How To Build A Professional Network

Welcome to your crash course in business networking! "Networking" is literally the last thing on a person's mind when they're thinking about a career as a MUA, but it's super important, so let's get to it.

What Is A Professional Network?

A professional network is a group of people who can help you out in your business endeavors as a makeup artist. That means they are people who can get you new jobs, help you find photographers, hook you up with free or discount makeup, etc. Any person who can benefit you and your MUA business is someone you want in your professional network. Your professional network can even be your online community, and websites where you can find work.

Why Is Networking So Important?

Beautylish does a great job of explaining how to achieve success in a difficult industry. Makeup artistry is not only about technique and skill, it's also about "personality, relationships, and networking."

That's why we're making such a big deal about networking: because it can help your career immeasurably. The more people you have in your professional network, the more likely you are going to get a lot of work and be successful and happy.

Think about it this way: every person you meet on the job is someone who can send new jobs your way. When you are a makeup artist, and you need to constantly be finding new work, having a group of people who send you work (or who you can go to when you need work) is an INVALUABLE asset.

How To Build Your Professional Network

So how do MUAs build relationships with people in the biz? Here's a couple of ways:

Get Online

If you are between the ages of 13 and 50, chances are you're already pretty good at social networking. There are dozens of social media sites, and everyone has their favorites. The great thing is, ALL of those sites are fantastic. Find as many people as you can who have similar interests, keep in contact with them, and try to meet up with them "in real life."

Work Your Jobsite

No matter what your work environment as an MUA is, you want to meet as many people around you as possible. If you're at a photo shoot, you chit-chat with the crew, the techs, the models (if they're up for it—sometimes they're not), the photographer (if he has some down time, which usually he won't), and anybody else you come across. If you're at a wedding, chitchat to bridesmaids (who may have a wedding coming up soon!). If you're at a theatre, talk to the crew. No matter what the setting, get to know the people around you. Just make sure that your efforts are appropriate to the situation (which we'll talk about in a minute).

Get An Assistant Position

We talked about this extensively in another post, but if you can get a position as a MUA assistant, you'll have the opportunity to develop a very strong relationship with the artist you work for. For many people, a position as an assistant is their ticket into the world of makeup artistry. If you do a fantastic job, the artist you're working for will recommend you to her friends and associates, and you are on your way.

Make Friends With Other Assistants

If you're on a worksite and there are other assistants there, talk them up. Today's assistants are tomorrow's bosses.

Make Friends In Your Community

If there are a few local churches or synagogues where everyone gets married, try to meet the pastor/priest/rabbi. If there are salons or spas that get a lot of business, talk to the owner and see if you can leave a few brochures. If there is a local college with actors/musicians/singers/etc. graduating—and needing headshots—get to know the professors. Get involved! Meet the people in your community. That's good advice no matter what your career is.

Always Have Business Cards

Business cards may seem a little antiquated, but they're still a great tool, and if you're serious about your career, you'll need to have a few made. Don't go overboard—sometimes new MUAs get ambitious and have hundreds of cards made—but print a few up and start handing them out to people you meet.

Join Professional Organizations And Go To Conferences

Did you know that Las Vegas, Nevada makes a lot of its money not from gamblers, but from people who are visiting for business conferences? That's correct—one of the main reasons people fly to Vegas is to attend business conventions where they meet people who are in the same business they're in. Go online and find conferences and conventions where you can meet like-minded professionals.

Get On LinkedIn

We wrote about LinkedIn on our "Websites Where You Can Find Work" post, and we'd like to plug it again. LinkedIn is the "Facebook of the business world," and while there may not be many makeup artists on there, it can be very helpful to have your resume and portfolio on there, as companies often hire makeup artists. It can also be a great place to transition into a full-time job that deals with makeup.

Some "Do's and Don't's" Of Networking

Now that you have some idea of how to build your professional network of makeup artists, let's look at some finer details. There is a right way to network, and a wrong way to network. Let's take a look at what you'll need to know. ​

Be Appropriate

Keep in mind, you want to network at the appropriate moments. Everyone on a job is there to do a specific task, and you should never get in the way of that. If a photographer is at work, s/he is going to be pretty angry if you get in his/her way. But when people are milling around and there's some down time, that's the time to reach out to others and get to know people.

(Another important tip: don't force conversation with the models or actors or clients you are working with. If they start a conversation, great. If they don't, then chances are they don't want to talk.)

Don't Openly Promote Yourself

This is very important. There's a different between networking—getting to know people—and openly promoting yourself as a makeup artist. When you're on a job, it can be appropriate to meet others, but it's almost never appropriate to purposefully promote yourself... ESPECIALLY if you're there as an assistant.

When you are on a job as an assistant, you're there to support the key makeup artist, and that is ALL you need to think about. You should be very busy making sure the key has everything he or she needs. If you're handing out business cards and trying to drum up business, it looks as though you're trying to take business away from the artist you're working for.

If someone asks for your card or your contact information, go ahead and give it to them—but AFTER you've asked your key about it.

Remember, you're in it for the long haul. Be patient. If your key trusts you, he or she will bring you to bigger and better projects, and your name will get out there just because you've helped your key for so long.


Keep in mind, a professional network cuts both ways, and you will need to help others when you can, too! If you are constantly asking for favors from the people in your network without giving anything back... they're going to stop answering your calls. Make sure that you're helping others out whenever you can. It'll come back to you.

Don't Be Clingy

Very often, when people are put in a group of people they don't know, they meet one person, and then cling to that person for dear life. They feel safe with their new relationship, and stop reaching out to others around them.

If that describes you—and honestly, it describes all of us at one time or another—fight the urge to simply stay with your new acquaintance. You don't have to ditch him/her—in fact, you want to keep in touch with everyone you meet—but make sure you don't meet one person and then forget to keep meeting new people.

If It Helps, Don't Think Of It As Networking

For many of us—the writer of this post included!—it can feel a little fake to simply try and meet people because they can be a benefit for your business. A little gross, even. It can feel weird to try and meet people simply because they can further your career.

If that describes how you feel, know that you're not alone!

It can help to think of it as simply "looking for business friends." Because that's true, in a way. You're looking to reach out and build relationships that will help you—but help the people you're meeting, too! Think about it—you are EXCELLENT at what you do, because you've practiced for years. You're at the top of your game. This person NEEDS to you! It would be cruel to keep them from using your fantastic makeup skills. You're both going to benefit.

And, don't forget—many of the people you meet when networking with become your real friends. Networking pays off in a number of different ways.

That's a good segue to another thing to remember:

It Doesn't Need To Always Be About Business

When you reach out to others, keep it natural. Talk about things un-related to business. Ease into the business talk when it seems appropriate. Don't overdo it.

Keep In Touch​

Many people are great at meeting others, but don't have a great professional network because they don't keep in touch with the people they meet. Such a waste! Whoever you meet, make a record of it, and send them a message every couple of weeks or months. It doesn't have to be long, and a simple "Hey! Thinking of you!" or a "Saw your work in Whatever Magazine—great job!" will do the trick.​

It Takes Some Effort, But It Gets Easier

Reaching out and initiating conversations with others can be totally, absolutely, and 100% terrifying. Some people seem to chat with others without any effort, but for others, initiating an interaction is the most horrifying idea possible.

If that's you, don't worry—it gets a LOT easier. The more you reach out to others and try to make a connection, they easier it becomes.

Wrapping It Up

This was, truly, a crash course. There has been SO MUCH written about networking, that all you need to do is search for "networking" or "professional networking" online, and you will have TONS of material you can read. Hopefully this has been a good primer, and you get a feel for the importance of networking, and how you can incorporate it into your business.

Questions? Leave 'em below.

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