Why I refuse to work for free – and why you should too

You’d probably be amazed if I told you just how many people expect me to work for free. From regular special occasion clients, to corporate companies to brides and Halloween clients – the amount of people who expect a free favour or a huge discount is pretty unsettling, and I know it’s not just my business who’s suffering the wrath of the hagglers. This part rant part informative post will hopefully explain why I refuse to work for free – and why you should too.

Makeup artistry is a service that includes lots of products, tools, time and training to perfect. Just like photography or even building, it’s not just a service, it’s a craft. A form of art. Despite what people might think, makeup artists don’t sit around all day playing with makeup and picking and choosing when to work. Personally, I spend my days planning my business for the next year, meeting and making over old and new clients, running my social media accounts and PR, answering emails and making calls, writing fresh new content for my blog, keeping up with my accounts and of course, cleaning and re-stocking my kit. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Running a makeup artistry business (or any other business) isn’t cheap or easy. It takes a lot of motivation and confidence to run a business by yourself, and if you ever get sick, you aren’t going to get paid for the luxury of taking a day off to recover keeping snug and warm at home.

Do not work for free 1

I’ve touched on some of this before in a previous post about ‘Five Lies People Believe About Being Self Employed’, but after the influx of freebie hunters since that post, and the amount of related posts I’ve seen floating around the blogosphere on Petapixel and the like, I felt like I needed to reiterate a few points of my own too.

There are a few ways people will ask you to work for free, but here are a few of my favourites that I’ve personally encountered during my years of business…

“It’ll be great exposure for you and your business.”
First of all, you should never agree to work on the grounds of ‘great exposure’. All good intentions put to one side, sometimes even the best laid out advertising campaigns or events don’t produce the result everybody is looking for. At the end of the day, you’ve offered your services, your knowledge, your time and a portion of your products all for what? To be mentioned on a website or in a magazine? I have never paid to be namedropped or have my work featured anywhere because the truth is, I simply don’t agree with it and don’t think it’s good business sense. I’d prefer to be mentioned off my own merit and get work organically through other means. Sure, I might pay for my own advertising on Facebook from time to time, but that’s a conscious decision that I make myself without any bribery attached.


“Seen as we’re booking in for a double appointment, do we get a discount?”
Why would you think that by booking a double appointment, you would qualify for a discount? I’ll be using twice the amount of products, spending twice the amount of time with you and cleaning twice the amount of kit and brushes each time. Would you ask MAC if you could have a discount on an eyeshadow because you’re buying a lipstick at the same time? Try that at your peril.

“I’ve known you for ages so can you do my makeup for free?”
Absolutely not. This usually comes from people who don’t bother with you 90% of the time – only when they want a favour or don’t have anything else to do. This is a business and how I make my living, it’s not a sideline or a hobby, it’s my full time craft and I work damn hard at it. Of course, my loyal clients and family members will receive a discount at times, but if you have somebody cropping up from your past asking you to work for free, steer clear. Even my friends or family don’t ask me for a discount because they fully respect what I do and wouldn’t dream of asking for a freebie.

“We’ll give you a product to promote for us for free in turn for a blog post.”
PR companies frequently send me emails asking me to feature products they’re pushing on my blog. Sometimes the products are either unsuitable for my blog, not something that would suit my skin type for testing, or not something I believe my clients and readers would be interested in. In this case, I politely decline. However, I have occasionally accepted sponsored posts for my website’s blog. This is a tricky area, as while products don’t pay the bills, they do sometimes lead you to finding a great new product or building a mutual networking relationship with a great company. My advice? Tread carefully and don’t sell out for something you don’t truly believe in. Your readers will soon get wise to you if your blog is full of sponsored posts, and honestly, it appears like you’re just out for the freebies rather than to produce a good, honest review.

“I’ve found somebody who can do my makeup for £20, can you match that or do it cheaper?”
No. The amount and type of products that I use mean that charging £20 for a full makeover with lashes (and travelling to my client) wouldn’t be worth even getting out of bed for in a morning. Another one of those irritating questions I’m asked a lot for different monetary equivalents. My prices are as seen, to me, negotiation is like the gym. Not something I tend to enter into.

“You’re only doing face painting and the products are cheap so can I have discount?”
This came up at Halloween and made me very angry. First of all, I am not a face painter. I am a makeup artist that also works in prosthetics – not face painting. (By the way, I think face painters are incredibly talented and don’t receive half the credit that they deserve either. Look up Jordan Hanz if you love face painting, she is one of the most incredible artists I’ve ever seen). Second of all, I don’t use cheap face paint products that you’d find in a supermarket. All of my products, whether for Halloween or special occasion makeovers, are strictly professional. I use media grade makeup that is safe to use on skin, lasts well, applies beautifully and absolutely does not come cheap.

Never work for free if you're good at something

I thought it would be helpful to give a small list of the type of things I have to pay out for within my business, sometimes monthly to give my readers and idea of just how much goes into even a small business like my own:

  • Advanced training sessions to keep up to date with techniques and practices
  • Makeup products
  • Skincare products
  • Hygiene products (cotton buds, hand sanitiser, makeup brush cleaner)
  • Makeup brushes and equipment
  • Makeup cases/packaging for mobile appointments
  • Insurance cover
  • Professional memberships to companies or organisations in the industry
  • Website hosting
  • Mobile phone bill (I don’t use a landline for any client work)
  • Internet connection
  • Office stationary for client receipts
  • Electricity
  • Taxes (yes, just like everybody else, I’ve got to pay taxes)
  • Car maintenance (for mobile work)
  • Car insurance
  • Hotels/B&B’s (for mobile work which requires overnight stays)

There’s a time in business when you realise that not everybody is your client or has the knowledge to understand exactly what goes into your craft. The best thing that you can do is to politely educate them on your services, and if they still don’t respect the fact that you deserve to be paid, then move on. They’re not the type of client you want or need. I can’t stress how important it is to know your worth and give yourself the respect that you deserve in your own business. Always remember, quality is worth so much more than quantity.

© This post is copyright of Rachael Divers 2015.

Beauty. Fashion. Lifestyle.