Over the course of your professional makeup career, you’re going to work for all sorts of clients. Some of them will be positive and eager to trust your expertise. Others… well, they can be total nightmares! Can you tell if a client is going to be difficult right from the get-go? Have you noticed that she has a rude tone to her voice when she talks to you? Or maybe she sounds difficult to work with when you ask for more information. Whatever the case, you can refuse to take them on. That’s the beauty in being a self-employed makeup artist—you call the shots!

But it’s not always so black and white. Many of the most difficult clients seem friendly at first. Some might even be difficult despite having good intentions! Confusing? We thought so too! That’s why we’ve come up with a guide on 4 nightmare makeup clients you’ll meet… and how to deal with them!

Some common client types:

Know your enemy! Okay, we’re being a bit dramatic, but the point still stands! Understanding your clients will allow you to identify the issue you need to address. Unfortunately, there’s no tell-tale way to identify nightmare clients from the beginning. But if you recognize the signs early on, you can start counter-measures to make sure your appointment doesn’t completely derail…

1. The unrealistic client

mature woman wants to look young

This type of client typically hasn’t paid for professional makeup services before. She’s harmless enough, but her unrealistic expectations can leave her unhappy with your services. This client usually brings a photo of a Photoshopped model to the consultation. If she’s a mature client, she might think that makeup would give her an instant Botoxed look—she expects to look 20 years younger!

Your client needs to know that an hour-long makeup session can only do so much. And it certainly can’t reverse the effects of time—unless she’s paying for a special FX makeup appointment!

2. The micromanager

Ever watch a painting video where a few odd lines on canvas suddenly transform into an exquisite, jaw-dropping painting? That’s the magic of art! Many layers go into achieving the final product—just like makeup.

The micromanager doesn’t really trust you, the artist, in this process. She wants to control every step and is constantly watching and evaluating everything you do. No small detail is out of bounds for her. Those sharp lines that haven’t been blended out yet?  Expect to hear all about it! She starts to worry and devise ways to get you back on track. What she doesn’t know is that you’re actually right on track.

She likely doesn’t know enough about the application process. Micromanaging small, trivial details that can be sorted out with some quick blending  are  fruitless efforts for her. If she really can do it better herself, why did she hire you in the first place?

3. The passive THEN aggressive client

You can’t control how a client feels. You can only do your best to listen to her and create a look that suits her style and the event. But, some clients are rude and unhappy no matter what you do!

This type of client doesn’t offer much input when you first start the session. She initially tells you that she just wants something “simple” or “natural”. She gives you the bare minimal in details. Beware! She won’t give you feedback during the appointment, but at the end, when you’re done, it all comes out. This client wastes everyone’s time by being silent about what she’s thinking!

She may not know exactly what she wants, but she does know what she doesn’t want—and she’s not afraid to tell you!

angry makeup client

4. The miser

You probably gave discount services to friends and family or even acquaintances when you were starting out. That’s completely normal—especially when you need guinea pigs to practice on! But when you’re an established artist, giving discounts all the time can hurt your business!

We aren’t saying that you shouldn’t reward customer loyalty. But as your business grows, so does your overhead. Usually clients of this type are unaware of how they’re hurting your business and how they make it difficult for you to say no. Other, more aggressive clients, start to nit-pick tiny details and state how unhappy they are even though they accept everything you did—all in the hopes of receiving a discount. Make sure your contracts are iron clad—they’ve been known to help an artist out of a pickle!

How to deal with them:

The key to dealing with a nightmare client is to keep your cool! Communication is the ultimate problem solver. From the very beginning of the consultation to after the appointment is finished, communicating with your client politely and professionally is a must! Besides being prepared to listen during a consultation, you also need to know what to ask. It’s a two-way street. Being open to questions and plentiful with your answers helps you give the best service.

There are three things you need to be when you interact with your client:

  1. Be clear about what you’re doing: During the consultation, make sure your client is on board with all your suggestions. Once you have a good idea of what your client wants, you can let her know your ideas. If she wants a romantic look, and you want to use a soft rose-gold eyeshadow, tell her why. Is it because of the dress she’s wearing for the event? Does rose-gold complement her complexion and/or hair color? Explaining your choices can make a huge difference in how your client sees the application process. When you sound like you know what you’re talking about (because you do!), she’ll be more trusting of your talents and decisions.
  2. Be professional: Professionalism doesn’t just apply to your language. Being professional requires you to carry yourself in a certain way. Be friendly, be courteous, and meet all your client’s (realistic) expectations before going further.
  3. Be confident: When a client asks you bold or inappropriate questions, you might find yourself struggling to find a response. When you’re caught off-guard, it’s difficult to find the information and respond in a pacifying tone. It’s a lot to juggle! But being confident and firm means you won’t risk being taken advantage of.

After the appointment

makeup artist who doesnt take things personally

At the end of a turbulent gig, politely pack up your things and give any instructions for maintaining the look. Giving excellent client service is your top priority! After you’ve stepped away, make sure you do one very important thing: don’t take it personally!

Any critiques she may have are not about you as a person! She likely dislikes the eyeliner type or the color of her blush. These are all issues that boil down to personal preference. Don’t let the negativity stress you out!

Have you encountered any of these clients?

There’s another type of client who may be tricky to work with… Check out this post for advice on working with clients who don’t wear makeup!

Celina Feng

Author Celina Feng

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