Things to Consider before becoming a makeup artist

what it takes to be a makeup artist

Applying makeup is just a small part of being a makeup artist

A lot of people don’t realise this but there are so many other things that you need to master to truly succeed as a makeup artist.

So, to be a makeup artist, what type of qualities and skills do you need other than being able to apply makeup to a face and what things do most people never tell you, that are super important to know?

I’m glad you asked. I have been a makeup artist for over 18 years, and a makeup educator for over 10 years. I absolutely LOVE my job, but I have seen my fair share of makeup artists come and go. I honestly can’t tell you how many new artists I see come onto the scene, only to completely give it up and disappear from the industry the very next year.  But why???

Here are a few things that too many people don’t consider, or think of;

  1. Don’t underestimate the work involved in being a Makeup artist. It’s not just all lipsticks and eyeshadows.
  2. Don’t underestimate the work involved in starting a business. Most makeup artists have to start their own career. Full time makeup artist jobs can be very hard to find.
  3. Exceptional customer service skills are extremely important. Without them, you are useless.
  4. You have to be reliable!!! It’s not a good idea to call in sick, or cancel a wedding late notice. And by late notice, I mean 1-2months before the wedding. If you book it, you gotta do it, or replace yourself!! The other option is to potentially destroy your reputation. This goes for photoshoots and all makeup jobs.
  5. Bad word of mouth spreads like wild fire, which is not great for business. A good reputation is critical to survive.
  6. Watching Youtube tutorials does not prepare you for real clients, or the reality of the job. It is also NOT an adequate education.
  7. Not every client will like your style and criticism needs to be taken in a positive way, not a personal one.
  8. Your work hours are all over the place and yes 4am starts are a very possible reality.  I had one just last Saturday.
  9. It may seem like a glamorous job on the outside, but Makeup artistry can be a very demanding job.  But a wonderful one too and I truly do love my job. J
  10. Being a makeup artist just to be cool amongst your peers, does not work long term.
  11. Undercutting the industry is not profitable or sustainable. Get you prices right to survive, this includes product, car maintenance, travel expenses, rent, electricity, laundry, business running expenses, advertising, equipment, collateral, etc….
  12. You have to think on your feet and problem solve a lot.
  13. You need to practice and practice and practice to truly master your skills and prepare you for anything.  And don’t just practice on the same type of face. Practice on as many different faces as possible. Not all clients are perfect photographic models.
  14. You really do need to invest in good quality hands on training.  You can’t properly learn a practical makeup courses online or on Youtube, or just by guessing /self training. Harness your artistic skills and learn from experts who have made all the mistakes.
  15. The wrong type of products will kill your career. Not all brands are good for photography. Destroy a brides photos and she won’t be happy.
  16. Being artistic and creative is a big advantage.  The job title even includes the word “ART”. If you’re not very creative or arty, Makeup Artistry may not be a great choice for you.
  17. Strong communication skills are extremely important. Tact, listening, verbal and non verbal skills need to be mastered.
  18. You cannot skimp on Consultation. I hear so many stories from clients saying they had a trial with someone, but the makeup ended up nothing like what they wanted.
  19. You can’t just do whatever makeup you want for a client.  Whether it be a photo shoot, film, wedding, or catwalk show. You need to be able to follow instructions and direction.
  20. Designing and creating is a big part of being a makeup artist. You can’t always just copy a picture off the internet.
  21. Every person and every skin is different. Your makeup skills need to be versatile enough to handle this.
  22. Not every enquiry will book. Don’t take this personally.
  23. Weddings are generally the bread and butter of our industry. These jobs will take up most of your weekends.  You really should not have a “big” night before a wedding. This means you may lose some of your party nights, or weekend getaways, or family bbqs.
  24. Your social life will not increase because of your ‘cool’ job. It will more likely decrease if anything. See #23.
  25. You will sometimes get a bit messy. I love it. Artists are always getting messy with colour. I have been known to accidentally wear an entire translucent powder all over my clothes before. Ooops!
  26. You cannot be late to jobs. A photographer may never hire you again, or you may make a bride late for her ceremony.  Not good!
  27. You need to be a self-sufficient worker, but also be really good at working in a team too. I’ve worked with a few makeup artists who just could not work well in a team and were unnecessarily competitive.
  28. You will always have competitor makeup artists trying to get the same work as you. Calm the farm and don’t get too bitchy about things, that is life!
  29. Walking into a full time makeup job is extremely rare, unless it is in retail. If you want work, you will most likely have to independently go out and find it. You might be lucky, but be prepared for this.
  30. Using expensive products does not mean you are using the correct products for the job. High price and brand names do not necessarily mean good quality products.
  31. Your learning will never end.  Trends, styles, products, tools and technologies are always changing. You need to keep up to date with these.
  32. Makeup artistry is unlikely going to make you rich.  I’m still waiting….
  33. You will unlikely book out straight away.  It takes time to build up your clientele.  When starting out, you may need to have a second job.
  34. You will need to learn how to market yourself. This has been my biggest struggle.
  35. You need to build up a good quality portfolio. This generally means doing a lot of free work.  But in the beginning, the photos are more valuable than money. Do not rely on selfies, or badly lit phone photos.
  36. NEVER think you are better than anyone. There is always someone in the world better than you. Yes, better than me too!
  37. Love what you do. This is too personal a service for you to hate your job. Clients will feel it.
  38. Makeup is more about how your client feels than how they look. You can do the most amazing design on them and they may look absolutely incredible, but if they are not comfortable, they will not like it and most likely won’t book you again.  We are in the business of making people feel good!
  39. NEVER rely on Photoshop. Yes it exists, but don’t forget it takes a photographer some time/money to fix problems. The more time/money your makeup costs them, the less likely they will recommend or book you again. Photographers are a great alliance to maintain, to get more work.
  40. Make sure you understand your value. You will always get clients who ask for a cheaper price, but if you are somewhere in the average for your experience, do NOT lower your price. Discounts are an honour and are earnt, not given away for no reason. Otherwise that cheap price will end being your normal price, but that will not stop people asking for further discount. No person in their right mind would let their boss pay them less, randomly for no reason, so why should you. Stay True to YOU!!

So, I hope that gives you a little insight into the world of being a makeup artist.  It is such a fun and rewarding job, but there is much more to it than meets the eye.  I have a Youtube channel with a few “A Day In the Life Of a Makeup Artist” videos, to give you more insight. Here’s one from a recent Sass-E Show.