3 Things to STOP Doing Now (If You Want to Make Money as a Henna Artist)
Can I be honest with you? I mean full-frontal, filter-free, #sorrynotsorry honest?
I’m sick and tired (to death) of hearing henna artists complain about not being able to make money with their craft.
Hear me out.
I started working with henna in 2011, and while I won’t take you through all of the details of my story, I will say this: when I entered the world of henna it was because I needed to make a living. I didn’t start taking clients because it was fun or because I loved the art of henna or because I had some free time and just wanted to try something new. I started working with clients because I was a single mom with a toddler at home and because I’d just lost my job.
I had zero savings.
I had no financial support.
It was up to me to make ends meet.
I needed money (like, yesterday) if I was going to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. As result, I approached henna like a business from the start - I didn’t have the luxury of doing otherwise. This experience set the tone for my walk with henna, and required me to consider things like profit margins, marketing strategy, and sustainability from the start.
I was a brand new business. I had to build my client list from zero. I didn’t have a following or an office or a studio or even a pretty backdrop to take photos of my work.
And friends, I matched my previous income as a social worker almost immediately out of the gate.
So you can imagine my frustration and disbelief when I hear artists today with the amazing (and easily accessible) resources of social media, professional-quality cameras in their hands, and a wealth of information at their fingertips say things like, “I don’t know how to get clients” or “I can’t seem to make money with my art.” What’s worse? They actually believe the words that are coming from their mouths.
If this is you, then I’m here to say: knock it off.
And also, because I don’t believe in delivering rants without offering suggestions for improvement, today I’m breaking down three things that you need to stop doing right now.
1. STOP WORKING FOR FREE (OR FOR CHEAP.)
At risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, if you’d like to make money as a henna artist, then offering services for free is probably counterintuitive. Can we all agree here? Great.
Now for the part that ruffles feathers: the cheap part.
There is a common misconception that if you set your rates on the low end, you’ll inevitably get more clients. Here’s the thing… Yes, a lower price point provides a lesser barrier to entry experience for new clients. But that’s not all it does. Offering a lower price point also indicates a lower level of skill, a lower quality final product, and a reason for new clients to feel suspicion around what must be wrong for the price to be so low. The truth is that every potential new client will experience some amount of hesitation prior to putting their hard earned cash in your hand. What you must ask yourself is: would you prefer for that hesitation to be formed in response to a higher price point (i.e. “I have $$$ to spend. Do I want to invest $$$ in this experience?”) or for that hesitation to be formed in response to speculation about your services (i.e. “I have $$$ to spend. This design/session only costs $. Where’s the catch?”)
In my own henna business, I’ve made the definitive decision to always opt for the former. It’s been my experience that it takes the same amount of effort to sell a service at $ as it does for $$$, and even so, once the sale is made, the experience I have with my $$$ clients is always (and I do not say this lightly, always) significantly better than it is with my previous $ clients. The additional obvious challenge that exists at the lower end of the spectrum is that in order to close the gap, you have to serve more clients. I encourage my students to position their businesses as $$$ experiences - allowing them to work less, work more smoothly, and exert the same amount of effort as they would if they were slinging $ pieces all day long.
2. STOP TRYING TO BE A ONE-STOP-SHOP FOR ALL THINGS HENNA
Prenatal henna? Yes, I do that!
Farmer’s Markets? Yep!
Destination weddings? You know it!
Bat mitzvahs? Corporate events? My neighbor’s grandma’s birthday party? OH YEAH.
…and all between teaching local classes, hosting henna meet ups, selling branded henna powder, and hopping on one foot with my eyes closed.
Sound familiar? It might! And that wouldn’t be odd at all. Fact of the matter is, this is the reality that most of us share - myself included. So what’s the problem with it, then?
When you represent yourself as being a jack-of-all-trades, you become memorable in none. Think about your favorite brand. What do they sell?
It’s no secret that I love the brand Kate Spade. When you think of Kate Spade, you likely think of high-end, designer purses, wallets, and other handbags first. That’s not by chance, of course - that is how Kate Spade has been most prominently marketed, after all. But did you know that you can also purchase things like serving-ware and shower curtains from Kate Spade? You can!
Bringing it closer to home, take a moment to think about your favorite henna artists. When you conjure up memories of their work, odds are the images that come to mind are all of a specific flavor: tiny bridal fills, bright colorful Instagram shots, or perfectly symmetrical prenatal designs. While these artists have managed to set themselves apart in a single skill set, many of them still offer additional services, and I’m not suggesting that you only offer a single service either. What I am saying, however, is that when you define yourself as an artist who specializes in a thing, your audience will regurgitate this for you, and more of those bookings will come your way. This won’t stop potential clients from reaching out to you to book other things, but it will keep you front of mind every time someone is looking for a henna artist for their birthday party/sister’s wedding/fundraiser/whatever it is that you specialize in. Choose a specialization, market the heck out of it, and watch the cash roll in.
3. STOP MAKING EXCUSES (THERE. I SAID IT.)
Listen, running a profitable henna business requires work. It requires getting uncomfortable (regularly), and it requires that you show up every day for yourself and your brand.
There’s nothing that you can say that I haven’t heard (or felt!) before. You’re tired. It’s hard to learn new things. It’s scary. The weather sucks. You’re busy. You can’t find time.
…and none of that really matters.
We make time for the things that are important to us. Even with the busiest of schedules, the right phone call will move us to change our plans, and the right invitation will inspire us to rearrange our to-do list. Our priorities are what we make them. If making money in your business is a priority to you, then every single day, you will dedicate time and effort to marketing, to networking, to connecting with clients, and to otherwise improving your skills.
So it’s raining. Boo hoo! Go rub elbows with other vendors and see how you can create meaningful collaborations to bring value to your clients. So you’re really busy. And? A mentor of mine reminds me unapologetically that “busy people get sh*t done.” You can do it! It may take a bit of extra planning, it may take some focus and dedication, but you know what? That’s what business looks like, my love. If you aren’t talking to people, you aren’t selling a thing. Are you in it to win it or are you standing in your own way? Be honest with yourself about it, and take any and all excuses off of the table - if you want success, that is.
If you’ve made it this far, then I applaud you. I want you to understand that I’ve written this piece not to shame you but to push you. I want, more than anything, to see YOU succeed in your henna business. I want you to create the life that you’re dreaming of - that you’re capable of - and sometimes that calls for tough love and accountability.
Tell me: What are you going to STOP doing right now (and moving forward, forever and ever, amen) so that you can start reaping the earnings that you deserve for the hard work that you’re putting in?
LOVE IT? BE SURE TO PIN IT!
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