It's probably been more than a year now that I've had this idea swirling around in my head of creating a resource for up and coming makeup artists.
I've had an internal struggle, though, about how to go about sharing it. Should I write a book? Make it as a means of secondary income for all my years of experience and expertise? Or should I draft it as a free resource to assist young ladies with ways to build their business that no one helped me with? In the end, I decided on the latter.
But, before I give you the goods. I want to tell you a story.
When I first started doing makeup, I made the decision to reach out to a highly experienced, talented makeup artist I looked up to. She had done my makeup as a model many times, so we knew each other fairly well. I reached out to her one day offering to pay her a consulting fee to pick her brain about how to start and build a business as a freelance makeup artist. I thought it would be great, because she was in a completely different market, so we wouldn't be directly competing with one another (that tidbit is important!). I will NEVER forget her response, "You're the reason why people won't pay for a good makeup artist. All of you want-to-be makeup artists are undercutting the market place." And that was it. Nothing else. I was stunned, shocked, and more than anything, deeply hurt.
I tell you this story to remind you how important it is at any level in your business to remain kind. Community over competition will get you a lot farther overall in your business. So, if you stop reading here, just remember, be kind and courteous, always.
Okay, now for the good stuff!
1. Use hashtags and location. I often see many service based freelancers who misuse hashtags when posting on Instagram. For example, if I post a photo of a beautiful face of makeup, I will likely hashtag #raleighmakeupartist instead of #prettymakeup, because when clients are searching for a makeup artist in their area, the hashtag #prettymakeup is only going to get lost in the millions of other photos using the same hashtag. At the very least, #raleighmakeupartist gives potential clients a location to find me and what I do, so they can hire me. On the other hand, #prettymakeup may be used by other makeup artists to comment on and appreciate your work, so it's not a total loss, but you get the idea. Using a location on each and every Instagram story is really great to be featured on a city's story --gaining you double, sometimes triple the views. Adding a location to each post is also highly effective. Let's say I wander over to the search bar and I'm tagged in Raleigh, North Carolina. My post will show up in the query for anyone looking for Raleigh, NC based results. Once again, you're widening your audience.
2. Link all of your social media. This may seem counter intuitive, but you'd be surprised how many small businesses only focus on one social media profile. And that's perfectly okay; however, by linking your account, you can focus on the social media engine you are best at while simultaneously sharing that content on other sites. This keeps all of your social profiles fresh, revolving, and new to continue to gain followers and exposure. Clients are way more likely to hire you if you have a strong presence online and look like you manage the business well. Each social media site tends to have it's own specific audience, too, so by having multiple profiles, you're reaching a larger demographic.
3. Participate in styled shoots. This tidbit I would recommend more so for earlier on in your business, because as you tend to get busier, it does get hard to find time for pro-bono styled shoots. With styled shoots, you will likely get featured on a blog or get published, so that's ideal for increasing credibility. You also tend to meet numerous new vendors or models local to the area beefing up your network almost instantaneously. Styled shoots are still great for doing something fun and creative once you're established, but just be sure that you are able to have input into the makeup or hair aesthetic to get something fresh out of it! Did I mention you will also get stunningly gorgeous images from styled shoots for use on your website and marketing? Be sure to always credit people accordingly.
4. Utilize sites like Staff Me Up, Wedding Wire, and Thumbtack. When I first started, I used Thumbtack for about a year. It really helped me to build my client base while simultaneously fleshing out my client intake process, my rates, and building my experience working on clients. I will say, though, most people on Thumbtack are price shopping. Wedding Wire and The Knot are awesome for wedding referrals. They both have a review based system you can build up as you book clients to add validity to your business. Staff Me Up is a strong resource for production work. On average, I would book about three jobs per year off of the site, but they were always two-three day full day rate jobs. You can't ask for anything better! There are many more sites like these, I'm sure, but those are the ones I am the most familiar with. A simply Google search will you give some more resources.
5. Cold call wedding professionals. In the modern day, we cold e-mail, but you get my drift. When I first started, I emailed wedding photographers as well as event planners to introduce myself and offer my work either pro-bono or at a reduced rate to give them an idea of what my talents are, how I work, my professionalism, etc. Eventually, once I gained a portfolio, I also contacted wedding venues to inquire about being added to their preferred vendor lists. With this simple technique alone, I built many quality, wonderful relationships with vendors over the years. A lot of them are still good friends to this day!
6. Hire a professional designer. I understand that spending a small fortune on a branding package right out of the gate of starting a business isn't ideal, but it is single handedly the most important thing you'll ever invest in for your business (other than your makeup, of course!). When you are able to afford to do it, do it right. Hire a graphic design and branding team. They will help you focus in on your why, solidify your brand, create a cohesive story for your business, help you maximize your SEO, and so much more. (I particularly love Native State Design!)
7. Reach out to agencies. I didn't become represented by an agency until I had been doing makeup for a couple of years. Certainly you don't need an agency to become successful as a makeup artist, but they definitely have klout and sway with larger clients who have much bigger budgets. While they will take their cut, likely you will be booked more frequently and at a higher rate, so it all works out well. Plus, you get to work on some pretty neat projects in the process and meet a ton of people!
8. Blog/Vlog. You don't have to blog or vlog every day or become a beauty blogger, but the idea is that you become well known as a leader in your industry. Blogging gifts you with SEO goodness for your website, but also strengthens your credibility and knowledge as a makeup artist.
9. Network with other makeup artists. Obviously, you'll meet other makeup artists and hairstylists along the way, but when you're building your business, be sure to reach out and say hi. Offer to meet up for a coffee. Coffee dates allow you to introduce yourself, get to know other local artists, and give you a resource for people to refer when you're not available. It is also helpful when you have a large wedding party to know reliable, talented individuals you could hire out. A main source of my business comes from referrals from other trusted, beloved makeup artists! It's truly #communityovercompetition.
10. Work for a makeup counter. I personally have never worked for a counter, but I have many friends who have. They tout that the experience working on all kinds of people is invaluable. An added bonus is cultivating relationships with these clients, so when you go freelance, they have someone to reach out to for makeup artistry. Secondly, you'll be meeting many other artists working at a counter or makeup shop. Lastly, you'll gain first hand knowledge of one particular product line, or multiple product lines, giving you a competitive edge on knowing what performs and what simply doesn't. I've also been told that depending on the brand you work for, the company may have amazing hands-on education and training for their artists at a small cost or no additional fee.
11. Attend networking events. I would primarily focus on women based networking events as that would be the majority of your business. These events could be anything from small business events to a local gal pals meet up. Either way, bring cards with you and be sure to present yourself in such a way that you look like a makeup artist!
12. Have an easy to navigate, professional looking website. Did you know that clients decide in an eighth of a second whether or not they want to hire someone based on their website?! Yes, that's right, AN EIGHTH OF A SECOND. That's like half of a blink. This tip parallels with #6, but if you haven't hired a designer and are managing your own site DIY, make your imagery the main focus. Your makeup is what people are paying for, and should be the first thing clients see when your page pops up. I have had major clients from other areas of the country tell me that one of the reasons they hired me was because I was the only makeup artist they could find locally that had a good, clear, and easy to navigate website. Don't lose work because your website looks amateur. When in doubt, I recommend the Squarespace platform for it's clean, modern templates.
13. Gain referrals from family members and friends. Often your very first clients will be friends of a friend. Treat them as though they are someone you've never met as to work through your processes for booking, communication, invoicing, payment, follow up, etc. After their service, I would follow up with a thank you card and ask for them to leave you a review via email or on your Facebook page. More reviews and ratings will make it easier when a potential client is looking at your website to decide to hire you based on what numerous other people have said about your work, personality, pricing, the experience, etc.
14. Have a PROFESSIONAL, WELL LIT PHOTO OF YOU ON YOUR WEBSITE. You are a walking billboard for your artistry! Mainly clients hire you, because they like the person you are and they enjoy the work you do as a makeup artist. If you don't have a photo on your website, it doesn't allow a potential client to gauge whether or not you'd be a good fit. Once again, you're instantly losing work. If you can't afford to hire a someone for new headshots, try offering to barter services!
15. Ask for reviews from previous clients to help work through processes. This tip is in the same beat as #13, though, it's slightly different. Months after a wedding, I will email a bride to ask her to leave a review on Wedding Wire or Facebook. This is two fold: first, it allow me to build accolades, and secondly, it gives me an insight into the client's experience. Clients will be honest about their experience, the application, and how you left them feeling overall. Reviews and feedback will allow you to gauge what areas in the business you could improve. The more satisfied clients are, the more likely they will refer you.
16. Send out thank you cards to clients with two business cards in the envelope. For no other reason than people don't send snail mail anymore, send a thank you card. I've had numerous clients email me after receiving a card telling me that I made their day! I always write something we talked about, what I loved about meeting them, and/or any other insightful tidbits into our time together. It stands out in the clients memory, yet it is so simple and thoughtful. The bonus is they also have your business card they could easily leave with someone who may need your services. Grassroots marketing, friends!
17. Utilize Facebook or Instagram Ads to drive traffic to your profile. I always have mixed feelings when it comes to paying for follows and likes, but I do think there is some advantage for paying for added exposure to drive traffic to your social media profiles and your website site early on. If you have a little bit of money to spend on marketing, Facebook and Instagram Ads will be the cheapest option to market yourself. You can set what content you want to advertise, for how long, and at what level of exposure (i.e. the more money you spend, the more visibility you receive on feeds of your intended audience!). Always do a little research before committing to anything, of course, to make sure it's the right fit for you!
18. Submit your resume to local advertising and production agencies. Throughout the years, as I continued to add to my resume, I would make a list of local video and photo production agencies as well as advertising houses. I would e-mail a personalized note, attach my resume, and great samples of my work. While sometimes your email will get lost in the clutter, or they already have their team of makeup and hair people they use, it doesn't hurt to see if there is a gap in the market you could fill with your services. I would only gain maybe one or two new clients depending on how many emails I sent out, but I was on people's radar. Other responses would include adding me to their referral sheet, which works, too. The only thing people can do is say no, so try anyway.
19. Get published. Raleigh currently has a few decent lifestyle and bridal publications. Some of them use agency artists, while others prefer to use local freelancers or vendors (especially if you work in the wedding industry, too!). Offering your services up for the next editorial or human interest piece is an easy way to obtain tearsheets. And who doesn't like holding a magazine in their hands that feature their hard work?!
20. Go to cosmetology school, aesthetics school, a certified makeup course, etc. Personally, I never went to cosmetology school or a makeup program, I'm entirely self taught. I chose not to go to school based on the fact that North Carolina has very limited education when it comes to makeup; however, it's a wise choice if you want to add to your service list by waxing, cutting hair, doing facials, what have you. It definitely doesn't hurt to have more tools in your brush belt. The resources and network of people you'll be intertwined with during your education will also be invaluable. Having the backing of a professional organization can give you a step up when finding clients right out of school and other opportunities that may not be readily available to a self-taught artist.
21. Follow like accounts on social media. I follow makeup artists and hairstylists around the world. I love to engage with them, comment on their work, and appreciate their style of artistry. In turn, they will do the same for you. Once in awhile, I will get a referral from a makeup artist in an entirely different market, because they know someone who knows someone who needs a makeup artist in Raleigh --go figure! You can do the same for them, too! If I'm following other professionals, photographers and the like, sometimes I'll see a call for a paid booking for a makeup artist in my area. Doesn't hurt to apply, especially if it's something that aligns with my brand and my personal aesthetic.
22. At first, offer to provide your work at a reduced rate to other professionals to showcase your skills and create a referral base from them. I would say at least fifty percent of my client base are referrals directly from photographers who value a great makeup artist and hairstylist. Much like cold calling wedding professionals, I highly encourage you to scour Google for like minded types of people you want to work with. For instance, I love boudoir makeup, so I made to sure to reach out to some women whose bios, work, and personalities I truly adored. (See my recent interview with kick butt boudoir photographer, Stacey Ingram!) As I've grown and become established, I now work consistently with three leading boudoir photographers across North Carolina. An idea of other types of professionals you could reach out to that may need your services include: salons (to see if they have a current makeup person or not!), blow dry bars, portrait, senior, commercial, and corporate photographers, local cosmetics companies, news stations, co-working spaces to host makeup lessons or classes, etc.
23. Dress professionally, be on time, and smile. As in any industry, it takes all kinds of kinds, but the thing I want you to know about becoming a makeup artist is that you provide more than just makeup: you provide an experience for your client! That is why they hire you and pay your going rate. There are many artists who have been fired or lost clients, because they simply couldn't look the part, be on time (or early!), and have a good countenance about them. Like I said before, be kind. Kindness, punctuality, and professionalism will take you a long way even if you are just starting out. I've had several clients over the years tell me they enjoy working with me, because I strive to provide a calming, relaxing experience and are a joy to be around.
24. Offer to shadow more established artists. These artists aren't just your network of ladies to refer when you're unavailable, these are the makeup artists who have been in the industry for decades. They are the most well known, experienced people in the marketplace. Offering to shadow them gives you a ton of insight and helps them out for larger weddings or bigger production projects. Be sure to be gracious and grateful if they do indeed allow you to assist them --they have a lot of klout and could potentially be your biggest referral in the years to come!
26. Word of mouth is king. People ask me how much I've spent on marketing over the years, and it's probably less than a hundred dollars. Ninety percent of my business is mouth to mouth referrals. Each time you are interfacing with a client, it is one more opportunity to do your best, show gratitude, and provide them with the most relaxing, enjoyable experience possible (while also looking fabulous!). People you've done makeup for will be your champions, your fan base, and your easiest marketing, so don't take advantage of that!
Whew! And that's it. Thanks for reading all of that. I know it was a lot of information, but feel free to book mark this page and refer back to it when you need to refresh your marketing ideas.
So, what was your biggest takeaway? Is there anything you're excited to implement in your business? Are you doing some of these things already? If so, what's working well for you? I would love to hear and I'm sure other artists would, too.