"Freelance makeup artist explaining their role in the beauty industry

What is Freelance Makeup Artist?

A freelance makeup artist is a beauty professional who provides clients with makeup services on an independent contractor basis rather than as an employee of a salon or other company. Freelance makeup artists enjoy the freedom and flexibility of running their schedules and deciding how to price and market their services.

What Does a Freelance Makeup Artist Do?

Freelance makeup artists provide clients with professional makeup applications for various needs:

  • Weddings – This is one of the most popular bookings for a freelance makeup artist. They apply bridal makeup for the bride, bridesmaids, mothers of the bride/groom, and sometimes other wedding VIPs. More advanced makeup skills are required.
  • Photo Shoots – Freelance makeup artists work closely with photographers and models to perfect makeup looks for fashion editorials, lookbooks, portraits, and other photo projects. Must adapt makeup for photography lighting.
  • Television, Film & Theater – Freelancers are often hired to do performer’s makeup for various entertainment productions. This requires familiarity with HD-quality makeup that performs well on camera with bright lighting.
  • Events & Appearances – Provides professional makeup services for corporate events, galas, conferences, pageants, and other special occasions.
  • Makeovers & Lessons – Some freelance makeup artists offer personalized makeovers and teach makeup application lessons to clients looking to improve their daily beauty routine.

The services offered depend on the freelancer’s specialties, skills, and experience. Most carry a range of professional makeup products, tools, and brushes suited for their clients from leading cosmetics brands like MAC, NARS, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Make Up For Ever, and more. Some invest in airbrush machines and mobile makeup stations as well to bring the makeup experience directly to clients for convenience.

Key Skills and Responsibilities of a Freelance Makeup Artist

To succeed as a freelance makeup artist requires:

  • Artistry Skills – Exceptional ability with makeup application, color theory, blending, face contouring, eye enhancement techniques, and keeping up with trends.
  • Working With All Skin Types – Must know how to properly prep and apply makeup for different skin types like mature, oily, dry, combination, sensitive, and more.
  • Attention to Detail – Meticulous attention to detail is paramount for achieving flawless looks.
  • Time Management – Ability to stay on schedule and budget proper time per client to work efficiently.
  • Customer Service – Strong communication skills and professionalism are mandatory when working closely with clients.
  • Sanitization – Keeping tools, products, and workspace properly cleaned/sanitized.

Difference Between Freelance and Inhouse Makeup Artists

There are a few key differences between freelance makeup artists and in-house makeup artists:

Freelance Makeup ArtistInhouse Makeup Artist
Works independently as a contractor, runs own businessAn employee of a salon, spa, store makeup counter, or other business
Sets own scheduleAn employee of a salon, spa, store makeup counter or other business
Books and communicates directly with clientsAn employee of a salon, spa, store makeup counter, or other business
Sets own service pricingClients scheduled by the employer
Typically travels to client location for makeup services Clients come to the salon/store for makeup
Can feel more entrepreneurial freedomSteadier income and venue provided

Many makeup artists start out working in-house to build experience and clientele before transitioning into freelance work for the increased payoff potential and flexible lifestyle.

Education and Training Needed

To prepare for a career as a freelance makeup artist:

  • Cosmetology/Esthetics Training – While not strictly required in all states, having a cosmetology or esthetics certification shows clients you have training in skin, sanitation, and services.
  • Makeup Artistry Courses – Look into makeup-specific programs at cosmetology schools or specialized makeup academies like Makeup First or Muse Beauty Pro. Get instruction in makeup techniques, color theory, and building a beauty business.
  • Assistant & Apprentice Work – Assisting established makeup artists is invaluable for gaining real-world experience. Trade assistant work for mentorship.
  • Continuing Education – Attend workshops and classes yearly to keep your makeup skills sharp and stay on trend with the latest techniques. Consider getting airbrush makeup certification as well.

Without a state license, some freelance makeup artists become legally certified and insured through programs like SPATE that offer accredited courses, access to products, and business resources.

What are some of the best makeup artistry schools for beginners to get high-quality training? Check out this review of the top programs.

Building Your Freelance Makeup Artistry Business

To build a sustainable freelance makeup artistry business you need to focus on:

Creating a Professional Portfolio

A portfolio showcasing your work is vital for attracting new clients.

  • Include 5-10 photos showcasing full before and after looks.
  • Show diversity in makeup looks (bridal, glam, natural).
  • Display versatility working with different models, skin tones, and ages.
  • Create physical, website, and tablet/iPad portfolio formats.

Building an Online Presence

Use social media and a professional website to market your freelance makeup services.

  • Instagram – Share inspiring makeup looks. Use relevant hashtags.
  • Facebook – Engage with potential clients by sharing makeup tips and before and after photos.
  • Website – Display portfolio, services, rates, and contact page for bookings.

For those wondering how much money makeup artists typically make, this article outlines makeup artist salaries across different experience levels and specialties.

Financial Administration

Track income, expenses, and tax obligations and secure insurance to safeguard your freelance makeup artistry business.

  • Record all client payments/expenses. Use accounting software to stay organized.
  • Save for income taxes which are higher for freelancers/contractors.
  • Get general liability insurance to protect yourself from potential lawsuits.

Pricing Your Services as a Freelance Makeup Artist

Determine pricing that matches your experience level and covers business costs. Raise rates as you build your reputation.

Average Rates Nationwide (From Thumbtack) :

  • Wedding Day Makeup: $170
  • Special Event Makeup: $100
  • Lessons: $80/hour

Pros and Cons of Working as a Freelance Makeup Artist


  • Freedom of being your own boss and setting your schedule
  • Creatively rewarding to keep pushing your artistry talents
  • Opportunities to work on diverse high-profile projects
  • Higher earning potential than inhouse positions
  • Flexible to work as much or as little as you want

Getting started as a makeup artist has a learning curve. This guide offers tips on how to become a makeup artist and build your skills from the ground up.


  • Building steady clientele takes major dedication and hustle
  • Income less predictable than hourly position
  • Must fund own expenses like products, tools, insurance, taxes
  • Rising competition as more makeup artists go freelance
  • Work/life balance can be tough for busy seasons

FAQs About Working as a Freelance Makeup Artist

How much do most freelance makeup artists earn yearly?

Most freelance makeup artists earn an average income between $30,000 to $50,000 per year. Those well-established in higher-paying markets like L.A. and NYC can earn over $100,000 annually.

What are the most difficult parts of working as a freelance makeup artist?

Dealing with the unpredictability of self-employment is challenging. The market can get saturated in some areas. Must be very proactive with self-promotion and continually hustling to find new client opportunities especially when first starting.

Good etiquette is tipping your makeup artist. Check out this piece covering how much to tip makeup artists for events, weddings, and other bookings.

What kind of hours do they work?

Hours tend to be longer than traditional jobs, averaging 50-60 hours a week. Expect early call times and late nights. Wedding makeup artists work nearly every weekend during peak wedding season. Schedules flux constantly.

Do I need lots of expensive makeup to get started?

While you should invest in key high-performing cosmetics for pro use, you can start with a modest $200-300 versatile kit and expand from there. Focus first on building core technical skills over flashy products.

Getting Started as a Freelance Makeup Artist

For those looking to pursue freelance makeup artistry, here are some top tips:

  • Focus First on Developing Your Makeup Artistry Skills – Great technique matters far more than trendy products when first starting out. Master fundamentals like complexion perfection, contouring, eye enhancement, etc. Consider taking portfolio development courses.
  • Learn From Established Makeup Artists – Reach out to respected makeup artists in your area to inquire about shadowing, assisting, apprenticeships, or mentoring opportunities to expand your knowledge. Be willing to trade hard work for guidance.
  • Create Content Showcasing Your Skills – Populate your website and social channels with videos and photos flaunting flawless makeovers. Offer free services in exchange for modeling and content to build initial portfolio pieces.
  • Network, Network, Network – Attend industry events and network to connect with photographers, wedding planners, and other potential referrers of clients. Hand out business cards and follow up persistently.
  • Focus Locally First – Become the go-to makeup artist in your city for weddings, print work, and events before expanding regionally. Familiarize yourself deeply with your home market first.

In Conclusion to “What is a Freelance Makeup Artist?”

A freelance makeup artist is a skilled independent contractor who provides tailored professional makeup services for clients spanning weddings, photography, media production, and special events. They run their own schedule and rates.

Building a business as a freelance makeup artist allows for immense creativity paired with the freedom of working for oneself. However, it requires extensive effort spent mastering complex makeup techniques, promoting oneself shamelessly, delivering 5-star client service, and developing a versatile portfolio showcasing work across needed domains like bridal, glam, and high fashion.

The ability to help clients look and feel their best while exercising creative talents and the flexibility of self-employment makes for an exciting career path for those willing to put in the hard work and determination needed to achieve success.

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