How to become a make-up artist ....and make money from it!!

Written by Senior Orchid Blush Artist Ruth Marcella...........


I get lots of emails asking how I became  a make-up artist and advice about the make-up industry and so I have decided to repost my first  blog post and will talk about my own personal experience of being a make-up artist.  I don’t consider myself to be a ultra-successful make-up artist  but  this is my only job and I do pay all my bills each month solely from work as a freelance make-up artist so I suppose I do make a good living from it. To succeed in any competitive industry I think you need to love what you.  Whichever aspect of make-up that you decide to go into I think you have to have enthusiasm and passion to make it work.  It can be a tough industry sometimes with long hours and it can be hard work lugging all the make-up kit around, on your feet all day working to tight deadlines but each time I go on a job I feel so blessed to be doing a job that I love.

How did you get into the industry?

By mistake... …..

I could say I always knew I wanted to be a make-up artist but that would be a lie…. I fell into make -up purely by accident. I suppose looking back I have always been the one within my group of friends that would be the designated hair/make-up person but I never thought of it for a career. I studied Fashion and when I left I worked in a buying office. My friend was getting married and couldn’t find anybody to do her make-up how she wanted it, she begged me to help and I found the word YES slipping from my lips.

As the wedding approached I thought what have I let myself in for and panicked so booked onto a short make-up course at LCF so I would be better prepared. It was there within the piles of MAC make-up that I fell in love and thought I want to do this EVERY day.  I then got a job at MAC cosmetics, followed by a full make-up course at North West Media Make Up School (website) before studying hairdressing and that’s about it.

When I first started I worked a lot for free. The thing I learnt about this period in my career was to only work for free when it’s beneficial for YOU.  At the beginning I wanted to do make-up and took every opportunity to progress.  I worked with lots of photographers to build a portfolio. In this industry I believe your portfolio sells you. If your portfolio is weak it doesn’t matter how many qualifications you have you will not find much work. When I had a small portfolio I had a website built. I think it’s important to have a website as most people do and it gives potential clients a way to view your work quickly and efficiently.

After that I started to look for work locally as all these things cost money and I had to start making some CASH ££££$$$$$$. I started by doing a lot of bridal work. I enjoy meeting brides and found that it was well paid and with the hair skills I have I was able to cater full make-up and hair.  During this period of time I started to get more enquiries through my website for media work and was able to start making more contacts. My work at the moment is a mixture of media assignments and make-up for individuals and I find this works well for my lifestyle as I chose the hours I work. There are many ways to get into the make-up industry but that was experience.

How do you find work? Make-Up is such a competitive industry and it’s too difficult to find work.

Many of you that have contacted me for advice tell me they have left  make-up artist courses at college and are finding it near impossible to find work. Every year there are new make-up artists qualifying in make-up and many of them find it hard to find work. It can be quite overwhelming to think of it in terms of how many make-up artists are competing for the same jobs but I have always thought about it slightly differently. When I walk along the road and see billboards I think there was a make-up artist involved in that photo-shoot. If you think of every advertisement, commercial, TV Show, Editorial, Fashion Show etc. produced in the UK then that is a lot of available work. If you are good at what you do, are reliable, apply yourself  in every job and work hard to put yourself in front of people that can hire you then there is no reason that you won’t get work.

I don’t live in a big city and find in hard to find work locally?

Where you live will affect the kind of work that is available to you.  In terms of Media Work you are better placed to accept assignments if you live in a city that has a lot of production companies, ad agencies etc. In the UK that would probably be the bigger cities such as London or Manchester. In The US it would be most likely to be LA or New York.  This does not however mean that you can’t succeed as a make-up artist if you don’t live in those areas. There will be media jobs outside the big cities; you may have a TV production company that is local to you that you can pursue opportunities within. The key is to do your research. Find out what is going on in your area and how you can become involved. It may be cost effective for you to travel to bigger cities for work but even if you can only work locally there always work available to you. The bridal market grows year on year and many brides require a make-up artist. If you are able to become known for bridal make-up then that can be a very lucrative market to work within. This also applies to the whole special occasion make-up market which includes proms, hen nights, graduations etc.

How did you build your kit and know which products to buy?

If there is one thing I love to do that is shop for make-up. I can’t get enough of the stuff. Building my kit took me a while and is still a work in progress. I like to try different products and work out what is the best fit for me as a make-up artist. When I first started out I had a lot of MAC make-up in my kit. I still use quite a bit of MAC but I have discovered other brands such as Make-Up Forever, OCC cosmetics, Nars, Yaby.  Many of these brands offer a professional discount and also produce make-up artist palettes which are great for make-up artists. It can take a while to build a make-up kit but it’s an investment.

Do you have any advice for aspiring make-up artists?

Practice, Practice, Practice.. and Practice more...Keep your improving and  updating your skills and make-up knowledge.. Also hair skills in my opinion are important. Being able to offer hair and make-up services will widen the jobs that you can take...

Do you every need assistants?

I do have opportunities for assistants occasionally so if you are interested get in touch and I will add you to my list ( or tweet me any questions. (@ruthmarcella)