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Salary. Money. It is the first, if not almost the first, thing that is programmed into our brains when we are picking a career path. The best part about your commitment to your craft is that you are doing something you love. One of our favorite quotes is, “If you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life.” I firmly believe this, so if your passion is makeup, congratulations!

The factors that play into creating a career as a makeup artist are almost endless. How much a makeup artist makes every year — or month, week, even per day — greatly varies on whether you work under a company (such as MAC, Sephora, Macy’s, etc.) as a counter artist or if you freelance. It also depends on what city you are located in, how many years of experience you have, and many other factors that can come into play.

How Much Does the Average Makeup Artist Make In a Year?

When determining the national average salary for any position, it’s vital to consider the average salary and salary range. The national average salary for a makeup artist in the United States is approximately $23 per hour, with a salary range of $7.93 – $47.60 per hour. The average pay range for a makeup artist varies widely, which suggests there could be opportunities for advancement and upped pay based on skill level, location, and experience. Other compensation factors to consider include overtime pay, tips, bonuses, and benefits packages.

What Impacts What the Average Makeup Artist Makes?

To help you understand more about what affects your salary as a potential makeup artist, here are five major factors to consider:

Location

Location is a big indicating factor of salary as a makeup artist. Typically, when you are located in an urban area or city, you have a better opportunity to find work. This increases your likelihood of making more money. These areas are the epicenter of many lifestyles that require a makeup artist. There is a higher association with fashion, theatre, and film, which are all great opportunities for makeup artists.


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For example, cities such as New York and Paris have fashion week; this is a huge attraction for many makeup artists, and they are in demand for each show. Having exposure is also a great way of getting experience, even if it’s just volunteering.


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Living in an urban area, in general, opens the door for more career opportunities compared to living in a rural area. On the other hand, the cost of living is also higher in urban areas — and since there are more opportunities in urban areas, the competition is more intense.


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A great way to use your location is to see how other makeup artists in the area charge. This will help you stay in the range of pricing and make sure that you are not charging too much or too little for your service. Location is a big factor, but you do not have to live in a big city to be successful! Remember, your talent follows you no matter where you go. To learn more about pricing in different cities and states, this cost calculator would be helpful.

Industry Clientele

Makeup artistry is an industry in itself. However, there are many career options within that. Typically, working at a makeup counter or store will bring less income compared to working in television or film. For example, the average annual salary for a television makeup artist in the United States is $42,379. For the movie industry, the approximate annual salary has an upper range exceeding $120,000. 

As you can see, there is a gap in salary depending on what course of work you take on. The highest paying roles as a makeup artist typically include working for television, magazines, or a freelance artist with high-profile clients.

Even when categorizing industries within makeup artistry (freelance, for a company, theatre, etc.), there is still a wide range of salaries. However, typically salaries are higher in the television and fashion industries for makeup artists.

Years of Experience

Experience has a moderate effect on pay. What is more important is how you manage and use your time, even when you’re just starting out. You can have five years of experience and not put the effort and work in to build yourself up. You can have one year of experience and value volunteer work and consistent practicing. Years of experience go with actual experience, and in order to climb to the top, you need to constantly work.

Grabbing as many opportunities to volunteer, network, and find a possible mentor is essential. Having a mentor who has been in the business for a long time and can guide you is an invaluable experience. Years of experience are more for your own credibility; however, your portfolio and how you have used your years of experience are more important.

Typically, when you are just starting out, you will earn less, and as you slowly get more clients, you will earn more. You need to start somewhere to begin to spread your name. It can be that one person’s makeup you did at a volunteer event that told her friend, who told her friend, etc. Now, you have a range of clients from that one experience.

As you get more years in the business, you will have more and more people knowing your name and more clients. This gives you more credibility, and you can start charging more for your services. As you have more experience, you will have a greater income even when freelancing or working at a makeup counter. You can climb the ladder of employee to manager or be at a point in your freelancing business where you are at a higher value. Your specific trajectory is shaped by your tenacity, skill, and relationships.

Freelance

Many makeup artists decide to freelance for their careers. This is attractive because they can work on their own schedule and be their own boss. Freelance income all depends on whether it is part-time or full-time, pricing of services, and consistency of work. With great power comes great responsibility, and freelancing gives you complete control of your own schedule. If creating your business from scratch is too intense for when you’re just starting out, many people decide to freelance under companies that work around their schedule as well. For example, the average freelance makeup artist for MAC earns around $18 an hour.

The average salary for a freelance makeup artist in New York City is $66,762. The range of salary in freelancing is vast because types of clients and pricing vary. There will be a huge gap in salary between a freelance makeup artist who is just starting out versus a freelance makeup artist who has high-profile clients consistently.

It is all about breaking through the very beginning and pushing yourself. No makeup artist had a ton of clients when they just started out. It takes time, patience, and a strong work ethic to be a successful freelance makeup artist.

What to know about setting hourly rates as a freelance makeup artist

For those who like the idea of being their own boss and making all of the decisions pertaining to your makeup artistry business, being a freelance makeup artist may be ideal for you! If you’re interested in knowing more about how much the average makeup artist makes a year, know that if you’re freelancing, you have the potential to make even more — but there are best practices.

Set your hourly fee too high, and you might not get as many clients as you would like. Set it too low, and some may wonder why you are so affordable. Needless to say, there’s a fine line when it comes to setting your own hourly rates as a makeup freelancer. When it comes down to it, a makeup artist’s salary is dependent on the budget of their clients.

The low end of makeup artists’ salaries can have you making anywhere from $300-$400 a day, and the high end can be upwards of $3,0000. When setting your makeup rates as a freelancer, calculate your expenses first; you’ll need to determine how much money you will charge for a decent profit.

A contract is always a good idea. You should have a basic contract available and with you for potential clients to review. Investing in a lawyer for even a few hours can be well worth it, as they can help save you from potential legal battles down the road.

Offering package deals is also a great way to find new jobs, as everyone is looking for high value when it comes to professional makeup. Don’t forget to include add-on fees that may surface, such as additional person fees, rush fees, etc. Be sure to check out your local competition to gauge what they’re currently charging for their own makeup services.

Being an Employee

Some makeup artists find that working as an employee or under a company is best for them. Some even choose this as a career path at first to gain more experience and practice to then decide they are ready to freelance.

Makeup artists find that working at a makeup counter such as at a department store, MAC, or Sephora is also a great way of starting out since you can gain experience. Doing makeup consistently on many different customers and faces builds confidence in your work. Many people are attracted to this type of work because it is a steady pay, and full-time employees have opportunities for benefits.

Many artists love the stability as they know they will be getting consistent pay. Those who dream of freelancing a business or creating something with their artistry usually start here as they can begin to save money and create a plan while gaining more experience in the meantime.

Those who are not ready for freelancing find stable work attractive. Sometimes, many people do not want to particularly freelance and go into a retail ladder for makeup brands. For example, they will start off as an artist at a counter, then go into supervision and management. It all depends on what the individual wants to do.

Start Your Makeup Career Today

As we can see, makeup artistry has a long branch of possibilities. You can start off by working at one place and end up somewhere else, have makeup artistry be a component of your schedule part-time, or use your employment as a launching pad for a solo venture down the road. The beauty of makeup artistry is the versatility — and there are endless possibilities. You don’t have to figure it all out now!

We take pride in the fact that we include a business, branding and marketing course for our Extensive 5-Week and Master Program. This includes how to build a website, how to market yourself, and how to network efficiently in the makeup industry. If makeup artistry has always been a dream of yours, take the step of confidence and enroll!

For more information about makeup artist classes or tips on becoming a makeup artist, contact us today!

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