Career Profile: The Freelance Makeup Artist - QC Makeup Academy

Don’t miss Part One of the Career Series: The Makeup Counter Artist!

Do you like the idea of setting your own schedule? Running your own business? Having control over your own makeup career? Sounds like you’ve got the makings of a freelance makeup artist!

Freelancing is the dream for many aspiring makeup artists. Freelance makeup artists get to choose their clients, control what they charge, and decide when (and how much) they work. Of course, freelancing has its challenges as well—running a business isn’t easy!

A Day in the Life

freelance makeup artist working on a model

One of the perks of being a freelance makeup artist is the flexibility, which means that a freelance makeup artist doesn’t have a “typical” day.

Now, let’s get real for a moment. Many people think of freelance makeup artistry as a glamorous career, working with celebrities and at red-carpet events. But this isn’t the reality for most freelance artists. You can absolutely work your way up, if high-end events and luxury services are what you dream of, but that’s not where you’ll be starting out!

Freelancing is a business, and like any business, starting out can be tough. A lot of your time will go towards marketing yourself through your website, social media, and email. You’ll also have to spend some time dealing with things like bookkeeping and taxes (don’t worry—this isn’t a daily activity!).

Then there’s the good stuff—the actual makeup artistry! One of the perks of being a freelance makeup artist is the range of work you get to do. One day you might find yourself doing makeup for a bride and her bridal party; the next, you might be creating special effects looks for an indie film shooting in your city.

Halloween looks, proms, weddings, fashion shows, TV, film, photo shoots… who knows what’ll come your way? As a freelancer you can seek out work that interests you—and turn down any jobs or clients that don’t.

freelance makeup artist applying makeup for a styled shoot

Personality Profile

The number-one trait you need to become a successful freelance makeup artist? An independent work drive! We said it before—building your brand will take up a lot of your time, and it’s something you’ll have to keep working on throughout your whole career.

If you don’t put yourself out there, you won’t end up booking clients—and when you’re freelancing for a living, that’s a major problem. A successful freelance makeup artist is one who’s got the drive to keep their business going all on their own.

Persistence is also important. It’ll take a while for you to build your client base and get your name out there, and even then you’ll still have to deal with business seasonality. This stuff is tough work. Sometimes you’ll probably feel discouraged. Sometimes you might even want to give up. But a makeup artist who pushes through the tough stuff is setting themselves up for success!

Freelance makeup artists also end up having to work long (and weird) hours, so you have to be ready to make the occasional sacrifice to your sleep schedule. Working for a bride who’s having a morning ceremony? Expect to be up at four or five in the morning (on a weekend!) to get the wedding party ready. And if you’re working a job that involves complicated special effects makeup, you could be up even earlier. The plus side? You might be up early, but you’re doing something you love!

Getting There

How do you get started as a freelance makeup artist? Well, unlike other professions, you can become a freelance makeup artist as soon as you decide that’s what you want to do. Starting your own business means you’re not stuck waiting for someone to decide to hire you as an employee.

Once you’ve got a name, logo, and website, the real challenge begins: getting clients! Many freelancers find themselves starting out with friends and family, sometimes even before they’ve officially decided to make freelancing their career. You can also look for work on sites like Model Mayhem or even Craigslist.

But a lot of your time will also go into building your reputation—both on and offline. That includes blogging, staying active on social media, posting gorgeous pictures from your portfolio—and, of course, doing your job well! A happy client will tell your friends about you, so never doubt the power of a word-of-mouth referral.

Is it for me?

The Pros:

  • Freedom to set your own schedule
  • Set (and change) your own rates
  • Opportunities for a wide range of clients and jobs
  • Turn down clients or jobs you’re not interested in
  • Get creative with building your unique brand

The Cons:

  • No guaranteed work or paycheck
  • Long (and often weird) hours
  • Responsibility for marketing and business is on you
  • Financial stress of business seasonality
  • Danger of overwork and burnout

warming up a stick eyeshadow by applying it to the skin

We know starting your own business is a scary concept, but here’s the good news: you don’t have to dive right in! If you’re dreaming of the freelance life but not sure it’s totally your thing, you can start out by doing it on the side. Balance freelance work with your day job until you’re ready to make the switch, or pick up steadier work in the off-seasons. Every makeup artist does freelancing their own way—the trick is figuring out what works for you.

Want to learn more about your makeup career options? Check out Part Three of our Career Series: The Runway Makeup Artist!

Author Alicia Haniford

More posts by Alicia Haniford

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