A lot of professional haunters maintain full-time or part-time jobs in addition to their Haunt career. The season is just too short for most of us to earn a living purely through haunting September-October.
Need some inspiration to extend your season and make your business profitable year-round? Read on for six ways to make money with your haunt in the off season.
1. Sell merchandise
You may already be selling t-shirts, coffee mugs, or other items at your haunt during the season. Making the jump to online merch can really help boost sales and bring in some extra revenue during other times of the year. Plus, people spend more money online than they do in person so you may get more dollars per customer than you could with on-site sales alone. If your merchandise is well designed, it will hold appeal throughout the year.
If you’re using HauntPay, you can manage your merchandise inventory and track sales with the same platform you use to sell and track tickets. You could also use a drop-shipping provider or print-on-demand marketplace if you don’t have existing merchandise inventory.
2. Private Parties
Birthdays, corporate events, private tours, and even overnight sleepovers (think “locked in the sanitarium” or “a night in the dungeon” style events) can bring large groups of people into your haunt with one booking — and you can do them any time of the year!
These events aren’t as simple as selling a timeslot and showing up to let guests do whatever they want. You’ll need to put together some programming to make the event go smoothly, and consider things like a dedicated space to eat meals (if applicable) or an area where guests can put down sleeping bags (for overnight events).
Many of the haunts we work with offer private bookings during the Haunt Season and some even do private events all year long. For inspiration, check out The Observatory by Torment Factory: a Halloween + Mad Science themed private event space, Curse of the Bayou’s private party rentals, and Demented FX’s VIP room. Asylum 49 does private ghost hunts, which is another way to extend the life of your haunt beyond the Halloween season if you’re located in a historic or otherwise spooky building: tourists and locals attend ghost hunts year-round.
3. Open on other spooky holidays
Friday the 13th is a natural fit, but consider other holidays like Valentine’s Day or even Christmas. In recent years, Zombie Prom has become a popular springtime tradition for those who love to dress up and have a fondness for the macabre.
Reserve a section of your haunt, or even your prop warehouse if it’s safe enough for guests, and host an underworld ball. You could offer different packages at a variety of price points that include food & beverage options, premium seating, photo packages, or other perks (see our 9 tips for making your guests feel like VIPs for more ideas).
Yes, these kinds of events will take some work to execute, but the extra effort will pay off when you’re able to grow your haunt from a limited, seasonal endeavor to a year-round business.
4. Leverage your outdoor space for non-haunted events
A lot of haunted attractions are located on former (or working) farms or other rural spaces. If this describes your haunt, you likely have outdoor space that goes underutilized for most of the year. You could bring in revenue with non-haunted events, and there are tons of possibilities. An autumn pumpkin patch, summertime corn maze, or holiday light show are all family-friendly options.
Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm does a great job of this, with summertime activities like beekeeping demonstrations, a 12-acre corn maze, games, and activities like hayrides and a mountain slide. Fall attractions include their famous pumpkin fest and of course Statesville Haunted Prison. They even host Christmas events with Santa, sleigh rides, and fresh-cut trees for sale.
You don’t have to get that elaborate all at once: start out by adding one or two non-haunted events into your venue’s calendar and grow from there. Operating a haunted hayride? Pivot to a family-friendly holiday hayride with Christmas carols and holiday lights.
5. Open one of these attractions
If you have excess space available at your haunt, consider adding on an escape room, axe throwing, or another activity that’s popular with guests year-round. You don’t need a lot of space or a huge budget to open either one, and there’s plenty of overlap in the audiences that enjoy haunted attractions and those who enjoy escape games or axe throwing so you may be able to draw from your Haunt Season customer base to get these other activities rolling. Both are also great for corporate team building and other private parties in addition to public operating hours.
Head over to our EscapeTix directory to find escape rooms near you for inspiration.
6. Sell yourself (not like that)
As the owner and creative genius behind your haunted attraction, you have a ton of valuable skills and experience which could benefit other small business owners or dark arts enthusiasts.
Consider hosting workshops, consulting services, or even getting involved with a local community college to teach a course or two. Really good at scary makeup and FX? Host theatrical makeup workshops. Teach kids (and adults) how to overcome fear and build confidence from someone who really knows FEAR.
Maybe you’re a self-taught engineer who knows how to build the most elaborate props and special effects. Teach homeowners how to DIY decorations that will impress their neighbors. Consult one-on-one with new small business owners to help them build a successful business from the ground up (your local small business bureau might be a good starting point to find prospects).
Only you know if this is the right approach for yourself. If your friends know you as charismatic and outgoing, consulting and speaking engagements might be a good fit. If you’re more reserved or uncomfortable with public speaking, it might not be the right solution for you. And that’s ok! There are plenty of other ways you can put your talents to work in the off season.
What does your haunt do to stay profitable in the off season? We’d love to hear your business ideas and tips! Please share your thoughts in the comments.