RHIA ON MAKE-UP JUNKIE | Industry Insider Panel at the CMS

At the CMS this past weekend, I had the opportunity to catch a panel of industry professionals discussing the ins and outs of the make-up business. There were many helpful tips and words of wisdom for both aspiring and even more established make-up artists. Here’s my write-up, as originally posted on Make-up Junkie:

As a make-up artist and budding entrepreneur, I’m a huge fan of reading articles on others artists’ experiences and (of course) self-help books! I was lucky to catch the Industry Insider Panel being moderated by Plutino Group Make-up Artist Jackie Shawn. I admire Jackie‘s philosophy of bringing out the beauty in everyone – it truly reflects how “down to earth” she is, even with all the accomplishments under her belt. The panel members included seasoned and successful make-up artists (each with a different niche) and Debbie Bondar, President & CEO of FACE atelier. If you weren’t able to attend the CMS, here are some of the topics that were presented before the panel. I hope you find it as useful as I did!

What are the qualities of a successful make-up artist?

“Make-up is secondary – the relationship is first…Find out who they are and if you have any common interests before moving in.” Keep in mind that when you apply make-up, you are stepping into someone’s personal space (most people aren’t used to having anyone that isn’t a loved one so close to their face!). Break the ice first to set any nerves at ease. You’ll find the relationship building to be one of the most rewarding parts of the job, and hopefully, it will also encourage return visits (and referrals) from your client.

How important is speed?
For this response, the answer seemed to be “it depends on the work being done”. Take into consideration any time constraints, and instead of trying to do everything, “pick key elements/strengths” of your subject and know what will “read best on” camera to achieve your desired look.

How is the economy affecting the industry?
Economic times have been bleak, but rest assured there was hope for this question with Debbie’s comment that “make-up is a recession-proof industry”. There will always be weddings, and always be women looking to buy make-up. Make-up is still an affordable option that can instantly help someone look and feel great (and it’s definitely cheaper than buying a pair of designer shoes!). But the panel also pointed out that with tough economic times, there will likely be fewer paying jobs. With the constant influx of new artists in the industry, it likely means there will be more people competing for fewer jobs.

According to the panel of experts, that the best way to protect yourself is to know your market and remain flexible. Be prepared to re-evaluate your prices in order to be competitive, and make sure you’re “on top of your art” to remain in demand. You don’t necessarily have to lower your prices, but instead, you can offer free add-ons for services you would normally charge (i.e. eyebrow grooming, eyelash application). Be strategic and use smart, aggressive ads (hardcopy or online) to get yourself and the updated services you’re offering out there.

Do you have any tips for negotiating prices?
“Know Your Market”. The panel suggests cold calling your competitors in order to do your “market research”. Inquire about the different rates for 1 person versus 5 people, and look at the patterns between the rates of different artists. Keep in mind that your rate in suburbia will likely vary from the rate clients will pay in a buzzing metropolis. Be realistic – your rates starting out will not resemble the rates that a top industry artist can command. (Well, your rates can be up there, but that doesn’t mean people will be knocking on your day to pay you!). Even top industry artists take “low-paying” jobs to get better opportunities. Apparently, doing full-day magazine cover shoots only pays nominal fees of $75-$150 — even to top artists! Yet, top artists “rationalize their losses” and instead view these shoots as an opportunity to get their name out there for more work. If you’re stuck on negotiating prices, a good reference for a base price is the minimum amount you would need to spend at a make-up counter to get a “free” application. Usually, that price is $45 or a purchase of two products.

How important is it to specialize?
Being strong in a “niche market” can be beneficial, i.e. body paint and special effects. But overall, it is better to be “well-rounded – good at everything, and exceptional at a couple of things” to sustain your place in the industry. Be open to all calls that you receive. If you’re “serious about make-up as your craft, you’ll keep learning and growing” whether it be brushing up on product knowledge or updating your training.

Do you have any advice for new grads fresh out of make-up school?
Work with photographers who will make your work look better and stand out. If you can’t work with the high-end photographer, try to work with his or her assistants. Build your portfolio constantly improving the quality of your photos (rinse, wash, repeat!). “If one door closes, remember that it opens in another direction.”

What has been the biggest hurdle you have faced as a successsful woman?
“Overcoming mental blocks”. Remember that attitude is everything. Negative thinking can be self-protecting but it can also be self-defeating. If you think “it’s so tough to make it in this industry”, you may be quick to give up and minimize your losses when it doesn’t happen right away. Keep in mind that success doesn’t happen overnight, and consistent hard work and passion can carry you through. When you’re positive, you’ll encourage others around you to be positive and they’ll simply want to be around you more. Believe in yourself.

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