Craigslist continues to be one of the two banes of my makeup artist existence. Everyday there are more people trying to get artists to work bad makeup jobs for free under the guise of “opportunity” and “future work”. #LeSigh. What’s upsetting is my students and other young artists often get taken in because they are trying to grow their career. That’s actually how I find out about most of these is when a student will ask me if it seems like a good idea. The answer 9.75 times out of ten is NO.

Here are some of the latest examples and how to read between those lines (the bold/italics are mine) …

Makeup artist (and hair) needed last minute for a headshot…

One look, super clean and easy, headshot in natural light indoors. In and out in 1/2 hr. Talent is paying, so there is not much money, but we’re looking for someone who might come in once lo budget in order to create a relationship with well established Beverly Hills studio and established producer. Students and recent grads are perfect. $50.00 plus tip.

On face this is not as completely terrible as CL listings can go. They are saying that they only expect the artist to be there for a half-hour, they were offering a little bit of a rate (we’ll get to that)… not bad (although they do call it “easy” and you know from my last article on bad jobs how much I love that 😐 ). First of all you have to understand how rates work; $50/half hour is reasonable, but a professional artist does not book by the half-hour. Unless you happen to live right by wherever it is that they are shooting you have to factor in travel and that means time and gas. Likewise, in the real world it is extremely unlikely that you would actually only be on-set for a half-hour. Every working artist will tell you stories of how the artist suddenly “had to” stay for touch-ups or changes, or in some cases I’ve even had extra talent pop up on a shoot and they tried to keep me at the same rate, etc. Moreoever – even if none of that happens – if you are booked on this job you cannot take anything else in that time period. Realistically you’ve got to figure this is actually going to take at least 2 hours of your time. At that point $50 is not sounding too great, is it? This was listed in the LA area and it is much more common for headshots in LA to be in the $150-$200+ range for 2-3 hours booked time. Lastly, saying the Talent is paying as an excuse of why it’s only a $50/half-hour booking makes no sense, just charge the Talent a realistic rate for makeup.

But let us get to crux of what makes this listing problematic; what established photographer and producer does not already have an entire Rolodex (Blackberry, iPhone, you know what I mean) of artists they already know and work with? Why do they need a new artist all of a sudden?

OH, because the artists with whom they normally work are not willing to work for this low rate? Yep.

So you mean when they get a full rate job they are not, in fact, going to hire whoever did this ‘lil cheapie job but they are going to hire one of their regular artists? That’s exactly right.

This is one of the tricks I see most often on Craigslist and I HATE HATE HATE it. I file this under the “future opportunity” tab of Craiglist false promises. Maybe this listing turned out to be the one out of a million exception to the “future opportunity” rule, but in all likelihood this is a One and Done deal. Or they will keep calling whoever did this gig for little cheapie jobs and keep hiring someone else for the real ones. Either way once people know you will work cheap there is no incentive for them to pay you more. No matter where you are in your career, it is important not to become known as The Discount Artist (term coined by makeup artist and Camera Ready Cosmetics founder, Mary Erickson).

Sad to say that when an unfinished draft of my article accidentally posted last week I had someone email me to ask if this position was still open. 😐

Next let’s take a look at a listing I’ve noticed fairly often on Craigslist….

We are shooting a makeup tutorial video and looking for a makeup artist. Looking for someone who can clearly explain techniques and have a bright personality. Must be comfortable in front of the camera and be able to take direction. Prior on-camera or acting experience would be helpful. MUA will be paid $120 flat for session. Please attach resume for consideration.

Compensation: Yes, see above

OK so again this one is a little tricky because they are offering compensation. I am sure, however, that everyone noticed that the terms of compensation are disconcertingly vague. $120 flat rate session means what, exactly? If it takes a full day to shoot a session that’s obviously a terrible rate. If it’s an hour or two, however, it’s ok though, right?


What is this for and where is it going? First of all, the “flat rate” thing is problematic. In addition to the length of the shoot-day being an unknown, there is also a legitimate usage question. Actors are not paid flat rate for TV commercials, they are paid on scale meaning they are paid for the initial shoot and then paid more whenever the commercial airs. Likewise, musicians receive royalties for song play, photographers are paid whenever a photograph is used, etc. It is difficult to say what exactly is appropriate here since no details on the job are given whatsoever (and that kind of vaguery is a red-flag in itself) but I would hope a true professional would ask a LOT more questions before agreeing to do this work. More disturbing, however, is whoever this is presumably plans to sell and potentially profit off of YOUR KNOWLEDGE. Clearly they do not know makeup themselves or they would not be hiring a makeup artist. If someone is going to potentially profit behind your knowledge shouldn’t it be you?

This last job listing was sent to me by one of my fab NYC makeup friends. This was not listed on Craigslist, this came from the other bane of my makeup artist existence, Model Mayhem. I am not even going to go into Model Mayhem right now, but suffice to say most of their listings are as bad as – if not worse – than those found on Craigslist. This listing definitely fits our theme…

MUA needed for Jewelry shoot

I’m Seeking – Makeup Artist
Unpaid Test

Seeking a make-up artist for an upcoming jewelry shoot. Photographs will be used on our website as well as our look books and advertisements. Must be available for all day shoot.


First of all it is listed as an unpaid TEST but then when you read the listing they plan to use the photographs for their website, lookbook and advertising. There are not even any lines to read between on this “job”, this listing is just ludicrous. Since when do artists not make money on advertising jobs? Those are amongst the highest paid jobs an artist can get. I am not saying that a small designer such as this should have the same budget to work with as Prada, but I am saying they should expect to pay something for an artists services. Further, E-commerce (websites) and Lookbooks are also paid jobs. Nothing about this listing is a “test” in any sense of the term so for this person to list it as such is disingenuous. This person would also like a full day of your time. Now, I often see these kinds of jobs listed as trade for product. A lot of start-up lines may not have cash to pay but they will at least offer comparable product in return for the artists services. While one should be discerning with trade jobs, it can be a fair way to get it done particularly if the designer and the artist are both equally starting out or if great connections will be made, etc. You will notice this listing says nothing of a trade. This person is offering the artist nothing. Basically put this person is building a website, a lookbook and advertising with the intention of building their business in order for them to make money selling jewelry. They would like the makeup artist to play a key role in building this business for them, absolutely for free with no compensation at all whatsoever. And do not forget: makeup costs money, so you would actually be PAYING to be on this shoot. One can speculate on all the various scenarios as to who is getting paid or not, would this be a good portfolio piece or not, etc. (also notice they did not say you would receive prints for your portfolio or website). I went to the website and this designer’s wares are already in several stores (in multiple states) and they have already garnered press in major publications. Bottom line: I have to believe that an artist would be better served working for a client who has any level of respect for their makeup artist. This person does not respect your time enough to offer any kind of compensation.

Let me be the one to say it: The artist unfortunate enough to respond to that listing is getting played, straight up.

I post these listings as examples of what newer artists should look out for. It takes time and patience to build a legitimate career, there are no short cuts, and there are a lot of people who are only too happy to take advantage of a young artists’ ambition. I am not a part of the “never work for free” crowd because that just isn’t true. I AM saying that as professionals we have to think about every opportunity that is presented so as to choose the best ones and keep progressing forward. YES – the economy has not fully recovered and work can be difficult to obtain. I understand and makeup artists at all levels are effected by the slow-down in one way or another. Taking ridiculous jobs, however, is never the answer. If you are a professional artist or aspire to be one, stay vigilant against jobs that disrespect your profession.

© 2012 – 2016, Tania. All rights reserved.