Playing Santa Claus makes for a fairly flexible career.
More often than not, you choose your own gigs, choose your own suits — and make a decent amount of cash.
Indeed, professional Santa Clauses earn an average of $30 per hour, according to PayScale, a salary, compensation and benefits information company. But for the top-earning Santas, in the 75th percentile of these professionals, average wages rise dramatically. They earn on average of $75 per hour. (It’s hard to determine how much these Santas make each year since many of them are part-time or have gig-dependent careers.)
Phyllis McNeice, a spokesperson for PayScale, told MONEY it is “unusual” to see that high of a spike for the 75th percentile of earners in any job. “This suggests that a good Santa is much better than your average Santa, and is compensated accordingly,” McNeice wrote in an email.
Ed Taylor is one of those higher earning Santas. He’s a Los Angeles-based Kris Kringle who regularly appears in commercials for Chrysler and on television shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Today Show. For an average gig, Taylor charges $250 to $275 for the first half hour, then an additional $100 for each half hour after that.
When Christmas draws near, however, Taylor earns more. He charges between $400 and $600 for the first half hour for a gig on Christmas Day, and $200 for each half-hour after. Before Taylor was earning this much, he was a public speaker playing Santa on the side, trying to figure out his next business move. “It always kept coming back to me: Santa,” he said.
Other Santas, like Lawrence Jefferson, travel for a number of weeks near the holidays to play Jolly Ole Saint Nick. Better known as Santa Larry, Jefferson works at Minnesota’s Mall of America in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. Last year, he became the first black man to play Santa Claus there. (He could not disclose how much he earns while playing Santa at the Mall of America.)
He first entered the industry with a $29.99 suit doing volunteer work. Eventually, he found more lucrative gigs and has encouraged other Santas — particularly Santas of color — to do the same.
“You’re going to have to invest your time, invest your money and efforts into looking the part,” he said.