Beware the saying “Beggars can’t be choosers”!
When you start out, it is fair to say that you cannot afford to be too picky about which clients you work for. However it is worth considering even before you make your first buck who exactly it is that you would most like to work with. Who can you relate to, and who will relate to you? Make-up is such a personal thing, very often clients will select you based not just on your style, but your ability to relate to their vision.
Selecting a client base with which you have little in common (perhaps you’re easy going and yet your clients are consistently high maintenance) can significantly impact on your enjoyment of the job. Pretty soon every appointment will become a chore, and every booking dreaded.
Consider then who your ideal customers are. What do they love? What do they read? What do they enjoy? How will they find you? How much will they pay you? You may not have any say when it comes to your first few clients, but as your business grows and your calendar fills up, having a clear idea of who you want to work with can help with scheduling decisions and growing something that you love.
Considering your target market also serves a second purpose – it helps to identify your niche – the area in which you are THE Go-To Artist…
Your niche may be your location, your makeup style, or even a specific aspect of your customer service that will appeal to a certain type of client.
For example – Kitty-Boo specialises in Retro and Vintage styles, and is totally differentiating herself from anyone operating in the same area! Emily Faith on the other hand is a scheduler by training, and offers as part of her service a full minute by minute plan of how the pre-wedding prep will run – perfect for brides who like to know everything’s handled!
Word of Mouth
As a freelance MUA, there is very little you can do in the way of marketing that will be better than word of mouth. This will be true once you’re established, and is true even when you’re starting up. If a client hears about you through someone they trust, this will be many times more powerful than a Google search!
So what can you do to improve word-of mouth?
Ask for Referrals – don’t be shy to reach out to your friends and family and make sure they know what you’re up to, and that you’re open for business. If you’ve begun to build your portfolio with some unpaid work, make sure you ask for more than just photos – if they like your work make sure they know you’re looking for referrals, and ask if they know of anyone who might be interested in your services.
- Get involved with your community – people will always prefer to work with someone they know and like. Find out where your potential clients and their friends are hanging out (offline or online) and get involved. Local yoga class? Facebook group?
- Stay in touch! This includes both your clients and other freelancers that you meet along the way. While you shouldn’t be constantly harassing them for jobs, a friendly check in on occasion will mean that if you do need to get in touch about work it does not come out of the blue. A quick e-mail following a job to just say thank you, and (if true) how much you enjoyed yourself can be just the start of a valuable friendship.
Before you can rely on word of mouth you’ve got to start building a reputation, and very often getting your foot in the door can mean working for little or no payment. Websites such as Model Mayhem allow you to host a portfolio and offer your services on a “time for prints” (TFP) or “time for CD of images” (TFCD) basis. Working in this manner allows you to build up your portfolio and make connections that may be able to refer you to paid work. As with any website based acquaintance, exercise common sense when you’re meeting someone you do not know personally.
If you’ve done a great job most people will be delighted to help you out and pass your details on. If you have a website or facebook page, ask people for testimonials that you can post online. Make sure you register your business with Google Business and Yell, and then ask your satisfied customers to post reviews (you can make things easy for them by e-mailing them a direct link).
Whilst early on you will almost certainly be relying on word of mouth and referrals for clients, this shouldn’t stop you from establishing yourself in the many ways that will be be important in the future for building your brand (we will visit these in depth in future articles):
- Building a professional website and online portfolio that can be found through search engines
- Being active on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest
- Establishing a personal brand online through blogging and posting videos
- Networking – it’s not a dirty word… the most effective networkers are those that continually enrich the lives of others. Rather than asking “How can they help me?”, ask “How can I help them?”, and you’ll be sure to surround yourself with a network that’s got your back.
It may also be tempting to spend money on paid advertising, such as local newspapers, magazines or Google Adwords. This can quickly become expensive however, and is not always a good investment. If you do, make sure you monitor the number of customers an advertising channel brings in to understand whether it’s worth the money. Also consider where your ideal customers are most likely to be hanging out. For example, newspapers are more often than not read by the over forties, whilst 25% of Facebook users are between 25 to 34 and greater than three quarters of Pinterest users are female.
Take the Plunge!
Getting your first (paid) clients can be hard work! It can take persistence, as well as negotiation and marketing skills. If you haven’t worked as a makeup artist before the prospect of asking someone to pay you can even be off-putting. Don’t worry, if this is you you’re not alone. But remember, if you’ve worked hard and built your skills then you owe it to your future customers to get out there – you really are offering something that they value, and by definition something worth paying for!
Worried about getting your first client? Putting the feelers out? Drop us a comment below, or message us through Facebook or Twitter and let us know how you’re getting on. Already an established MUA? We’d love to hear how you got your first booking?!