Highs & Lows of being a Makeup Artist

How to Become a Makeup Artist

If you’re after a fulfilling and exciting career choice, becoming a Makeup Artist might just be the career for you! You’ll be responsible for helping your clients feel beautiful whilst having a chance to express your artistic side. On the flipside, just like any other career, makeup artistry has its low moments. From time to time you may even find yourself wondering why you became a MUA in the first place!

Take a deep breath – it’s okay! Remember, it’s normal and everyone (regardless of their job) feels that way from time to time. We’re here to help you understand the pros and cons of being a makeup artist.

Being a makeup artist can be great especially if you get bored easily with routine as you won’t have to be sitting at a desk job from 9-5. Every day will be varied and every client is unique, so you’ll always be on your toes… this can be exhilarating!

You also have a lot of freedom in that you can work in a team, you can be employed by a major makeup company and you can even be a freelance makeup artist or self-employed makeup artist. For many people, being their own boss is a lifetime dream and you have the opportunity to achieve that! Makeup artists also get to meet loads of different people so if you’re a social butterfly, you’ll absolutely love the networking opportunities.

Being a makeup artist can be immensely rewarding when you see the looks on your clients faces as your skills in makeup help them to feel beautiful. Not many people get to feel a sense of satisfaction in helping people in their chosen careers, so that’s something truly wonderful about being a MUA! Everyone wants to feel gorgeous, after all. If you practice and work hard to rack up certifications, a portfolio and experience, your credibility in the industry will only grow and grow.

Being a MUA also allows you to experiment with your creativity… it truly is an art form and even if applying a simple daytime look of makeup to a client, being a makeup artist requires you to have an understanding of different face shapes and features and how to transform the look of someone using visual illusion. That’s truly a skill and a creative one at that.

If this all sounds amazing, you’re not the only one thinking that! Many people wish to become makeup artists. However just like any other job there are highs and lows.

The downsides of being a makeup artist, namely, are that competition can be incredibly tough. This means that even if you’re an exceptional makeup artist, you’ll still have to really put yourself out there and win jobs. There will always be someone cheaper than you and some clients will value low prices over quality experience, so you must grapple with how you want to market yourself.

It can be very stressful considering how to market yourself as a makeup artist and how to get clients – and this struggle applies regardless of whether you’re employed or freelance. Every makeup artist wants to make sure that they stand out!

Unfortunately too, there can be a stigma in society that makeup artists have a ‘frivolous’ career so some people won’t take you seriously. Although this is their problem and not yours (and you certainly shouldn’t spend time with people who don’t respect someone based on their passions and chosen industry in general!) it can still get under your skin, so you’ll need to learn not to take people’s poor attitudes personally. On that note, starting out as a makeup artist can be especially tough as you look for jobs and clients, so you’ll need to learn to deal with rejection and develop a thick skin.

Becoming a makeup artist takes time so you’ll also need to exercise some patience. Obtaining training and certification can be costly, so you’ll also need to have a backup plan or you may need to work a second job to help yourself make ends meet as you get started in the industry.  Building your personal brand can take time so especially if you’re wanting to be a freelance makeup artist, you may become disheartened if you find it’s taking a little while to build up a client base… and knowing where to start in finding clients is a daunting task in of itself! Your portfolio will need to be an evolving document/website too, so be prepared to constantly be updating to reflect your work as you become more skilful in makeup.

So how do you know if being a makeup artist is right for you?

Only you can answer this question! Do your homework, understand the pros and cons of being a makeup artist and decide whether you’re truly passionate about the industry. For those who work hard and are dedicated to doing what they love, being a makeup artist can be a wonderful and rewarding career path!

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How much do Make-Up Artist’s earn?

How to Become a Makeup Artist

If you’re deciding to become a Makeup Artist, you’ll naturally want to learn the answer to your most burning question…

“How much do makeup artists earn?”

The good news is that although Makeup Artistry is a very competitive industry, qualified and professional makeup artists can make a very decent living!

Australian makeup artists can expect to earn between $35,000 per year (at $17 per hour) and this is considered to be a low end of the spectrum, up to $105,000 per year (at $50 per hour). This is considered to be a high end of the spectrum however this is very much achievable for makeup artists who excel, continually book lots of clients and earn themselves a great reputation.

The average makeup artist salary in Australia is around $53,000 per year and $25 an hour – so before you get too excited about earning the big bucks, make sure you’re okay with the average as many people will hover around this rate.

If you’re just starting as a makeup artist, you also need to be realistic about your salary and the rates that you charge your clients… a top salary is something that you need to work up to!

There are some key factors that will impact what you earn as a makeup artist, including:

  1. Your level of experience.
    A makeup artist with 6 months of experience cannot expect to earn as much as a makeup artist with 5 years experience and a bigger portfolio. That’s not to say that you can’t work your way up, but being realistic and honest with yourself about your skillsets in relation to the market rate is very important.
  2. Your chosen niche.
    Like any other job, your salary will also depend on where you work (for example someone starting out as a makeup artist at MAC may expect to earn more than someone starting out as a freelance makeup artist. Do your research and consider the going rate for any jobs that you apply for and if you’re hoping to be freelance, make sure that you can financially sustain it.
  3. Your location.
    If you’re becoming a makeup artist in a larger city like Sydney or Melbourne, you may have more opportunities open to you than in a smaller city such as Hobart. This is because larger cities will tend to have a more booming television, film, fashion and entertainment scene where MUAs are in very high demand. Of course the downside to this is that competition can be more fierce, so be prepared to fight extra hard for jobs! A smaller city may present you a lower quantity of opportunities but if competition is lower too, it can also be a great foot in the door. It’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons!
  4. Your level of education and/or certification.
    If you’re a certified makeup artist, you’re likely to command a higher salary than a makeup artist who has no formal makeup training. Employers will always be willing to pay more for someone who has a certification to prove that they have the professional skills required to do an excellent job!

Other things to consider:

Don’t be discouraged by the idea of working your way up the earnings ladder as a Makeup Artist! It is just the same in almost every industry. Also try to consider that the salary you take home isn’t always your full compensation package. For example, some employers may have staff benefits such as employee/staff discounts on makeup or provision of additional industry training to further your career.

If you’re wanting to increase your pay as a makeup artist, there are some proactive steps that you can take alongside allowing yourself the time to gain industry experience, such as:

  • Getting more training
  • Learning new skills & adding new certifications to your portfolio
  • Specialising in a niche of makeup artistry
  • Working in a different area where you feel your prospects are better
  • Improving your portfolio
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Freelance Makeup Artist

How to Become a Makeup Artist

If you’re considering pursuing a career as a makeup artist, then you may have considered being a freelance makeup artist.

Being a freelance makeup artist can be considered a very glamorous lifestyle… you can choose your clients, set your hours and pay rate, create a brand for yourself and even travel the world! If you’re just starting your career as a makeup artist, the world of freelance makeup artists can seem daunting (and don’t get us wrong, finding jobs can be intimidating!) however never fear… it takes some hard work and determination and with a little bit of hustle, you can become your own boss as a makeup artist.

To become a freelance makeup artist, you’ll need to:

Understand your skills.

A certification and some real work experience will be invaluable as you commence your career as a MUA. You want to make sure to hone your skills as much as possible. Consider the following to help you find a niche:

  • Do you specialise in a form of makeup?
  • What is your favourite sort of client?
  • What do you offer that other makeup artists aren’t offering as well/aren’t as skilled at?

To be a successful freelance makeup artist, you’ll also need to have some serious organisational skills. To earn a decent living and get a decent client portfolio, you’ll need to keep track of your time to ensure you turn a profit. Being your own boss may sound glamorous but it takes hard work, management and a basic understanding of how to run a business.

Without an understanding of how to run a business, you’ll risk ruining your reputation as an artist if you’re unable to maintain a full book of clients. Although being your own boss is somewhat of a dream scenario for a lot of makeup artists, with great power comes great responsibility! So, before you venture into the world of freelance makeup, make sure you’re prepared for:

  • Having a strong work ethic. Others often fail to mention how essential it is to be a hard worker, but it’s the honest truth. Running any business is not easy and being a self-employed makeup artist is no difference. Be prepared to hustle, make a name for yourself and work hard to get clients. You must be truly passionate about makeup to be a hard working makeup artist. There will be long days, stressful situations and you’ll always be pushing your creativity to the next level.
  • Having strong technical knowledge. Keeping up with the latest trends is only the half of it! You’ll need to be consistently updating your know-how if latest trends and techniques, plus you’ll need to be savvy with promoting yourself on social media.

Develop a strong toolkit.

Your professional kit is your livelihood as a freelance makeup artist will be one of the biggest keys to your success. Many new makeup artists are surprised to learn how much they may need to invest into building their toolkit. This can understandably be a big source of stress – especially if you are still studying to be a qualified makeup artist or paying off a student debt!

However, this is a necessary part of the job as a freelance makeup artist and of course, you’ll want to invest in good quality products. High quality palettes and skincare products are certainly not cheap, plus you’ll need plenty of high quality brushes and of course, hygiene supplies to make sure every client’s face that your products come into contact with is given the highest level of cleanliness to avoid cross contamination and spread of infections.

You’ll also need to have a vast range of specialist products to ensure you’re prepared for every occasion, not just the basics!

Tip: Many retailers have makeup artist discount programs that will take a percentage off the price of your order when you buy lots of products at once. Even so, this can still add up so make sure you factor this into your business budget. Make sure too to speak to your accountant to learn exactly what you can claim when it comes time to submit your personal tax return and Business Activity Statement (BAS).

Know your limits & set appropriate boundaries.

Of course, you’ll want to have as many clients as possible. The more the merrier! But, when you’re just starting out you’ll need to use your time wisely and use each client as an opportunity to get a true sense of how long a job takes, how to factor in your travel time and where to set your profitability margins. You might be able to fit 10 clients in a day if you rush… but if rushing lessens the quality of your work, this can ruin your reputation so you would be better off fitting fewer clients in and taking more time (thus giving you a better reputation in the long run and increasing your ability to charge more for your time as your skills grow).

In terms of setting boundaries, you should also know the limits of your skillset and work accordingly. For instance, maybe your strengths aren’t in bridal makeup… whilst you may be tempted to take every job even if you’re not the best at it, you also have an ethical responsibility to ensure you’re only giving the highest quality work. Take this as an opportunity to build your skills on practice clients (these can be family and friends!) before you take on too much work in an area you’re not as strong in.

Remember, too – saying ‘no’ to one client allows you to say ‘yes’ to another client that may be a better fit.

Hustle, baby!

Your killer work ethic is going to come in very handy here! If you’re going to be freelance, you need to learn to be assertive. There are plenty of ways to find clients, so get creative and have a pitch prepared. For instance, you may wish to:

  • Reach out to models and photographers
  • Approach wedding venues (who have connections in the bridal industry)
  • Approach another makeup artist and set up a joint referral agreement with each other
  • Approach hair salons
  • Create your own signature branding and ensure its in all that you do
  • Put out an ad on Gumtree or Facebook groups
  • Ask family and friends to refer you
  • Set up as an exhibitor at bridal, hair, beauty and fashion expos.

You’ll also want to make sure you maintain an active and strong online presence to help existing clients find and refer you, and new clients to discover you. Social media is a great starting point, however we also strongly recommend that you develop an online portfolio to showcase your work. This also adds an element of professionalism that social media alone can’t give you (as social media is filled with makeup artists without a qualification… and you definitely want to separate yourself as a professional!)

In the makeup industry in particular, word of mouth will be a key element to your success as a makeup artist. Clients that are happy with your work will tell friends and family, and you can ask them to leave you positive reviews online. This is also why it’s important to quickly define your niche and focus on honing your skills in one particular area of makeup!

Always be learning.

The best makeup artists are always learning and evolving their skills to stay ahead of the curve. When makeup trends become popular, clients will come to you wanting you to create them so you’ll need to be up to date and bringing your creative flair to every trend that your clients request. So, never assume that once you’re qualified that you’re done learning… there’s always more to learn and new ways to improve! Continuous improvement and skills advancement will also help ensure that you’re always in demand and relevant.

The freelance life isn’t always easy and it certainly isn’t for everyone… but for those who crave independence and full control over their career, the opportunities are only limited by what you can imagine and how hard you’re willing to work to get it!

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Occupational Risks for Makeup Artists

How to Become a Makeup Artist

When you think of dangerous situations, being a makeup artist probably doesn’t spring to mind! However, it’s important to take into account some of the common occupational hazards that are common among makeup artists… this will help ensure you have a healthy and safe career as a makeup artist!

Some of the most common occupational risks impacting makeup artists are:

Latex Sensitivity

Of all the disposable gloves available, latex gloves are the most common. As a makeup artist, you may choose to wear latex gloves when applying makeup to your clients (although not all MUAs choose to wear gloves). Unfortunately, when individuals use latex gloves regularly they can develop sensitivity to latex after a while… this commonly happens to hairdressers too. This is because latex gloves are often lined with corn starch powder to make them easier to put on, and the corn starch can absorb the latex proteins making the skin become irritated. For some people this will be a slightly annoying itch and for others it can become an allergic reaction (appearing as dry, raw skin, sustained dermatitis and even respiratory symptoms in severe cases).

You are not required to wear gloves as a makeup artist and sometimes gloves can get in the way, so If you can do without gloves then this is advisable.

However if you do really prefer to wear gloves, you can invest in some low-allergen powder free gloves to reduce the chances of a reaction.

Repetitive Strain Injury

RSI is an injury to the musculoskeletal and/or nervous systems that is caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression, or sustained, awkward positions. And unfortunately as a makeup artist, you will frequently be in awkward positions! Think hand cramps as you painstakingly apply false lashes, hunching over to get the right angle to apply the contour to a client’s skin… carpal tunnel syndrome is common in makeup artists for this reason. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder on the hand caused by nerve pressure running through the wrist with symptoms of pins and needles, numbness and pain.

RSI can happen to anyone and it is by no means a life or death situation, but if you have any symptoms of RSI at any point it is important to take a break and make an ergonomic assessment of the way you work. The worst thing that you can do is ignore RSI symptoms as repeated over time, it may cause more serious and painful problems.

Chemical Reactions & Irritations

As a makeup artist you will be exposed to chemical compounds all day, every day! Whilst major cosmetic lines are comedogenically tested to ensure they’re safe for human skin and placement around the face, eyes, nose and mouth, certain individuals may have reactions to certain products such as eyelash adhesive or plumping lip glosses. If you come into contact with a substance that produces a reaction in you, you may experience mild irritations of the eyes or skin, rashes or in serious cases, allergic reaction. Repeated contact with irritants causing allergens is called contact dermatitis.

Depending on your genetic predisposition and how strong the chemical is, the extent of your reactions can vary. It’s important to take chemical reactions very seriously as they may trigger greater health problems. If you experience any chemical irritation as a makeup artist, always be sure to see your doctor.


Being a makeup artist can often involve being on your feet for long hours – sometimes eight or more hours a day of being on your feet, running from client to client, being backstage at fashion shows doing model makeup, or doing the makeup for a whole bridal party… and these are just a few examples! This can really have an impact on your overall health and wellbeing.

To combat this, when appropriate, try to get off your feet and sit on a stool or chair to apply makeup – also ensure that the chair your client is sitting on is appropriate height wise, if possible have an adjustable seat for your clients to ensure that you can always raise or lower their position to the perfect height for you to clearly see their face without straining your posture.

Also, be mindful of your footwear choices. If you’re wearing high heels, they may not be practical for standing and walking all day so be kind to your feet and invest in a pair of comfortable, low heeled shoes that can still be stylish.

Try to also take scheduled breaks and lunch hours as going long hours without eating or drinking adequate water can increase the effects of fatigue. If you allow yourself to get too fatigued you may find yourself feeling dizzy, nauseous and generally unwell, this can also put you at risk for fainting and seizures (if your medical predisposition leans this way).


An unglamorous and disgusting aspect of the job is the risk of infections being transmitted to you from your clients! As a makeup artist you’ll be in constant contact with skin, so you need to ensure that you understand the risks associated with this. Infections transmitted can be bacterial, fungal or viral – these are all exceptionally common and can be easily transmitted if you are not vigilant about health and safety.

Most of the time, infections will be visible on a client (such as sores or lesions) but if you don’t know how to recognise the symptoms or are too relaxed about safety, you are at risk! Always ensure that all your tools are properly cleaned and sterilised to avoid any outbreaks – the last thing you want to do is get yourself infected. Worse, if you are not vigilant, your tools could transmit an infection from one client to another and this can absolutely ruin your reputation.

Viral infections aren’t always visible and can be incredibly serious (including Hepatitis C, herpes and HIV). It is a good idea to visit your doctor and enquire about precautionary measures you can take such as ensuring your vaccinations are up to date.

If in doubt and you suspect a client may have an infection, it’s always better to ask them and clarify than to ignore it. No doubt that will be an awkward situation, but health and safety is paramount.

Further tips for good working practices in makeup:

  • Always thoroughly wash and dry your hands before and after applying any makeup. Dry carefully – damp hands spread germs! It’s a good idea to carry antibacterial wet wipes in your makeup toolkit too.
  • Don’t blow on your brushes or makeup, as this can transmit saliva and germs with it.
  • Always ask clients if they have any sensitivities or allergies before you start applying makeup to them. If you’re using a product that is known to cause issues (such as a brow tint) then always be sure to do a patch test on your client.
  • Don’t double dip your products by going from a product to the face then back into the product with the same implement, as this can contaminate the whole product. Instead use disposable applicators, a cotton bud or a spatula to remove the product from its container.
  • After you’ve used lip and eye pencils, give them a sharpen after you’re done using them. This will keep the lid nice and clean.
  • Use makeup disinfectant sprays to help kill any bacteria that may be on your makeup.
  • Never keep makeup beyond its shelf life. Expiry dates can be found on the product packing and use the golden rule – if it smells or looks funny, throw it away!
  • Sterilise all tools after use.


The Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (valid in each Australian State) places an obligation on every person associated with work in any way to ensure his or her own health and safety and the health and safety of others. Under the Act, a person can have more than one set of obligations… so whilst proper health and safety precautions are just good practice, your livelihood whether freelance or employed also depends on you having good hygiene as a makeup artist!

Don’t take any chances, understand your risk factors and always follow protocol.

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Cert II in Retail Cosmetics

How to Become a Makeup Artist

Kick start your career in the makeup world by enrolling in a Certificate II in Retail Cosmetics, this course is one of the quickest pathways to get yourself into the makeup workforce and start you career in this highly sought after industry.

  • Basic skills in workplace communication
  • Client interaction
  • Demonstrate makeup and retail skin care products
  • Performing standard store functions
  • Research and apply beauty industry information
  • Create and apply make-up
  • Conduct financial transactions
  • Apply worksafe practices

Every academy will offer slightly different outcomes so ensure you fully investigate and compare each institute to compare the different offerings before committing to a course.

Once you have completed the cert II you will be qualified to work in retail as a sales consultant working with cosmetic products and services. You will be able to apply for roles at department stores and hair and beauty salons. So get that resume prepped as your dreams of getting behind that M.A.C or Urban Decay counter are not too far away!

Course Info:

The Certificate II in Retail Cosmetics will vary depending on which institute you sign up with, however generally the course should take around 4 month studying 1-2 days per week.

Course Code: SHB20116
Accreditation: Naturally recognised qualification at Cert II level
Cost: The cost of this course can vary greatly from around $1,500 up to $3,500
Financial Aid: Some Tafe’s do offer concession rates to eligible students, you can also apply for a VET student loan.

Further study opportunities include:

Click here to read more about  Certificate III in Makeup (SHB30125)
Click here to read more about  Certificate IV in Beauty Therapy (SHB40115)
Click here to read more about Diploma of Beauty Therapy (SHB50115)
Click here to also view additional specialist courses that you may be interested in to complement a Certificate II in Makeup and further hone your skills.

Training and qualification requirements for courses and Cert II’s and qualifications can vary from state to state for Retail Cosmetics, so please select your state to get specialist info on requirements in your state. It’s imperative to do your research!

Australian Capital Territory – (02) 6205 8555
New South Wales – 13 28 11
Northern Territory – (08) 8901 1357
Queensland – 1800 210 210
South Australia – 1800 673 097
Tasmania – 1800 655 846
Victoria – (03) 9651 9999
Western Australia – 13 19 54

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