Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ask OutInAPout:
How do I Become a Makeup Artist?

Recently one of my readers, Lissa, asked me a question that I thought justified more than a simple comment back. She said:

"i've been thinking about working towards becoming a makeup artist, but i don't even know the first step... do you have any words of encouragement for someone like me?"

Well, of course I do. I have to say, Lissa has actually taken the first step, possibly without even realizing it. Asking questions of makeup professionals, both online via blogs and YouTube channels, as well as of those that work the stores and salons in your own area, is one of the best ways to start getting your feet wet.

Your first step in becoming a professional makeup artist is to consider what your ultimate goal is. If you love to teach, you may want to be a trainer for a major cosmetics brand, or maybe an instructor at a school of cosmetology. If you love the hands-on aspect, you can specialize in bridal techniques, high fashion work (also referred to as "editorial"), or makeup for stage and screen. The way you start should be influenced by where you want to end up.

Many makeup artists, myself included, began by working for a cosmetic retailer. Options include counters at department stores, free standing stores like MAC or Bare Escentuals, or beauty mega-marts like Ulta and Sephora. Working retail will help you develop your people skills and gain knowledge while you acquire practical experience. While each line trains differently, you should expect the bulk of your training to be hands-on at work. Your manager will most likely be the person you train with the most, though you may be visited by the company's trainer or even your manager's supervisor. Most cosmetic lines also provide periodic "off-site" training; both beginner's classes to teach basic knowledge and techniques, as well as seasonal seminars that are designed to update you on the latest trends.

Getting a job in cosmetics retail may be more or less competitive depending on where you live, but don't assume that lack of experience will automatically rule you out. Some of the best makeup artists I ever trained came to me with no experience. Having said that, if it's your intent to go the retail route, don't limit your prospects by only applying to your favorite lines. Yes, it is easier to sell something you love, but remember: your goal here is to learn and gain experience. Keep an eye out for new retailers and lines opening in your area; often the staffing requirements for a new store opening are so high that managers tend to be more open to training someone who may have little or no experience. Other good times to apply are a month or two before peak business periods; typically Christmas time and right before the line's free gift (usually twice a year). The need for employees goes up dramatically during these periods, so it's a great time to get your foot in the door. Though peak times aren't ideal for training, if you prove yourself dependable and eager to learn, it's likely you'll get to stick around and be trained in the months to come.

If you want to work in a spa or salon, taking classes at an accredited school of esthetics or cosmetology is a must. Licensing requirements for makeup artists vary from state to state, so check with your state's Board of Cosmetology find out what the requirements are for your area. Cosmetology programs focus on hair, but provide a general source of study that also includes nails and skincare. Estheticians, on the other hand, specialize in skincare and beauty treatments only. Though both programs touch on makeup application, it is not the focus of either, so unless you are interested in the other areas of study, beauty school is not necessarily going to help in your endeavor to become a makeup artist. I should mention that many states require even freelance makeup artists to be licensed in one of these areas, so again, check your local regulations.

If you feel that a lifetime of practice has equipped you with the skills you need to go out on your own as a makeup artist and you have no desire for further education, your first step is to develop a professional portfolio. If your talent as a photographer rivals your talent as a makeup artist, you may consider taking your own photos, though I highly recommend working with a professional photographer. Some may even be willing to work in trade- you donate your services to him/her in exchange for proofs of the photographs. Make sure the photographer's work is appropriate for showcasing your talents- if your photographer is unable or unwilling to get close-up, detailed shots of your work, the pictures are of no benefit to you.

Your portfolio should showcase your skill and be as wide-ranging as possible. It's OK to focus on the type of looks that define your style and speak to your desired clientele, but of course, the wider your range, the more appeal you will have. The point of a portfolio is to exhibit your flexibility and creativity, so it's vital to include men and women of different nationalities, as well as a range of looks from soft and natural to avant-garde.

Take your portfolio to advertising agencies, bridal magazines or local photographers- anyone who will agree to look at it. In my opinion, when you're first starting out, the more exposure the better. You may even approach local working makeup artists about assisting them- this is a great way to see how the business works from the inside and learn as you go. Don't expect to start booking and making money right away- this is a competitive field where other artists are often protective of their "territory". Be tenacious and passionate and above all, never stop learning and developing your skills.

Good Luck!


Unknown said...

i just now got to this post, and i must say i'm amazed! thanks for your response and detailed information. it seems a bit overwhelming, but i'll just have to take it step by step. :) thanks again!!

Unknown said...

No problem Lissa- I'm always happy to answer any questions y'all have!

Don't let all the info overwhelm you, this should be a fun venture for you- show your passion and personality and you'll be on your way!

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