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Your Makeup Career

Just Say No: Why Turning Down Clients Is Good For You

When you’re starting out your makeup career, the idea of turning down clients is unthinkable. You’re trying to turn makeup artistry into a profitable business, after all – and at first, it might feel like you need every client you can get. Putting your name out there, building a reputation, and putting together a strong portfolio…all of that seems tough enough without getting super picky about your clients.

Well, we’ve got one word for you: boundaries. You’ve got them in your personal life. Why not bring them over to your business life, too?

We know what you’re thinking. Yeah, yeah – that’s great, but I’m not successful enough to start making those kinds of calls. But before you close this tab (we can see your mouse hovering over the X. Seriously, we can) hang on. Turning down makeup clients can be a smart move for anyone with a makeup artistry career – regardless of how long they’ve been running their business.
Here’s why.

It helps you focus

They say you should try everything once, but after that? Start setting those boundaries. If you know you hate doing bridal makeup, well, stop taking on so many bridal jobs. You don’t have to go totally cold turkey, but start getting a little picky about brides, bridal parties, and wedding themes.

Is it scary? Definitely. But think about it this way – saying “no” to one client frees up your time so you can say “yes” to another, ideally one that you really want to work with. In other words, cutting down on the number of bridal jobs you do might let you focus on grabbing more editorial work, or on branching out into SFX makeup.

Makeup artist and stylist working on model

It might take some time to figure out where your makeup artistry interests really lie, but once you’ve nailed it down, don’t be afraid to focus. Actively seek out jobs that interest you, while skipping on some of those that really don’t.

It lets you do your best work

Every makeup artist has their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s say you’ve just started taking a course in airbrush makeup. Your friend says she knows someone who’s looking for a makeup artist for an airbrush job – awesome! But by the time your new lead has talked you halfway through her concept, you’re starting to sweat. What this girl is looking for is way more complicated than any airbrush work you’ve ever done before.

Yes, it’s good to challenge yourself, and many of your jobs might seem a little scary, especially when you’re just starting your makeup business. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with turning down a client who’s job seems a little beyond the scope of your skills.

Makeup artist working on a client

Remember, online review and word-of-mouth pretty much run your business. You never want to take on a project you don’t think you can handle. You’ll end up stressed out and frustrated. Your client will end up disappointed. No one wins.

It makes you happier

You decided to start a career in makeup artistry because you loved, well, makeup artistry. Don’t let that passion turn into a chore by overworking yourself – or by taking on clients you can’t stand.

Even if you’ve grown your business by hiring assistants or employees, there’s only so much business you can handle. Knowing what that limit is – and refusing to go over it – keeps your stress levels down and prevents burnout from overwork. It can be tough turning down a job just because you’re too busy to take it on, but you’ll be happier for it in the long run.

Girls playing with makeup brushes

Likewise, don’t be afraid to get picky about personality. Does that client seem like a nightmare to work with? Turn her down (politely, of course). Some people won’t ever be satisfied with your work. Some people don’t value your services. And some people can just be straight-up rude. If you’re getting a bad vibe from a prospective client, it’s better to decline early.

But if it’s too late and you’ve gotten to a point of no return with a picky client you did book, here’s our best advice to help you deal with tough customers!

It can help you book more clients

Turning down clients can help you get more clients… seems kind of counterintuitive, right? But all of the other advantages we just talked about add up to something pretty awesome: a stronger business.

You’ll have more time to specialize and focus your skills. That helps establish your reputation as an expert in SFX makeup, airbrush makeup, bridal makeup, editorial makeup, or whatever your favorite kind of makeup is. You’ll have an incredibly strong portfolio featuring your best work. And, without the stress of overwork or awful clients, you’ll be more motivated yourself. It’s pretty much a win-win-win situation!

But… how do I actually say “no”?

This is the scariest part. We get you. But there are tons of strategic, polite ways to turn down a client without totally offending them…

Stressing over a text

  • Tell them you’re unavailable for the dates they’re looking for (this is one situation where a little white lie is A-okay).
  • Quote them a way higher rate than usual. Of course, the danger here is that they might still say yes!
  • Tell them you appreciate the thought, but you don’t think it’s the right fit. Bonus: earn their gratitude anyway by referring them to another MUA who will be good for the job.
  • Tell them you don’t do bridal makeup/SFX makeup/airbrush makeup/etc.

And before you spend hours agonizing over the wording of your rejection email, take a look at the techniques other freelancers use. Check out The Collative’s guide to turning down work politely and professionally, or By Regina’s top three classy ways to turn down a job that’s a bad fit.

Freelance work not your thing? Check out Jamie’s post on her work experiences with MAC and Sephora to explore another makeup artistry career option!

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