How to Get Makeup Artist Work Experience

In our post on the personal characteristics you'll need to be a makeup artist, we talked about how important EXPERIENCE is. If you didn't read that post, we'll catch you up: it's super important.

But if you're just starting your career, experience is the one thing you don't have! So how do you gain experience? Here are a couple ideas, along with some motivation and emotional support at the end.

First up!

Use Your Personal Network

This one is important.

Did you know that two out of every five jobs is found through a personal connection? It's true! 41% percent of jobs are found by talking to someone you know. Some people even believe that it's actually 80%! The point is that your personal network is a very powerful tool you can use to become a makeup artist.

Here's the good news: almost everyone has a personal network that they can reach out to. Have friends from school? Tell them you're going to find their perfect look. Do you have sisters? Offer to do their chores if they'll let you work on them. Do you have a cool and supportive dad? Tell him you want to make him look like a movie star. Got a mom? Get her in the makeup chair. Does she have friends? Invite them offer for coffee and makeovers. There are a ton of people you can ask, and most of them would be happy to sit for you.

It's totally understandable that you feel a little awkward reaching out to them. That's normal. You don't want to be pushy. But here's the wonderful thing: very often, people want to help you. Not always---maybe not even frequently---but if you tell people, "It's my dream career to be a makeup artist. I'm trying to get as much practice as I can. Can I give a free makeover?" they'll say "Sure!" And if they say no, who cares? On to the next person.

And most of the time, it's totally fun. Giving your mom's friends makeovers will most likely be totally ridiculous and fun. And if you mess up, so what? Every day, you're getting better. You're learning. You're getting closer to living the dream!

By the way, networking is super-important, and we've written a couple of posts about it.

Makeup Artist Work Experience

Go to School

One of the best ways to learn the ropes is to get formal training. Education is one of the best ways to gain experience. You will be surrounded by people who share your passion, and be instructed by teachers who have "been there and done that." You'll be introduced to formal techniques and be able to experiment new ones.

There are very few schools that are solely dedicate to makeup, so if you have one of those in your area, that's fantastic. Cosmetology and esthetician schools are also a good option, even though you won't solely focus on makeup, and will instead learn about a broad range of topics.

We have a "Find a School" function on the page that will help you find training programs in your area. Check it out! The schools you find may be the bridge to getting you the career you need.

Get Yourself a Job at the Makeup Counter

Ok, yes, fine, we're obsessed with getting jobs at makeup counters. One of our readers informed us that we talk about getting jobs at the makeup counter on almost every post we publish. But there's a reason for that! It's so such a fantastic way to develop your skills. Women of all ages, skin colors, facial shapes, and skin consistencies come to you and ask you to convert their look. It is, really, some of the best experience you can get.

And what happens if you apply for a job at a makeup counter, and you get rejected? First off, that's their loss, because you're fantastic. Second, it's not the end of the world. This lady tried to get a job at a makeup counter and got denied, and she is now worth millions of dollars.

Do Your Friends' Makeup Before Special Events

Life is full of big moments: weddings, awards programs, quinceaneras, bat mitzvahs, graduations, religious ceremonies, family reunions, you name it. There are dozens of opportunities where family and friends gather and want to look their best. Anticipate these events, reach out to people before they happen, and offer your services.

How does that shake out? If you're in high school, do all your friends before the prom. If you're graduating, offer to have everyone from your neighborhood sit before the ceremony. If you're in a sorority, offer to do your sisters' makeup free of charge before formals. If you've just graduated college and all your friends are trying to find employment, offer to do their faces before they head off to the job interview. If you're in your late twenties and all your friends are getting married, offer the bride to do the bridal party's makeup. If it's a big event and people want to look special, it's an opportunity for you to gain some experience.

Connect with Local Artists and University Students

If there's a college near you, there is an arts department with budding actors, dancers, and performers. All of those students will need head shots to start their careers, and most of them---being college students---will have a limited budget to spend on photographers, makeup artists, etc.

That's where you come in! Offer to prepare them for the shoot offer your work at a greatly reduced fee (or free; people looooove free). You can do the same for students who are shooting independent movies, music videos, or art films. You can reach out the arts director at the school, post flyers around campus, or find online forums on the university's website. Students are usually also at the beginning of their careers, so you don't have to be nervous that your work isn't perfect.

Speaking of performing arts and theatre, summer stage and local theatre productions are a great way to gain experience. Check out your town or county's website and see if they have performances coming up, and find out how to get involved.

Become a Makeup Artist's Assistant

Basically, being an assistant (sometimes—but not frequently—also called an apprentice) is the same thing as an internship. You spend your time following around a professional, and learn "on the job." The good news is, you'll learn a great deal in a short period of time, but that bad news is you most likely won't get paid.

This can be tricky, especially if you need a steady income, but if you're able to offer your services for free to someone who is already a makeup artist in your area, you'll be able to get a LOT of exposure to their business. You'll learn a lot of new makeup techniques, but most importantly, you'll see how they run their business---how they negotiate prices with clients, set up their schedules, and find work.

Next to getting an education, an apprenticeship is a great option—and, if you have ambitions to work in fashion with designers and beauty magazines, becoming an assistant is one of the best ways to get your career started. Many MUAs who work in fashion started as assistants.

Get Creative!

The best thing---and one of the most challenging things---about being a makeup artist is that YOU are in control of your career. Your ability to gain experience is limited to your ability to dream up ways to gain experience. For example, you could...

  • Contact local beauty salons in your area and offer free services. Salon owners might love that (and you could probably put out a tip jar).
  • Reach out to dance schools in your town or city and do makeup before performances. Again, everybody loves free.
  • Check and see if there are photography classes at your local YMCA or county college or community center, and see if they could use an up-and-coming makeup artist.

Always be looking for opportunities. You may not be able to think of anything now (and if you can, that's awesome!) but if you can't, you'll probably have some great ideas occur to you over the next few days. Keep thinking about and things will pop into your brain.

This Sounds Terrifying to Me

Starting a career is tough. And putting yourself out there and contacting other people and risking rejection from other people—that's really tough.

But you know what? You can do this! If you talk to professional makeup artists, they'll tell you about all the weird and imaginative ways they got experience and broke into the business. And if they did it, so can you!

Find a way. You can do it!

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