You talk about how hard it is to make a living as a full time twister. Have you ever thought about how hard it is to make a living as a full time *anything*?Starting a Business
- Larry Moss
The requirements do vary from state to state, and between counties. The idea is at least basically the same. In NY, I didn't have to post a general announcement of a new business. I just filed the DBA (Doing Business As) with the county clerk.
In many cities or counties when you get a sales tax permit or register with an agency you have to have a business license also. In my city the minimum business license is about $80 per year.
If I decide to branch out and do 'free lance' balloon
decorating, will I need a license to do this? What if I hire myself out
to florist and work through them on an "as needed" type
Sure! You'll need a business license and a tax number just like you should have if you are getting money for clowning or twisting. You'll also have to pay self employment tax, L&I tax, etc. tax. If the florist employees you (pays the employment taxes and gives you a W-2) you do not need the license.
If your business license person knows nothing about a busking law there may not be any but I doubt it. If a city can tax you they will. You might check with the Parks and Rec. dept. In all the cities I have worked in Texas, this is where I have had to go to gain permission. You may also check with the chamber of commerce. They usually promote fair and festivals and may have some information for you.
Losses from a business are deductible but losses from a hobby are not. Profits from either are taxable. The main things to do are:
Similarly, the person who buys your services from PBS can only deduct the difference between what they paid PBS and the fair market value of what they received. Note that I said the fair market value NOT the actual cost. If they paid $100 and what they received had a fair market value of $50, they can only deduct $50 as a contribution even though what they received cost PBS $0.
The IRS is getting real sticky about charitable contributions. Last year they started requiring that anyone making a single contribution of $250 or more had to obtain a receipt from the organization stating whether or not any goods or services had been received in exchange. No receipt, no deduction. A canceled check is no longer sufficient for contributions $250 and larger.
To me, the amount of taxes saved (a $50 deduction does not save $50 in taxes) is not worth the potential hassle and penalties and interest unless you have a very strong case on your side.
Paying gigs are a different story. Everything that you get paid (whether for fees or for expenses) is considered income. Everything you spend is an expense. The IRS has rules as to whether what you do is a business or a hobby. That impacts what you can deduct. Whether or not you charge the customer for supplies or travel expenses is irrelevant to whether or not you can deduct them.
Of course, the bottom line is what the IRS thinks about all of this. I suspect that if you ask them several times you'll get several different answers depending on that individual's interpretation of the tax rules and regulations.
Most of the clowns and ballooners I know that find out about this policy buy in. It covers balloon related injuries . Even though this policy has $1,000,000.00 of liability coverage, it is an aggregate amount. If you know what that means, great, but for those who aren't sure, it has a total claim amount of $1,000,000.00 over a one year period. Let me try that again. If ten claims of $100,000.00 are paid in one year, there is no more $$$$$ to pay anymore claims.
Insurance is rather like a hand-gun; better to have one and not need it, than need one and not have it. I carry this policy. Al's got adds in several of the national clown publications. If I'm not mistaken, I believe he's a clown, himself. If it helps any, I think he's a hand- shake kind of guy, who feels his word is his bond. I do not hesitate to recommend using him.
Their address is:
WCA Administrative Office
07 Crestwood Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15237
Phone:(412) 367-1225 or (800) 336-7922
Child labor laws were created to prevent selling children into slavery or chaining them to sewing machines to make Kathie Lee clothing for Wal-Mart. They are not intended to prevent kids from spending a day in the sun at the fair with mom and dad. One thing though: it should always be a kid's choice, even if s/he makes a commitment to X number of fairs or whatever. If they just feel like going to the swimming pool that day, let 'em off the hook. There's a reason that kids under 18 aren't allowed to sign contracts - they don't really understand that every Saturday means *every* Saturday. I don't think anybody should have to be forced to work until they're grown up (say, around age 65). Just hope the kid isn't better than you. I don't know... what could be a greater joy than having your kid say, "but if you add an ear-twist here, it stands up better." I think that would mean I'd succeeded as a dad!
I mix my own heart assortment to avoid an over-abundance of clear. I use clear hearts for several things, just not enough to always buy jewel-tone assortment. It's this same reasoning that leads me to buy the small pearl-tone geos. They cost a bit more, but I get a better yield this way.
Add to this 1 gross each of 260's made by Prestige, Gayla, Unique, and Tilly (their colors are slightly different from Qualatex) Be prepared for holidays and team colors! For example, be sure to buy extra red, white, & blue for the 4th of July.
I also carry: white paper reinforcement rings for eyes, pipe cleaners for cats whiskers, Sharpie markers, scissors, liquid talc for the squeaks, Static Guard spray for, you guessed it, static, and the most important thing of all, a manicure kit. You can't be a nail nibbler and balloon blower.
Here's the hard part. I pack it all in a bag that measures 9X11X18 inches empty. Of course, when I'm done, it's more like 12X12X22 inches.
Anyway, I do know that when I used to advertise as the purple dinosaur (at no time did I ever elude to BARNEY) the Lyons company wrote me and told me I was in violation of their copyright and were VERY nasty about it. They said if the character could even be construed as Barney in any shape or form, I was in violation.
Soooooo, for those of you who are out there...I wouldn't be doing Disney characters for love nor money. There are people in my area who have been fined for Garfield characters and the Snoopy characters. I, for one, don't want to be one of those. I don't want the hassle of having to take the time to go to court because Disney, or anyone else is suing me for doing their character balloons. Take your chances if you wish, but I think it's just like riding in a car without a seat belt...someday you may get caught and you AREN'T going to like the consequences. Time is money, too. I have a question for your patent lawyer, When a balloon manufacturer puts out foil balloon heads of licensed characters, (Disney, Pooh Bear, Sylvester et al) It is obviously not copyright infringement to sell these balloons, BUT is it illegal to take these balloon heads and add bodies to them, for the purpose of turning them into balloon delivery or children's birthday sculptures? We are taking a product that has already been given permission for sale and turning it into something else.
However, if you wish to use an idea or concept, if it is not a large corporation, permission can be just as simple as writing a letter asking for permission. I have, on many occasions asked to use music and quotations for my shows and have only been turned down a few times.
What it all boils down to is do you have the money to fight? Copyrights do not protect the owner from Similar creations, but a trademark and patent are another story. Probably you could win a suit against you by Disney, but they have a great deal of money and can simply run you in the ground financially. The best way is to stay away from the trademarked creations. If a creation is in a book, it is usually copyrighted, but if it is in a movie, it is usually trademarked.
If you make a mouse with pants, don't call it Mickey, or Minnie. Poo-poo should be a bear, and Tigger is a tiger. Let your customer put the name on it, not you. The burden of proof will be on the suing party. And remember you can counter sue for defamation( I believe that is the proper spelling) of character. If you win, you can retire, but this is a real battle, the big corporations have the stay power in a suit, while you will have to put out a lot of cash to just get clear of them.
I would never use the trademark name when making a creation. Additionally, putting them in a book or tape could still be risky. Not that you can't win a case, but you could loose the war, even though you win the battle. That is to say you could win the case, but at a high cost of money and time.
I do know this... There are several individuals doing balloon animals in various restaurants at Walt Disney World and they tell their guests that they **cannot** take requests for characters like Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Winnie the Pooh, etc., etc., because Disney strictly forbids them to make those characters. Now, I should probably point out that a great many of the restaurants at Walt Disney World are not owned and operated by Disney, but I have no idea how that ultimately effects this subject.
COPYRIGHTS AND COPYRIGHTED CHARACTERS "Trademarked Characters & Art," (an article by Rick DeLung who graciously gave BHQ permission to include it in the Guide) Now we get into the area of facepainting familiar objects, people, characters and items. Basically it is in 99.99% of all cases, illegal to paint, draw, copy or make a rendition of any character, likeness, drawing, tracing or photograph that can be identified as a character from Disney, Warner Bros., United Syndicates, etc. IS ILLEGAL TO DRAW, USE, FACEPAINT OR REPRODUCE these characters. This means you CAN NOT facepaint any trademark like Barney, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, etc. You can not draw them, paint them, color them on kids, or even use a stamp and fill in the open areas if they are trademarked characters. Now comes the really gray area: if a child identifies it as a trademarked character, then you can be held liable in copyright infringement. This is one time where it pays to be a lousy facepainter! If you are good and you do a reproduction of the musical symphony with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, and the kids can recognize it . . . you could be a world of hurts! You also can not use for profit any product (i.e. puppet, mask or costume) that is identified as a character. If you do things for free . . . MOST will allow the use of puppets that have been manufactured by the parent company for non- paid shows. You can not make a puppet of Mickey Mouse in your own workshop and use it at all. There are cases where the Disney Company has allowed some costuming to go with their permission to a clown who was going to do Free Shows Only. They have also confiscated marionette puppets, costume heads and the like from people who go out and wear or use them for profit when they are recognized as Disney characters. In our area we have a lot of companies that sell "characters" to appear at parties. You need to protect yourself from a major lawsuit or worse from a large entertainment company that has popular characters. That means if you get a call from a mother who wants Mickey Mouse to appear at her son's party, it would be illegal to go out "AS THAT CHARACTER". If you claim to be Mickey . . . you are breaking the law. If you go out as a MOUSE, that is at least 30% different than Mickey Mouse then you are PROBABLY okay! I would honestly suggest that you follow my Father's advice to me as a child: IF IN DOUBT . . . THROW IT OUT! Create your own original characters backed up with your own original music and then you don't have to worry! To sum it all up, there are things that we need to do as entertainers to add sparkle to our shows. Music is one, and facepainting can be another. If you do either of these things, I implore you to make sure that you are doing the right thing, and not breaking the law. Many of the companies out there may not really care about the little guy, but it is quite simply wrong to break the law. Let your conscience be your guide and do what is best. Rick "Pretzel" De Lung 2034 E. Lincoln Ave. Suite #101 Anaheim, CA 92806 (714) 632-8182 P.D.A. Productions. Reproduced with permission. Hello folks I just recently talk to a lawyer whose expertice is in small businesses and I asked her the age old question can we get in legal trouble for doing cartoon charectors like tigger and winnie the pooh. she did some looking into it and she said yes and no. yes if you call them their reel names like tigger or goofy but no if you call them names like tigger look alikes, or goofy imposter this way you are saying that these aren't the real things they just looks like them now this is fine on it's own but if you want to be evan more careful do this remember the fine details of the charector like how many stripes tigger has then either make more stripes or less just don't use that precise number Well, just to let you all know out there...the Lyons company in particular does not feel this way. They say that it's a violation of the copyright if a child can even remotely "recognize" the character. Hey, guess you need to talk to other copyright attorneys. I have worked with and continue to work closely with lawyers from Disney, Lyons Group, Warner, CTW, etc. The federal statute says that you may call it Tiggie, Tig, Tiger Cat, or whatever for Tigger. No one counts all the stripes, if they eyes are not quite in the right position. If the creation (drawing , balloon, whatever ) LOOKS LIKE what your are making, IT IS AGAINST THE LAW. CALL IT WHAT YOU WILL, IF THE GENERAL PUBLIC CAN RECOGNIZE IT, YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF THE LAW, NO IFS AND's OR BUTTS. Many companies are NOW starting lawsuits against people who MAKE the balloons and people who put these copyrighted "creations" in balloon books. Make these at your own risk. Most people will be prosecuted for this. My opinion is...that we don't have to worry about copyrights when doing balloons. We are the "little guy," and these corporations don't usually go after the "little guy." If we were mass-producing copyrighted figures, that would be another story, but just to do a Mickey Mouse or a Bugs Bunny (or a Tigger, or Winnie the Pooh)once in a while when requested, I don't believe we have anything to worry about. The odds of a representative of one of these corporations seeing you do one of their copyrighted figures, is slim to nil, and even if they did, if they bothered to do anything about it at all, they would send you a "cease and desist order" first. But like I said earlier, most likely they would never bother with "small potatoes" like us. Worrying about copyrights is the least of our problems...in stead of creating headaches for ourselves about something that will (in all likelihood) never happen, we should concentrate on doing our job the best we can. And it has nothing to do with "ethics." When a child asks for a Barney, or a Tigger, or a Pooh Bear, as far as he is concerned, that particular figure is "his." That is "his" friend. He doesn't know or understand about copyrights, neither does he care. All he will care about is if you tell him he can't have "his" friend, in balloon form, because of some "stupid rule", made up by some "dumb grown-ups" he doesn't even know. Come on people, let's get real! These figures are just like celebrities, as far as the kids are concerned, "in the public domain." The odds of Michael Eisner, or his lawyers, coming after you are too remote to even be bothered with. And that's just my opinion... I know for a fact that is is wrong as I have spoken to the head of Disney legal on the west coast about this issue. Most of your are right that NOTHING will ever happen, at the most the offender will get a cease and desist order to stop. Just like with music, Ascap and BMI have copyright info and it's very unlikely that a small performer will get in trouble... BUT my question is: does it make it right to do it even though it is a copyright violation ??? To me it is a ethical question each performer must answer for him/her self !! We've been through all this before. After consulting 3 lawyers, they all said: "as long as you call them PARODIES of cartoon characters, you are covered. Saturday Night Live does parodies, cartoons do parodies, You Do Parodies. As far as copyrights are concerned....I, for one am one of the people who got a cease and desist letter from the Lyons (Barney) company. Let me tell you, they are out for BLOOD! I know of 2 people who were "caught" red handed. The Lyons company thinks nothing of suing for $20,000. As for me, I have absolutely NOTHING to do with making copyrighted figures. I'm told the Disney company has scouts out there specifically LOOKING for people who are violating their copyrights. I know of one lady who was fined $500. Now, if you are willing to take the chance, that's your business. There are lots of other balloons to do, other than copyrighted characters that I can do...and I can sleep at night knowing that NO ONE is going to come after me. I can't afford it, and I don't think that, if caught, most of you could, either. Besides, who wants the hassle of having to pay a lawyer and going to court "just in case" someone should find out. Not me! No! The small performer is not going to have a whole lot of trouble when it comes to copyrights. But . . . those of us who work in and around the areas that Disney, Warner Bros., etc. DO HAVE TO WORRY! I live in Anaheim, California! So does Mickey Mouse! Get my drift. It may not be likely, but I personally have been stopped from making a balloon "Mickey Mouse". My out is I call them "a mouse that looks a lot like him. But it isn't the real Mickey Mouse." Now this may sound petty, but the "suits" in this area DO LOOK FOR VIOLATORS! With all of the recent talk about copywrights, I just have to put in my 2 cents. Copywright laws only apply if you are SELLING unauthorized copies, but if you are GIVING them away (In the hope of recieving a tip, perhaps...) then the "Personal Use" clauses come into effect. For Instance: If I was at a public celebration and I was charging per balloon, then making a "copyrighted" figure *would* be illegal. If I was at that same celebration, but my 'price list' was a button saying "Tips Greatly Appreciated!" then I could do whatever figure I felt like doing. If someone wanted to sue me, then I would (and HAVE!) tell them to "Go ahead and try. I am my own legal counsel, and I charge myself $150/hour for going to the library to read the local lawbooks. There is no law prohibiting me from giving away my art, so unless you can prove that I'm taking business away from your company, *YOU WILL LOSE!*" I then point out that I am not a professional lawyer, so I spend a *lot* of time checking the books. While the accuser might be quite willing to go for a $20,000 lawsuit, their scouts probably aren't willing to face a $5,000+ countersuit for harrassment and "Malicious Prosecution". B.T.W... The last is considered a violation even more stringent than harrassment. It was intended to prevent a big company from elbowing out a smaller company by tying the smaller company up in Lawsuits. Before its inception, many large companies would drive a smaller company out of business by forcing it to spend too much capital on legal fees, even if the large company had no real case. By threatening a countersuit of Malicious Prosecution, the small company can, and often has, forced the larger company to pay for the legal fees and court costs of their intended victim. This not only put the smaller company back on its feet, financially speaking, but the damages awarded for the "slander" spread by the larger company have often left the target company in better financial shape than it was before the original suit. I don't think that the Lyons corporation would appreciate the publicity generated by their failure to squash a "small fry". Remember this, and also remember to *ALWAYS* insist on a Jury trial. A Jury is usually, (If not always!),ready to side with the "little guy" in a dispute. A few months ago, I had someone complain about my creation of a red-haired mermaid with a purple halter. (I.E. Ariel from Disney's 'The Little Mermaid') I used this procedure, and the self-proclaimed "Scout from Disney" backed down *Immediately*! By this I mean that he was apologizing for his rude behavior by the time I left the area of his table. The bottom line: *MAKE THE TIME* to learn your local copywright laws. If you know how to read this E-mail in less than 10 minutes, then you should be able to learn your local copywright laws with just an hour or so at your local library. I would have to say that the intimidation value of telling your 'would-be' accusers that you will be representing yourself before the judge will usually get them to back down. The knowlege that the law is in your favor is usually enough to get them to look for easier marks. *KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!* And be wiling to defend them! This will usually keep you out of trouble. If it doesn't, then have the paitience to show the big corporations that they should not underestimate the little guys! (You'll probably wind up better than you were before!) The Lyon Corporation owns all rights to BARNEY and if you have anyone in costume, doing balloons and turning any other kind of tricks - you can get yourself in VERY BIG TROUBLE. They have copyrights that are 100% in order and they enforce their rights with both large and very small companies. The fines in most cases are not small and the do not just send warning letter or make warning calls. They go straight to court. They also have people who actively work on the phone trying to trick people who use the phrase "our purple dinosaur will come to your party and yada -yada- yada" into saying yes he is just like BARNEY. Zap you are in court. Protect your fanny! Some of the lawsuits have put people out of business and have caused huge insurance claims." STOP WITH THE BARNEY - TODAY. Since we can't distribute instructions for why don't we come up with the opposite? A small, light green (check your color wheel, light green is 180 degrees from ), non-extinct mammal, like a mole. We could name it Onearl (the opposite end of the alphabet from ) (B + 13 = O, etc.). Then, whenever someone invokes the name of you can say, "Due to the litigious nature of certain penurious carni- vorous reptilian PBS stars, I am unable to comply with your request. May I offer, by way of compensation, Onearl, the small light green mole? He's the antithesis of said Tyrannosaur." Granted, the kids will hate it, but ol' dad is sure to pony up with a fin in gratitude for your refusal. * Do you really want to make cartoon characters? Can we legally make our versions of cartoon characters out of balloons? It becomes a serious question of what we can do. I am not a lawyer. I have no background at all in law. I'm just trying to cover my butt. So, I called my lawyer. We talked about it for a while. His answer is that what I do is probably legal (he didn't do an extensive search but he doesn't know of a legal precedent that would apply). He thought, after hearing my argument that it would be ok, but cautioned me that it would take a lot more research (and money) and his recommendation was to avoid it if possible. If you're a small time twister, who's gonna know or care that you make something that happens to look like Taz? But if you're making a living at it, is it worth the risk? Perhaps. Some of the folks on this list do almost exclusively cartoon look alikes to pay their bills. I'd hate to tell them to stop. Just keep in mind that it could be an issue with the owners of those characters. An old pro mentioned to me the other night that there was a lawsuit filed by Disney re a male mouse w/ black ears. The artist twisted a replica out of 260's & got sued. He brought up Mighty Mouse.... won the case. I for one am searching franticly to find documentation of this case. Anyone else heard of it, or have a good way of finding it? It would definitely help those of us that are now saying, "I can't make you a Tigger, but I will make you a tiger." http://www.aimnet.com/~carroll/copyright/faq-home.html http://www.clari.net/brad/copymyths.html The following is from: http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/ , the official rules from the US copyright office. I don't know how close this comes to copyright protection in other countries. Also keep in mind that there's a trademark issue involved here. Works Originally Created On or After January 1, 1978 A work that is created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author's life plus an additional 50 years after the author's death. In the case of "a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire," the term lasts for 50 years after the last surviving author's death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author's identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 75 years from publication or 100 years from creation, whichever is shorter. Works Originally Created Before January 1, 1978, But Not Published or Registered by That Date These works have been automatically brought under the statute and are now given Federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these works will generally be computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-50 or 75/100-year terms will apply to them as well. The law provides that in no case will the term of copyright for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002, and for works published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not expire before December 31, 2027. Works Originally Created and Published or Registered Before January 1, 1978 Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the date a work was published or on the date of registration if the work was registered in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured for a first term of 28 years from the date it was secured. During the last (28th) year of the first term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The current copyright law has extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that were subsisting on January 1, 1978, making these works eligible for a total term of protection of 75 years. Public Law 102-307, enacted on June 26, 1992, amended the 1976 Copyright Act to extend automatically the term of copyrights secured between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977, to the further term of 47 years. Although the renewal term is automatically provided, the Copyright Office does not issue a renewal certificate for these works unless a renewal application and fee are received and registered in the Copyright Office. BOYCOTT BARNEY!!!!!!!!!! Type up a fake, legal looking paper. Carry it around in your pocket. When a child asks you to make a "Barney", pull out the paper and explain that its a restraining order that prohibits you from infringing on the Barney copyright. I've been doing this for a couple of years now, and so far its never failed to get a laugh from mom or dad. Yes, I know its over the child's head (unless its an older child), but part of being a clown means being funny to your ENTIRE audience, not just the three year olds. I know of some people who have been hit with a $20,000 lawsuit by the Lyons company. I know of another who literally had the Lyons company come in an confiscate his records to see if he was doing "Barney" at all. If a child wants a Barney balloon, I just explain that he's not available today and would they like a "_______" (you name it.) Please, if you are out there doing copywrited characters, DON'T! The companies WILL sue you, and there's not a thing you can do to fight them. According to the Lyons company, anything that can be construed as Barney by a child is in violation of their copywrite. Don't take the chance. Some people in a restaurant asked for a certain cat figure, so I made one. then he told me he worked for the company and that the boss would get a kick out of the sculpture. I nearly died! So in my clown way I said "guess the attorneys will like it too - huh?" He said "you are not selling the balloon - you are merely working here and working for tips. We have no complaint with that. You are doing a good job!" That was about 3 years ago and I'm still making that cat and his puppy dog friend! Living less than 2 miles from Disneyland, I don't want to take any chances with a suit from the legal department of one of the largest (if not largest) entertainment corporations in the world. In researching the legalities of doing balloon animals, facepainting characters, full-bodied characters etc. for Laugh*Makers magazine, Volume 14 - No. 6 (February/March 1997). And . . . there are two clowns in the Orange County CA area who have received "Cease and Desist" orders on the spot for facepainting/full body costume characters. a wise man once said: "Why take the chance?" My advice is: If in doubt . . . throw it out! After 2 weeks of work, a huge phone bill and gobbs of paper, the verdict is in: You cannot get permission to do Disney characters because it goes against strict Disney policies and basically any ideas will be returned and used at their discretion without any royalties to YOU. Basically if you call any of their characters by name or sell anything that you call a tigger etc. you are violating their copyrights because you do not have permission to do so. However if you make a balloon and call it bouncy tiger etc. and it is a RENDITION, then they have no recourse. Warner Brothers is similar but not as stringent. If you are approved by WB you can buy a license for a few hundred thousand dollars. Garfield is the only lenient company I know of. The nice thing about both Disney and WB is that they consider balloon twisters small fish not worth frying. I was told by Disney "you won't have a problem as long as you don't go around calling your figures Mickey Mouse or Pluto, and you don't try to use them as a promotion. The minute you use our characters and their copyrighted names, we'll be upset." Even if its charity you need to ask permission (which you won't get). You can also use any character that may have had no copyrights for a certain period. The "Fair Use Act" that was passed recently. Basically it is a clarification of what is sufficient for a person not to get sued for copyright infringment. 1. Do you do this for profit? 2. Are you using the same materials to produce this element. 3. how much of the copywritten element is actually represented in part or full. 4. has it affected sales of the copyright holder's products. It is simple - don't call them a copy written name. Don't dress in costumes, use puppets or anything else they have produced in any way for profit including stamps of these characters for face painting books etc.. out of any materials they have already made them out of and you will be safe. The minute you try to sell a looney tunes party package etc. you are in for trouble. Twist for tips and make a mouse, tiger,duck. running bird or whatever and enjoy the fun. If someone calls it a copywritten name tell them "no, this is my mouse not -------."
Please understand that the following article was written for and published in True Inflations. The article is copyright T. Myers Magic.
How Much Preparation Do You Want To Do? Different work situations call for different styles. You have to look at each situation and make decisions about which figures to offer, whether to sell figures or work for tips, whether to do a show or set up a line. As a part time twister, I look for situations that will require the least time in preparation and make me the most money per hour. I don't mind working hard and I enjoy talking to the kids and being in front of a crowd. The $250 to $350 I can make in a day working for tips at a well attended art fair is satisfying but not necessary for my survival. That I am not doing this for a living makes the whole experience less stressful. If it rains or the crowd is stingy, it is not so bad. The preparation consists of getting permission, tossing my pump, balloons, menu poster and tip basket into the car, driving to the fair, carrying everything in one load to the work site and going to work. My main money limitation is the number of balloons I can twist in a day. If I wanted to make more money in the 'sea of heads' type art fair, here are some things I'd try.
Each of these ideas increases the preparation time, effort and expense but they can all pay off. The More You Work, The More You Work Besides fairs, twisters often find work in restaurants, company picnics, trade shows, business promotions, etc. By working in public, business cards and word of mouth will naturally bring opportunities to work. It's The More You Work, The More You Work. It's like a natural law. The situation you want to set up is to have them ask if you are available. If someone asks you to work for them, the negotiating power is on your side. If you are asking someone for a job, the power is on their side. How are your sales/negotiating skills? What about your bookkeeping skills? The more you rely on working for yourself the more non-twisting skills you need to have. You have to convince potential buyers of the benefits they will experience by hiring you to twist balloons. If they have no experience with balloon twisters, few buyers have the imagination to understand or believe these benefits. Promotion by anything but a personal demonstration is difficult at best. Two things you should find out before you quit your day job:
Try looking at twisting as a second job with the goal of working everyday. Keep good records and save your twisting money. After a year, see where you stand. Could you live on that? If you quit your day job how much more twisting work would be available to you? By trying for a year, you will have some idea of your business skills, the possibilities and difficulties in your market and hopefully a nest egg in savings. I know this sounds discouraging. It is so easy to have a big weekend that full time is a temptation. Full time twisting is not impossible but it is far from easy. I just want you to see where you are stepping.
The Up Side It's fun. Fun to learn, fun to create, fun to do for people. Most people, especially kids want what you have made. You experience being the center of attention in a group of people. The ability to be at ease in front of a group is a valuable asset in nearly any field. Getting past your own fear allows your expertise and preparation to shine through. When you twist in front of people you are on stage. The more time you spend in the on-stage mode the less intimidating it is. As you get bored with worrying about yourself you can pay more attention to how they respond to what you do and say. You get to know and shape your character. You get to experiment with timing and reaction, something that's hard to do without an audience. You will be faced with business questions when you twist for pay. You'll have to negotiate with the buyer and be responsible. You will have to have your supplies and yourself in order. It's an opportunity to make money without too much hassle. Extra income generally makes life easier. Twisting can be a family activity that is more valuable than money.
Beyond Twisting OK, you're going into this full time no matter what I say. Expand your services to include balloon decorating, bouquet sales and delivery and entertainment. Bouquet sales and delivery is probably the easiest to add immediately. Check the article in True Inflations # 22. There is a whole world of balloon decorators out there. Start by offering to work for them. You wont get paid well as a crew member but you can learn a lot. The decorator may have use for your twisting skills. As you learn enough to sell a decorating job, you can end up subcontracting each other. Learning to be an entertainer is serious work but everyone has to start somewhere. You have a start by being comfortable in front of an audience. Join the clown or magic club in your area and go from there. Offering more than twisting gives you a better chance at making a sale. Each of these skills can enhance the others. These skills can be developed part time and turn into a major part of your business. It depends on what you are good at and the needs of your market.
You suggest that anyone stuck flipping burgers spend whatever extra money they make on education to better themselves. Why does that education have to be academic? If I spent 6 years after high school and $20,000 a year on magic and balloons, where would I be now? I've heard people say about some magicians, "he's only a big name in magic because he was able to spend the money on stage illusions." I've never heard anyone say, "he's only got a $60,000 a year engineering job because he went to school for 8 years to learn the field."
I agree with you that nobody is going to be an overnight success in the twisting business. I also agree that most people won't be able to spend $120,000 to get their balloon career started. I don't know of anyone that offers scholarships for it. I do believe whole-heartedly that anyone that has the dedication, and the time to put into it can succeed as an entertainer every bit as well as a programmer. In fact, an artist creates the need for his own job. Once the artist is good enough, he can work anywhere. A specialized field may require your talents in only a few places.
I put myself through school as an entertainer. It was only after I did that successfully that I realized how happy I was and how I should do that for a living. It's not easy, and I have a long time to go before I'm making what I would make as a programmer. I don't care. I enjoy what I do.
If you just do what everyone else does, you will not make it in the entertainment business. You have to find something unique about yourself that separates you from the rest. It might be the balloons that you make, or your personality, or your looks or who you know. It's your uniqueness that separates you from the pack.
If you wait at home for the phone to ring you will never make it in this business. Every day I am making calls, mailing out fliers, thinking up places to contact, etc. 75% of the entertainment business is done offstage. This is a BUSINESS. If you notice, all of us have other things that we do just in case. T has a balloon mail order business, I am a magician, radio talk show host, dinner theatre producer, and manufacturer of my own magic creations.
If you are single, willing to travel, have no ties, you may make it as a twister exclusively. Keep plugging away!
I am a magician and a balloon twister. My cards say Magic, but I always verbally add ballooning, and often hand out cards when ballooning. When I book a show it's for either magic, ballooning, or both. (Usually both.) I have, in the distant past, done clowning, but I charge more for that and since I do so much clowning around in my show they haven't sprung for it for years.
To the general public, the generic term CLOWN means anyone who wears funny clothes and entertains children. Why don't you call yourself "Children's Entertainer." BTW, when someone calls me a clown I usually say: "Boy I have to get out in the sun. Is my face really that white? Is my nose that red? .I really have to wash my face after drinking Kool Aid...etc...." Perhaps some of the clowns of the past played with inflated animal parts, but that's not the picture I get of the "traditional" clown. You're putting tags of "history" and "tradition" in places based on what really is only a few years (2 or 3 decades, max) of ballooning. If we're going to base modern characters on a tradition that doesn't extend very far, we're really limiting ourselves. There's an article in the latest LaughMakers about what a "traditional" clown is and is not. I enjoyed reading it since I've had this conversation with people in the past. If you haven't read it and you're interested in clown history, you may want to get it. look at Steve Martin. He didn't have to be in clown. He did such a great job in his shows, and in the movie Parenthood, establishing himself as an entertainer who used balloons, and was a natural clown. I'm not sure if I want to open this can of worms, but I'm going to speak up anyway. You present Steve Martin as an example, and even then, you can't seem to decide if he is a clown or he isn't. I say he is. Does he wear a clown costume and Ringling style make-up? No. But, how many of you have see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily Circus lately? I went about a month ago. Most of the clowns I saw would not have done well in competitions at clown conventions. They were amazing entertainers with truly unique and interesting make-up. They were not the traditional modern clown. Yes, the use of traditional and modern in the same sentence are intentional. I don't believe that what we call a traditional clown now has anything at all to do with the traditional clown of a few years ago. When I dress up "in clown" (to me that's any performance attire), I often dress up in what I call a traditional clown costume. I just have a different tradition in mind. You're a clown if you feel you are. You are not a clown because of how your dress and what kind of make-up you wear. I strongly encourage everyone to develop their own characters. Be the entertainer you can be best. Don't try to place yourself in an artificial category, or remove yourself from a category. Do your job as an entertainer. Make your audiences happy and you'll be remembered and well rewarded. Maybe some of your audiences do see you as being clowns because you provide good entertainment. It's nothing to get upset about. If marketting is your concern, then avoid the term "clown" altogether in your own promotion. Don't be afraid of what other people call you. As long as you properly describe to them what you do, from your dress to your performance style, and they remember your actions, you've got nothing to worry about. I call myself an airigamist. I also call myself a magician, a juggler. and a clown. I market myself as an entertainer and let people know what they're going to get when they hire me. Well, when folks ask me I have a variety of responses: When in full clown it is obvious that I am a clown, otherwise I am a balloonologist (that way I can sound like I had to go to school to do this instead of do this to get through school, after all WHO would want to inflate balloons for the rest of their life.) Are you a clown or are you a balloon artist? If you have to ask the question, you should already know you're a balloon artist. I do both. I twist balloons as a clown, and I work as a twister out of make-up, so I take no offense at anything you've said about either. As I've said in prior postings, when I do it as a clown, I perform differently. Being a clown embodies a variety of skills that enhance the ability to entertain, such as magic, storytelling, balloons, juggling, etc. Still, the bottom line in clowning is the laugh, the entertainment, the 'blow off'....and a clown strives to get there, ultimately, without the balloons or other "miscellaneous stuff" he carries. Ideally, it's personality and the making funny of a situation that is what makes the encounter with the clown most memorable. This making of that moment is the gift a clown strives to give; the balloon is secondary. I don't mean to imply that balloons or face painting or juggling aren't great skills to have, and in fact are often what the employer hires the clown to do. Because so many people do it in make-up, it's become expected in many places. Remember, doing those things doesn't make you a clown and being a clown doesn't mean you have to have those skills. From your description, I suggest that you're an entertainer who twists balloons. I want people to know that what we do is not just make balloons. But I am having a hard time explaining to customers about how I entertain while making balloons. It's difficult explaining to people what we do, and why it works well in a party setting. You can explain it. But will they believe you? It sounds like bragging when it comes from you. It's better to do such a good job that your audience does your promo. They just have to tell their friends how great you were. The party itself is your audition for more work. Charge more and lose some jobs because of it. Your price affects their opinion of your value. If they are paying enough they expect more than balloons. You will lose some of the jobs that think they just want balloons. If they get a different twister and are disappointed, they will come back. Maybe balloons is all they really want. Price yourself out of those jobs and prove that you are worth your entertainment value. If your show is good, the more you work, the more you work. Word of mouth ought to drive your number of booked shows up. In three years of working whenever you can, you ought to have more show requests than you can do. If you live in a populous area and you are not getting more shows every year, rethink your show. A friend of mine 'Phil the Pretty Good' is an excellent entertainer, does fancy balloons, balloon line work and magic shows. He's in the North East part of the country and in 1/2 a day travel he can get to a lot of audiences. After working balloons for a year he decided to raise his prices. When they said - that much just for twisting balloons - he explained they were not paying for the balloons they were paying for the show. It scared some of his jobs off but he found them coming back the next year at an even higher price. On "doing the clown thing" as opposed to being a balloon person; I tried the clown thing but I came across as what they call a lipstick clown - a phoney clown - and real clowns were polite to me but you could tell they resented the fact that I was a non professional clown. So I quit the greasepaint9 which was easy to do here in phoenix where it gets to 112) and dressed nice and concentrated on balloons and everything has gone great guns ever since. In reverse a friend of mine has the clown training and does benefits while his children make balloon animals. He's just not a balloon person.
Balloonologist, Ballunatic - I like these as much as everyone else, but Bob Follmer has pointed out that the folks that coined the terms have also claimed them as their own. Jim Sommers made the word "Balloonologist" his own, legally. The same goes for "Balloonatic." If you read Dwight Damon's book "Balloonatic", you will find on the bottom of page 4 a statement from him that the name Balloonatic is a registered trade name of Dwight Damon, and that all rights are reserved. While the use of the names is perhaps picayune, the same question of ethical practices would hold true for us in this business as for the magicians, who are also having some serious discussions on credits, infringements, etc. It is not my intent to start a battle over this, but to get all of us to think about what we call ourselves without checking it all out. Do we merely go and take a name and say the heck with those that invested in protecting their names, or do we attempt to contact these people and see if we have their permission to use it for ourselves?
In reference to the word "Balloonatic"... I did a search on the word "balloon" on Groylier's(sp?) Multimedia Encyclopedia and found several references to hot air balloons and helium and one on the man Buster Keaton! It seems that Buster did a film entitled _The Balloonatic_ way back around 1922! Hmmm... I wonder if Dwight knows that? So, if you call yourself a Balloonatic, perhaps you could say your a fan of B. K.'s film of the same name? :)
Refusing Service Handling "Balloons are not allowed here"
Don't tell them your balloon pump broke; it gives anyone there, adult and child alike, the mistaken impression that you're unprepared and unprofessional when the truth is you were nothing of the kind.
Be honest with the kids... say the facility doesn't allow balloons <clown shows he's disappointed too> but it's ok because you've got this really neat game <or whatever> you want to show them. Kids are pretty resilient with bigger losses than this...emphasize the game that you're going to do, not the balloons you're not going to do. I think you can sell it to the kids with a minimum of long-term groaning by emphasizing the positive.
Wait, don't go away - there's more! Additional material for this chapter has been saved from posts on the mailing lists. Rather than keeping it hidden away, it has been temporarily placed here until the guide editors get a chance to move it to its proper location in this chapter. Feel free to make use of it.
-- TURNING PRO STUPID MISTAKES OF TWISTERS STARTING OUT BUSINESS OUT OF YOUR HOME - PHONE ISSUES INSURANCE TAXES AND RECORDS -- TURNING PRO Strange things (both good and bad) can happen to anyone at anytime. There are quite a number of responsibilities one inherits when going into business. Some of these responsibilities relate directly to Joey's predicament. One of the biggest responsibilities (besides acting like a professional) is having good BUSINESS sense and practices. Like any other business (in this day and age) you need a good lawyer, a good accountant, advertising rep and good insurance coverage. All of the above relates directly to the old adage " you gotta' spend money to make money." Yes, all of these business needs cost money, but if good people and programs are selected wisely for your business, it is almost always money well spent. Determine what kind of work you really want; birthday parties, grand openings, fairs, restaurants, etc. If you want to be a general performer (willing and able to twist for whatever they call you for) then you should get a promo shot ($60-$100 max.) and a 1000 or so promo cards from ABC Pictures (www.abcpictures.com) ($90). Forget about business cards as these mini lithographed pictures work a heck of a lot better for almost the same amount of cash. With your promo info at hand, approach a restaurant (Applebee's, Friday's, Friendly's) and pitch them on having you work their kids' night. Offer to work 2 1/2 hours or so for a small fee. It certainly isn't much money for the work, but if you are reasonable good and personable they will take a chance on such a small figure. Then when you do the gig, give EVERY SINGLE CHILD YOUR PICTURE!!!!! (with phone number and website of course!) The phone will start ringing very quickly for birthday parties. In our business every sale brings you 10-12 more qualified leads and your business will snowball. Forget advertising in newspapers and such. Try what I just described and inside of one year you will have most of the work you want or need. I have just incorpated my business into an S corp. This is going to save me alot of money in self employment tax. Some of you may want to think about doing this, it cost about $500 here in VA with lawyers cost. But will save alot more in the long run. Check with your accountant. About your question concerning registering a business name. I dunno exactly how they do it in your area, but where I live, you go to the County courthouse, to the office that handles business licenses. Now, in some places they treat businesses like dirt (visit New York sometime) but in this county of Virginia they're very helpful. And you ask to register a business name - most seasoned businessmen here call it a "DBA" ("Doing Business As..."). It costs me $10, and I can register anything that hasn't been taken - so, no, I can't register as "The Coca-Cola Company", but I can register as "XYZ Entertainment" or "Joe's Bar and Grill" (even if my name isn't Joe) or as "Fidget the Clown", even if my Mom & Dad didn't name me "Fidget" at birth, or even as "Ross MacRae", which is my professional name as a magician and not anything like my legal name ... it's a "DBA" and I find that for me it helps separate my work and private lives. Here, when I do that, they call it a "fictitious name DBA". So go register as "Whatever the Clown" and if another "Whatever" comes along and hassles you, you can tell him you got to the courthouse first and he'd better find himself another name. There are different types of registration - state and federal. Federal takes precedence over State. I used to have my name registered with the State of Ohio for $20.00 but if I do a birthday party or company picnic out of the state I would be in trouble. Also for you to register your name with State or Federal, you have to sign a waiver stating that you have done a name search (Costs from $300.00 and up) and that you could not find anybody else with that name. The oldest form of proof stands. The federal registration is best and stands strongest. I went to a lawyer and paid $600.00 to have my name legally registered which means I can use it in any state and I can sue any other balloon worker using my name even if they went to the county and state. It is in anybodys best interest who has a name they want to protect to go to the Federal. By registering with the Federal you are allowed to put the circle with the R next to your name. You are allowed to put TM next to any name whether it is registered or not and the copyright symbol on printed material even if you have not secured a federal copyright but to use the circle with the R it has to be federally registered or you can be arrested and fined and sued if someone else had that registered. (Even if you have a State registration) You can do it with federal without a lawyer by going to the library and picking up books on how to do it yourself and it would only cost you about $200.00. I personally like the idea of safety and knowing it was done right and it takes a lot longer by yourself than it does with a lawyer. Mine took almost a year to the day to get and that was with one of the best contract lawyers in the nation. Hope this helps. It has been researched and used and My registration will be up for renewal next year (I will be renewing). STUPID MISTAKES OF TWISTERS STARTING OUT 1. Not charging enough All of the other clowns were really mad at me, and I was too busy and going in the hole (babysitter...) 2. Trying to do too much at an hour or 2 hour party; juggling, face painting, balloons, and of course a magic show; dumb dumb dumb! I could not get it all done which ruined the hostesses time for kids to go home and made me look bad, like I didn't really know what I was doing, (I didn't). 3. Taking checks I have had my share of bounced checks. 4. Making balloon sculptures for employees at restaurants I worked. NIGHTMARE...I though I was never going to leave...One lady had 5 kids and wanted one for each one and herself and her boyfriend, (free of course) and she was just one of the employees, I had quite a few others as well. did I do it, Yes, they don't call me Sugar for nothing. I wanted a sweet personality as a clown (to compliment the way I really am). I have found out that if I want to appear to be sweet I have to be not so sweet when negotiating with a manager before I start work. So what I have learned through all of my stupid mistakes is that there is no such thing as too much planning!! BUSINESS OUT OF YOUR HOME - PHONE ISSUES The phone company offers a service called "distinctive ring" or "RINGMATE." It requires only one line, but gives you two numbers. Each number rings your phone differently so you know if it is a business or personal call. In the beginning it was designed so parents could avoid having to take messages for their kids. It only costs about $5 more than just one number. My regular phone rings like this: ring.........ring.........ring......... The ringmate number sounds like this: ring-ring......... ring-ring.......... ring-ring...... Another advantage is that if you have small children that can not take messages, just tell them not to pick up the phone when it rings 2 times. This gives you a really professional image. It ALSO works with call waiting! If you tie it to an answering machine you can cover your calls even when on deliveries or decorating job! I have a separate line so I can get in the yellow pages as well. Some friends with home businesses have a home business phone plan where for a few dollars a month more you get a second number (but only one line) with a business listing, including one yellow page listing in the phone book. If you have a strictly a residential phone plan, you can usually have the name of your choice in the phone book. Maybe if your name is John Smith and your clown name is Bozo you could be listed as John "Bozo" Smith in the white pages. My home telephone is hooked up to my computer. I don't use it to talk on a regular basis. My "other" telephone line is considered my business phone so that I can get a line in the telephone book. Everyone calls me on this line. They ask for "Bizzy" or "The Clown" if they want to talk business. My children and husband are trained to be polite. But, just in case, I log the calls that come in through a caller I.D. If I don't recognize the phone number, I return the call as soon as I check the caller I.D.. I also have a pager hooked to my telephone. When I am away from the phone or the phone is busy, It transfers all calls to my pager. This makes it very easy to return calls quickly. If you work from home full time and stay very busy, what do you do about phone calls when you must be out for long periods of time, longer than makes sense to use an anwering machine? I checked into an answering service (so that, at least, a "live" person could answer.) But they can not take action on a phone call. Does anyone have any ideas? When ever I was away from my home based business I had my phone calls diverted to my cellphone. I paid for each call. This meant that I was always in touch with my clients. When ever I needed something done immediately, I called a trusted 'competitor' and had them do the delivery. I billed the client, so the client remained mine. I found it was a win-win situation for me. When Royal and I are out of town whether on a large job or teaching or attending a convention, we change the tape on our machine. The tape says that we are out of town for whatever reason and that we will return on xyz date. We say that we will be checking our machine daily and if they would like to leave a message, will would be happy to call them back. Otherwise they can call back after we return. Those people who need an immediate reply will leave a message, but most will call back once you have returned. All of them will appreciate the notice. Many times when we have said that we were at a convention, that spurs more interest from them... "Balloon Artists have conventions? And you say you won a competition? Sure I'd love to see photos!!" This only makes you look better in the eyes of your client. INSURANCE Balloons are wonderful when handled in a safe manner and can easiily become a danger when handled in an irresponsible manner. Therefore, liability insurance is VERY important. If something happens, both the performer and the establishment are responsible. First they go after the establishment (restaurant, etc), and then they pass it along to the performer. I know someone who works at Disney World. He put a balloon hat on a woman. A few minutes later the hat poped and now the woman is complaining that she has lost hearing in one ear as a result of it. She sued Disney whose lawyers said that the balloon artist was independently contracted so if they want to sue anyone, they would have to go to the balloon twister (which they did) . The case is still pending. Also, ask the insurance agent that covers your house and cars about performing liability insurance. Sometimes they can give you a better deal. The group policies available for clowns have a lot of exclusions and the $1 million limit is total allowable for GROUP - meaning if there were several claims at one time for more than that, you'd be out of luck! The World Clown Association does have a liability insurance which is a comprehensive general liability policy with coverage of $1,000,000 limit per occurrence/$2,000,000 total aggregate per event. This is different from the policy mentioned above which does limit it to the entire group. Our policy has no deductible and costs $100 / year. Current period May 1, 1998 - May 1, 1999. You can also offer additional insured (malls, hotels, etc.) for $30 each. This program is designed for clowns and magicians. If you are twisting balloons as either a clown or magician, you would be covered. For more information on this policy, please contact our administrator, Pat Wilson at 800 336-7922. The only ones that I know about are the WCA (World Clown Assoc.) and the one in Minnesota. For the WCA, you have to be a member of the organization. You should check with the organization for coverage etc. (WCA, P.O. Box 1413, Corona, CA 91718) The one in Minnesota is: Clowns of the U.S., Inc 7732 Cayenne Plz. W. Woodbury MN 55125 (612) 738-0280 I have not talked to him but I believe that Clowns of the US is group for a group policy. The group is the policy holders. It says that is applies to clowns in the United States. I know that it covers performers other than clowns (twisters and jugglers) but there are some exceptions. If you live in Canada or elswhere you will probably not be able to get the coverage. The policy renews on April 25 so it is time to send in the money. Also, ask the insurance agent that covers your house and cars about performing liability insurance. Sometimes they can give you a better deal. The group policies available for clowns have a lot of exclusions and the $1 million limit is total allowable for GROUP - meaning if there were several claims at one time for more than that, you'd be out of luck! The cost of insurance is one of the overhead prices that you have to buld into your cost structure, just as any business person must do. Remember, as a twister, or clown or magician, you are first and foremost a business person, whether or not you realize it. Only if you do these under the employment of someone else would you be anything else. That said, what you need and should have is Business Insurance, of which liability is the biggest part, although it may have other pieces of coverage based on what your business is. Call around and ask for Business Policies and I am sure you will find one. Mine is through American Family Insurance. One Million in liability is $200 a year. I consider that to be cheap! get liability coverage if you do a lot (or intend to do a lot) of work as a performer anywhere. That's fairly standard that anywhere you work they expect you to have your own coverage. Any contract worker has to be prepared for that. And, unfortunately, you can see what happens when you don't have it. The other side of that is if you have your own liability insurance, you look a lot more professional than "just another balloon guy." It helps lend credibility to what you're doing as a real business. I think it's a real art form whether you do it for business purposes or as a hobby. But to a lot of people, you're just a guy asking for money to hand out balloons with a couple of twists. I would never twist, even for free, without my liability policy. There is just too many things and too many people who are suit happy today. The cost for an individual should run about a 100 to 125 a year for a one or two million general liability policy. VERY CHEAP in that I can sleep nights. World Clown Association also has an insurance, which runs from May 1, 1999 to May 1, 2000 for $100.00 per year. The coverage is a Comprehensive General Liability Policy with coverage of $1,000,000 Limit Per Occurrence/$2,000,000 Total Aggregate Per Event--deductible: none. The price remains the same, no matter when during the year you order the insurance. Members are required to join the WC Association : age 16-60: $24; retiree: age 60+ U.S.: $18; or family member: per person $12.; and will also receive the "Clowning Around" magazine. They would also have to wear some minimal costume. The Association also includes magicians and puppeteers. I did receive some information from them and an application. If you need additional information, call 1-800-336-7922 and talk to Pat Lay Wilson, Administrator for WC Assoc. She will send you the information and an application. I am reluctant to send anyone money before I receive any kind of policy information. I understand that is the case with the Felerman Insurance--no information, just send a $95 check. Does anyone have additional information or know of any suits Felerman insurance has had to cover? That is a question I asked Pat Lay Wilson about the WC Assoc. insurance and she did relate to me a case she knew mabout. Entertainers insurance is available from Al Felerman Insurance 651-738-2775 7732 Cayenne Plaza W. Woodbury MN 05125 I got the phone number from one of the Sorell's videos. I called him and the insurance runs from Apr. 25 - Apr. 25 each year. Starting this Apr. 25th it will have $2,000,000 coverage. The cost is $95 per year. There isn't a form to fill out. Just mail him $95 and he will send you the policy. Al Fellerman (The guy is a little rough around the edges - maybe even rude, sells insurance - no membership fees, just $85 a year). I have had an equal number of people say that he does and that he doesn't return calls, so I suppose it is a 50/50 chance that you will get to talk to him. He is only the agent, not the actual insurer. The group policy is from Clowns of the U.S., and the insurance carrier is: General Casuality (I believe). I have never filed a claim, so I can't tell anyone about that, I just know that it is a $1,000,000 group coverage policy. while recently renewing my performer's insurance (I have the WCA policy), it caught my eye that the fine print excludes claims for trademark infringement. In a recent post, I mentioned having a performer's insurance policy. I know it's a topic that's been discussed here on the list every now and then, but I've received so many private e-mails asking me about it I thought it might be an appropriate item on which to post. There are several performer's insurance policies around. The policy offered through World Clown Association (WCA) is the only one I've ever had and so it's the only one with which I have any familiarity. I've not yet received the updated certificate, so a detail or two of what I'll describe may have changed, but it's offered to WCA members by Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. It's a commercial general liability policy which costs $100 per year and which provides coverage as follows: General Aggregate: $2,000,000 Products-Comp/Op. Agg: $1,000,000 Personal & Adv. Injury: $1,000.000 Each Occurrence: $1,000,000 Fire Damage (Any one fire): $50,000 Med. Expenses (Any one person): $ 5,000 Again, there are other policies available, and it's a matter of individual judgment as to which is best. This is just the policy for which I have information here. WCA can be reached at P.O. Box 1413, Corona, California 91718. Their telephone number is (800) 336-7922. TAXES AND RECORDS What records should I keep? Whether you are using computer or manual methods, try this: find the appropriate IRS tax form that you will be using to determine profit/loss and go to the Business Expenses section. As an example look at Form 1040 Schedule C: http://ftp.fedworld.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040sc.pdf Now make your accounting categories the same as the Business Expenses categories on the tax form that applies to you. It sure saves a lot of work come tax time... If you are not sure which categories apply to you and which ones don't, or you want to know the tax rules for each category, ask your accountant or download the applicable publications from http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/ and start reading. I'm no accountant but I hope this helps, My CPA specializes in Independent Contractors and small businesses. I don't pay hundreds of dollars in unnecessary taxes because my accountant stays up to date on independent contractor tax strategies. Find a specialist that understands your particular situation and how to take advantage of it. We are in such a wonderful business as entertainers where so much of what we touch can be a deduction. Office supplies, stamps, trips to the material store, auto expenses and on and on. Take a trip to San Diego or San Fransisco to see the street performers. Go to a comedy club or a street fair. There are deductions there. We can hire our children to sort our balloons and wash our cars that we use to go to jobs and clean up our balloon droppings after practicing. Deductions. Pay that money to a retirement account for them and it opens up even more possibilities. If your tax man isn't suggesting and explaining these things to you then you need a new tax man. I had H"R Block 'type' services and an Atty. do my taxes before and when I switched to a CPA that specializes in small businesses I realized how much of my income I had been giving away over the years. My CPA says he wishes every one of his clients had my entertainment business as a side business as it is so rich with legitimate deductions. Of course legitimate is the key word and I don't know your business or how you operate it. A qualified tax consultant has to give you your personal correct answers but when they don't think they could defend you in an audit for internet service I would become real suspicious of their advice for the big deductions. Find one that works from confidence not from fear. I think it might be unwise to get into a discussion on this line of what is or isn't a 'legitimate' deduction because everyone's business is different and not all of this applies to you or anyone else. I am not giving tax advice as I am not a CPA and I have never played one on T.V. What I am saying is that we should get our personal information from someone who is fully qualified and understands our unique tax opportunities and not from a run of the mill number cruncher. I share this information to give you an idea of what MY CPA has advised ME for MY situation and business for the last 15 years. Your mileage may vary. I am a CPA and a clown (yes, they are different!). I have not been in public practice for a while, but I find it hard to believe the laws would have changed that drastically. >We >are in such a wonderful business as entertainers where so much of what we touch >can be a deduction. Office supplies, stamps, trips to the material store, auto >expenses and on and on. Take a trip to San Diego or San Fransisco to see the >street performers. Go to a comedy club or a street fair. There are deductions >there. We can hire our children to sort our balloons and wash our cars that we >use to go to jobs and clean up our balloon droppings after practicing. >Deductions. Pay that money to a retirement account for them and it opens up even >more possibilities. If your tax man isn't suggesting and explaining these things >to you then you need a new tax man. Boy, I would get rid of this guy real quick! Some of these deduction are possible if you are incorporated. If you are incorporated I will apologize right now. However, if you are not I'd be very careful of these. You can hire your children if you are incorporated, however, you are subject to the same labor laws as any business would be. You must take care of all the child labor laws and pay all applicable payroll taxes. In some cases the child would also have to file a tax return. If you are not incorporated, you cannot deduct payments to family members, only arm length transactions to outside parties. As for some of the other deductions, he is correct in his statement that "There are deductions there." Again, I think you must be careful. A business trip is a business trip. It is not a two week vacation that you watched a magician perform. A business trip must have a justifiable business purpose with very little personal gratification. I know a while back that teachers lost (or were limited on) the deductions they were taking for trips that related to their subject matter, since they were not a necessary part of their occupation. >My CPA says he wishes every one of >his clients had my entertainment business as a side business as it is so rich with >legitimate deductions. Of course legitimate is the key word and I don't know your >business or how you operate it. A qualified tax consultant has to give you your >personal correct answers but when they don't think they could defend you in an >audit for internet service I would become real suspicious of their advice for the >big deductions. Find one that works from confidence not from fear. >I think it might be unwise to get into a discussion on this line of what is or >isn't a 'legitimate' deduction because everyone's business is different and not >all of this applies to you or anyone else. With this I agree, however if your accountant does not question you on your deductions, they will never know if they are legitimate. My personal philosophy is to claim a deduction that you are entitled to, but do not take a questionable deduction to "cheat" Uncle Sam. (This is a general statement and not aimed at the accountant in question.) Do I deduct my annual trips to Clown Camp? In the early years yes, however now I go more because it is a good time and not a necessary part of my business. Maybe, every several years taking a deduction because it helps me keep up with the changes in the art. THIS IS MY PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY! If you can justify the expense as a legitimate business expense every year than go for it. The key is justification. My answer to the original question was: You can deduct the cost of the internet only to the extent the internet is used for business purposes. The only way to justify it is to keep a log by your computer and record the dates and time of all usage, and whether it was business or personal. You can then deduct your business percent of the cost. I'm sorry, I'm too honest of a guy (even when it comes to taxes).