How to Become a Successful Makeup Artist: A Beginner Guide

Posted 3 years ago in BEAUTY.

Thinking about makeup artist as a career but still not convinced? Check out these this guid to kick start your makeup artist career.

How to Become a Successful Makeup Artist: A Beginner Guide

For a professional makeup artist, there are so many different areas he or she can work in and there's no right or wrong way to craft a successful career in your chosen field. That's the beauty about this type of work; go read some interviews with some of the world's top makeup artists about how they got their big break' and you'll be reading a million different stories. The reality is, there is no one size fits all path or quick-fix shortcut, and you'll need to think outside of the box to get ahead and stand out from the crowd - especially in today's competitive world now more than ever.

So first, let's break it down and summarize some of the different areas a makeup artist can work in: 

  • Commercial
  • Film & TV
  • Theatre
  • Bridal
  • Retail
  • Corporate
  • Teaching
  • Body/Face Painting
  • Private Clients (Lessons; Special Occasions)
  • Salons

Most artists will likely combine several of these areas to support a full-time income, so you won't necessarily be locked into one specific industry. In fact, the more you can diversify your portfolio and skills, the more money you will make as you'll have more to offer clients. For example, you may focus on the film industry by doing special effects but also do body or face painting at events on the side. Or you could be an artist working editorially and commercially, but have developed good enough hair skills to work with bridal clients on the weekends, too.

But it's also good to have a general idea of what direction you'd like to take your career in when initially starting because you will need to focus on some kind of niche. If your portfolio of work is all over the place - actor headshots next to tear sheets from Vogue and photos of face painting from that last kid's party you did - clients won't know what to hire you for.

So when visualizing how you'd like to work as a makeup artist and how you want your career to look, start by deciding whether you'd like to become freelance or to find a company you can work for - or a mix of both! Think about what works for you and what your ideal career would look

So now that you've thought about the general idea of what area(s) you'd like to specialize in, my advice would be to sit down at your computer, fire up Word, and physically compose your business plan. Include things like:

  • What kind of artist do you want to be?
  • What market will you be working in? 
  • Who are your clients?
  • What is your USP (Unique Selling Point)?
  • First-year business goals
  • Artist(s) whose work/career you aspire to

The plan can be amended as your business grows so don't worry if it's not completely perfect right away. You don't have to go out and read a ton of books about crafting the most academically correct business plan ever - as long as it makes sense to you, that's all that matters. You don't even have to show it to anyone else. The aim is simply for you to have a clear idea of who you want to

If you really aren't sure about your goals yet, it may help to take some time exploring different areas of makeup artistry first, e.g. studying a makeup course or working on a beauty counter. This can help you to discover where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Getting real-world experience like this is invaluable and you might surprise yourself with what you discover.

It's important when entering any industry to know the key players within it. No one else can do this part for you so spend as much time as you can researching who the top photographers are the models, the magazines, designers, competing makeup artists, hairstylists, stylists, film directors, wedding planners, job board websites... absolutely anyone you can think of pertaining to your chosen field.

What's a great, fun resource for this to get started? YouTube! Watch old runway shows, interviews with industry professionals, and documentaries about the greats of your chosen field. Or start up a subscription to Vogue to start learning the names currently in fashion and discover what each designer's aesthetic is. Or simply Google what you want to know, we live in an age where you have all the free knowledge in the world available at the click of a mouse don't take this for granted.

Makeup Course

if you find a good course, it can give you fantastic knowledge of  how to work with clients, scientific stuff  like skin anatomy, working in a salon/on a counter, selling products, and of course practicing makeup in a supportive, controlled environment. Plus, if you ever wanted to become a teacher, you have that piece of paper as proof of your qualifications to take that next step.

I think the key to studying makeup is doing a ton of research about makeup types like airbrush and HD makeup into every single school offering courses you're interested in and making sure that you are wisely investing your time and money. Be skeptical and don't make any rash decisions. Speak to former students about their experiences. Think about what you want to achieve from the course, what you will get for your money, and what it will offer you in the long run. Also, in the big picture, how does it help you achieve what you outlined in your business plan?

The point is, don't feel you have to do a super long course to make it”, despite what these schools will tell you - after all, Pat McGrath is arguably one of the world's most talented, successful makeup artists and she's completely self-taught! Again, there are a million ways to break into this kind of work and it's just all about finding what's right for you.

Another way of gaining experience is to find a beauty counter to work for. This will give you a fantastic opportunity to practice on all different skin types and tones, improve your technical skills, make some contacts and friends in the industry, build up your kit with quality products (hello staff discount!), and earn some money at the same time. Find a company you love or who most closely aligns with your personality and/or style of artistry. For example, companies like MAC are ideal for those who love colorful, editorial style makeup.

Expanding Your Skill Set

The overall goal with your career should be to make yourself as well-rounded technically as possible, which in turn makes you more valuable to clients. Carve a niche for yourself but also look at how you can diversify your skills as much as possible. After all the more training and skills you have, it will open you up to more jobs you can apply for.

In summary, to be a successful makeup artist, when building experience, I think the best thing to do is some kind of combination of all three: study, work and assist. You don't have to do them all at once but if you chip away at each area, you will undoubtedly begin to notice a solid foundation being laid for a successful career in makeup pretty quickly and finding out which areas you're naturally drawn to and fascinate you more.