How do I recommend becoming a make-up artist?

This post was intended to be short and sweet but it turns out I just seem to love tapping away on a keyboard lol… However I really wanted to give any aspiring make-up artists out there a little help, advice and inspiration… Well it is always worth doing your research and finding out / asking yourself the following;

 Is it well paid? – Research your area, competition and ask yourself what you would be happy to charge? Obviously it’s down to the individual how many clients / shoots you may do a week.


Do you want to have a client base? If so are you organised? Can you promote yourself? – a busy day of making over clients can require a lot of organizing of time and logistics.

Does your passion lie in making over real people OR in fashion OR in TV & film OR working with celebrities OR in special effects? Working in TV & film, fashion or with celebrities is heavily reliant on networking and who you know, sometimes you can be expected to work for free or assist other artists, your financial gain can be very unreliable in these fields and quite often jobs can be sprung on you very last minute, are you someone that thrives in that environment or prefers a little more stability? Or  there’s always the option of being open to all work avenues.

If you build a client base are you able to be mobile? Would you prefer to be salon based? Renting a space or employed by a business owner? – it’s worth checking out how much chairs / spaces rent for in your local area or wherever you decide to base yourself.

However when you are building a client base, the better you get at your craft and more popular you become, the busier you become and the finances become far more consistent.

Is this something you want to do full time? Or Part time?

Do you have a basic knowledge of make up? And a real interest in it? Art you artistic and creative? – As this always helps.

Can you afford to do a course and buy a kit? – As there are other ways of doing it.

From my personal experience the best way to break in to the make-up artistry world is, to get a job even if it’s short term for a really good make-up brand in retail, that encourages artistry skills and experimenting with products such as; Laura Mercier, Nars, Mac, Illamsqua, Kat Von D etc. I recommend working in a busy department store where you won’t be short of customers to practice on, it always helps if your team members are also professional make-up artists that you can take note, watch and learn from, also don’t forget to ask a million questions.

Talking from experience I found this to be a great way to learn, you are constantly practicing your skills and being faced with things that you may not initially know how to deal with like problematic skins etc but you learn quickly, it is fast paced and certainly sets you up for a busy day of clients when that day comes, what better way to learn than to be paid to learn a new skill, something you can develop into a business and earn really well out of. If you are in a beauty department of a large retail store you are also surrounded with lots of other brands that you can go and try out in your spare time. Most beauty brands give good staff discounts and allocations, which is a really great and a more cost effective way of building up your kit, which can usually be so expensive.

These jobs also aren’t as hard to obtain as you would necessarily think, retail is always a revolving door of people coming and going, the shifts can sometimes be unsociable depending on the store and location. Something that people aren’t always aware of is working for a make-up brand is usually very sales driven, with high targets which can boast a high pressured environment, although your selling skills are usually more important to the brand than your artistry skills. It is worth doing some research and having some product knowledge of what product goes where and in what order, YouTube and Instagram is great for watching videos, taking note of different techniques and practicing on your loved ones.

You’ll also get to know how important skincare is and prepping the skin for make up as everything sits and looks better on a clearer, youthful and glowing skin.

After picking up a few skills it’s really worth taking photos of your work as when you are ready to advertise your services, you’ll need to set up your social media accounts to promote your new business, which is the fastest way to build your clientele. If you feel you would benefit from some masterclasses or lessons then there is definitely more of this available now more than ever, but always do your homework and don’t get ripped off.

When making your price list, do your homework on what the going rates are locally, you’re also only as good as your experience so the more experience you gain the more you are able to charge, although there are many that take this to the extreme, I don’t recommend out pricing yourself and I think it’s important you can justify your prices should you ever need to.

Becoming a freelance make-up artist with a private clientele, being busy and successful is always very reliant on peoples social lives and dependent on where you are based. I’ve also found it to be a great advantage to add more strings to my bow such as hair styling, classic and russian lashes, lash lifting, tinting and brow shaping. All of the above goes hand in hand with make-up especially for brides, and when the odd week is slightly quieter than usual I have a whole host of other services to offer.

I really recommend courses and training at, they are well organised, friendly, reasonably priced (if you book last minute they reduce the price to £150), most courses may only last a day or two, and you are sent your qualifying certificate immediately. Due to not being linked to any particular brands they give honest product recommendations which is really helpful!

My Story

At the age of 17 whilst training to be a professional dancer I worked in Harrods and Selfridges as a perfume girl via an agency, when I was approached by Christian Dior in Selfridges, London and offered a full time job based on my personality and traffic stopping skills. I truly had no make-up skills other than just being interested in anything girlie. At the time I was nowhere near as grateful as I should have been, as all I wanted to do was dance rather than be standing in a shop all day. Although I watched the other makeup artists closely and picked up as much as I could, which I really enjoyed and boy did we experiment. One day one of my colleagues painted a huge butterfly on my face using just eyeliners and eye shadows, in which I walked around all day like that, I can only imagine what i must have looked like to the customers.

From there I went back to dance college full time as I gained a full scholarship, and based on the fact that I had worked for Dior for nine months, I got myself a job at Laura Mercier as a freelancer working my weekends and holidays, mostly in Selfridges but also in other department stores in the West End too . I never forget when I first arrived at Laura Mercier, I was completely overwhelmed with how many products and brushes there,  I literally didn’t know where to start, but it became pretty clear early on that every product had a job, and the brand was a lot more technical than I’d ever been used to, which proved to really help my knowledge and skill set. I was lucky enough to always be working with professional make-up artists that were regularly working on Vogue / magazine shoots, music videos, and with high profile celebrities, they all used to freelance too and work in a store when they didn’t have private jobs on. Regularly one of the other make-up artists would sit one of us down and complete a look, usually mixing different products together and showing us a whole host or different tips and tricks. My favorite thing I learnt was setting the eyeliner on the water line with an eyeshadow for more definition and staying power, I knew I’d have never learnt tricks like that in a class room.

In Selfridges at the time we were based next to Nars, as well as other gorgeous  luxury brands, it was so much fun walking around the beauty hall on my breaks and trying out their products, feeling their foundation textures and checking the pigment of their eye-shadows.

Laura Mercier also had a national and international artistry team that would regularly come in to store to do events with us, where we would book in 6 appointments every hour, filling every chair on the counter, we would get started on the clients faces and the Pro Makeup artist would come over and do the eyes or the lips and cheeks, we would ask the client a whole host of questions about their skin type / wants and needs, prep the skin with the correct skincare range, collect all the relevant products on the counter and apply, make sure the Pro Artist had visited your client, fill in the clients file card with all products used, sell as many products as possible, put the sale through the till, clean your brushes, tidy the mess and be ready for your next client all within the hour, although it was tough and wow were we knackered after an event day, this gave me the best training when it came to building my own client base, keeping calm and being quick.

With any brand you join you will usually have a few days training at head office, giving you complete product knowledge with the head trainer, which is always good fun and interesting, you’ll be given a goodie bag with a selection of fabulous products in, and then you will receive training days every 3-6 months on the new products that are coming out.

I spent 3 years at Laura Mercier and from there after I graduated from dance college, I went to work for Bare Minerals for a further 2 years, another great company that taught me a lot, I didn’t have a ton of experience working with powder based products or black skin and Bare Minerals was great for teaching me this. Something that I loved about freelancing for Bare Minerals was that on occasion I would be asked to help out at the companies PR events, for example I assisted on a Star magazine shoot, I also worked the QVC yearly beauty bash exhibitions, where were allowed to take home all the products that we had used (Amazing news for my kit!!) again always working with the national artistry and PR team. Bare Minerals were great at giving staff benefits with amazing quarterly allocations and discounts, which made building up my kit further a lot easier.

In this time I also started to rent a chair in a hair salon local to where I live in Essex. Every Saturday I used to set up with my small kit and approach all the clients in the shop offering my make-up services. I had flyers made up with my price list on, I set up my social media accounts and promoted myself, I rang all local and London hotels and requested to be put on their recommended supplier lists as a recommended make-up artist to any bridal parties, I would often participate at wedding fares at local venues, set up my stand and demonstrate my skills, whilst talking to potential clients / brides, and grabbing their details to follow up with in a few weeks time. Within 3 months I was flying, I was inundated with bookings and busy every single weekend. Although I won’t fool you I certainly did my fair share of rubbish jobs and paid my dues.

‘There’s no truer saying than you get back what you put in!’

2 Years after building my client base and working every weekend I decided to add hair styling to my services, I was regularly being asked if I could do hair and I wanted to be able to say yes. So I rang a local salon, spoke to the owner who was also a client of mine and asked her where she recommended me training? She responded with I will train you! Bring some models in and we will spend an entire day practicing, which is exactly what I did, practice certainly makes perfect, I’ve never been asked for a certificate in my life and I believe experience counts for far more!

I look back now and feel so grateful for those really great opportunities I was given, to learn from many incredible artists, some of which now have got incredible careers and are highly respected in the industry, to be paid to learn on the job, build up my kit with amazing products that have cost me very little compared to their retail value, to have made some wonderful contacts and to feel completely confident to deal with any client that sits in front of me. Whilst working in retail I had a ball, the constant banter and camaraderie on counter would have you on the floor laughing, the times when we served mental customers or told the stories of our weekends antics was such fun, we also worked closely as a team and I look back at those times so fondly,  If I could go back for 1 day a month and work with all my old friends again I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’ve worked in the make-up industry now for 10 years, which makes me feel so old, but I am so proud of what I have achieved and how far I have come. Sometimes life throws us little detours that can turn out to be the best outcome ever!

Top 5 kit must haves for any make-up artist

A really good case on wheels – I’ve had a nightmare finding good make-up cases over the years, that are strong enough to hold all my products and don’t break, I think a Samsonite hard case on wheels is the best I’ve ever found, my last one lasted for 3 years and it gets dragged, lifted and chucked around all over the place. I also buy mine from an outlet where they tend to be a lot cheaper – Freeport shopping centre, Braintree.

Clear make up bags – These are a life saver I buy loads from Primark or Superdrug in all different sizes and it enables me to keep my kit really organised, separating all my products in my big case.

Red Cherry lashes – When I first started out in make-up I refused to use false lashes as I thought the boots plastic ones looked awful and were a pain to apply, then I did my homework and found Red Cherry lashes which are made with human hair, incredibly light weight, I prefer the ones on a clear strip that blend perfectly in to the lash line, I also love black glue which you can now paint on with a brush. As I buy in bulk the website based in the states are great at sending 500-1000 at a time and giving me a great discount.


Laura Mercier universal translucent powder – I think one of the greatest ever setting powders that doesn’t totally mattify any glow you have added to the skin.

Primers – Laura Mercier’s primer is amazing and has won numerous awards, I also adore their eye primers, and I’ve never agreed with concealer on the eyelid as it’s just too greasy and encourages oily creasing eyelids, instead of mattifying it and neutralising the colour of the lid.

My Advice

Be humble – Be nice to everyone! You never know who you will come across or end up working with on a job. I’ve come across many bitchy unfriendly make up artists, that are extremely unhelpful if you ever ask for their advice, yet I’ve ended up having many clients now that will never use those people again, you don’t want to be that person.

Prices – I recommend pricing yourself in line with your location and peers, I’ve recently noticed make-up artists charging astronomical rates for bridal make up unless you’re mixing real gold in your products then why would you charge £400?

I personally recommend pricing bridal make-up somewhere between £150 – £250, it will usually take 1 hour on the day and require a 2 hour trial, I also recommend charging separately for any extra trials and travel depending on the location.


High street brands – I personally found when I was working in Selfridges and Harrods I was a complete Make-up snob, only sticking with the brands I was working with and others at the same level, it wasn’t until I left the counters and really shopped around and tried high street brands too, I found that most high street mascaras are great and also not worth investing in expensive ones as they dry out quickly, and you don’t see the effects when your applying lashes on top. Make-up revolution has got to be one of my greatest high street finds, their eye shadow palettes are actually great and a fraction of the price, Primark lip liners and glosses are also actually pretty good. It’s worthwhile knowing what it worth the money and what isn’t.

Your reputation – The make-up world is a small world and there are always a million people waiting to take your place, it only takes a few clients to talk bad of you in their gym class or to their friends and you lose clientele. There’s many make-up artists that frequently let people down to cater to a celebrities needs so they can boost their social media following, I know of a few makeup artists that have let brides down the night before their wedding (could you imagine??!!!!!), yet claim to be make-up artist to the stars and lead you to believe they are brilliant and reliable, you should always treat all your clients the same.

Sometimes there are things that can’t be avoided, my biggest problem personally is running on time, being a mobile make-up artist – there’s something about when you are in a client’s home you can’t always control the running time, I’ve turned up and had clients not ready for me or they’re tending to their children in between me blending their eye-shadow, or I’ve struggled to find their address or I’ve hit traffic, I spend my life apologising and communicating with my clients, I always urge them to book me in earlier than they need as running on time is rare for me. As long as you are courteous, honest and keep in touch people have to understand you aren’t super woman. I personally find real women are far more valuable than a celebrity, a regular lady will tell her friends about you should you do a good job and keep coming back, a celebrity is likely to go to many make-up artists and sometimes want it for free depending on who it is.

Organisation – I couldn’t do what I do well if I wasn’t organised, I try to liaise with all my clients only via text or email, this way I have a trail of what’s been said and agreed. I print out forms with all the relevant questions to ask my brides when doing a trial, so I have a record of everything and all products used, I also like to send my brides a timetable of who I will doing at what time so it can run smoothly and not run late. When teaching make-up lessons, I like to give each client a list of recommended products and list of instructions in case they forget anything I’ve said during the lesson. At the end of the day your clients will really appreciate this.

Don’t be fooled – As previously mentioned the ‘celebrity make-up artist’ may seem on their social media as if they are constantly busy, and gaining great jobs but sometimes the reality is they let people down regularly, or are trying to be a celebrity themselves, these people aren’t role models in the industry. Although it’s always useful to be aware of the competition, pick up tips and help out other make-up artists where possible, I find it’s always handy to have people to recommend when I’m too busy to fit someone in.

Staying current – Social media and the internet is fantastic for this!

Discounts – Many brands offer Artists discounts on their products, it’s certainly worth asking about and can really help when stocking up.

I hope this was useful to anyone looking to become a Make-Up artist, its great fun, I’ve met some great people and I love my job! I cannot wait to have a whole chain of shops of my own in the not too distant future and really put Emma Mack make-up artistry on the map! Until then I shall keep growing and continuing to reach my goals and enjoy making up my gorgeous clients…

Stay tuned! xoxo

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