What I Wish ALL Makeup Artists Knew When Starting a Career in Makeup Artistry

The topic today is β€œwhat I wish makeup artists knew when starting their professional careers.” This is a HUGE topic and I think the best way to cover this is to simply look back 20 years (zoinks, has it been that long?) and focus on two points that might have made my career blossom faster. Like life, makeup is a journey. You should always take the steps that are right for you, but the thoughts below might just give you a new perspective.

It’s Easier Than You Think

When we are training and learning, there is a magic haze that falls over us. It makes us feel like anything is possible, and all the dreams that drew us to take the makeup training program at QC will soon be realized. That is not a false feeling if you follow the advice I give, repeatedly, and practice, practice, practice. You will have a level of makeup mastery that is well beyond people who have been working in the industry for years. With knowledge like this comes confidence, and with that confidence doors will fly open for you. When I was first starting out, I lived and breathed makeup. I bought everything imaginable (every brush, every product, every book, etc). I do not recommend that you do this, as much of mine went unopened and found the trash can when it expired. I just want to make clear the passion and excitement I had. It coursed so strongly through my veins, that I was practicing in school for 8 hours a day and then coming home to practice further and/or read the theory books by the great makeup masters.

As long winded as this may be, that practice gave me an incredible confidence, and in no time I was working with huge celebrities, almost immediately. If celebrities are your goal, refine your skills and get yourself to where the celebrities are. Your passion will make you a connection. If you want to do brides, practice. Your confidence and knowledge will get you bookings in no time. You will never reach your goal if you watch these videos, submit your units and then sit back down on the couch. You need to practice and above all, believe in yourself.

Student Practising Makeup Artistry

You Don’t Have to Start at the Bottom

There is a common misconception that you need to start at the bottom and work your way up. There is one layer of truth to that, and that is your education. A proper, classic makeup education and a tremendous amount of practice is the bottom of the ladder. Education and practice combined with passion can have you working at a high level very quickly. The place to start is the place that you feel you need to start. That means that you need to be able to fairly assess your own skills (and this can be hard for many people). Is your work comparable to the work of the people doing bridal in your community? If so, then you don’t need to apprentice, you need to make yourself available for brides. Is your work as beautiful as the work you see in the magazines and on the red carpet? If so, you need to put together a portfolio and get yourself an agent. If your work is not at that level, practice more and get more education.

There are two more points I want to cover in this category. The advantages to starting at the bottom, and the people who absolutely need to start at the bottom.


If you start at the bottom, get a great education, then master your skills through practice, you will be well on your way. If you choose to climb the ladder slowly, you can build an even stronger base. By apprenticing, you will have the opportunity to learn from people whose work you respect and this will make you a better, more well-rounded artist. It will open doors to you that might otherwise not open and it will introduce you to people of influence faster than you would meet them on your own. If you choose to start at the bottom because you are a knowledge sponge, then I applaud you.

Open door for starting a career in makeup artistry

Starting at the bottom

Now there are those who have to start at the bottom. And, shockingly, they are usually the ones who think they are ready to start at the top. Here are 5 of the many examples of people who need to start at the very, very bottom:

  1. If you learned all you know from YouTube
  2. If you watched the QC’s instructional videos one time, did the makeup on yourself and submitted it the first time with no further practice
  3. If you do all of the units as soon as you receive the course, not waiting for the feedback before diving into your next unit
  4. You have only ever done great makeup on yourself and rarely work on others
  5. If all your makeup looks the same, or have the same elements (i.e. always have a very smoked drop shadow, always have water-line liner, etc.)

I want to leave you with these thoughts today, because they really are a lot to digest. I think the main thing I want to make clear is the value of education and determination. If you understand that practice and education are the keys to mastery, then you will be able to achieve your goals faster than you might think possible. If I could start over, I would reminded myself not to be afraid. This is a competitive industry, but there is always room for anyone with passion, determination, and a lot of heart!

Do you have any of your own tips for those just starting a career in makeup artistry? Leave a comment below!

Author Nathan Johnson

More posts by Nathan Johnson

Join the discussion 29 Comments

  • Diana M. says:

    Thank-you Nathan for this lovely article! Your advice is greatly appreciated! After reading this, I’m glad that I prefer to practice a lot before I send in my assignments to my tutor! πŸ™‚

  • Debbie B says:

    Thank you Nathan this article has helped me a lot, I thought I was doing something wrong by doing my assignments over and over then waiting to go to the next unit until I got my feed back. I now feel more confident and I know that it is most certainly the right thing to do. I appreciate all your great advise.

  • Brandi W says:

    Thank you Nathan for this wonderful advice.

  • Samantha-Ann C says:

    It’s always great to read something so encouraging.

  • Chantelle says:

    This was great advice!

  • Melissa Silas says:

    Find your passion. The makeup industry thst interests you, and network in that industry. Well spoken!

  • Bree says:

    Everything you spoke about in this article rang true for me & really resonated. Sometimes it can be daunting to see the level of skill & creativity that professional makeup artists possess, but it’s comforting to know that even they had to start out somewhere, just like the rest of us!

  • Renee Wang says:

    This course is very helpful. Thanks!

  • Petra R. B. says:

    Thank you for this amazing guide, I love the way you think. Also in the tutorials, because that way it seems we can achieve really anything. Just start with small steps and work toward being where you want to be, its wonderful thought. Its completely true with hard work and courage you can step up right where you want to be in short tie, rather then slowly and insecurly work up the way.

  • Denise Garcia says:

    Very well stated, learning never ends. The passion is ongoing growth will take place each moment you decide to make that positive movement of inner power.

  • Kathy says:

    Cant wait to start

  • Vera Cangro says:

    Thank you Nathan for such inspiring words. Makeup is an art, and with creating art you need to have your own style and vision. It takes time to develop your own personal style. I know I had picked the right school to begin my makeup journey.

  • agatha ocampo says:

    I love this great advice. Indeed learning is a continous process. I will not limit myself to only what i know but I am considering to specialize in deffrent makeup areas. The more I will learn about the new trends, new techniques and all, I will be more flexible and not gonna be afraid to jump in to whatever challenge I may face. I will study hard and practice a lot and not just watch youtube (there’s nothing wrong with it) But I want to learn the proper way of applying make up not only to my face but on others too. I will definitely experiment different looks and not just sticking to one look.

  • Erin Poplawski says:

    I loved everything u had to say!! i couldn’t agree more. i want to start my own Makeup Artist/cosmetic shop because stuff like that really isn’t offered in my area yeah we have hair salons with makeup artist that went to the same cosmetology school as me that don’t even really teach makeup artistry. I study a little makeup artistry under my good friend who is a talented Makeup artist who has done a lot of work in Hollywood and worked on movies, television, Magazine’s etc. I worked in his shop as a makeup artist for a few years until he closed it to get into the Hollywood scene. the point is i will not open my shop until i finish school because i want to be the best i can be and there is so much more for me to learn. Thank you for the great read!!

  • Shekinah says:

    This is great! I need to figure out how to get an agent to get going πŸ™‚

  • Ivis says:

    I am loving this course, practice and passion is all what you need to reach the goal. πŸ™‚

  • Rachel says:

    What a great post! I cannot wait to get started with my course!

  • Crystalynn Diaz says:

    Thank you Nathan this is great advise & Im glad I’m taking all these steps to becoming the person I always wanted to be/do. Becoming a professional makeup artist is my DREAM!

  • lou jane says:

    This was really enlightening. Nathan can you give us posts with product recommendations and reviews?

  • Nelsa Lozada says:

    Thank you for the course. Very helpful

  • Jenny says:

    Thank you Nathan. I’m really excited to start my journey with your help. Although, I may be a beginner and is at the bottom right now, I will listen and learn from each of your piece of advice and work my way to the top.

  • Doris M says:

    Thank you Nathan! Valuable information detailed in this article. Makes sense to set goals, believe in yourself and GO FOR IT!

  • Wansada says:

    Thank you for great topics πŸ˜‰ I have no idea to start where I can work or do things about makeup. I read and imagine if I can be a great makeup artist and have a great feedback from my clients. That’s would make my day happy and successful.

  • Sherri says:

    Thank you for this! Sometimes it gets so frustrating beginning new projects and feeling discouraged.

  • Michelle H says:

    Thank you for this great perspective Nathan, I cant wait to get started!

  • Hitomi Shinsato says:

    I am so excited to start this course. I live in Japan is very hard to study or start a new business here, I hope this tips help me and I start the best business in Japan . I will like to know more about working from one country to another and how to get attention to your work. I know Nathan is a international makeup artist I will love to hear tips is that.

  • Nicole hurst says:

    Just signed up for my first make up class, so so excited.

  • Ashley says:

    This post was really helpful as i’m new to the industry. I just signed up for my first course and i’m very excited.

  • Ryan Davis says:

    Nice Article!! Also start networking with other professionals in the industry, such as wedding planners, photographers, and dressmakers. Networking can lead to referrals to clients and greater job opportunities.

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