Makeup artists are required across a range of industries. From television, film, and music to special events like weddings, birthdays, Halloween and prom – and there are several aspects to keep in mind when you're looking for makeup artist jobs.
They are a vital part when creating the aesthetic and appropriate look for people during important life events and contribute to the arts across a range of sectors.
So, how much should you charge as a makeup artist?
In this article, we’re going to cover numerous sectors of Makeup and the average rates that are charged.
We’re also going to show you how to set your hourly rate so you know never to undersell your services.
Firstly, let’s look at how much a Makeup Artist earns on average.
The average salary for a Makeup Artist is £20,158 per year in the UK.
Salary increases overtime as the freelancer gains experience, contacts, and status within the makeup industry.
Freelance Makeup Artists who are just starting out typically earn between £8,000 - £12,000 in the first year whilst getting to grips with the industry whereas top Makeup Artists can earn considerably more.
Check out this video on how to make money as a makeup artist:
Job Responsibilities of a Makeup Artist
Being a Makeup Artist is much more than just applying product to people or working on a film set.
Makeup Artists are responsible for working together with creative teams to produce a particular look for a model, entertainer or a person who requires makeup for a special occasion.
Freelance Makeup Artists are required at a variety of events and productions including photo shoots, television programmes, theatre shows and concerts.
Job responsibilities for freelance makeup artists include:
✅ Researching looks according to a brief
✅ Formulating suitable briefs for clients
✅ Coming up with makeup looks and ideas
✅ Communicating with the rest of the creative team to ensure that there is one cohesive look
✅ Sourcing the correct materials for each project
✅ Keeping their portfolio up to date and looking professional
✅ Being able to work to tight deadlines and under pressure
Types of Makeup Artists & Their Rates
Fashion Makeup Artist
Makeup Artists who work in the fashion industry provide makeup for models, magazine spreads and fashion shows. They work with the rest of the creative team to put together a complete look.
According to BECTU, luxury and mainstream editorials pay from £150 to £250 depending on the experience of the artist, the roles range from junior makeup artists to head makeup artists. Indie editorials, editorials for independent magazines, ranges from £90 to £170, catalogs from £75 to £270 and fashion campaigns from £170 to £320.
For fashion shows on the London Fashion Week schedule, makeup artists can expect to earn from £450 to £600.
For fashion shows that are not on the official London Fashion Week schedule (off-schedule fashion shows), makeup artists can expect to be paid between £45 to £300, all depending on their level of expertise.
Makeup artists who work Alternative Fashion Week can earn between £25 to £145.
Any other student of graduate shows will pay makeup artists from £15 to £115.
Many fashion shows will ask Makeup Artists to work for free in return for experience. However, our research shows that this approach has a negative impact on the career of the individual in the long-term as well as the industry as a whole.
Lookbooks are essential to any designers marketing and promotion process.
Luxury lookbooks for high-end designers pay from £150 to £325.
Indie lookbooks pay £45 to £180, commercial lookbooks pay £150 to £475 and student lookbooks£15 to £115.
Fashion films are a more interactive and artistic way for creatives to promote and market their work.
Fashion films for luxury designers pay £175 to £475.
Indie fashion films will earn a freelance makeup artist £125 to £375 and the pay rate for commercial films range from £115 to £700.
For student films, the pay rate is from £15 to £115.
Should you wish to work as part of a low-budget or no-budget project, ask for shares in the company or a portion of any future profits to supplement your time.
Film and Television Makeup Artist
Films and television programmes all require the services of a makeup artist when creating the look of each character but the makeup artist hourly rate highly depends on the film or programmes’ budget.
A project with a budget of £1m to £1.5m can earn a makeup artist £10.42 an hour for a trainee to £17.77 an hour for a head of department and £15.36 an hour for a Makeup Artist.
For a £3m to £6m budget project, trainees can, again, expect to earn £10.42 an hour, MUA’s £20.16 an hour and heads of department £25.31 an hour.
For a £20m to £30m budget project, trainees earn an average of £10.42 an hour, MUA’s £22.42 an hour and heads of department £28.14 an hour.
The highest grossing projects, which are films and television shows with a budget of £40m or more can see a trainee makeup artist earning £10.42 an hour, an MUA earning £24 an hour and a head of the department earning £30.13 an hour.
Special Effects Makeup Artist
Makeup artists who specialise in special effects typically transform actors into creatures, monsters or characters with a unique look.
Their job includes researching makeup styles as well as art that they can incorporate into a character's look, being creative in producing a completely distinctive look for their character and maintaining this throughout the shoot.
It is important that these makeup artists are familiar with a wide range of materials and paints that can be used on the human face and body.
The average salary for a freelance makeup artist who works in special effects is £10 - £30 an hour or £80 to £300 a day.
Wedding Makeup Artist
Makeup artists work at weddings to ensure that everyone who is a part of the event looks their best.
The artist may be hired solely to do the bride’s makeup or may do all of the bridesmaids' makeup as well as the maid of honour and the bride’s mother.
For doing the brides makeup as well as the bridesmaids, a freelance makeup artist can expect to earn around £80 to £150 on average.
For the mother of the bride, artists are paid on average £44 to £70.
Makeup artists can charge anywhere between £13 to £83 for extras that include eyelash tints, eyelash extensions, HD brows, manicures and pedicures.
If you are required to travel to reach the location of the job, it is important that this is included in your final fee. For a day’s travel, you can expect to be paid around £34.
Another common method of setting your rate is to figure out how much you need to earn to successfully run your business.
The simple way to work out what you and your business need to earn is to follow this simple equation:
EXPENSES divided by the number of HOURS WORKED + TAX
This will give you your hourly rate.
For example, your expenses each year will include personal expenses and business expenses eg: rent, mortgage, makeup kit, laptop, travel etc... divided by the number of hours you'll work throughout the year.
Note: only include chargeable hours and not the time when you're not getting paid or working for free. Then add 20% for tax.
£10,000 annual expenses ÷ 1000 hours + 20% = £10 per hour + tax = £12 per hour.
This is your break-even figure so your rate should be higher to make a profit.
To get a more accurate figure and to help you better understand your freelance business, a business plan is a vital tool.
It helps in ensuring professionalism as well as clearing up what you will need to spend money on and how much you will need to earn in order to make a profit.
Some things to include in the business plan are:
A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis is a basic for any business and includes the businesses or individuals’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
✅Strengths detail the biggest assets that will bring in and keep clients, perhaps it’s the fact that you have additional skills in addition to makeup artistry such as hairdressing or nail technician skills.
It could also be that you are based in a location that enables you to travel easily to other locations.
✅Weaknesses allow you to self-assess your own skillset and analyse how you can improve these in order to attract more clients.
Weaknesses could include your lack of experience or the fact that you are providing a niche service. For all weaknesses listed, it is advisable that you also detail how best to combat them.
✅Opportunities detail where and what is the best way to gain more work and clients.
They could include how best to find clients, which networking events are the most useful to attend or which industries currently require the most makeup artists, are there a lot of weddings in the Springtime for example?
✅Threats discuss what could possibly threaten your work and therefore your income.
Threats can come from competitors that have an advantage over your skills. It could also be due to a downturn in the economy or in the makeup and beauty industry itself.
Costs of materials
Makeup Artists must always carry an extensive kit and equipment as they will not be provided by clients.
The makeup kit for a freelance Makeup Artist typically includes:
- Set bags
- Brush belts
- Empty palettes
- Beauty blenders
- A range of brushes
- Makeup for all skin tones
- Marketing Strategy
Every freelance Makeup Artist needs to self-market and self-promote their work in order to be successful and to attract clients. This is a constant expense and something that every freelancer always has to think about and budget for.
Although the majority of branding is one-off, such as website creation, business cards and an amazing portfolio, how you market yourself is something that you should always be prepared for.
These costs include:
Stands at expos
Know Your Industry
Market trends are something that as a business you should always be watching out for.
What is happening in the makeup industry right now?
What type of makeup looks are trending at the moment and will be popular among clients?
Detailing market trends in your business plan and updating them when necessary will help you gain more clients in the future.
Your Target Market
It is vital to think what your past experiences are and what your skill set lends itself to.
Have you had a lot of experience in fashion? If so your target market might be the fashion industry.
It is also important to think about what industries connect to this one and if your skills and experience can be used there also.
As well as which industries your previous skills and experiences most appeal to, as a freelance makeup artist you should also think about which clients you can specifically target.
Do you provide affordable services that will appeal to young girls and women on special occasions? Or is your portfolio more representative of industry work and therefore your target market is those who recruit creative teams for music projects, films and theatre?
Once you have assessed who your target market is, you now have a better understanding of how to market yourself in a way that will best appeal to them as well as being able to find out where they advertise their jobs.
Competitive Advantage (USP)
Your competitive advantage or unique selling point (USP) is what makes you different and therefore more likely to secure clients from your competition.
Think about what makes you and your work unique.
Perhaps one of your competitive advantages is the fact that you have a lot of experience in one area or that you have worked for a variety of different clients across multiple industries.
One of your competitive advantages could be the types of products that you use or have access to, are they usable on all skin tones and types?
Are you using products that aren’t available for anyone to buy at most cosmetic stores?
If you are, then these are your competitive advantages. Most of the skills you have can be a competitive advantage, it’s up to you how you market your work with these advantages at the forefront of your job applications.
It will be helpful to write down how you plan to price the amount of work you do at each job.
For example, you can write down a forecasted half day and full day rate or you can break down a potential price based on the type of looks that you can create, for a half face or full face, for example.
You can also create a pricing strategy based on the time it will take to carry out a job or how much materials on top of your makeup kit you will need to obtain for a project.
As part of your business plan, you should write down a projected budget for each part of the business.
In your budget, you will need to include how much money you can spend on materials, research, travel, and marketing.
It is important to create a realistic budget for each of these and stick to it or you could find yourself only breaking even, or worse, making a loss.
A sales forecast details the projected earnings of a business for the year, in line with what you earn now whilst considering potential jobs, clients, and opportunities that are on the horizon.
If you have only recently begun to earn money as a freelance makeup artist, it is advisable to also include a sales forecast for six months, so that you can assess if your work is financially viable.
As part of your business plan, you should ensure that you account for the taxes that will be deducted from your monthly and yearly pay cheque.
As soon as you begin to earn money as a freelance makeup artist, it is vital that you register as self-employed through HMRC. Once you have been earning money as a freelancer for a year you will be eligible to complete a tax return form and be taxed accordingly.
In your business plan, you should account for the benefits that full-time employees receive in salaried jobs.
When planning how you will set a fee for each job or project, it is important that you account for the dental, vision, life insurance, pensions, time off due to illness and holiday pay that regular employees receive, as with most freelance jobs these benefits are not paid.
How to charge fees (Freelance Salary)
Each freelance makeup artist will have their own method when it comes to how they end up charging fees and there are a variety of options available to suit the freelance makeup artist and the types of clients that they work for.
Day and Half Day
A lot of freelancers charge a set daily fee.
For predictable jobs or projects for regular clients, it is quite easy to charge a flat out fee for the day and then to half the fee for half a day’s work.
If you are carrying out a job similar to one you have previously carried out, it is advisable to charge the same fee.
You could also base the fee on the type of client that the job is for.
For small or independent clients, you may decide to charge a small competitive fee that will keep them coming back and for bigger clients that are well known in the industry, it is advisable to increase your fee, as you can assume that they have a bigger budget for the project you are working on.
Charging by the hour is another payment option available to freelancers.
It can be advantageous in the fact that it allows you to ensure that you have been appropriately paid for a day’s work or for the duration of the project.
This payment method will not work for all jobs as it can be somewhat unpredictable if projects are longer or quicker than the original projected time.
An hourly payment method works best for jobs where both you and the client can accurately predict, give or take a couple of hours, how long a project will take.
Some occasions are more complicated than others.
If you are a freelance makeup artist that specialises or has a particular interest in occasion or event work, charging by the type of occasion could be the best payment method for you.
You may charge more for weddings than for baby showers for example, or create a pricing package depending on how many people require having their makeup done for the occasion.
For weddings, you could provide a price package for the bridesmaids, maid of honour and the bride’s mother.
Repeat jobs and clients are what every freelance makeup artist wants to gain.
In order to maintain a good working relationship with clients and to encourage them to keep coming back, it may be a good idea to charge a whole fee that includes future jobs for that clients.
You may also want to provide cheaper fees to repeat clients, knowing that the repeat business will lead to a higher profit in the long run.
There is no one method when it comes to setting a fee as a freelance makeup artist.
As every makeup artist is an individual with their own set of clients and their own lifestyles to pay for, it can be tricky when deciding a fee.
It is vital, however, to consider the key factors when setting a fee and to carefully prepare a business plan to reference.
Working as a freelance makeup artist can be a highly rewarding career, with the freedom to be as creative as possible and to be your own boss.
Once you have built up enough experience and contacts, you can steadily increase your fees and begin earning more money.
This guide details the essentials in formulating fees and setting your prices, so will be useful to keep referring back to as you go through your career.