I’ve been a freelance makeup artist for over 7 years, that’s 2 years longer than the average small business lasts in the UK. Sounds like a good milestone to overtake right? But statistically things are only supposed to get tougher with only a third of small businesses lasting over 10 years.
In my experience and through talking to friends and my network of industry peers I’ve seen that these statistics are actually a lot gloomier for freelance makeup artists. The dream job for a LOT of people can end up being stressful as the glamorous and artistic nature that the role may suggest at first turns to worries about lack of bookings, lack of self-confidence and the biggie that can stop all businesses in their tracks – lack of cash flow.
I’ve experienced the journey in how to become an established makeup artist. I’ve learnt how to turn my business around from a demoralising one e-mailed enquiry a month to dozens a day; how to build and develop a team when client demand exceeds capacity; and most importantly, how to deliver a service that leaves hundreds of clients delighted and in awe of their finished looks – building an industry-wide reputation and trusted brand.
This inspired me to set up the Kristina Gasperas Beauty Academy – training new and experienced makeup artists and hairstylists with the aim of giving them the best chance to succeed in the industry. Having listening to my students’ experiences, their struggles and successes, I kept seeing the same problems over and again.
I therefore decided it was time to put the main points of failure out there so that you know what to avoid doing when trying to carve out a successful career in what can indeed be a fabulous dream job.
So if you’re interested in becoming a successful makeup artist read on…
1. INSUFFICIENT “DELIBERATE PRACTICE”
I’ve noticed a common theme – there’s an expectation that success will just come by itself as soon as the makeup course has finished. This is a mind-set that will hinder your development. Even the most capable and “naturally talented” makeup artists will have to spend hundreds and eventually thousands of hours doing “DELIBERATE practice” – honing precise application techniques and experimenting with new ones. It is only through relentless continuous practice that you will become a true expert at what you do.
There’s a famous theory out there called the 10,000 Hour Rule which was invented by journalist Malcolm Gladwell – it states that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice at anything will make you world-class in any field. Now this has attracted argument that it isn’t applicable to everything but for makeup artistry I couldn’t agree with it more.
A lot of famous sports people, actors, singers and artists were not born talented but went on to be hugely successful as they invested more time than others in their peer groups perfecting their skills at the sacrifice of leisure and family time.
I strongly believe that in makeup artistry you will only become truly successful by putting in the hours, the dedication. If you fail at something pick yourself up and try again – no one can learn something new without having wobbly moments – draw inspiration from the feeling you get when you’ve achieved something fabulous to find the strength when needed to keep going. Tell yourself that this is very much part of your journey in you becoming successful, in demand and treasured by your clients.
Don’t confuse the early period of practice and skill-honing with inability to master this skill.
I offer all the students at my Academy continuous development and feedback with no end date once they have completed their courses, and during the first few years I often hear: “perhaps makeup artistry isn’t for me”, “I don’t think I’ll ever be any good at it” and “I just don’t think I’m artistic enough”.
I always drum into them what I’m saying to you here and now – talent CAN be developed and new skills created through diligent, deliberate, consistent practice. For some it may take longer but success will not happen without the effort and time dedicated to it no matter how blessed or “naturally gifted” one might be.
I’m not a believer that some people are born with talent and their destiny is to be successful therefore they don’t have to put in the effort. I’ve read a ton of biographies, articles and listened to countless podcasts on this subject and have never come across any evidence that any successful person – celebrity (even those that are born into wealthy families and have become super-famous for supposedly doing nothing), sport star or makeup artist/hairstylist – has achieved success without putting in the hard work. So you are NOT going to be the exception, suck it up, deal with it, and…
…practice… practice… practice. Don’t ever stop.
2. LACK OF INITIAL TRAINING ON THE MOST IMPORTANT BASICS
In running professional courses and masterclasses for a lot of experienced makeup artists I’ve come to realise that no matter how many years you have in the industry, no matter how hard you practice, if you haven’t had the correct basic training your skill-level will not reach where it needs to be. You need to be able to consistently create flawless looks on a variety of age groups, skin tones and using many different makeup styles and products.
You can’t build a strong, beautiful house without laying the right foundations. You can’t cook a delicious meal without knowing which ingredients will work best. You can try your luck but the probability is that you won’t get the right result. Women hire makeup artists because they want to look more beautiful, younger, polished, photogenic and because they believe that they can’t achieve any of that better than a professional makeup artist. It’s your responsibility to make sure that this is indeed the case.
A really shocking fact, my dear readers, is that a significant amount of the “working” professional and “qualified” makeup artists that I teach have parted with an extortionate amount of cash to one of the big, established makeup schools and quite frankly, they have often learnt almost nothing when it comes to the basics. They’ve sat in a classroom of 15+ people with one tutor and spent half of that time modelling for another student and the rest of it not being given the attention they need to learn a skill that is intricate, complicated and demands correct tutelage in all areas.
When I’m talking about the basics I mean things like…
Colour theory – how some colours affect others; how to harmonise and contrast; how to create balance or a statement; how to use colour combinations to boost youthfulness; knowledge and understanding of selecting the right colours according to the 4 main colour types that your clients fall into and then their sub-types (and I am not just talking about cool and warm); and how the wrong colour choices can make people look older, duller and almost unwell.
Eyes – how to make someone look younger with eyeliner techniques, how to make eyeliner part of the lash line so it does the job without being distracting, which techniques to use for different eye shapes, correct eyeshadow placement to lift the eyes, intricate false eyelash application that effectively enhances different eye shapes.
If you’ve completed a makeup course somewhere ask yourself how much time was spent on just those two areas. How confident would you feel explaining your knowledge of them to someone new to the industry? This is always a good marker for how much you actually know.
These are of course just a couple of examples of the basics that need to be understood and practiced (there’s that word again) over and over again in order to master makeup artistry. You should ultimately instinctively select the appropriate makeup products, techniques and colour choices and then be able to expertly interpret your client’s wishes to create for them the most flattering, harmonious and downright awe-inspiring looks no matter what their age, skin tone or chosen style. Every one of your clients deserves to look and feel like a movie star. It’s your responsibility to get yourself skilled-up correctly, so you know what you’re talking about, know what you’re doing and able to deliver the goods every time.
3. SHOCKING GALLERY QUALITY & CONTENT
Check out your on-line portfolio and consider whether you would want a makeup look on yourself like any of the ladies in there. There’s no doubt that there’s some work in there that you’re really proud of but how does it actually look in that photo in that gallery?
Being able to put together amazing makeup looks is one skill, another completely different but vitally important one is being able to photograph them so that the images do full justice.
I often see gallery images that are badly lit, look murky, dull and enhance dark circles with the lack of light compromising the intricate shading and colour choices that the makeup artist has applied. I also see, and this really is bad, unflattering close-ups taken on mobile phone cameras which are unsuitable for close-up portraiture as they distort facial features as well as really terrible choices of obvious filters. Just makes me think – what’s the point of these photos? Everyone who looks at your on-line gallery doesn’t have you stood next to them saying “I know it looks a bit crap in the photo but it really was amazing in real-life, honestly”.
If it looks crap in the photo, the viewer will think that this is your ability-level, so take it out.
Your images are your biggest advert, they sell your work. You can write the most eloquent and enticing words but the photos are where the magic really happens igniting the imagination of potential clients and removing the word “potential”. They showcase your skills and the transformations you are capable of.
Everyone who comes across your website will firstly look at the photos BEFORE they decide to read any of the words. Will they WANT to look like the ladies in your gallery images? Will they be happy to part with hundreds of pounds of their hard-earned money to look like them? Or maybe a different but valid perspective – would one of the makeup brands that you used in your images be happy to use them to represent their brand?
If the answer is either not sure, don’t know or simply a no then do something about it and get rid of the blurry, darkened, dreary nonsense. Revamp your gallery meticulously so that it represents your work accurately and in the way you believe it deserves to be seen.
Learn how to take beautiful portraits yourself – ideally buy a good quality camera and lens suitable for portraiture, go on a portraiture photography course and most importantly (here we go again, you’re not going to escape this)… PRACTICE!
That way YOU will be in control of keeping your portfolio top quality, up to date and you won’t have to rely on photos from shoots you may have worked on or wedding photographers sending you belated images which don’t show the makeup closely enough.
As well as a makeup artist I’m a professionally trained photographer, this didn’t happen by accident or because I fancied taking some nice holiday snaps.
4. POOR QUALITY/UNPROFESSIONAL WEBSITE
When you’re searching through websites, ready to spend a decent amount of cash on a quality item or service would you happily spend that money on something advertised on a website with spelling mistakes, misaligned text, different fonts everywhere and broken links?
The number of makeup artists’ websites that I’ve seen with one or all of the above is unbelievable. It shows laziness and lack of attention to detail – and they’re trying to sell themselves as hard-working and meticulous!
Spend time checking and rechecking every page and link on your website and when you’re bored of looking at it over and over again, get some friends to look at it too.
You don’t have any excuse for spelling errors, ever, computers check this for you, but if English isn’t your first language and/or your grammar isn’t great, get it proof-read by a native English speaker. You really don’t want your text looking poorly put together without much thought and therefore letting your website down, especially if you’ve listened to me and now have your gallery looking hot. Also it should go without saying – never ever copy other people’s website content.
Your website HAS to look professional. It has to be easy to navigate (otherwise visitors will leave within 2 to 3 seconds). It must have error-free spelling, grammar and punctuation. It has to include genuine reviews from happy previous clients with their photos (no fake testimonials please, you’re only cheating yourself). It must include easy-to-find contact details. An active, regularly updated blog is a massive plus.
Companies who produce luxury items have websites that are easy on the eye and are designed in such a way that their products and services take centre stage. They have user-friendly navigation on both desktop and mobile, captivating and error-free product descriptions as well as well written “About” pages detailing the company history and who’s behind the business.
DO THE SAME. You’re selling a luxury service. Hiring a makeup artist is a nice-to-have and as much about the experience as the finished look, it’s one that people WANT rather than one they need. Design your website to make them WANT to stay, find out more, check out your gallery, read your reviews and ultimately make them WANT you. If you care enough about your customers you’ll care enough to make their whole experience of booking with you seamless.
Always remember that your website’s visitors don’t know you, they don’t know how wonderful and talented and friendly and helpful you are, make them get a real feel for these things. It’s your shop front, your market stall – include some hints to your personality in there and let it show how much you care about the quality of service that you provide. Make passers-by feel invited and welcome to pop in to your online world and check out what you’ve got to offer.
The same applies for every aspect of your business on-line, especially your social media presence – quality, clean, current and relevant. A sprinkling of insight into your personal life is fine but the main focus should be showcasing quality examples of what you can do for your customers. Quality examples being key here. If you’re ever in doubt as to whether you should post something just think: would Chanel have it on their social media posts?
And here’s something you’ll like to hear – your professional website doesn’t have to be an expensive one. There are tons of easily customisable templates out there that don’t cost a lot and are easy to manage, even for someone with no prior web-design experience. Because a simple, clean website where the photos do most of the attention-grabbing is best, these templates are ideal to use. No excuses.
5. POOR SELF-CONFIDENCE & BELIEVING THAT SUCCESS IS UNATTAINABLE
One of the most important ingredients in becoming an expert in your field is a positive mental attitude and confidence that you can do anything if your efforts are persistent enough. Simple enough to write but one of the most difficult things to action and keep consistent in your professional life. This wouldn’t be much of a self-improvement article without a quote from someone famous, so I’m going to go for one from Mahatma Gandhi:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” WOW (is what I thought when I first read this).
You WILL achieve what you think you are WORTH. Of course you have to have the right tools and training as I’ve mentioned in the earlier points but ultimately it’s up to you and your perception of yourself.
When makeup artists start out they generally have a dream to get to a certain level. Often they expect that their desired level can be achieved by putting in the same hours as a normal, regular job or maybe a bit more at their convenience because it’s not their job but their passion. This is wrong.
You HAVE to make your passion your obsession and purposeful practice the reason you get out of bed in the morning and don’t go to bed until late at night. You’re never going to run out of faces that would like you to practice on them, don’t look for excuses.
No one else is in charge of your career but YOU. You’re the one that made the decision to become a makeup artist so you’re the one that’s making the decisions now as to whether to put in the hard work or go shopping, watch TV, have a snooze, eat out or go to the pub in your spare time.
Success takes time and persistence. Persistence is all about the right mental attitude and I believe that we can all achieve the right mental attitude, we have it in us, now go find it.
OK, so I’ve already included the staple famous person’s quote but I’m going to leave you with another one, it’s not from a famous person but explains the point precisely:
“When most people practice, they focus on the things they can do effortlessly.
Expert practice is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well – or even at all. Research across domains shows that it is only by working at what you can’t do that you turn into the expert you want to become.”
– Florida State University psychology professor Anders Ericsson.
If you’ve gotten this far I hope that you feel inspired and eager to perfect your skills and expertise in makeup. I also hope that you now know what to do to avoid being included in those small business failure statistics.
If you would like to learn some more – including makeup, hairstyling and portrait photography – please check out the intensive, privately-taught courses offered by the Kristina Beauty Gasperas Academy. We’d love to meet you…