Can you do my makeup for free?

In a word, no.

This is something I get asked all the time as a makeup artist, although not quite so bluntly. All too often I get asked to attend shoots for free or on a time for prints basis. Given, while I was still training in makeup artistry I used to work for free quite a lot and would find myself rushed off my feet with 12 clients to make over in a few hours. It was hard work and it taught me one thing: working for free was something I couldn’t afford to do anymore.

I spent time and money travelling, buying products and even rallying around giving lifts to people, and although I don’t mind this the majority of the time, there comes a point where you really need to start expecting payment for the hard work you put in.

Working on the lovely Lydia at the studio

Working on the lovely Lydia at the studio

Any makeup artist knows that time invested in a shoot, no matter how big or small, means using up our quality products that we spend a lot of money on maintaining or replenishing every so often. It also means wear and tear on our brushes and more time spent afterwards thoroughly cleaning our kit and making sure our brushes are spotless for the next job that comes along. It’s not simply just a matter of rocking up on set with a kit, applying the makeup then merrily skipping away home again. It’s a process and an art form that cannot be rushed along and that must be done properly to obtain the best results.

Don’t get me wrong, should Charlotte Tilbury call me up out of the blue and ask me to help her out on the catwalk makeup or La Chapelle needs an MUA at short notice, I’d be there in a shot, because this kind of work would advance my portfolio from what it already is and give me more valuable experience of working with some of the people whom I admire.

It always astounds me when people contact me asking me to travel miles to shoots where the model is being paid, and so is the photographer, but they “don’t have the budget for the makeup.” I think this is terrible for two reasons; for one, it really devalues something that is quite essential on a shoot – you can have the most gorgeous clothes, the best hair stylist and the most amazing photographer, but throw in a bad makeup artist and you may as well kiss that winning shot goodbye. And for two, it’s extremely insulting on somebody who has dedicated years to training and perfecting the art of makeup.

Even the smallest jobs mean wear and tear on brushes

Even the smallest jobs mean wear and tear on brushes

I’ve found a few things have really helped me in gaining recognition and building up my reputation in the makeup business, I’ve highlighted a few below that I hope will help you too.

Training and qualifications

Today, there are so many amazing makeup artists who have never received formal training and are in top positions right now. You don’t necessarily need a qualification to be a makeup artist, but it helps. I trained at The Beauty Academy where I received my Complete Makeup Artistry diploma – I found that this gave me a good grounding in makeup and also gave me knowledge on skin types and how best to treat them.


I gained most of my experience by working at my Dad’s photography studio, Divers Photography, and working for Illamasqua. Throughout my time at Illamasqua, I was trained by their fabulous team and the sheer amount of customers we got allowed me to experiment on a variety of different skin types, eye shapes and lip shapes. It also taught me how to deal with very different personalities!

At the studio, I made models over for Boudoir shoots which gave me a good understanding of how makeup comes across on camera, it also taught me how to apply makeup precisely due to the detail the cameras pick up. I’m fortunate to have an extremely loving, caring Dad who’s all too happy to bring a model in for me to make up so I can practice my work – he then does the photography and together we can critique the results.

Unpaid work

From time to time, you will be asked to work for free. It happens, and sometimes it’s okay to accept this. For example, if you truly feel that the work you are going to undertake will help you to develop professionally or improve your portfolio, then by all means, take it into consideration. However, if the results will be amateur at best and will not benefit you, it is probably better to politely decline.

Social Media and Advertising

Social media is your best friend in Makeup Artistry. See it as free advertising that reaches millions of people worldwide. You never quite know who is reading your blog or looking at your facebook or twitter pages. It’s worth uploading images of your work onto your social media channels and networking with the people who share your similar interests. A note of caution: if you do intend to use your social media as your virtual shop window, it’s important to uphold your professional image and ensure that you don’t share or write anything that can be deemed as offensive to anybody. I prefer to keep my facebook page mostly professional and I am always aware that companies that I want to work for may one day come across my page, and I want my image to be a positive one. Sure, keep your personality, but make sure to keep your integrity.

Making a profile on a website such as PurplePort is also great as it’s a virtual portfolio and social networking site in one.

Be approachable

Make sure that your potential clients feel that they can approach you easily. This works in two ways; number one, ensure your contact details are displayed prominently and are easy to find on your social media pages. Number two, be nice! Having a beautiful personality will mean that people will want to be around you. Make sure to always be polite and courteous and once again, treat people with the respect that you would wish to be treated with. There’s nothing nicer than feeling valued.

One of the beauty images we shot of Lydia at the Divers Photography studio

One of the beauty images we shot of Lydia at the Divers Photography studio

Setting up in makeup artistry can be a daunting task and sometimes it can take a while to see the results of your hard work, but it’s worth remembering that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. And if it’s worth doing right, it’s worth being paid for.

© This post is copyright of Rachael Divers 2013.

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