnjoker
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That's who I saw them on. I was working a show with him in AZ once and he was telling me how they really clear up the whole $1 tip thing.

Also, I was just making my new shoes on zazzle.com and saw that they make pins starting at $2 each. I might design some of my own.

Edit: Just checked those out. They aren't the same ones I had in my head. I remember Ed's but I've also seen the set with the pictures on them.
Jeff Wright
www.WrightEntertainment.biz
Voted Best Party Entertainer in Cleveland, Nickelodeon Parents' Picks Awards
teachersears
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This summer I started. I had a chair to sit on, a sign that said "balloons" and "tips," and a doctors bag for my balloons and tips, and a couple picture menus. I did pretty good, had fun. If you like kids and can play with them as you twist, I think it helps with both the fun and tips. Oh, I had about a dozen basic one and two balloon designs. If a kid wanted just one balloon, I always made another for his dad or sibling. (two swords are much more fun than one.)
Mike Maturen
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Home Depot sells a "tool box" that is essentially a 5-gallon bucket with a tool holder insert. These are great for holding tons of balloons. I believe the center is open so you can throw the tips in there...although I think keeping the tips is a visible spot creates more and larger tips...but could also attract thieves.

You could also get one of those collapsible net laundry hampers (see through black mesh with a hole in the top) if you want to pre-inflate a bunch of balloons.
Mike Maturen
World of Wonder Entertainment
The Magic and Mayhem of Mike Maturen
989-335-1661
mikematuren@gmail.com

AUTHOR OF "A NEW DAWN--Weekly Wisdom From Everyday Life"

member: International Magician's Society
Jestnjoker
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If you are using a "hat" or anything like it to collect tips, be sure to empty it regularly (not totally empty, keep it peppered) and put a brick or something in it to weight it. The weight makes it awkward if someone tries to take off with it and it may catch them off guard.
Jeff Wright
www.WrightEntertainment.biz
Voted Best Party Entertainer in Cleveland, Nickelodeon Parents' Picks Awards
Sammy the Kid
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I personally try to keep my tips hidden to try and deter any thievery, as I generally work pretty late on the street. I do wear a "TIP$ WELCOME" pin and I have a sign on my balloon cart that says "Tipping: Its not just for cows anymore!" with a picture of a cattle crossing sign turned upside down.
Leland
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I have a clear tip jar so they can see that the $$$, lets them know that I work for tips. It helps to have it in front of them. I don't keep a lot of money in it just enough to let them know that "Tips are OK".
Life of Magic!
Bad to the Balloon
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New tip buttons

"$5 is the new $1"

"Really... what do you get for a Buck?"

"Looking for fives or better"

"Change is for politicians, I need $5's and $10's"

Little history .... I actually gave T Myers the idea for "Tipping is Okey Dokey" button
Mark Byrne
AKA Mark the Balloon Guy
As seen on the TODAY SHOW
www.balloonguy.net
Creator of Bad to the Balloon DVD series
Go to my store: http://tinyurl.com/Bad2theBalloon
Dynamike
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There is a difference between a busker and a vendor. Many people think both licenses are the same. But they are not. If you plan on selling balloons, you need a vendor license. Handing them out for tips require a busker license.
rjones683
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Remember bigger is better! I have found that by changing the design to use 350/360 sizes instead of 260 sized balloons, the tips increase.
Regards,
R
Pokie-Poke
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The reason I used to hate balloon twisters is beacause of things like this. If you charge for a balloon you are a vender not a busker. if you prices on a pin, menue board or the like your a vender. pay the venders fee, insurance, sales tax, and be a vender. don't call it busking so you can skirt the law.

I busk with balloons, I do my best to give away as many balloons as I can. I have goten tips from people who did not take a balloon, but liked what I was doing. the tips are good.

One year I was busking on south st. in philli, it was marti gras, and another balloon twister was there. I had done this before and this is the first time a saw another balloon twister out there. he was selling, I was busking. we had words, and after he lost a bet with me he moved down the block. Smile well after all was done I freely gave away my balloons, but still made enough to pay for parking, dinner, the balloons, and some in my pocket. the other guy got to ride in a police car, not that he wanted to... Smile I have done this in philli. (one of the cheapest citys in the USA) and in N.Y.C.(one of the best tipping)

end rant.
If done right, busking is the way to go, You can push your self.as this is not a payed gig.

a good sturdy pump is a good idea, If you don't want to drop a lot, the qualitex pump that looks like a ketchup bottle is sturdy, and cheep. don't need a table realy, just more to lug about.

there are lots of threads hear about aprons, I did not busk with one when I started, but I would recomend getting one some day, It will help you speed up so you can do more, or bigger things, fast turn arownd helps with the tips and booking partys.

a tip button (with no price on it) is a good way to get the idea across, you don't need it, but it helps. I also have a pouch that I made, it has a ring in the top to hold it open, and is lined with a cloth printed with pictures of money on it.

How old are/is your kid/s? as kids love making balloos, and love to help. this can be realy fun.

and last (till the next) make hats. best free add you can do. yea, the next kid in line saw the first kid get a sword, but people down the block can see a good hat.
www.pokie-poke.com
The Adventure cont...
Ben Field
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Thanks guys,

Appriciate all the advice, as it is my day free has fallen through (oh well), but I have come up with another plan for regular practice, at that is to raise money for the PTA at school by doing balloons once a week. I've got an old soft sided cool box for my balloons, a sturdier qualatex pump, and a few of the dvd's that have been recomended on this forum.

Since posting the question and starting to look at twisting a bit more seriously, I'm amazed at the quality of information available on youtube and the advice on here, and how much more there is to it that a three twist dog!! Its been great fun and has filled up all our rain days this summer.

@pokie-poke, my kids are 4,5 and 9, I think its a good idea to get the oldest involve, I'm sure he can make a sword!! :o)
Pokie-Poke
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Get them into it and I bet they suprize you. I get kids to twist and its fantastic. My "nephew" is autistic, and has helped, has his own pump.

as for on line stuff, look up Buster Balloon's stuff, and balloon hq.
www.pokie-poke.com
The Adventure cont...
Lady Vee
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Hi
A bit late but heres my bit about balloon busking - I busk for tips all over the UK and have done in other parts of Europe and Canada too for the past 5 years or so. I often get asked by officials why don't I just get a licence and sell them - well - if I wanted to be a 'vending machine' that is what I would do! But I don't - I enjoy the freedom of busking, and sometimes when I incorporate a bit of magic to show the adults and children - my tips get bigger too!
I work from a non - tradional ballon apron - I wear it with a belt and have all my balloons wrapped up in tubes so its easy to get to my 260's I keep bags of 160s, hearts, 5" roundes etc placed in there too. I tell the child (or adult) what I make or ask what they want and kinda lead them into what I want to make them! But of course if they have a special request I can usually do it too ! I ask for 'generous' tips - the larger the balloon - the larger the tip I say - this keeps me from making complex, high numbered balloons on the streets - unless - again its a specail request. If (and in someplaces I do need to) use a hat or other recepticle to catch my tips - I always get rid of the small change and keep £1,£2 or £5 notes in their only - this educates people what others are tipping me.

I have picked up many party bookings on the streets and also requests for birthday party balloon boquets that they pick up from me or I can deliver.

Happy ballooning!

Vee Smile
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