Guest Post: Earning Money With a Bag of Balloons and a Balloon Pump

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Guest Post by Irina Patterson from My Life and Art

I know way too well myself how to live on a limited budget. Raised in Russia, I grew up with a few possessions. And when I came to America in 1992, I had a hard time to find my first job.

Looking back, I wish I knew what I know today. If my story inspires at least one person to create a job for herself, I will be very happy.

For the last four years I have made my living as a balloon artist and event entertainer. I work mostly weekends and I set my own schedule and my pricing. Depending on the area and experience, a balloon artist can make from $50-300 per hour. (I wish someone told me about this opportunity when I was working at $5 per hour at a copy shop, night shift in 1993!)

Granted, being an event entertainer is not for everyone. You can't be shy and you have to be somewhat good with your hands and enjoy interacting with people. Still, it is a good opportunity to know about. If you are in great need of some cash quickly, you'd be surprise what you can overcome.

Believe it or not, I had never even seen a balloon animal until about four years ago. I don't have children and I don't go to the malls so I saw balloon animals for the first time at a private party and totally fell in love with the process and found the bright colors of the balloons not only cheer me up, but cheer many others up as well!

I studied art in my teens and those balloons just awoke a sleeping artist in me and showed me a way how to be a practicing artist and make a living at it. I couldn't believe how easy it was to earn by twisting balloon art. If I didn't experience it myself, I would not believe it!

When I first started doing balloon art on the side, I was working in a good-paying job at a public relations firm. I found balloon art was so much more exciting that after six month of doing balloon art as a side gig, I left my day job for good.

My ballon art business was profitable from day one. I think I spent $100 on supplies and administrative fees. When I started, I practiced at home for about a week. Then I went to a mall and paid a $75 monthly fee in order to do balloon art there for tips. I ended up making that $75 in tips right back on the first day!

I only paid that $75 fee for two months because I quickly learned you can find places where you can make balloon animals without rental fees. In fact, many restaurants will pay you to entertain their customers. Where I live, in Miami, restaurants usually pay $50-100 per 3-4 hours on a weekend plus most customers will give a tip. So you can easily expect to make about $150 for about 4 hours as a restaurant balloon artist.

However, the best part is this: while you are entertaining at a restaurant, you are also marketing your private party entertainment. Private parties will always give you better return on your time. In Miami,
on average, a balloon artist can earn $100-200 per hour at a private event. And you are usually booked for more than one hour.

If you are just starting out as a balloon artist, you'll want to invest a little money in balloons and a small balloon pump. I recommend you take a class, if there is one in your area. If not, make friends with someone who is already an established entertainer. They are usually very friendly. You can find an
entertainer in your area by searching for your zip code here.

Start out by volunteering to do balloon art at community events. Get some practice under your belt and get comfortable with working with people and creating balloon art and then start calling local restaurants and offering your services as a balloon artist for tips. Have business cards handy and make it known that you're available to do private events. Pretty soon, you'll likely have plenty of good-paying business!

Many people think that to be an event entertainer you need to go to a circus school or have some other special training. But all you really have to do is want to do it. The cost of minimum supplies is $10 and you can learn the basics in about two hours.

If you want to learn advanced balloon art, all the power to you. But if you have bills to pay and need money now, grab a bag of balloons and a pump and get busy!

Irina Patterson, aka The Russian Queen of Balloons, is based in Miami. She twists balloon art at events worldwide. She finds her job enjoyable and financially rewarding. To learn more, visit her blog, My Life and Art.

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Comments

  1. says

    I’ve thought about doing this before. We were at Ihop one day with our kids, and a lady made them all balloon animals. She had a button on that said “your tips = my salary”, so we tipped her well. She went around to all the tables and made balloons for all the kids in the restaurant. If everyone tipped her like we did, she must have made about $100 in 30 minutes or less!

  2. says

    Hello Irina!

    Wow, a balloon artist?! I’ve never thought of that. I loved reading your story; it is very inspirational. It is wonderful to hear of people suceeding in unique businesses.

    Thank you so much for sharing:)

    Take Care,

    Trixie

    P.S. I studied Russian for two years in high school. I can’t put the Cyrillic letters down here, so I’ll say “Hello” phonetically.

    ZDRAStvoightia

  3. Tara says

    Congratulations to Irina for making a career out of something she loves. That is a nice story! And I love the Reader’s Digest spread.

  4. says

    I really enjoyed this article. There is a girl in my area who does balloons at the Chick-fil-A kid’s night & she gets tips from everyone. She dresses in a very eccentric style and makes balloons for all the children & also markets herself for parties. This would be a great idea for someone who is outgoing to make some part time money!

  5. says

    Irina, it is so impressive that you found your own way in a new country, and didn’t continue to work for $5 an hour at a copy shop. It’s inspiring, thanks!

  6. Andrea says

    I’ve seen lots of people make balloon animals and hats ond assorted other objects- but nothing like the work on Irina’s website. Truly an artist!

  7. says

    The other week I was at our farmers market and my sons were begging for a balloon animal from our local balloon lady. While I was waiting in line, I heard the balloon lady say to a friend that the previous weekend she worked a small town festival and made enough money to pay her property taxes! I was totally impressed, I had no idea that you could make that much money as a balloon artist! What a great niche!

  8. says

    That is amazing stuff! It is so true about what people say about having to love your job in order to do well at it…it is obvious that she enjoys herself!

  9. says

    Hi there. I also did what Irina has done, and like Irina, I’m a full-time artist. I’d like to add to what she posted. You REALLY need to like kids if you’re going to make balloons for kids. This will bring you great joy if you can handle being with tons of kids during the day and still have energy for your own at night.

    If you’re charging for this, especially if you’re doing private events, I would personally suggest getting performer’s liability insurance as well, and learning about the safety of giving balloons to children. If you’re sued, you’ll be in a world of hurt. Also, if you set this up as a side business, you’ll get incredible tax advantages. It doesn’t take much to do this, and your accountant can show you how.

    Irina also brings up a place where you can find a local artist, http://www.balloonhq.com. I agree. To take it even further, you can get together with local artists for a “jam,” which is where we all get together and play with balloons. Getting involved in the balloon community is one of the best things you can do to learn about balloons, and it’s lots of fun. Most of my friends now are balloon artists.

    Have fun with this and make sure to be smart while you’re doing it. Irina, next time you’re in Southern CA please look me up because I’d like to have a cup of coffee and get to know you better than I can through your press coverage! :)

    Annie Banannie, Balloon Storyteller

  10. says

    My husband did this on the weekends and for parties when we were trying to earn extra money. He did it in restaurants for tips, and him and other friends advertised n the local paper to do birthday parties.

    He still pulls out his balloons and pump now and then for our own kids, as well as our own parties on occassion. :)

  11. Lavonne says

    I spent 2 years as a clown, and made money by making balloon art and face painting. Many of my gigs hired me out of costume. For example, I would work at McDonald’s each week on Kids Night (out of costume, because being a clown would be a conflict of interest with Ronald McDonald) and made $100 per night. I worked an hour and a half, and alternated balloons one week and face painting the next.
    If you’re outgoing and personable and like playing with kids, then I would highly recommend looking into this job. I had a few restaurants on the weekdays and private kids birthday parties on the weekends and I made around $400-$600 per week.
    I have been thinking about getting back into it again with money being tight right now. This post got me thinking about it again.

  12. Rachel says

    My father is a magician and I help him out doing facepainting and balloons animals at some parties. I usually have 2 shows a month and make at least $75/hr. This has been great income since I am a SAHM. I encourage all to look into this.