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How to become a makeup artist

The makeup industry is hitting a boom, with makeup being at the forefront of almost every platform known to man.
Make Up Artist

As social media rises, so too do influencers and beauty gurus alike, giving way to a ravenous appetite for cosmetics galore. Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, and even Netflix all have a special place reserved for makeup artists of all kinds. It’s hard not to have had some exposure to makeup artistry. Still, this article is here to deep-dive into everything cosmetics and help you decide on your future pathway into the alluring makeup world. 

What does a makeup artist do? 

Makeup artists, or MUAs for short, are professionals who specialise in the cosmetic application of makeup for various purposes such as films, runways or weddings, to name a few. There are many types of makeup artists in the industry, but they all have the same affinity - attention to detail. A makeup artist will need to consider various factors that can affect how their makeup reads. For example, makeup for the stage and makeup for a wedding are two entirely different things, with stage makeup being bold and brash to show up under bright lights and wedding makeup aiming for a subtler natural beauty appearance for the cameras. Additionally, makeup artists have to consider the individual skin needs of each client, with things such as complexion and tone matching being important in the proper application. 

Depending on your chosen direction, you may work with various professionals, including photographers, fashion designers, film producers and celebrities. All of these clients specialise in different media and requirements, and it’s the responsibility of a makeup artist to address this. Makeup artists are also responsible for their cosmetic kit, portfolio maintenance, tool hygiene and marketing. 

Makeup artistry is a deeply involved and personal business, where people are trusting you with their appearance and skin health. Subsequently, many makeup artists keep up to date with trends in beauty and makeup to ensure they meet their client’s expectations.

Types of makeup artist jobs 

The world of a makeup artist is as bright and colourful as the palettes they work from, with the influence of cosmetics deeply intertwined with almost every visual medium imaginable.

Cosmetics are also commonly used to enhance a client’s beauty for a variety of social functions. Some examples of career pathways available to aspiring makeup artists include: 

  • Film, Television and Theatrical Makeup - MUAs who focus on enhancing and exaggerating an actor’s appearance suitable to either screen or stage to communicate their character better.
  • Special FX - this subcategory is a deeply involved and creative offshoot of the basic screen makeup. Tasks Special FX MUAs face include developing and applying prosthetic makeup and innovative techniques to establish fantasy creatures, gore effects, exaggerated features and sci-fi creatures. 
  • Photoshoots - this can include various fashion settings such as editorial and high-fashion scenes where an MUA focuses on responding to the intents of the creative director in charge. 
  • Beauty - beauty MUAs perform makeup to enhance the client’s beauty and create an airbrushed effect for social events and bridal settings. They also regularly work for spas, salons and retail environments, applying makeup and assisting customers in proper application techniques and product selection. 
  • Freelance - these entrepreneurial MUAs delve into the world of independent employment and business, developing their own brand identity and client base. They may also participate in independent content creation like YouTube videos or Instagram posts to generate interest and a fan basis for clientele expansion. 

These are just some of the opportunities available to aspiring makeup artists, and any combination of them may be adapted to your interests and career aspirations. Regardless, it is generally advised that you pursue some form of certification to begin climbing the ranks in the makeup industry.

Choosing a makeup course 

Like a makeup artist’s kit needs the proper tools, the right education can bridge the difference between a hobbyist and a professional makeup artist. Once you’re set on pursuing makeup artistry as a career, it’s essential to find the suitable qualification to give you the best possible chance of employment. At South West TAFE, we offer various courses with different delivery methods allowing students opportunities for practical training, career resources and employability support at the Skills and Jobs Centre.

Courses offered at South West TAFE include: 

  • Certificate III in Beauty Services 

    This course is run full time on campus in Warrnambool for six months with three days of classes a week. This course includes makeup application training and various beauty treatments offered in salons, including waxing, lash and brow treatments, and tanning.

    The Certificate III opens you up to various employment opportunities, including manicurist, salon beautician and professional makeup artist. You may also choose to pursue further study in the Certificate IV of Beauty Therapy, Diploma of Beauty Therapy, or the Certificate III in Nail Technology.

    This course does not offer placement but does allow students to complete course tasks at the Pure Academy. Pure Academy enables students to train in an industry-standard functional hair and beauty salon.

    The entrance requirements for this course include a police check before commencement and a minimum age of 16 years old with a year 10 certificate or equivalent.

  • Certificate III in Beauty Services (Traineeship) 

    This course is a traineeship run over 24 months, with commencement available at any time. This traineeship offers a self-paced delivery method, allowing you to develop your professional skills in a salon with combined learning within the Pure Academy at South West TAFE. You will learn how to apply various beauty treatments from experienced teachers at Pure Academy, including waxing, lash and brow treatments, and tanning.

    This course will open you up to various career opportunities, including freelance makeup artistry and cosmetic consultancy. Alternatively, you may consider pursuing further education in pathways such as the Certificate IV in Beauty Therapy and then the Diploma of Beauty Therapy.

    To apply for this course, you must meet an age requirement of at least 16 years of age, a year 10 education or equivalent, and a police check. You must be currently employed as a trainee with a beauty salon or day spa to qualify for a traineeship. 

  • Certificate IV in Beauty Therapy

    This course is run over nine months in full-time study mode. This Certificate enables students to develop their professional skills in various beauty treatments expanding upon Certificate III with the inclusion of massage, body treatments and facial treatments. This course offers hands-on experience working within the Pure Academy salon at South West TAFE’s Warrnambool campus.

    This course will prepare you for various beauty settings, including salon work, resorts and cruise ships. Alternatively, you may consider pursuing further education in a Diploma of Beauty Therapy.

    To apply for this course, you must meet an age requirement of at least 16 years of age, a year 10 education or equivalent and a police check before commencement. 

  • Certificate IV in Beauty Therapy (Traineeship) 

    This course is run as a part-time traineeship for three years, with commencement available at any time. This course is self-paced and includes practical classes at Pure Academy, in addition to training received from your chosen employer.

    The Certificate IV opens you up to various employment opportunities, including work within resorts, massage settings and day spas. You may also choose to pursue further study in the Diploma of Beauty Therapy.

    The entrance requirements for this course include a police check before commencement and a minimum age of 16 years old with a year 10 education or equivalent. Employment within the beauty industry is also required to apply. 

  • Diploma of Beauty Therapy 

    This course is run over 12 months in a full-time study mode. The Diploma of Beauty Therapy enables students to develop their professional skills in various beauty treatments expanding upon Certificate IV with the inclusion of hot stone therapy, spa treatments and specialised facials. This course offers hands-on experience working within the Pure Academy salon and work placement through South West TAFE’s industry partners.

    This course will prepare you for work in various beauty settings, including salons, resorts and cruise ships.

    To apply for this course, you must meet an age requirement of at least 17 years of age, a year 12 education, ACSF level of 3 or a Certificate IV or higher. You will also need a police check and a Working With Children check. 

If you’re feeling a little spoiled for choice, you might want to consider getting in contact with the South West TAFE Skills and Jobs Centre to find out which course suits your needs best.

Makeup artist salary

Make up artist salary graph

With greater interest in makeup artistry, the employment scene is competitive. Still, there are plenty of opportunities to go around, especially in the bustling cityscapes of Melbourne and Sydney, with average salaries sitting at about $51,000 a year and peaking at $116,000 for those lucky enough to shoot up the ranks. 

You may also consider self-employment as a freelance makeup artist. This option will generally have a more significant fluctuation in annual salary depending on your client base and customer loyalty. 

Either way, the best way to go about the employment market in makeup is to start doing makeup!

Starting out as a makeup artist 

Once students have gotten their relevant qualifications, it can be a mad scramble to snap up any job opportunities available. So, where do you start? And no, it’s not with a clean face prepped for foundation (though that certainly will help!). Celebrity makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes suggests that you start by “assisting as much as you can”. This means getting yourself out there and seeking traineeships and assistant opportunities so you can begin building a name for yourself! 

A suitable traineeship and work ethic can quickly bolster your network and help you expand on your skillset, keeping you up-to-date on beauty trends. Don’t forget to take pictures (with permission, of course) and keep practising on everyone and anyone happy to let you. This isn’t just to build your portfolio but to expand your experience with different skin types and bone structures. Pair this with good marketing through social media, and you’ve got the job! 

Beauty traineeships  

By completing a qualification with South West TAFE, you’ll already have received experience in an industry-standard setting at Pure Academy. Still, you may want to pursue a traineeship before deep-diving into the makeup world. Getting a traineeship is like getting any job; it’s about putting yourself out there and marketing your skills. 

Be sure to network and vocalise to everyone and anyone that you’re looking for a traineeship; you never know where an opportunity could arise. A fantastic resource is your SWTAFE mentors and connections; as South West TAFE alumni, don’t ever forget your roots! Get out there and scope out salons and artists you would like to work for; there’s no harm in asking about opportunities. Just remember to always have your portfolio ready to go! 

Makeup artist business ideas 

There’s nothing better than being your own boss, and in makeup, that’s totally possible! Outside of the nitty-gritty, pursuing self-employment in makeup starts with an idea, and that idea is what do YOU want to do? Figure out your niche or specialty, the thing that people will think of you for and start developing a portfolio and brand identity around it. You could start your own bridal makeup business or maybe advertise as a theatrical specialist, but you will need to show proof of concept. This means doing makeup for free if you have to; clients want to see results. Running your own business is a marketing game, so you need to be a focused self-starter. 

As a freelance makeup artist, it’s essential to keep an up-to-date kit, knowledge of trends, social media presence and relevant training. As your business grows, so will you! 

Getting your first makeup clients 

It’s all well and good to say that social media is vital, but how do you go about getting those first likes? With a clear vision and portfolio available to clients, it’s important to post to social media, no matter how quiet it may initially seem. Focus your posts on platforms such as Instagram, which is well-known for its beauty focus and make sure to curate your posts to increase views. Curating your posts in this context means ensuring that they have accessible links to your booking services/contact details and local hashtags. These additions will increase your visibility to potential customers. 

You may also consider garnering a more significant social following by using YouTube to post tutorials and beauty-related videos linking back to your commercial presence. Finally, make sure to network within your own personal social circles and external events such as beauty shows and expos. 

Marketing your makeup artist business 

Your social media presence will be the bulk of your marketing strategy. Still, you can go about social media and other marketing methods in various ways. You may consider using Snapchat to regularly engage with your audience as well as an eye-catching portfolio website. It’s recommended you also have a physical version of your portfolio available to potential employers and clients. Alongside this, you can also offer a face charts catalogue where you can display your original looks for them to peruse. 

As a business owner, it’s essential to streamline and simplify your booking process and increase traffic through customer referral. You may want to consider methods such as loyalty cards, special events and discount services to increase the chance of clients returning. Photographers and hairstylists are also a fantastic resource for client referrals and potential partners for a more polished and extensive portfolio. 

At its core, makeup artistry is like any other creative venture - hands-on. You need to just jump into it and keep practising to hone your skills. South West TAFE can offer you the skills and experience to take your career (and contouring) to the next level. So get your ring light on, brushes cleaned, kit ready and start doing makeup!