So you want to be a henna artist, eh? That's really exciting! Working in this field offers plenty of opportunity for personal fulfillment - creatively, emotionally, financially, and otherwise - but it also requires that you take some precautions to protect yourself and your business.
Today, we'll be talking about five things not to do as a henna artist. If you can avoid these common mistakes, you'll save yourself a lot of difficulty in the process.
1. Using Store-Bought, Premade Cones
This particular point is always number one on the list of mistakes that henna artists make, and I'm telling you: this is not a mistake that you want to make. When you work with "henna" cones that are store-bought, pre-made, mass-produced, and/or imported, you immediately send a message to educated clients, customers, and local competitors that you don't take the safety of the public seriously. If you didn't know, these "henna" cones often contain very little henna after all, and those that do also contain harsh additives such as turpentine, kerosene, gasoline, hair dyes, and other harmful chemicals and solvents. When these pastes are used on the skin, they cause sensitization in the body which, when compounded over time, can cause severe reactions to include scarring, organ failure, and even death. Make your clients' health and well-being your priority. Learn how to prepare your own fresh, natural henna paste.
2. Intentionally Undercutting Your Local Market
Speaking of local competitors, let's get something clear... Healthy local competition is a good thing. Knowing who your local competitors are and gaining their respect as an artist will benefit both you and them in the long run. Please (please) do not insert yourself into the local market and intentionally undercut, client poach, or otherwise deal with existing henna artists in an unethical way. The henna community truly is quite small and well connected. If you are consistent in making enemies of your local professional network, it's only a matter of time before it will bite you back. Take my advice: play nice with others.
3. Choosing Not To Learn The History Of Henna
Whether or not you love henna for its cultural nuance or you're just in it to make a living, please take the time to learn about the history of henna. Note that this doesn't only mean that it's important to learn about the use of henna in South Asian culture. There is such a vast and varied history of this art form, and it's important that this be valued and, at the very least, respected. Henna has been used for thousands of years by cultures and communities all over the globe, and you'll find that clients will ask about this frequently. Not only will you be able to position yourself as an expert in your field, you'll also learn more about the techniques and motifs that frequent henna designs and will be able to better appreciate them. Spend some time acquainting yourself with the beauty of these ancient traditions - you'll be a more rounded artist for it.
4. Working Without A Contract
Do you want to get paid for the work that you've done? Good. I want that for you as well! A great way to guarantee that you are compensated is to always work with a contract or service agreement. By setting boundaries around your time and clear expectations around your services, you'll build better relationships with your clients which results in an improved experience for all parties. Best part of that? You can expect to be compensated appropriately and tipped as well when you meet all of your client's (well-defined and completely accurate) expectations of you.
5. Accepting That You're Destined To Be A Starving Artist
While we're on the topic of compensation, I want to encourage you to set your prices appropriately. The perception is often that artists must work for the love of art itself and thus must forgo their rights to fair wages. This simply isn't true. Working with henna professionally can lend itself to quite lucrative income in comparison to other industries. The overhead costs for our profession are relatively low, while the average rates for artists tend to be quite competitive. When you aren't compensated properly, it creates a resentment towards your clients, and that feeling is palpable during your sessions. It's a lot more fun to offer your best work to your clients when you're not worried about the bills waiting for you when you get home. Empower yourself with the ability to make fruitful income by harnessing your skill set appropriately, gainfully, and ethically.
You'll notice that a common theme runs through each of these recommendations: ethics. Understand that while henna is the medium, we are in the business of people. Treat people well, deal with them fairly, and show kindness in your actions. Your business will thrive for it. Promise.
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