How Long Does It Take To Become A Makeup Artist?
People who love makeup and want to break into the beauty industry as a makeup artist often want to know, "How long does it take to become a makeup artist?" How quickly can I get started, and how quickly can I begin to make money?
Here's the short answer: it varies, but it really only takes a few months to start getting some gigs. You can start with makeup school, and schools usually last from one or two weeks to five or six months---or you can skip that step, and simply start advertising your services online and in your local community. Your reputation will probably build slowly, but within a year or two (or three or four!) of hustle, you can build up a client list and be a full-time makeup artist.
Exciting, right?? Now let's get to the details, because there are a lot of things you'll need to think about. How do you get started? Should you go to school? How long until you're a celebrity MUA working with the stars? We've got some really good news, and some "not-great-but-ok" news.
Good news first!
All You Need to Be a Makeup Artist is One Paying Gig
You don't need a license to become a makeup artist, and you don't need to go to school to get started. In fact, some of the highest-paid and most relevant makeup artists practicing today never went to school.
Many of them started out doing makeup for their friends and family (or working at a local makeup counter), put a few advertisements online and in local publications, and then started getting paid gigs at weddings and events. Then, after they built up a portfolio and developed some professional contacts, they moved onto bigger and more glamorous jobs.
Here's the wonderful thing: if they can do it, so can you!
Ok, Great. So How Do *I* Get Started?
Luckily, our site has everything you need to know to get started as a makeup artist. We've got posts on whether or not you should get an education, how to advertise your services, how to professional relationships and build a network, and dozens of other helpful "how-to" posts and guides.
However, we realize that starting your own freelance makeup company can be a little intimidating, so...
School Really is the Easiest Way to Start
Honestly, for most people, it's easiest to start by going to makeup school or cosmetology school. They're exposed to new makeup techniques and methods, they learn business skills, and they get a clearer sense of how to launch a career.
You can take the route we outlined above, where you advertise your services and begin building a clientele, but going to school can be the quickest and surest option. If that sounds like a good plan to you, we have a "Find a School" option above, where you can check and see if there are schools in your area.
The Amount of Work You Get Will Depend on Two Things
There are two things that a makeup artist needs to be successful: connections and advertising. Why are those two things so important?
Employment as a makeup artist isn't really like the employment that most people have. Most people have jobs where they go every day and collect a paycheck every two weeks. In other words, the work is always there for them; they simply need to show up and do it.
For makeup artists, that's not the case. Because so much of the work that makeup artists do happens only once---for example, a bride only has one "big day" or a runway event happens over one weekend and then is finished---makeup artists need to be continually booking new work.
To book new work, they rely upon their connections and the professional relationships they've built, and the advertising they're able to do (through their online portfolio, their displays on professional websites, and so on). The contacts they've built send them new work, and the advertisements they've placed introduce them to new clients.
So what does this have to do with the amount of time it takes to become a makeup artist? Because it takes some time to build up professional contracts and to learn where to advertise your services. That's why...
Your First Year Will Be the Most Difficult
When you're starting out, you have very little experience. You have no contacts. You have no one you can use as a reference, and no one to say, "Yes, her work is spectacular." It can be very difficult to get the ball rolling, and most MUAs say that their first year was their most difficult.
The good news? Once you start building contacts, your reputation gains momentum. Everything get easier. They more people you work with, the more people will pass your name on to others---so make sure that you're doing great work, and be kind to others!
When I'm Starting Out, Should I Specialize in a Type of Makeup?
The truth is that most makeup artists go where the work is, and they'll do a bride and her bridal party one week, then get a job for a music video in a nearby city, then work with a photographer on a magazine spread... in other words, most makeup artists take all the work they can get. There are some makeup artists who are able to specialize in one area of makeup (ie, fashion, video, tv and film, etc) but most take whatever work they can find---ESPECIALLY when they're first starting out.
Eventually, after working for a few years, most MUAs find that they've build up a reputation in a particular area. They may become highly-paid and sought-after bridal MUAs, or build relationships with fashion photographers, or come to know a number of production agencies, or whatever the case may be. It's not uncommon for a successful MUA to say, "I didn't plan to become a bridal makeup artist (or whatever), but the jobs kept coming in..."
If you are dead-set on making a particular style of makeup your career (like special effects makeup, fashion makeup, bridal makeup), it can be helpful to go to a school to get started. Keep in mind, though, that even though you're shooting for a particular career, you may need to take different types of jobs to pay the bills until you can continually book the kind of work you want.
Can I Do This?
YES. If you love makeup, and you love the thrill of making someone look radiant, the satisfaction you'll get from your career propel you through any challenges you face. If makeup is your passion, make it happen! If you want it bad enough, it's just a matter of time until you make it happen.