MakeUp Artists: When Should You Work for Free?

(Photo credit: Jayne Mansfield?)

(Author's Note:  This post is meant to open a discussion forum amongst make up artists/free lancers.  To my macho male readers, this may be quite too gurly, so you may skip reading this post and go straight to the diagram provided below)

This post is for one of the readers, Capri, a make-up artist  who wrote me about a tricky situation where a client wants her to work for free as a favor to the client- in exchange for introduction to her "A-list" friends.  Hmmm... sounds very J-Lo to me.

I can do my own make-up but I am no make-up artist.  So this post is from a point of view of a beauty company client posing as "Dear Aunt Rowena".

I sometimes engage in small chit-chat with my makeup artists during photo shoots and through them I learn things about the make up artistry trade.  So this post is a compilation of little snippets of wisdom (and gossip) gained from those in between takes. 

THE BEAUTY SHOOT
A beauty shoot, even a minor one (minor model, local photographer, in house stylist/all around gofer, local makeup artist/hairdresser) sets us back at least 10,000€/day.

A beauty shoot has more stringent make up requirements than a fashion shoot so a lot depends on the make up artist.  It is often tricky to photoshop skin so we find other ways where to scrimp and will not try out a newbie make up artist.

HOW I SELECT MAKE UP ARTISTS
My Creative Director books make up artists through agencies, linked or same that handles models.  We only consider make up artists who have already a portfolio of professional published work in beauty. 

I judge a professional artist by what I call the "zero face".  That is, how well she can do a no-make up look that will stand the scrutiny of the extra high resolution camera.  (Imagine magnifying that picture a billion times for a billboard commercial).   

You see, it is fun and easy to be flamboyant and experimental in make up.  I have met a lot of make up artist divas (some of them a pain in the ass) who do work for actresses, tv, events, for fashion but I do not gauge them for the names they do-  as the beauty shoot is a league apart from hollywood.  

The zero face separates the pros from the hobbyists.

Even if you have assembled your portfolio, I need the reassurance of a published work in beauty.  If, worst case scenario, I have to work with a beauty makeup newbie, I would ask for a make up pre-prod trial prior to the shoot.

HOW I SELECT MODELS
Skin.  The better her skin, the easier it is for my make up artist to perfect the zero face, the shorter the make up time required.  So if you are a model called for a go-see, save yourself the trouble and do not put on make up, we will ask you to remove it anyway and we will be annoyed especially if we specifically asked you to come bare faced. 

For this reason, I want my models young.  A model more than 19 will already have a great disadvantage in terms of skin quality.  That and the fact that new models are still cheap.  I try to select those who have potential of making it big.  SO I pay them cheap and then ride on their popularity afterwards.  

There are other factors as well- if the focus is eye make up, i need to make sure i have a good lid surface to work on.  A lip campaign needs "Jolie" lips.  

If the campaign is global and I can use only one model, my best bet is a green eyed brunette as she cuts across regional barriers.

Not to forget, the x-factor, and the mood and attitude of the make up which contribute to other aspects.

A model who is undisciplined, would show up with a hangover, dehydrated on a shoot- i do not use again.

HOW TO GET STARTED : MAKE UP SCHOOL
Though some of the most successful make-up artists out there went to make-up school, almost all of them agree that this is not necessary.  

One particularly successful make up artist in fact scoffs at the most hyped hip British make-up artist school (the one owned by that model's sister) as she uses fingers to apply foundation in a professional shoot.  According to her, finger application for professional work just would't cut the grade.

I leave my make up artists alone when they do their magic (essential when you are dealing with the real pros) but I get to judge later if the results are crap.  They just call me in to see the end result.  So I couldn't really have a say on technique and I welcome an exchange of opinion here. 

SHOULD YOU STYLE HAIR AS WELL?
If my photo-shoot is major, spanning days and/or involving more than 1 model, we would have a separate hairstylist and makeup artist.  But for minor campaigns, I normally hire just one to do both hair and make-up.  

So if you are starting out in the business, knowing how to style hair is important as this will screen you out from a good bulk of projects.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
For minor shoots, I watch my budget and book someone local to avoid paying for airfare and hotel.
So it is important for you to be well located where most of the jobs are.

As you get to be a bigger make up artist, then this will be less of an issue.

HOW TO JUMP START YOUR CAREER
The opinion is resounding.  Start as an assistant to an established make-up artist.  Not necessary to be an expert right away as you will be there basically carrying stuff and cleaning brushes.

A good starting ground, they say, is during the fashion week - Paris, London, Milan, New York as they are normally short of manpower in these events.

Needless to say, networking and a good personality is essential to progress from there.

HOW MUCH IT PAYS
From what I remember, we pay 1200-1800€/day for a minor shoot for a minor make up artist.
Mariah pays 12,000$/day, J-Lo lets you kiss her feet for free.

WHEN DO YOU WORK FOR FREE?
I have come across this chart, used for graphic design work which i think is also applicable for make up (just replace "flyer" with "makeover")


(Photo Credit: Jessica Hische)

As I meant this post to be a forum amongst make up artists, I  would like to encourage all the other make-up artists/free lancers out there to comment, contradict and contribute their experience,opinion and help their budding sisters out.  

27 comments:

  1. LOVE the diagram. as an aspiring performer, i've faced this dilemma plenty of times!

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  2. Really good post! I did a few too many 'free' jobs when I was starting out and its amazing how many people take the p*ss - no images appear as they promised, they fail to pay half the time! Arrgh! Nightmares!

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  3. I love this diagram, I wish I had seen it earlier in my life - I am not a makeup artist but I'm too well known for my computer skills and that makes people believe I can spend my free time sorting their sh*t (creating flyers being just one example).
    Anyway, I think the one moment a makeup artist might want to work for free is when building their portfolio, if that allows them to have the model and/or the photographer as well (as in, they work together on building respective portfolios without charging each other). Other than that, what's the point of working for free?

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    1. YOU ARE RIGHT...I HATE THE FREE SHIT....AND THEN THEIR WALK OUT AND SAY BYE.....NO THE HELL MORE....PAY ME!!!! MAKEUP IS NOT CHEAP AND THE BEAUTY SCHOOL THAT I GO TO COST 3000 DOLLARS.....PAY ME!!!

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  4. very interesting as usual.
    I guess working for free is good/ok to start building confidence, contacts or a portfolio but that's it. Everyone needs to pay their bills.
    X

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  5. Haha, I LOVE that diagram. I've done loads of free work to build a portfolio - partly because that is the way a paying client will judge you, partly just because I enjoy it. Would I do free work now? No. Not a chance in Hell. I'm trained, experienced, professional and well worth the money.

    A good example of corporations ripping off those new to the industry is the BBC. I know a guy who has worked for them for free A LOT as a runner, sometimes on three day shoots. Why? Because they promised him the first paying job to come up was his. So the job comes up, he gets an interview, only to be told that he is 'too experienced' for the job. In other words, 'We know somebody with less experience is easy to abuse the fuck out of.'

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  6. I love your blog, its so informative and funny. Hope you don't mind I added you on my blog as a Beauty Blog to check out. :)

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  7. Hello!
    The credit to the very wise diagram goes to Jessica Hische. So, yey! to her! I know I am useless with this, as it seems the diagram points out that I am masochistic.
    Thank y'all for the kudos and the juicy gossip.
    Hope the make-up artists out there can share their own valuable experience here as well.

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  8. Thissultryred-
    I would love that- and thank you! I am honored.

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  9. Rowena, you are the most interesting person ever! i like the mix of makeup, psychology, cynicism and swearing. they are my favourite things. but on the other hand i hate you for making such an addictive blog which has resulted in me writing this 2.5 hours before getting up for work. long may you blog bitch x

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  10. YallaBambi- you are making me blush and making my day!
    Now I will have to sleep with this stupid grin on my face.
    Thank you! Nyty!

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  11. Loving ur work. Just the right mix of realism and humour, your ripping the "Disney" right out Mr. Corporate beauty . I needed this


    H x

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  12. Dear MoreMoreMore

    Thank you! (3X)
    Haha- so i would be the one who decapitates the Mickey of cosmetics, if i were to continue your analogy.

    That will give me an R18 rating:-)

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  13. I really enjoyed reading this..finally some reality on the internet about this industry! I LOVE the statement about the zero face weeding out the professionals from the hobbyists...so true! Too many "makeup artists" feel that if they use a creative group of colors on the eye, that somehow makes them a great makeup artist.
    Thanks again

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  14. When should a makeup artist work for free? In my experience, less often than one may think. If you're building a portfolio or trying to network, it's something to consider, but you really need to evaluate whether you're truly getting your worth out of the situation. I've been talked into several "time for print" projects, and have rarely been pleased by the finished work.

    I will comment that what you list as average pay in your area is phenomenally high for the US market- except for top markets like LA or NYC, going day rates in moderately sized markets are more like $500/day for commercial work.

    As far as people who try to get you to work for free in exchange for introduction to A-listers? Don't buy that for a second- a true A-lister wouldn't hesitate to pay their makeup artist (I assure you Sam Fine, Dick Page and Gucci Westman don't beat any face for free!)

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  15. This can be a very nice platform for the make up artists as well to discuss about the dos and the don'ts.It is essential to know the ropes of the game.organic lipstick

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  16. Hello Afterglow!
    Yes, moving my blog to wordpress soon which i believe can better support this functionality. Cheers!

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  17. that's very informative blog. Thanks for sharing it.

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  18. i love your blog so much and you look absolutely gorgeous in all your pictures! please do another blog post soon! Television Makeup Artist Sydney

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  19. Hello KyliePrice-
    Why thank you! You are making me blush now!
    Posting more soon:-)

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  20. Hi LC Makeup-
    Thank you! And whats seems to be the simplest makeup is also the most difficult to perfect. Kudos!

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  21. Hi Jessica!

    Thank you for sharing this info on the US market. Well, think with this crisis, euro rates are going down. There is less work it seems. How is it your side?

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  22. Just want to say your article is striking. The clearness in your post is simply spectacular and i can take for granted you are an expert on this field. Well with your permission allow me to grab your rss feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work...:)
    Makeup Artist Jobs

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    Replies
    1. Thank you and grab away Makeup Professional!:-)

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  23. hey am new to this site...ive just completed my make up course n nw wondering hw to start?i read ure article but can u pls help

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    Replies
    1. Hi Caroline-I am putting up a forum in this site specially for that as i tend to get a lot of these requests. Stay tuned!

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  24. Your article is really good. Thanks for sharing it with us. Make up artist in the Philippines is really good in their job.

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