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Should equipment rental companies ever do events without charging up-front?

You may receive a request to attend an event and provide bounce houses and other services at events ‘for free’, i.e. with no upfront charges. Perhaps the agreement is that you will receive payment every time a customer uses your item, or maybe the organiser is trying to convince you to offer your services for free because the event is charitable, or because they think you will appreciate the exposure.

Firstly, it’s doubtful that there is ever a good reason to work at an event for free, so feel free to ignore anyone who suggests that it will be good promotion for your business or plays on your feelings of guilt and responsibility by encouraging you to work for free for a charity. Nobody will judge you for saying no!

Things to consider

  • How much will it cost you? Think about how much you’d expect from a standard hire, and then take into account extras like hiring a member of staff to man the inflatable – and give them a good hourly rate. Then add a bit extra to this bill to cover your expenses. A manned hire at an event will cost you significantly more than an unmanned hire in someone’s garden!
  • What is the expected attendance? Is it in the middle of summer, when custom will be highest, or will it be at an event that will pull in the crowds such as a football match? An expected turnout of 2,000 to 3,000 will be enough to ensure a reasonable income for you.
  • Are you guaranteed to recover your costs? The organiser could be seriously overestimating the footfall of the event. Make sure you are still happy with the absolute minimum you could receive should nobody turn up – so don't do an event solely for the takings.
  • Have any other inflatable companies been contacted? Will your competitors also be there, and will inflatable rental start-ups be happy to try to undercut everyone else?

Splitting your profit

Serious enquiries will expect you to be paid for your services, and will typically suggest some kind of profit share. Feel free to expect money up-front as well as a profit share – if you ask the enquirer how much they expect you to make, you can expect them to overestimate your profits, and then use this overestimation to ask for a decent proportion up-front.

A normal profit share is around 70% of the income to you and 30% to the organiser, but if the event seems particularly lucrative or is a charity then you might be willing to drop this to 60% to you and 40% to the organiser.


If the organiser tries to barter you down by suggesting that it will be “great exposure”, then make sure you ensure they promote you properly! Ask for a link on the charity or organisation’s website, mentions on promotional material, and any other advertisements you can think of – and get an agreement to this in writing.

Don’t leave the promotion solely to the organiser, of course – every hire should be an advertising opportunity! Print out some flyers and hand them to people as they pass by, and promote the event on your social media pages and in your blog to encourage even more to come. It’s in your interest for the event to be a success!

Many organisers will be experienced in haggling, bartering and dodgy business deals. Do your research before you get in any conversation about price so you don’t sell yourself short.

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