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Makeup Artist Salary and Job Description


Name: Wendy York
Job Title: Makeup Artist
Where: Providence, Rhode Island 
Employer: Self-Employed
Years of Experience: Over 20
Education: Some college and licensed in cosmetology
Salary: Use the PayScale Research Center to find the median makeup artist salary.

Makeup Artist Salary

According to Wendy York, a self-made makeup artist, embarking on a freelance makeup artist career can be tough, but creativity and freedom are the rewards. If you're interested in working as a makeup artist, but don't know whether to start with makeup artist internships, a makeup artist apprenticeship, or how to find job vacancies for makeup artists, this interview is a must-read.

Wendy spoke to us about the typical makeup artist salary, her career as a makeup artist, and secrets of makeup artists. She also discussed the challenges and rewards of being self-employed, including how to manage finances while seeking job vacancies for freelance artists. This Salary Story is a great opportunity to learn more about salaries for makeup artists and how to become a professional makeup artist.

Makeup Artist Job Description:

As a makeup artist, my basic duties are to make people look great on camera. If it’s a photo shoot that means smooth-looking skin, but invisible make up. A still image is very unforgiving. It is as demanding as high-definition film, which is why I also provide air brush makeup services which are more technically difficult but, when done well, are flawless. TV and standard film is much less demanding because of the actual film used, but that is changing.

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Can you recall your career as a makeup artist?

I have been working as a freelance makeup artist, hair and wardrobe stylist for over 20 years. It was a gradual progression from starting out doing makeup to getting my license to do hair. I started receiving requests from clients to do wardrobe styling when budgets were getting cut during the late eighties. In the beginning I went through all of the typical struggles you go through when you venture away from the security of a typical job.

I learned many lessons the hard way especially since I started at such an early age. I balanced the work week for several years while building my portfolio and gradually networked with better and more accomplished photographers and production companies.

Do you recall any memorable moments from your career as a makeup artist?

I feel very lucky to have a career where I get paid to be creative, and make people feel and look great! I’ve worked with wonderful, talented people and I’ve had very creative jobs. One of the warmest people I’ve ever worked with was Yo Yo Ma. When he walked in, his presence was like a golden light that warmed the entire room. While he was on set being photographed he actually played the cello and was dueling musically with a violinist!

I felt like I was one of the luckiest people in the world because it was the closest to a private concert one could get. I’ve had the experience of working with wonderful women like Blythe Danner and Sharon Gless who were generous in sharing their wisdom with me. When you freelance sometimes you long for a mentor of sorts and I’ve learned amazing things from sometimes surprising sources.

What advice do you have on how to become a makeup artist?

1) Take anything you can in the beginning. There are things to be learned from every job! I assisted a wardrobe stylist once on a magazine shoot and she paid me five dollars to tape shoes all day and hem pants. I was able to get my first examples of tear sheets for my portfolio. That job let me know right away that makeup was a much better way for me personally to start! 2) If something doesn’t feel right to you, then nine times out of ten, it’s not right. My gut instinct is the most valuable tool I have. 3) Look at the big picture! I have worked on really grueling jobs.

4) Always have some savings set aside. I have always had savings set aside that allowed me some peace of mind during lulls in business that were out of my control. It also allows you to extricate yourself from a bad situation or negotiate hard when you need to. 5) Be authentic in your word and your work ethic. Always come from a place of integrity. Whether you get repeat business or not is influenced by the feeling people get when they read your name. You want to leave a good impression.

What would be the average makeup artist salary?

A makeup artist salary really depends on the budget and level of client. Madonna’s makeup artist is going to earn a large makeup artist salary! Also, a shoot for an editorial piece in a magazine will not pay as much as an ad (shoot) for the same magazine. So I prefer doing advertising photography, but that can be high pressure. Or you could work on a film 12 hours a day, that would pay well and there is all sorts of camaraderie. I would say that a makeup artist salary can range from $450-$2000 a day.

How does your salary compare to a makeup artist’s salary? Find out with our salary survey.

Matt Schneider
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Wayden King
Wayden King

I would like to start my own business. Could you please give me some advice? I would like to ask you a few questions via email. Thank you in advance:)

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