Ask Me Anything: We're Talking About Festival Pricing, Hand Exercises, and Connecting with Other Henna Artists

Ask Me Anything!

You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers!

In today’s Ask Me Anything!, we’re tackling the following questions submitted from hennapreneurs like you:

  • [00:00] Do you change festival prices based on the event location?

  • [05:05] What kind of hand exercises can I use to prepare for large events?

  • [06:50] How can I connect with other henna artists?


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+ Read the transcript here

Chelsea: So the short answer is no. Um, the area that I live in, so I live in the Baltimore area and here there's a lot of wealth disparity. Um, I live like halfway between Baltimore and DC. And so, um, within both communities, within both cities, there is a large wealth disparity that exists. And my festivals, um, on both sides tend to be in areas that, um, that people from both of those, you know, from both of those sorts of, um, economic communities would attend. So I try to keep my festival pricing pretty even, um, it's rare for me to make a change based on a specific event. Um, there are times when, because of the cost of the event itself, I didn't have a choice. I had to make a small adjustment, just to make sure that I was remaining profitable for that event. But, um, in general, the answer is no.

So my smallest, um, my smallest festival design is $5, but it is, um, not an Oreo size. It's significantly smaller. My designs for something like this, I mean, they're very tiny. They're intended only for the smallest child's hand, and um, and I choose to keep that that way. Um, most of my festival designs are priced somewhere between $15 to $25. I like to do, um, a lot of strip designs at festivals. Um, but then I offer artist's choice pieces as well, which is where I really make, like. More of my bread and butter. Um, and so I like that because I can give that family that I can see, um, doesn't have the means to purchase some of my larger designs, I can give them- I can offer them the opportunity to get an artist's choice design, which artist's choice designs start at $15. And because it's artist's choice, I don't have to worry about copying. I can be very quick. Um, and I can give you more coverage for your, for your dollar, right? So I'm happy with kind of finding a happy medium, um, that- this is, this is hard, like, this is hard, but I can find a happy medium where I can, um, serve as many clients as possible, um, without feeling like I'm totally cutting out, um, a part of the market who, uh, who might benefit from, from the service, um, or who might enjoy the service, who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

Um, one of the questions that I've received from another artist who works with me occasionally is, "Don't you think that there are people out there who take advantage of that?" Meaning those people who can afford to purchase more henna, um, do I think that they take advantage of the fact that I have my prices, um, set up in that particular way? And my answer is no, I really don't.

There are, um, people who are within that earning bracket or whatever, who can afford to pay me significantly more, and normally what happens is they'll book, they'll- they'll purchase a piece while I'm out at that festival or I'm out at that, um, gathering and, um, they'll purchase a piece for a higher dollar amount. Normally, those people will go for the $35 a piece or the $40 piece, or they'll purchase henna for multiple people. And so I still have, um, those tickets at festivals that are in the hundreds, um, because it's purchasing for group. And I'm okay with that. Um, and then normally what happens is those same individuals, they experience me firsthand at those festivals, but my money is made with them one-on-one because more often than not, those are the same people who will call me back later to book me for a private party. So the money, the money that I perhaps might not see right there at the festival is still received by me later on in a private setting. And I really- I appreciate that. So when asked, you know, how did I feel about potentially leaving money on the table? Um, because of the way that I price my festival designs or because of- because I choose not to change how I price based on where the event is held. Um, I- I don't even worry about it. I feel like I'm here to serve people and ultimately like I feel like I'm being compensated appropriately. So I'm okay with it.

In retrospect, I feel like maybe that's a little bit of a gray answer, but like, pricing and general is so personal, like we do- Okay, so as artists, right? We have our industry and we want to make sure that we are respecting the boundaries of our industry and respecting the, um- we want to continue to perpetuate a perceived value within our industry that is respectable. And that allows those artists who do depend only on, um, on working as a henna artist profess- like, solely as a henna artist, um, that they also are able to make a, um, a significant income, right? We don't want to undercut our market or devalue our market. Um, and I wholeheartedly believe that. And so my prices are in alignment with my market's value.

So, um, because I hold my cone like a pen, I do like this thing and I'll work my index finger and then I'll work my thumb as well. So like, I'll do this like, like- this just feels so weird. You guys cannot laugh, right? So like I do like the worm, I do like the worm with my index finger and my thumb first. Like, those are my first two that I, that I try to like, work and warm up first. Then after that I make sure that I'm doing lots of this thing, which is always really fun. So, like, this I normally will try to do in my car because I don't want people to see me like, doing the thing. Sometimes- so, normally when I go to work at group events, um, I- my contract indicates that I'll get there somewhere around 15 minutes early.

So if I find that I'm there early and I've already got, like, set up, then I'll just like take a seat at my table and like turn around and do this or I, like, do it under the table because it's a little bit, it's a little bit sketch. Or I'll just try to do in the car so that nobody's like, "What's going on with that lady over there?" And then I, like, I do a lot of, um, wrist rolling and then I'll do a, like, oh gosh, this thing. I feel so weird you guys, like, I feel so weird. So that's the short answer. I just- the bottom line is you want to make sure that you're activating all of your muscles.

Another thing that I do, especially in between clients, like if I have a break in between people, um, is that I'll do massages and like, right here. I hold a lot of pressure in between my index finger and my thumb. So I'll make sure to do counter pressure in between there and just like, just by applying that pressure to kind of release and relax that muscle, I find that that really helps a lot when I'm starting to hit a place where I'm feeling, like, fatigued.

It's great for you to be able to find other henna artists who you can collaborate with. I think that the most important thing is making sure that you are able to establish some amount of respect between your businesses. For me, um, because you mentioned the point where you don't know about them unless you've already clashed, that can be a problem. You don't want to- you don't want- you never want to come to a place where, like, it's you and this other artists like consistently bumping heads, especially because you don't know who has what connections within your community. And if there are connections within your community that you don't know about, um, that's how you build a reputation that maybe you didn't even intend to have, but exists. And so you don't want that. So, what I do anytime I'm applying to- look, don't do the apology thing. That's such a, that's such a European thing that somebody- don't apologize! It's a good question. It's a really good question.

Um, so what I would say is anytime, and I do this, anytime I apply to an event or I intend to apply to an event, I reach out to the event organizer and say, "Hey, listen, um, I'm a henna artist. I'm interested in participating in your event. The first thing that I need to know is, do you already have a henna artist on board?" If they do, I don't need to know about it. Like, thanks, but I'm no longer interested. Um, and if they don't, then you can go ahead and like, at that point engaged with them. And I let them know at that point also that it's industry standard for us for there to only be one henna artists at their event. So in order to respect professional boundary, if they'd like for me to engage, then they're going to need to put me in contact with that other artist who has that event. And at that point I can talk with them and see if they'd like for me to work in their tent. Like, I'm happy to support another business as well, um, with my skills. But I'm not gonna just, like, sign up for every event that comes along without doing that research. So do your due diligence first. Um, and then there's a saying that I remind myself of often, and I hope that it benefits you. It's kind of sad that we have to even do this, but, um, "Expect much of yourself and expect little of others."

So, when I am, uh, when I am booking events, this is the process I take. But I also make that- have the expectation that there are artists out there who will not do this. And so because of that, I already- I've now kind of covered my bases because I've already had the conversation with the organizer. And, um, then they need to, like- at that point, it puts it the ball back in their court for them to know, like, this is the thing that they need to be mindful of. And if they receive any additional, like, requests from henna artists for them to either say no or for them to direct that person to me. Um, and if I need extra hands then I'm happy to contract some work out to them, but if not, like...