For many of the millions of solo and part-time entrepreneurs who make their living as freelancers, the holiday season tends to be a slower time of the year. But not for those who choose to be freelance Santas. That business is booming.
I’m not talking about being the Santa at the mall or department store. That pays only about $30 per hour and the hours can be grueling. The freelance Santas who are really cashing in are true entrepreneurs. They’re following the money—the corporate money.
Holiday parties. Home events. Sponsored events. Working one of those means bigger checks—anywhere from $150 to $500 an hour, according to this CNBC report. One Santa said he received $1,200 from a single company to appear on Christmas Day. Dan Greenleaf, a professional Santa and the owner of a booking agency, claims he made around $20,000 last holiday season alone. That’s a lot of eggnog.
It’s not anyone who can get these kinds of gigs—it helps to be expert in ho-ho-ho-ing. You need to have the real beard, the cool suit and the ability “to make every experience unique and personal versus the general,” Katie Bardaro, vice president of data analytics at PayScale, said in the CNBC report. “You can see a real difference in a good Santa. It makes sense to find those Santas and pay them accordingly.”
Like any business, the Santa business takes some investment. You need training from a—yes—Santa School. Getting represented by a booking agency, like Greenleaf’s imsanta.org, also helps. Greenleaf spends about $750 on his outfit (and he’s “low budget,” he says, claiming that a high-end Santa suit alone could run $1,000). There’s lodging, food and other travel expenses. There’s the $520 cost of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School (considered to be the “Harvard of Santa schools”). And let’s not forget the shampoo, conditioner and beard balm, not mention all that Advil for your aching back.
They payoffs for the best freelance Santas, however, are significant—a happy child, some good cheer, and a few extra bills in the pocket to help see them through to the next Christmas.