Even the naturally talented have to practice. Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers” describes how it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become the best in the world at something – it certainly paid off for the Beatles!
Despair not though, this simply means that while a natural ability can help – even the very best makeup artists have had to practice A LOT to master their craft. So what are you waiting for?
Practice, Practice, PRACTICE
Practice on Yourself – working on yourself helps you to develop your technique, get comfortable with your style and start honing your craft. It’s a great way to find the products you like and removes any time pressure. But you’re only one face, with one complexion and one shape, and this means you’ve got to…
Practice on Friends and Family – take the opportunity to work on as many different skin tones, face shapes, ages and eye colours that you can. Developing the ability to work with a variety of needs and wants will ultimately enable you to work with a broad range of clients.
Plus friends and family are both forgiving and demanding – once they get a sniff that you’re doing makeovers for free, you’ll be in demand at every family occasion and big night out!
Honesty Is The Best Policy
Ask for Honest Feedback – Make sure everyone you practice on understands that unless they give you honest feedback, it’s of no value to you. How can you improve if no one tells you what you’re doing wrong? Ask them – if they were trying to get better at something wouldn’t they want to know what they were doing wrong? Giving (and receiving) feedback can be hard, but it’s really, really important.
Positive feedback is great – if they like something then dig a little a find out why. Have others commented on this too? Then clearly you’re doing something right! But negative feedback is very valuable at this stage – what don’t they like? What would they have prefered you’d done differently? Again, make sure you dig a little deeper – sometimes knowing why something hasn’t worked for someone can help prioritise what you need to work on.
Yes – makeup is subjective and you may not always agree on your clients assessment, but as an MUA it will always be your job to make sure the client is happy, and this will mean adjusting your style to accommodate them and sometimes adapting fast.
Choose Your Own Path
Find the Makeup you like – in the first instance you’ll need to figure out the brands of makeup that work well in your hands. But where do you start?
Online groups for Makeup artists on Facebook is one way to join the conversation – but as you’ll find with a lot of forums, these large groups can get often become overwhelmed by spam. Ask other artists where they go to talk shop? You may find geeking out on different makeup brands becomes part of the fun or you may just stick with what works – but being able to pick the brains of MUAs already using products is invaluable.
And it’s not just the makeup – getting the right brushes and tools will reward you many times over as your calendar gets busy. Most brushes will inevitably lose their bristles over time, but you can test for durability in the shop by gently pulling and seeing whether any hairs come out. If so consider a different brand.
Get a Job on a Makeup Counter – working on the counter of a big name brand in your local department store can provide you with invaluable experience and exposure to real customers. Peach in Liverpool used the time she spent on the Lancome and Chanel counters in her local pharmacy to develop her skills, try out brands and begin to establish her reputation.
It’s not always easy to land these positions though and the interview process can even involve spending an afternoon on the shop floor, as Hayley found. In the UK, Peach recommends registering with The Beauty Consultants Bureau, which provides temp cover for these counters in the busy season.
Go to Beauty School – if you have the time and money, then going to beauty school is a great way to learn directly from MUAs that have been working professionally for years. It can also give you exposure to a range of fields – ranging from bridal to special effects and film makeup.
Some makeup jobs can be restricted to those that have graduated from beauty school, and so ask yourself if it’s these kind of jobs that you’re interested in and whether your ultimate career direction can benefit from or forgo formal training.
Work As A Makeup Assistant – If you already have friends that are MUAs let them know you’re available. Otherwise you can reach out to MUAs in your locale and see whether they would be interested.
Your role as an assistant is likely to vary from client to client, and can range from simply babysitting and making sure everyone is happy/calm/where they’re meant to be, to doing some basic prep-work, to doing the make-up of some members of your clients group.
If you’re going to reach out to MUAs that don’t know you though then it’s time to start thinking about…
Building Your Portfolio…
Your portfolio will be your ongoing showcase of all your best work – a selection that will highlight your skills and versatility to potential clients and win you new work.
Your can maintain either an online portfolio or a printed version (or both), and your choice of medium will likely depend on the types of jobs you’re pursuing and where your potential clients are. An online portfolio can for example be accessed by anyone at any time, whilst a print version will be for those instances where you’re able to meet with a prospective client.
When you’re getting started money will be tight, and you may therefore wish to look for photographers and models that are also looking to build their portfolios too, and that are prepared to work for little or no money in exchange for your work (and the resulting prints!). Find other freelancers working in your area using sites such as Facebook or Model Mayhem.
As your client list grows then along with your portfolio you should also keep you CV up to date – which along with your prints will demonstrate your range of experience.
As the instances where you are likely to need your print portfolio are face to face with clients, it should look professional and contain only your best shots (9×12 or 11×14 prints are suitable) – far better to have only a few, high quality images that a stage of mediocre ones.
Your online portfolio will require you to set up a website, and we’ll talk about this in a bit more detail in a later post.
Figuring out what works for you
How you go about developing skills as a makeup artist will depend very much on you, and where you ultimately want to get to. If you’re turning a hobby you’re passionate about into a bridal makeup business then you may already have all the skills you need to start work.
If on the other hand it’s your dream to work on the set of Star Trek bringing Klingons to life then think seriously about which schools and contacts can give you the right skills and connections to make that happen.
Of course, even the most naturally talented MUA needs more than just skills and we’ll be looking at what you need in your kit and what you need to run your makeup artistry business over the coming months.
In the meantime do you have any questions about developing your skills as an MUA? Unsure about whether to go to beauty school or go it alone? Then drop us an e-mail or contact us through Facebook, or on Twitter. We’re always happy to help!
Maybe you’ve already made it as an MUA – we’d love to hear your story. How did you go about developing your skills? Did you go to beauty school and was it worth it? Have you got any tips for getting started on a beauty counter or as an assistant. The aspiring MUAs in our community would love to hear your tips! Please leave us a comment below, or join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter.