Over the past couple of years, freelancing has become an increasingly popular career choice for many individuals as its mode of design often offers flexibility and independence in the fast-paced world of work.

New York City, a hub of creativity and innovation, attracts many freelancers who seek opportunities across a diverse range of industries. Indeed, New York might for many be synonymous with the ‘land of opportunity’, but as the freelancing industry grows, so does the competition.

According to a 2020 report by the Freelancers Union and Upwork, there were approximately 2.3 million freelancers in New York State, representing approximately 36% of the state's workforce and by 2027, it’s predicted that there will be more freelancers than employees in the US! 

As the Freelancer Club community continues to grow in New York, we wanted to learn more about what it takes to be a successful freelancer in the big apple. We decided to start our learning journey by focusing on a profession that requires its practitioners to deliver a face-to-face service and operate in a sector that is notoriously challenging. Welcome to the wild world of makeup in NYC! 

Adrianna Boyer-Hodgens is a passionate makeup artist whose work mainly revolves around the bridal industry. Her journey as a freelancer in New York has taken many twists and turns involving a reunion with an old friend in the creative space.

Pearl Kim began her career as a model before transitioning into the world of beauty and makeup. A natural entrepreneur, Love spotted an opportunity to leverage her network and launch her freelance business.  

We caught up with Adriana and Pearl to learn more about how they go about finding work in New York as freelancing makeup artists and what life is really like as an independent worker. 

New York freelance

What’s your background and how did you get into freelancing?


I grew up mainly in the Schenectady NY area where the music and theatre program were a huge part of my life. My sophomore year I was doing costumes along with another student named Jessica Longton and we became best friends. We grew apart but a few years after graduation she reached out to me because she had recently started a bridal makeup business and wanted to hire me as an assistant which is how I got into the industry.


I started out my career as a plus size model. When I started back in 2014, the body positivity and inclusivity movement had just kind of started so I wasn’t booking a ton of work. I always worked random odds-and-ends jobs to keep up with my bills including dog walking, office work and even working in education. 

Makeup was an interest I had since I was 15, but my parents were against me pursuing a career in beauty. Working as a model, I got to meet a lot of beauty professionals in the industry and learn a lot about it. I made friends with a makeup artist, and I finally built up the courage to ask her how to get into the business. Right away, she offered me to apprentice/assist her on shoots. I learned a lot that way, more than I would learn maybe in a school… 

I started to build my makeup kit, and through the connections I made through modelling I started reaching out to other makeup artists to assist. Also, because I knew the ins and outs of the modelling industry, I knew a lot of models needed test shoots for their portfolios. Most models pay out of pocket for a photographer, hair stylist, makeup artist and stylist.


How do you generally go about finding freelance work in New York? 


Most of my work is found through word of mouth, referrals from past clients, or reaching out via social media.


I am always checking job boards, specifically for makeup artist work and, as I also create beauty content, photography. I also reach out to a lot of modelling agencies and offer my photography and beauty services for a fee. I contact makeup artists directly who are seeking assistants and reach out to creative agencies who represent major makeup artists and offer my assistant services.


What apps, websites or platforms do you use to find work? 


I use Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok to advertise as well as reach out to potential clients. I also have a personal website for my business.


Facebook mainly but I also use creative agencies, and modelling agencies. 

What are the pros and cons of being a freelancer in New York?


The biggest con of freelancing is that you work A LOT - more than the standard 9-5, which can make it hard to find a balance between work, family and relationships. 

But the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Doing bridal makeup gives me the opportunity to be home with my children and it makes me available almost anytime on a weekday should anything come up with my family. 

I am honestly so blessed that I don't miss any of the little moments with my kids because of this career. Another HUGE pro in my opinion is just always being surrounded by joy and excitement whenever I go to work. Being a part of so many people's wedding day is truly an honour.


I love making my own schedule, and I love having that freedom in a way. The downside, of course, is not really knowing when your next paycheck might be!


Do you think using an online platform specifically designed to support freelancers in your field would be useful in New York?

Makeup artist freelance NYC


I think it would be GREAT! Sites like The Knot/Wedding wire are charging almost $1000.00 to advertise and that honestly is not feasible for most people in the industry especially if they have families.


I think that would be a great idea, I think it would need a lot of support and a lot of users to really take off. But I can see it being very useful for a lot of freelance creative to connect and find jobs in one place.


What advice would you give any freelancer who wanted to start out a career in New York?


Start as an assistant first and always be open to working alongside other artists. You should never stop learning new things in this industry and that's part of the beauty of it.


I think, first of all, you need to network your butt off. I’ve gotten a lot of work just from the people I know. Social media is your best friend! Even if you don’t have a lot of followers, just keep posting - it’s a great way to show people your work without having to build a website! 

Always update your portfolio online. Try to reach out as much as possible to anyone in the industry. It might feel embarrassing or you might have imposter syndrome, but honestly, it doesn’t hurt to try!


What’s one thing you couldn’t live without as a freelancer? 


Honestly, aside from my makeup kit itself, the most important thing to my business would have to be my phone, as cliche as that sounds. I do all of my promoting from my phone as well as research new trends and techniques, communicate with potential and current clients, as well as taking all of my photos of my work directly on my phone as well. We are super lucky to have technology like this to bring us so many resources right at the tips of our fingers.


My technology! My iPhone, my iPad, my laptop. These are all the tools I need to create and network with people! And of course my makeup kit… 


makeup freelancer job nyc

As we’ve learned, it appears that freelancing in New York City can be a rewarding experience for those who are able to navigate the challenges it presents. With an abundance of opportunities and a unique, eclectic vibe, the city that never sleeps is the perfect place for those with a spirit of adventure. 

However, the high cost of living, intense competition, and fast-paced lifestyle can also make it a challenging place to establish a successful freelance career. As Adrianna and Pearl’s experiences demonstrate, it’s all about establishing a network, and while it might not be for the faint of heart a successful freelance career in New York is in no way impossible. 

So pack your creativity, your determination, and maybe a double shot of espresso, and join the Freelancer Club on our journey to the city that has it all, to make your freelance dreams a reality.

Images: Danielle Everitt, Amy Goode, Danielle Still

Find out more about Adrianna Boyer Hodges here

Find out more about Pearl Kim here

Some answers have been edited for clarity.