Career Profile: The Makeup Counter Artist - QC Makeup Academy

So you’ve earned your makeup artistry certification—now what? If you want…

  1. A job with a set schedule (and a steady paycheck!)
  2. Some more experience to prep you for the search for your dream job
  3. A regular job to fill in the gaps while you build your client base

…then a career as a makeup counter artist might be for you! Whether you’re looking for a long-term gig or just trying to find a place to start, working at the makeup counter for a top brand, boutique, or department store is an awesome way to put your skills to use.

A Day in the Life

Working at a makeup counter is a makeup job, obviously, but it’s also a retail position. Just because you’re an amazing makeup artist doesn’t mean you’d fit in well behind the counter—you also have to be an amazing salesperson!

Stores like MAC, Sephora, and many department stores offer “full service” makeovers. This is probably the kind of makeover you’re most familiar with: the client books ahead of time, they pay for the makeover, and you create a full look for them, most often for a special occasion. This is where your makeup artistry certification and training will really come in handy!

But chances are, you’ll spend a lot more of your time on “complimentary makeovers.” Some stores, like MAC, require clients to buy a certain amount of product (say, at least $50 worth) to get a complimentary makeover. Even in stores that don’t officially require this, it’s expected that clients getting their makeup done will buy some of the products you’re using on them (though be warned, not every client knows this!).

Makeup artist applying a client't makeup in store

During a complimentary makeover, you’ll work with your client to find products that suit her specific needs and concerns. While you’re applying her makeup, you’ll share tips and techniques that suit her personal needs. Then you’ll let her know what products you used on her, and help her decide what she should buy.

And this brings us to the sale part of the job. The bottom line is that the company or store wants you to sell their products—that’s the way their business works!

Personality Profile

In the makeup counter world, sales is the name of the game! So what does it take to be a good salesperson? Well, being friendly and approachable is an absolute must. Clients are way less likely to stick around if they’re not comfortable around you.

And—this goes without saying—your communication skills need to be top-notch as well. Confusing your clients or misunderstanding what they’re asking for definitely won’t get you anywhere! You’ll also need to be able to recognize what your clients are looking for, even if they haven’t told you directly. Luckily, this is something that can—and will—be learned. For many makeup artists, retail communication is a whole new world!

Customer looking at makeup in a store

Companies are also looking for makeup artists who’ll be good ambassadors for their brand. That means someone with style, product knowledge, and artistry—all things you can show off during your interview to put yourself ahead of the game!

Getting There

Since we’ve covered this in previous posts, we’re going to keep this short.

Basically, you’ll need a good resume to land an interview. The interview process will vary between brands, but you’ll probably go in for a series of interviews, during which you might discuss previous retail experience, show off your customer service skills and product knowledge, bring in your portfolio, and do a makeup trial to demonstrate your skills as a makeup artist.

Wondering what you’re in for? Again, not everyone’s interview experience is the same—sometimes even within the same brand—but you can check out fellow MUA Jamie Smith’s video on her experience getting hired as a MAC makeup artist.

Is it for me?

The Pros:

  • Regular hours (no weird 4:00 a.m. appointments for you!)
  • Steady paycheck
  • Employee discounts
  • Expanding your beauty product knowledge
  • Some brands give bonuses to employees who meet their sales goals
  • Lots of interaction with coworkers and clients (great for extroverts!)

The Cons:

  • Little control over how much you’re making
  • Pressure to meet hourly or daily sales goals (most brands have their employees working on commission)
  • Focus on sales means less time on creating full looks
  • Some brands have aggressive sales approaches that can stress many of their employees out—so do your research before applying!
  • Long hours on your feet and little time to yourself (not so great for introverts!)

Still not sure? Well, the best way to find out if this job is for you is to try it out yourself! And hey, working at a makeup counter doesn’t have to be your full-time job, either. Lots of professional makeup artists—even some who freelance full-time—will pick up shifts during the busy holiday season. That way you get some short-term experience of the makeup retail world—plus you get to earn a little extra cash!

Check out Part 2 of the Career Series: The Freelance Makeup Artist!

Author Alicia Haniford

More posts by Alicia Haniford

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