Being A Freelance Makeup Artist Is Less Glamorous Than You'd Think

All that glitters isn’t gold and all that makeup isn’t free.
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DaMonica
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All that glitters isn’t gold and all that makeup isn’t free.

As a former freelance writer and fashion assistant, I know how the beauty and fashion industries operate. Most positions are freelance, and it takes serious work and dedication to live out that lifestyle.

The thought of leaving a full-time job for good to work solo-dolo crossed my mind a time or five, but I didn’t have the guts to actually pursue a freelance life. Thank goodness for people like my friend Amber Amos, a freelance makeup artist, who followed her dreams without worry. 

Amber has worked on the sets of Gucci, Christian Dior, and Victoria’s Secret, so she knows her stuff. I asked her to share a bit of her background as well as some real life advice just in case you ever wanted to get into the freelance makeup artist game. Pay attention and take notes.

Live where the work is and always keep your skills up to date.

"I moved from Chicago to New York City in 2010. Since I wanted my focus to be more on fashion and celebrity makeup, I knew New York was where I needed to be. Chicago is more advertising, commercial, and bridal focused, while NYC is one of the fashion capitals of the world.

Once I got to New York, I attended Make-up Designory in SoHo. I figured it would help me get my foot in some doors, while also refining the rough self-taught skills I already had."

Make peace with having an unpredictable schedule and chasing after your paycheck.

"The highs and lows of being a freelancing makeup artist are probably the same as any freelancer, for the most part. Highs are making your own schedule and having total control of your career. 

The lows are work can be inconsistent (often in the beginning) and having to chase down payments from clients . . . I've come across clients who treated me as if them paying me was them actually doing me a favor.

A look from an Elegant magazine shoot.

A look from an Elegant magazine shoot.

When I first started freelancing, I used to scour Craigslist, Model Mayhem, and a host of other sites for work. Now thankfully, all of my work is past clients, or a referral. I also occasionally get work from a few creative agencies in NY and LA.

When it comes to getting paid, I invoice my clients. That serves as a contract. If the job is booked through an agency, their accounting department stays on top of me getting paid. Though, sometimes you have to stay on them to make sure they stay on top of the client. If it’s a job from someone who’s come directly to me, then I just make sure to stay in communication with the client."

Be ready for anything.

"I don't think I have a typical day. No matter what the shoot, the project, or the job is, I (and my makeup kit) venture to the location to set up. Some days I have a big kit, some days it's my little duffle bag and me. 

fashion magazine editorial spread

A spread from a separate issue of Elegant magazine. How sick is that white eyeliner? 

Depending on the call time, the time I have to be on set, my kit is packed the night before. If I know exactly what I'm doing that day, I pack my kit with everything I know I'll need. If I have no idea who or what the job is for, then I bring everything. Better to be over prepared then under."

All that makeup isn’t free.

"Unless it's gifted to me, I buy my own makeup. A lot of makeup lines have professional discounts and gratis programs. I hardly ever pay full price for my makeup. I actually try to avoid it all cost."

Rely on what works.

The top-five products I take to every gig are skin care prep products (the most important step to all makeup is skin care). My favorite is Embryolisse Moisturizer; it’s so rich and hydrating. A foundation in varying shades and brands (I love Face Atelier, Dior, CoverGirl Queen, and Maybelline Fit). Concealers are the easiest way to make the tired look well rested. 

I've actually started using my foundations from Make-up Designory as concealers; they give a nice coverage and blend well, but I also recommend Bobbi Brown's BBU Palette. I love Urban Decay Naked2 Palette; I can create most makeup looks from natural to glam, and I love the PopBeauty Lip and Cheek Palette. I love how it's about 25 different cream shades you can use on lips, from a sheer gloss effect, to a more bold color. And [it has] awesome cream cheek colors that add a nice glow to the cheeks."

In the end, it’s all worth it.

"Being a freelance MUA isn't always sunshine and rainbows. Some days a job is straightforward, full of awesome people, and flies by. 

Some days are hectic, fast-paced, full of re-dos, touch-ups and being called 'makeup' instead of Amber. But the good days make those days seem not so bad.

The freedom of making my own schedule, and picking and choosing jobs working with people I never fathomed I'd get the chance to (President Bill Clinton, for example), helping others feel more confident and empowered, being around iconic people in spaces and places most will never get to experience makes it all worth it. Can't wait until the international calls start coming in!"

president bill clinton

Amber touching up Bill Clinton during a political endorsement for Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Amber makes this sound so easy! I’m definitely inspired and hope you are, too. Are any of you freelancers as well, or are thinking about going solo-dolo? Share your stories below!