Starting a new career or a new business is incredibly exciting. And no matter how prepared we are there will always be situations we didn’t see coming. These situations can be very rewarding experiences or valuable life and business lessons. Becoming a Makeup Artist is no exception, quite the opposite. As it is in life, looking back there may be some things we’d love to chat about with our younger selves. What would that be? Words of caution or inspiration?

So we at MAB thought why not ask Makeup Artists exactly this question:

What is the one thing you wish you’d known before you began working in the business?

Even if you are not new in the business, I bet you want to know what kind of answers we got. But before we dive into the details, we here at Makeup Artist & Beauty (MAB) want to express our appreciation to all the Makeup Artists, who shared their personal stories so generously. These are exactly the pieces of advice we want to share to inspire you and the entire community of Makeup Artists.

Let’s start with an observation.

This Is Not A Walk In The Park

I received many responses that read like the following three.

Maria: I’ve retired. After six years of not making it, I gave in. Took my site down a few weeks ago.

A few things I wish I knew earlier on: It’s about luck, not talent, it’s a gay man’s world, and favors are not repaid, even by your closest friends. That’s what I learned during my six-year career.

Lisa: I can’t really answer that question as there are so many things ….all ones I don’t really want to talk about.

Mary: This job has taken over my life. I knew nothing. Right now, I am just overwhelmed and exhausted, I really cannot tell you…

Are you made for it?

Joel Harlow | Joel Harlow Designs

There are many things. Not the least of which are the stresses of the job, or the demands it makes on personal relationships.
The requirements to succeed are also much more than simply knowing your makeup artistry. You need to be a businessman, negotiator, psychologist, designer, among a variety of other things.
I think the thing I wish I knew before entering into this job is not so much for myself but for my loved ones…I wish there was a way to make the hours needed to achieve my professional goals compatible with the hours needed to maintain a healthy personal life as a son, dad and husband.

Latonya Green |

The one thing I wish I knew would be that there is no such thing as a set schedule as a Freelancer. You need to make yourself available 24hrs a day. In order to keep regular clients, I have had to cancel on so many family functions, etc. if you don’t make yourself available they will find another makeup artist who is. Plus I have two young children, so I have to have a nanny on standby for last minute bookings. It’s very hard to make plans for yourself.

It’s Worth it!

Kimberly Steele |

I wish I’d known how many awesome adventures my artistry would enable me to be part of… I’d have started even sooner!!!!

Carl Ray |

One thing I wish I would have known before I began working in the makeup artist industry is the power of makeup… Makeup artistry allows me to help my clients see & feel their own beauty and witness the confidence makeup provides.

Pavy |

I wish I knew how impactful makeup artistry was for someone getting made up, and the fact that I didn’t have to be a celebrity MUA or a spokesperson for a brand to change peoples lives through makeup artistry.



I wish I knew to go back to school! I don’t work as a makeup artist anymore. It wasn’t for me.
Follow your passions and you will be just fine.

Deborah Paulmann |

I have been in the TV/Film business for 25+ years and so much has changed that I truly don’t even know how to answer your question.
But, because I was the last Union/Makeup Apprentice at NBC-TV years ago, I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have had that education from such experienced PROFESSIONALS in Film and Television. This has long faded as have the amount of “true professionals” in our industry…
So, long story short I think I was would say that while I am so very grateful for the career I have had, and for the shows I have worked on that provided me with access to others from whom I learned so much, I would advise that all professionals always strive to continue education in any ways that they can. We need all humbly stay teachable!

Emma Farrell |

I wish I had known that after leaving Makeup School you are only at the beginning of your makeup education, and there is so much more to learn!

Melody Tinoy | Facebook

I wished I knew that there are other makeup artists who would try their best to put you down. I was never envious of the success of my makeup artists friends even when I was building my career, primarily because I was filled with support, guidance and encouragement from them. They helped me to get where I am today and for that, I am forever grateful to them.

However, I encountered others who, rather than appreciate my craft and share tips with each other, highlighted mistakes and enunciate failures. I knew better now than allow them to weaken my confidence. Almost 4 years in the business and I can say I have grown to a much better person and artist. At the moment, I am taking bridal Masterclass course in my country. No one is too professional for a skills update, don’t you think?


Jaday |

The one thing I wish I would have known before I began working in this business is to keep it simple when it comes to the makeup kit. I went crazy buying all those “must have products” and I spent way too much $. You really do not need that many things. Simplify your kit and learn to give different uses to one product.

I have learned that I can do a makeup look on an on-location photo shoot with just a handful of products. As you make your money, then you can invest some of it into your kit. It’s difficult for a lot of us to separate our love of makeup from the business of being a makeup artist, but it’s important to be smart with your spending.

Carolyn Berry |

It pays to invest in your portfolio. Once you have done a few shoots for trade and you know your work is looking good on the camera contact your local beauty photographers and pay them a few times to shoot your portfolio. Once you have amazing images, you will be able to attract more high-quality photographers to work with. Also, amazing photographers have access to agency models which will make your job as a makeup artist easier in terms of the quality of images you will receive.

Also, invest in your kit, study from everyone you can and working for exposure is only a good idea in the very very beginning of your career. When you are sure, you are producing high-quality clean beauty work do not be afraid to charge clients the going rate. It may take a few years to be at this level, but if you are persistent, it is a very rewarding career.

Lastly remember that each woman has her own idea of what is beautiful to her. Do not feel offended if she would like less liner, more blush, etc. Your artistic vision is what landed you the client in the first place, making her feel good about herself is ultimately the most important part of the job and will keep her coming back to you and referring you to her friends. Referrals will keep your business very busy if a client is happy with your work, just ask her to tell her friends.

It’s a Business

Living off your passion sounds like a dream. But doing something for fun and doing it to pay the bills are two entirely different worlds.

Rosalina Da Silva |

I wish I knew more about the business side of being a makeup artist. It’s very important to see your art and passion as a business and run it accordingly.

Thecla Luisi |

I think there are many things that each artist has to learn to navigate their way in the business and to have a great work ethic is paramount!

Angie Gurule

Comment: Tecla was also so nice to ask her friend and colleague Angie Gurule:

Loyalty: you need to have people that you can count on and have your back.

Lena Chavez |

I wish I would have known how to write up a contract and invoice. One more thing (among many others) was that I wish I would have known that I was going to hustle like crazy on many levels and have fun while doing it!

License Questions

Jen Murphy |

Honestly, I wish I would have know that being a freelance makeup artist (in almost or every state) requires a license. I had been working as a freelance makeup artist in Colorado for over 10 years when a jealous makeup artist with a license turned me in to the State of Colorado’s Regulatory Agency. It was humiliating to get a Cease and Desist order in the mail as if I was some common criminal.

But worse than that, I was required to quit working as a makeup artist while I went to school and got my license. I was supporting my teenage daughter at that time as a single mom, and it was a terrifying period to get through. Imagine not being able to do the only thing you’ve done for money for over 10 years. It was a short 4 months to get through the Aveda Institute of Denver and then a few weeks wait to take the tests for my license, but it was an intense and stressful time. I don’t recommend finding this out the hard way!

Comment: The entire licensing thematic is a topic no one enjoys spending time on. Business regulations are complex and often certain rules only cover a part of the business so that even with the best intentions an individual requirement may be overlooked. A lot of the information that “floats” through the internet is false or only true under certain conditions. An example is “a freelance makeup artist doesn’t need a cosmetology or esthetician license to operate” which is only true in few states. Because we want to make it better, we contacted all U.S Cosmetology Boards about details, you can find the answers here.

Finding Your Niche

Carleen McIlveen |

How much money I could really make doing weddings…I would have started my business professionally a long time ago!

Sydney Robinson |

The one thing I wish I’d know before going into the business was the difference in requirements between different fields of makeup artistry. To get your foot in the door doing movies and TV out in LA, you have to put in many years of intern-type work (like getting coffee for a team, doing the dirty work, no real hands-on makeup experience, just observing).

Doing theatre is a lot about who you know in the industry, and it’s similar with beauty and print work. Unions can help but also hinder what type of work one is able to take, which is why I abstain from joining any at the moment. I freelance as well as working for MAC Cosmetics part-time, so I get to have my hand in all parts of this wonderful industry but I found out most of the limitations from other artists who’ve been doing this for longer than I have. I hope this helps someone else considering a career in makeup, because there’s a lot more than meets the eye.

Networking/Social Media

Lela Nguyen |

Being in the business for five years, I’ve learned a lot through trials and errors. If I want to be in this business for a long time, I need to value my health above all. It’s an awarding career and there are a lot of perks from it but if you don’t value your health, it won’t be a long lasting career. Another thing that comes to mind is my presences and how I communicate and come across to others.

Every person can potentially be a client or who can refer a client. Being able to network with others in the industry is important. I was always very shy around photographers especially. I focus on wedding makeup and hair. From my experience, wedding venues are booked first and then photographers. The best source of business can be through photographers for they refer you to their clients. Keeping business cards stacked and on hand is a must. Lastly, follow through with the photographers to get pictures of your clients, in this case the brides. That way you built a professional looking portfolio.

Joan LincolnFacebook

Position yourself in multiple markets and demographics. Price yourself where your talent and reputation will complement the other. Meet and network with others until your name is recognized when you introduce yourself! AND YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE… And GIVE you must, to kick start the business!!!

Stephanie Hernandez | Instagram

And my answer is that I wish I knew how much time it took to get myself out in the public. And how social media is one of the things that can help you.

I have worked hard on being an artist that is known by a trademark look. I searched for the right outlet and found that special effects is my niche. And I was blessed to have someone share my look on Reddit. And overnight everyone was talking about my work.

So I wish I knew earlier the power of it all. And how I should post all my work for everyone to see because you never know who will see it and spread the word!

Amy O

This all sounds good ….I wish I would have known how to network better in the beginning 10 years ago before all the social media networking which has caused a major increase in my business and before everyone was considered a professional makeup artist.

Final Pieces of Advice

Maile Bello |

The one thing that I wished I knew would be that doing hair and makeup in this industry really helps an artist out. I went to school for esthetics which is great but being a licensed cosmetologist gets you even further in some cases. Sometimes clients would rather hire someone who does both hair and makeup because it is easier.
Other than that my journey through this industry has been wonderful and fun!

Chellie Usher

I think young beauty artist sometimes do not realize the amount of business and communication skills that are needed.
You really have to know how to market yourself even if you’re in a busy salon/company already. Also, just having “the gift of gab” is not enough if you’re wanting to work and hold on to, a higher-end clientele.
You must have your etiquette and people skills mastered or you will lose the attention of your client that have very high expectations.

Having great makeup artist and hairstyling skills are very important, but will not matter if you bore, offend, or irritate your clients. Treat them like royalty, not from your standpoint but theirs. And this is different for every client. Find out what is important to them and how they expect to be treated as a paying client. Stay sensitive to their cues, eye contact, expressions, even their fake politeness. Learn to read between the lines, read your client, be sensitive to their needs. And remember, it’s all about them, not you.
Read some communication books, study marketing skills. Be a well-rounded business person. And never stop learning.

Laura Buck |

Believe in yourself and don’t worry about the competition. So many people warned me about the competition when I first started, but as long as you focus on what you’re doing all of that fades away anyway. If you want to be an editorial makeup artist don’t expect to get paid very much the first few years, but if you’re doing it because you love it, you’ll be putting in your hours and on a good path. Working at a makeup counter part time is an easy way to get experience, get lots of free product and get paid early on. Reach out to other people, help to build strong teams.

Annah |

The one thing I wish I’d known when starting in the makeup industry is how important skin care is. Every makeup artist should know the clients’ skin inside out and be able to recommend products on a personal need basis.

What About You?

Which of the answers resonates with you? Would you like to add something?  What is the one thing you wish you’d known before you began working in the business? If you haven’t started yet, what are the biggest questions you have about the business? Please share in the comments!

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