The costume character business has been viable for ages, but it’s quite an underrated venture to get into. Convincing cosplayers show up to a designated event to play their character, and while some are better than others, it’s all about immersion.
It’s the type of business that anyone with a bit of money for costumes and labor can start, but it comes down to effective brand awareness, word-of-mouth marketing, and search engine visibility. You will also need to find your niche that’s in demand locally, and it varies wildly.
Your Own Private Carnival
An example of a popular gig in Miami is Hora Loca, offering Carnaval themed performers. While such parades are common in March, imagine recreating your own private version at a birthday party or wedding. This can include dancers, jugglers, singers, and musicians to bring life to the party.
While it’s more popular with young kids than anything, there is always a demand for a convincing Spider-Man, Batman, or another cool super hero to arrive at the party. While acting skills are appreciated, the real investment is having a convincing and up-to-date style of costume that looks just like from the movies.
If you (or someone you know) are convincing lookalikes of famous celebrities, it can be quite lucrative to act as such for paid gigs. This is especially particular in places like Los Angeles, but it can work anywhere.
For famous singers like Michael Jackson, it's important to nail down the music and dancing bit rather than just having a costume. If you're talent isn't able to do it, or fake it convincingly, you probably shouldn't consider offering it in the first place.
While it's not the most popular niche, it's growing in popularity among millenials and Gen Z. Popular choices include Luffy from One Piece, Dragon Ball Z characters, Naruto, or Gintoki Sakata.
What Goes Into a Costume Character Business?
Just like any other local venture, there are local processes and rules to follow. Some states or municipalities will have sales taxes and reporting processes. You will need to register your business, and there may be licensing requirements. If you intend to have lots of employees, you will also need to look into insurance.
Before anything, you will need to have a quality source of costumes, whether buying, renting or creating them from scratch. The internet is a great source of affordable costumes, but you may need to buy something locally if you don’t have the right size for the designated actor.
Advertising a Costume Business
Since your clientèle will all be local, your advertising efforts should remain as such. If internet marketing is your primary strategy to get new customers, it can be easy to stray off into generalized content, so you need to zone in what’s relevant in your area.
Influencer advertising can also work, but you will need to find local Instagram pages or blogs that are location dependent. Putting out an article in a national or international publication probably won’t be a good investment.
Old-school marketing methods are quite effective for local businesses, so brochures, fliers, and newspaper ads are a good start. Finding a way to create word-of-mouth buzz goes further than anything, and it could help to advertise at community events.
If you have creativity, drive, and patience, it can be quite lucrative to get into the character rental business. Since it’s in the entertainment industry, the focus should be more about fun and people rather than the more technical business details.