How to Start a Successful Business as a Freelance Makeup Artist

ICI AUS - Freelance Makeup Artist

Beauty therapy is a popular career choice, and rightly so. At a time when many industries are shrinking in Australia, the beauty industry is flourishing thanks to an increase in male grooming, increased disposable income, a growing population and a wider range of services. For an industry that was once perceived as the domain of the wealthy, it has become a basic consumer service for many men and women.

In short, this growth makes it a great industry to be part of. But why freelance makeup artistry?

The benefits of freelancing

Freelancing has been common in the hair and beauty industry for quite some time. In fact, a large percentage of Australian makeup artists are self-employed. Makeup artists are even developing their own product lines, taking advantage of the health and beauty sector’s growing needs.

But the reasons for going freelance vary widely. For some, it’s about enjoying the flexibility of working for themselves — freelancers can choose their own hours, talk directly to their clients and create a schedule that works for everyone. A freelance artist can decide which jobs to accept and which jobs are most suited to their individual style, interests and skill set.

Others go freelance because of the limited number of full-time positions that are available. Film, theatre, television, the wedding industry — they almost always use freelancers. This can make working any other way a challenge.

So let’s look at how you become a freelance makeup artist…

Skills required

If you’re going to build a freelance business, you have three things by the bucket-load.

Passion and drive

Passion provides you with a special view of the world that others don’t get to see. It makes you unique, a forward thinker, and it will hold you in good stead when times are tough. It creates feelings of excitement and enthusiasm, which leads to drive, and it will help you think on your feet when faced with surprises.

Communication skills

Good communication skills will allow you to work effectively with producers, actors, brides, models, employers, photographers and anyone else that is involved in achieving a goal. It will also help you understand someone’s story, so that you can assure they walk away from your chair with confidence — chit-chat is a very big part of what you’ll do.

Confidence in your ability

Your job might be to make your clients confident, but that all starts with having confidence in yourself. Unfortunately, a lot of things can happen in the freelance world to knock you down — a rejection, criticism from a client, trollish comments on your blog or Instagram feed, slow periods and of course the natural “I run my own business” fear. It’s really important though that you have confidence in your ability, and the belief that you’ll be successful. Confidence will be your ticket forward.

Building your freelance business

With the three skills listed above, together with the skills you gained from your ICI Beauty Therapy & Makeup Diploma you can start to build your freelance business. Understand that this will take time and include a number of different steps.


A good place to start is to do some research on what it is to be a freelancer and the independent contracting laws that apply. Other good reads are the essential guide for running your own business and startup essentials.

Next, you’ll need to set up an Australian Business Number (ABN) which you can do via the Australian Business Register (ABR). You’ll also need to have a Tax File Number (TFN) if you haven’t got one already.


As the old saying goes, ‘a picture tells a thousand words’. No matter how beautifully you describe your service to others, seeing the results will always work better.

Your portfolio is hugely important. Get yourself a good camera and consider undertaking a ICI Diploma in Photography. This will help you get the lighting right when taking photographs of your clients, and will teach you to adjust the exposure to create beautiful images. If you don’t have good photography skills, consider hiring a photographer for the day and gathering your friends for one long makeup session and photo shoot.

Be patient when building your portfolio. It takes time and also a few freebies. If photographing clients, or using a bride’s professional photos, make sure you ask permission to use them in your portfolio.


Knowing what prices to set can be a challenge. Charge too little and you can be perceived as “unprofessional” but charge too much and you risk pricing people out of your service. Take a look at your makeup artist peers. What’s your competition charging? Consider their skill sets and experience when comparing, as a makeup artist who has been in the business for 15 years and has worked at Marie Claire can realistically charge more than someone who’s just starting out.


With a series of great photographs it’s time to build a website. This doesn’t have to be anything too fancy and a free website template will do. Start with clear navigation, use conversational English in your content, avoid industry jargon and provide all relevant information. It’s up to you whether or not you advertise your prices. Some freelancers prefer to price each job individually.

Let pictures tell your story, include a trust-building blog and keep your website up-to-date. Most importantly, make it easy for your potential customers to contact you.

Connect your website to your social media accounts too, offering a seamless experience for your visitors. Get busy on social media and start broadening your network. You can do this by liking and interacting with other local businesses, providing updates, uploading images and interacting with people on your accounts.


One of the biggest investments for your business will be your tools. Without them, you literally don’t have a business. Purchase quality, long-lasting equipment — the best you can afford. Consider everything: eyeshadows, concealers, foundations and mascaras, right through to eyelash curlers and glues. It looks unprofessional if a client asks you for a particular service and you don’t have the right tools to do it.


As a freelance makeup artist you can work almost anywhere. You can take up a chair in a co-working space or salon, work from your home, go mobile and travel to your clients, or try your hand at working for TV, film, theatre or magazines. Determine what suits you best and then figure out how to make it happen.


A large and well-connected network is very important to any freelance worker. Be it chatting to people at events or connecting with people online, it all counts. If you can connect any conversation, business, networking event or live event with makeup artistry, make sure you become a part of it.

Goal setting

Writing up a manifesto, project plan or a big-picture goal is a great way to keep you on the right track. This could be in the form of a list of words that describe who you are as a business and what you have to offer, or it could be a timeline of everything you hope to achieve that year. Whichever form it takes, writing things down can help you shape your day-to-day decisions and direction of your work.


As a freelancer you are flying solo. This can mean you will feel lonely and overwhelmed at times. Make sure you have a good support network around you and ask for help when you need it. Reach out to others in a similar position too, as chances are they are feeling the same pressures!

What to consider before you start

Before you start building your freelance makeup business it’s important you understand that there are new makeup artists popping up on the scene all the time. To stand out, you have to show that you are qualified and passionate about what you do. If you don’t feel you’re completely qualified enrol yourself in an ICI Diploma in Beauty Therapy & Makeup. It will give you the opportunity to interact with and learn from very successful, highly-qualified and experienced professionals, and it will broaden your skill set far beyond just applying makeup.

Having a wider set of skills under your belt allows you to adjust your business model as you need to. There are times when offering makeup services won’t be enough and being able to offer an alternate service can help you pay the bills. A broad skill set can also lead to lucrative opportunities in a range of sectors and industries, from spas and salons to resorts and the bridal and school formal industries.

Start your freelance business the right way and get your Beauty & Therapy Diploma with the International Career Institute today.

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Gladys Mae


Gladys Mae serves as the General Manager and Head of Student Services at the International Career Institute. Gladys holds a degree in Mass Communication - Broadcast Media from the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She joined ICI in 2010 and has over the past 12 years been instrumental in providing leadership and guidance to staff and students alike. Prior to joining ICI Gladys led a multifaceted career with key roles in the banking and business process outsourcing industries.