what do i charge as a freelance makeup artist

What Do I Charge as a Freelance Makeup Artist?

by Holly James
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Recently I got a few emails from readers who are MUA’s getting started in Freelance work, and wanted to know— what the heck do you start charging your clients?

This is a very difficult subject to approach, because let’s face it– not all MUA’s are alike. Each artist has their own style, and strengths. The same can be said for the type of work, or clients you can come across in the field. Some may be brides, some may be friends, some may be elderly and some may be kids. Some may need makeup for a number of other things and occassions– Drag, Prom, Halloween, Dance, Theatre, editorial etc.

Although I do consider myself a MUA, I don’t think I know everything on makeup out there or that I have more talent than anyone else, or that I have the enough experience to qualify me for every makeup job out there. So I feel very humbled by this particular quesiton. When I first started, and even on ocassion now, I can feel intimidated sometimes- putting myself out there and worrying about whether a client will be happy…. or horrified by the work I’ve done. Not every person I’ve done make up on was 100% satisfied, and that’s the truth. I strive to become better, but this is where I am at right now, and that’s something you have to be okay with. Failure is the only way to success!

As far as advice goes, I’ll tell you what I did, for my first makeup job, ever….

I asked myself:

  1. On a scale from 1-10 how talented and knowledgeable do you (honestly) think you are?
  2. How much would YOU pay yourself to do your makeup for (bridal, costume etc.)?
  3. What is too little to charge for your work hourly, and what is too much (at this point)?

For both these questions, I considered two major factors:  TIME & COMMUNICATION SKILLS.

As far as the two major factors just mentioned, you always have to consider other things than talent alone, such as how you interact with people. Communication skills are a lot more important than you may think they need to be. Think of this— if you were a bride on one of the most important and exciting days of your life, would you want a robot doing your makeup in silence? Probably not. Would you pay them a lot? Probably not.
Providing a service, doesn’t mean only being good at what you do, but also being good with people. TRUST ME, with time, this gets much easier. I was so nervous with my first client, that I was shaking… Good thing I didn’t poke out her eye! LOL

The other major factor is time management, and speed. No one wants to be sitting in a makeup chair for 1/2 hour for you to do their lips.

I know that with enough time, I could do some pretty amazing stuff. But, when you’re doing makeup for an occasion, or on a time constraint, it can be difficult to do your best work if you’re not experienced. After working with multiple clients, you’ll be able to get into a routine (***a big tip is to be organized and have an idea before hand of what you’re doing) and as always…. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!

Another MAJOR thing to consider is the cost of products or any other expenses for the job— for example buying a new foundation, or better yet, making one for a bride. It would be silly to charge someone $20 for a makeover, when the foundation itself cost $40, right?

In fact it would be RIDICULOUS to charge $20 in general. You should be charging a professional rate if you hope to make this an actual career. If you’re just starting out, you can of course charge a portfolio-rate or work for trade to build up your book. But you will eventually need to figure out your costs of running your freelance business- which ultimately is the crux for what you should be charging. I have made zilch on many makeup applications and have made upwards to $500 on a makeup (yep. one makeup application). Knowing your market and managing your cost of business is a huge part of working for yourself and making sure you’re actually EARNING money and not losing it.

If you’re doing a booking that is for bridal or some kind of stage-performance, I would always suggest a down-payment first (30-50%) and a consultation (always bring a face chart so you can replicate the look again later (you can check out my fave chart here), a camera and of course any pictures the bride has for inspiration or “the look” she wants). Some artists charge a trial fee, which I recommend when doing bridal. This can range in price but I wouldn’t suggest going less than half of your full price for the trial on the chance they cancel for the final day. 

There is so much more when it comes to figuring out your prices– especially when you’re new, but I hope this helped out some of you in deciding/getting started in how to figure out costs. There are market averages out there, and there are probably makeup artists in your locale who are getting paid $10/hr to $500/hr for their work. I always suggest looking at your current market for comparisons in price, but don’t let another artist’s pricing determine yours!

Stay tuned for more makeup biz tips!

Cheers Beauties!


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