#BizTalk – Getting Ready for 2015

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My (scary, ever-growing) 2015 Makeup To Do List

It’s December. Can you believe it? Same thing happens to me every year: the year starts out slow and steady, picks up some speed going into summer and then next thing I know the year goes into Hyperdrive and BAM! it’s December. For people who work traditional jobs December is adequately stressful just with work, the holidays, family, travel, parties, etc. For the freelancer we get to do all of that PLUS start sowing the seeds for the coming year. Every year at around this time as work is still coming, but definitely slowing down, I take stock of how the current year went and start prepping for the new year. It’s both an act of setting an intention and an act of starting to do the WORK necessary for the intention to manifest itself. Here is my plan for getting ready for 2015.

1 – What’s the Plan for 2015?

For me, the first thing I’ve got to do is plan what the heck I want for the coming year. Note my choice of words: I want to PLAN what I want for the coming year, not daydream about it. Planning is more than “I want XYZ”, planning is plotting what steps will be necessary to GET XYZ. If you want to go from counter or bridal to freelancing for media what will that entail? If you want to move to a new city, what resources do you have and what resources will you have in your new, desired location? If you want to approach agencies, what do you need to do to make your presentation on point so that an agent might be interested in working with you? Whatever my given goal might be, I like to take each action point and break down step by step how I will actually make it happen. I then like to take my list to a calendar and give myself timeframes and deadlines. Sort of like an Editorial Calendar that a magazine might use to plan their issues (or that I need to start doing for this blog 😐 ).

A few things have come from this approach: A ) It makes the work more approachable. Instead of one, big overwhelming project I now have a series of small actionable steps. B ) I tend to actually make things happen.

Helpful resource(s):
The MUA Planner (by famed Film/TV artist Marietta Carter Narcisse) – It’s easier to plan your Calendar if you know when things are happening. From Awards Shows to Trade Shows to educational opportunities, you name it, The MUA Planner is a fantastic resource. NOTE: The website has not yet been updated, but I emailed and the 2015 edition is in production as we speak.

2 – How Are Your Skills Looking?

Several years ago I was particularly slow over the Holidays and into the start of the new year so I went Sally Beauty Supply, got a practice head (I have miss Suzie pictured here), and just sat down with every hair tutorial video I could find. I am a makeup artist who has been basically forced into doing hair due to market demands, so hair had always been an area where I lacked confidence. Relative to my skills as a makeup artist I am still less confident about hair, but hey – I’m not losing a $1K/day job because I was too scared to do some beachwaves.

Whether you have a specific weakness as I did, or you want to add to your skill set, improve your business skills, or just learn something new, education is – in my opinion – VITAL to staying fresh and relevant in your profession. You can get fantastic education for as little as the price of admission at your local tradeshow, or you can go more in-depth by availing yourself of any of the myriad of workshops offered by artists and industry professionals (myself included). And it’s FUN! I find continuing education stokes the fire and keeps me excited about being a makeup artist. I do recommend creating an education fund so that when the Workshop Of The Millennium comes up, you won’t have to pass it over because you could not afford to attend. Even saving $50/mo will land you $600 by years end.

Helpful resource(s):
Watch this page to see when my workshops will take place in 2015. Most of my workshops happen in both LA and SF.

3 – How Tired Is Your Portfolio, Anyway?

I always try to do some testing and general portfolio “freshening” this time of the year. Particularly if – as has been the case for me in 2014 – I have not done a lot of Portfolio Enhancing jobs. What do I mean by that? Well, I did my magazine work and that was great HOWEVER most of what I did this year was e-commerce / catalog, motion advertising, private clients and teaching. Neither private clients nor teaching – while I love doing both – yield anything for one’s portfolio, motion is great if and when I can get the production company to send me the finished work (or if I can find it and rip it from somewhere), and e-commerce?

makeup to go makeup to go blog getting ready for 2015

for Chase54.com makeup hair grooming by moi

Yeah… That’s fine in small amounts if that’s part of the type of work you do – which I do – but no client looking through your portfolio wants to see endless pages of e-commerce. Since work is generally slower for everyone at the beginning of the year I try to shoot some beauty and if I get lucky some editorial so my book stays fresh and compelling. Newer makeup artists should be testing all the time anyway because you have to, but if you’re a Vet who has been resting on your Existing Portfolio laurels, it’s probably time to tighten and brighten.

4 – What Is This Social Media of Which You Speak?

I’m amazed at how many artists are so bad at Social Media in 2014. Y’all – it’s not even “new” anymore, so that excuse is over. This is FREE marketing and promotions at your fingertips, folks! I’m not saying that you’ll necessarily get hired from a Social Media post (although some artists have) but it is a way to build a presence and build your brand so that decision makers and potential clients of all kinds know who you are. It’s also great for building community with other artists. You never know who might see your work. So whatever your issue is with Social Media, let it go and get to posting. At least get on Instagram. Instagram is visual so it’s perfect for visual creatives – hence we’re all on there – and it rocks.

I’ll be doing an entire series on Social Media usage in the coming year. I will say that if you use Social Media – particularly if you have multiple accounts or use multiple platforms – you’ll want to know what you’re wanting to say on each one. It’s boring and you’ll lose followers if your multiple Twitters, multiple Instagrams and your Pinterest all say basically the same thing (I know this from personal experience).

5 – It’s Decemeber 5th. Have You Sent Your Client Gifts Out Yet?

I had the realization on my last work trip in San Francisco;

Oh wait. When I get back home it will be the week of Thanksgiving and my Birthday and then it will be DECEMBER. OMG!!!!

And I make my client gifts so… yeah.. I had to get on that. Quite frankly, you should really be sending out those gifts today or tomorrow at the latest. Your contacts will start peeling out for the Holidays/vacation soon AND delivery (USPS, UPS and even FedEx to some extent) gets slower at this time of year due to increased volume. You’ll want to give adequate time for your client to receive and appreciate your gift. Coffee cards will do in a pinch, but never forget to acknowledge those who have hired you. My gifts are going out today…

Helpful resource(s):
Rock Scissor Paper Stationary – Owned by my friend Heidi (and her biz partner and sister, Suzie), this groovy little company based in LA makes cards for all occasions, personalized stationary (click to see mine), gift tags, wrapping paper, coasters, mugs, tote bags, you name it! I am one of those people who keeps cards and gift tags on hand at all time so I’m ready to go.

So how are you getting ready for 2015? Do you have any particular methods/routines/rituals? Leave me a comment about how you get ready for the New Year.

Here’s to a joyous Holidays and a Prosperous New Year!

#BizTalk: The Art of the No

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Freelancers Union recently ran a story about saying no while leaving the door open for future work with a potential client (click to read that story).

Saying “No” to a gig is a tricky proposition as a freelancer. It is one that, admittedly, gets easier as you become more established, but it never really becomes easy easy. I’ve heard some of the biggest names in the biz speak at various trade shows, events, etc. and many have told cautionary tales of the “the one that got away” client or the “I had it then I lost it” client due to being unavailable. Therefore learning the Art of the No is an important skill for your career. The conventional thinking is that if you tell a client “No” you can just kiss that client goodbye. Well, in my experience that’s a not entirely the case. Yes if a client contacts you and you are not available, obviously they are going to move on. However, I have found there are things you can do to up the likelihood that they will call you again for future projects. As always, when reading this, bear in mind that I have made every mistake under the sun and I’ve learned many of these things the hard way. So I’m not writing to admonish, I’m writing to spare you some of the pain I’ve endured. LOL.

In the Kate Hamill/Freelancers Union original piece, her suggestions were to:

– Express Regret
– Create Demand
– Keep the Line Open

I agree with those, and I have a couple of my own to add on…

1) Express Regret
Make it clear that you appreciate that this person/client contacted you about the job and you’re sorry you cannot work with them on the project, even if the project was in some way wack sounding. Let me repeat: Even. If. The. Project. Was. Wack. Do not convey that feeling in your email/phone response. Save the venting for your friends, Facebook/Twitter (provided the potential client won’t be able to see it), etc. Why? People in the creative industries change jobs/companies all the time. As Sigourney Weaver said in the film “Working Girl”, “Today’s Jr. Pr*k is tomorrow’s Senior Partner”. If you dissed them when they were Producing a shoot for “Little Company X”, your name is not going to be first in line now that they are Art Directing for TBWA\Chiat\Day. A little humility and gratitude when responding to people never hurts.

2) Create Demand
If you do have to say No to a job, make it clear that you are doing so because you are already booked and working. This creates the appearance of demand, yes, but also there’s really no other excuse. Say anything else and the potential client may take it personally. Once again for the folks in the back: Even if the reality is you’d rather stay home and watch marathon re-runs of “The Nanny” than take their “wack little job”, you do not want that to come across in your reply. Also, these people are not close friends, so now is not the time to go into a soliloquy about your upcoming surgery or whatever. Save any drama for your mamma. Whatever the real reason may be, the reason you cannot take their booking is because you are already booked, or at least On Hold, for their date.

2b ) Do Not Try to Juggle
On the flipside: Being in demand is great and it can be a source of great frustration when you get contacted for one job when you are booked for something else HOWEVER juggling rarely works and you may end up losing everything if you do. If you already said yes to a job and “something better” comes along, it is unprofessional and lacking in courtesy to try to get out of the first job in order to do the second. If you want clients to be loyal to you, you’ll have to be loyal to them in return. Exceptions of course if you were scheduled to do a free test and a paid job comes along, etc. And yes there are times when it can work and can be appropriate to do more than one job in a day: say a headshot shoot in the morning, and a private client event makeup in the evening. Those types of double bookings are completely fine and normal. What I am talking about and what does NOT work is to be booked to shoot an editorial that’s maybe paying $250 for the day and then try to ditch them when you get called for a Lookbook that is paying $500 for the day. That’s unprofesh and no bueno.

3) Keep the Line Open
As I mentioned in my previous piece – Rate Negotiation (click to read) – you always want to respond to inquiries in an open-ended manner.

“Thanks so much for contacting me. This sounds like a great project but unfortunately I am booked during that time. I hope your project goes well and I will stay in contact in case the opportunity to work together arises in the future…”

Sounds way better than:

“Hello, thanks for emailing. I am booked during those dates. Best of luck with your project.”

Even though they are both upbeat, one sounds like “I want to work with you” and one kinda sounds like “Whatevs”.

Again, you never really know what you are saying No to; the small shoot producer became the major Art Director, A photographer who only called you for free tests one day might land an editorial and completely blow up and be shooting the new Levi’s campaign the next day, the c-level actress just landed a recurring role on a hit TV show. You never know, so stay friendly and stay in contact. Do Not Burn Bridges is never more true than in this industry, because please believe if you diss people they will talk.

4 ) Try Not To Say No To Regulars
If someone has already demonstrated a level of loyalty in a notoriously NOT loyal industry such as ours, do not take that relationship for granted. Put those clients FIRST. Serenade them, send them flowers and chocolates, bring them breakfast in bed, do whatever you have to do.* I’ve had two different times where I had schedule conflicts (see 2b), and BOTH times cost me with good clients. Both clients still do call me but not as much as they used to before I had to tell them I was booked with someone else. Real Talk: In hindsight, in one of the two instances for sure, I wish I hadn’t said “No”.

5 ) Send In Backup
When you cannot do a job, do not leave the person who contacted you hanging. I always offer to refer them to other artists if I cannot do the job. If it is one of my regular clients, I like to refer them to one of my artist friends who I know will fill in on the gig, do a great job, but NOT try to gank my client (again – important to maintain that Makeup Family). If it was a new client, I refer them to someone in my extended trusted artists circle and just hope paying it forward comes back to me in some way. Either way, I know I acted professionally and was of service to my client/potential client. People truly appreciate those kinds of gestures and your professionalism will eventually be rewarded.

6 ) Weigh the Pros and Cons
This one goes out to newbie freelance artists in particular: When you are first starting out – and I mean the first several years of your career, not the first few days/weeks/months – you have to earn your spot in the rotation and earn your playing time. Yes that is a sports reference, the NBA season is about to start (hooray!). But what I mean is just because you say you are worth paying for, it doesn’t mean you actually are, you have to prove it. I know a lot of schools and online message boards, etc., are fond of saying never take free jobs and this and that but the reality is that you need to develop a portfolio and/or a resume, meet people, and generally establish yourself as a professional in a market FULL of professionals. A lot of very established artists will still take free jobs IF it is an opportunity that might in some way elevate a career. There are certain people and/or types of projects where if I got the call right now as I was writing this article I would stop what I was doing and run out the door (I’d make sure I was showered/dressed first). I could go on but instead I suggest you read one of my Makeup to Go Classic Articles: The Art of the Freebie.

Remember: as a freelancer you are never assured your next gig, so every booking is a blessing. In my experience if you stay humble, stay courteous, and stay grinding opportunities will always circle back around again.

*I would not actually recommend doing any of those things, except maybe sending chocolate. 😉

Image: © Faithiecannoise | Dreamstime.comDoubts: Choice Between Yes Or No Photo

#BizTalk – Let’s Talk Undercutting

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Are you more focused on pennies than the bigger picture?

A long time ago I was on a makeup chat with my makeup buddy, Ohio based artist Kendall Stolz.

She said something that has stuck with me literally to this day. We were talking about various marketing techniques and she was saying that she was planning to revamp her website, change her collateral, etc. because she was “upping her Brand”. This was a zillion years ago, well before personal branding became all the rage as it is now, and certainly well before *I* had any consciousness of my own branding. And Kendall did it. She got herself to the point where even in her smaller/tertiary market she was working for major clients, doing major editorial, had an agent in another state, the works. Clients knew they did not have to bring in another artist from New York or Chicago, Kendall Stolz was just as good if not better. In short, she separated herself from the pack and put herself above the fray.

My oft-quoted mentor, Crystal A. Wright recently made a Facebook post to this same effect. Apparently someone in her circle was complaining about rate undercutting in their market and here is a part of Crystal’s response:

You see, while someone doesn’t want to pay you $250 to do their face for a wedding, someone else is paying another artist $650 and much more for the same service. So what’s up with that?


Today when I read the blog about this idea of the horrible undercutting freelance artist who is beating everyone else out for services I snapped! Quite frankly I think it’s a crock. Are we all to believe that just because someone doesn’t want to pay the price that you charge for a service and they go to another vendor YOU are being undercut.

It’s as ridiculous as thinking that Morton’s Steak House should go around complaining about the person who goes to McDonalds for a piece of beef.

This is the the truth, folks. YES. There are folks who will seemingly work for $5. YES there are clients who will try to take advantage of that. However, YES at any given moment there are artists working great jobs at great rates all the time. All. The. Time. So what really is going on? Obviously, the whole picture is more complex than the Mortons vs McDonald’s analogy, but the premise is the same; the onus is on you to position yourself above the fray where people would never compare you to the $5 Wonder Artist. This is what Kendall did, this is what all successfully working artists do. It takes hard-work, smarts, chutzpah and a little bit of luck. And by “luck” I mean the kind of luck that is created via hard work, smarts and chutzpah. As always, I based my articles based on my own experiences and mistakes made. Here are some ideas which have helped me over the years…

1 ) Control What You Can Control and Let The Rest Go
There will always be people who charge too little for their work and there will always be the clients who hire these people. If you think about it logically, it is not a good idea for either side. An artist who under-charges probably does so out because they – for whatever reason – cannot get more. The client who hires said artist might be getting a bargain, or they might be opening up Pandora’s Box and setting themselves up for a re-shoot. What YOU can control is YOUR artistry and YOUR career: Staying educated, being professional, being pro-active, and just generally being on point. Focus on yourself and furthering your own career and you will not have to worry about what Mr./Mrs. $5 Artist is doing.

2 ) Know Who You Are
At a certain point, I believe, in order to maximize your career you have to start making choices. Am I going to be more of a niche artist – like for example, a body painter – or am I going to be more of a generalist? Am I going to specialize in beauty or am I going to specialize in FX? Do I want to stay local/regional or do I want to expand into other markets? These are all decisions that will ultimately chart the course of how you should proceed. Choices are hard because once a decision is made, you have to live with the consequences and there are plusses and minuses to any decision. However, to paraphrase Crystal Wright yet again, a lot of artists careers never really go anywhere because they never took the time to PLAN where they wanted their career to go. Hence they put themselves in a position where they have to take any sort of work, which opens the door to having to work for low-ball rates.

3 ) Present Yourself Well
Get the “Wix” banner off of your site (and out of your URL), get the “This Card Printed by Moo” ad off your business card, avoid silly names like “Frou Frou Tra La La Makeup”. Up your game and present yourself like the professional you claim to be. I think a lot of new artists get into the habit of thinking that they’ll do whatever “for now” and then they’ll magically be better “some day”. Well, your entire career you should always be striving to be better, that’s just a given. That has nothing to do with not giving your best right now. If you cannot even spend $5 to get the Moo ad off of your business cards, or to have the Wix banner taken off of your website, why should a client pay you more for your services? You’re telling the world in clear language that you are a either an amateur or a cheapie, discount artist. (I made this mistake once, too. Not only did I have “printed by VistaPrint” emblazoned all over my first business card, I used one of their generic stock cards instead of making something Custom. I think a Custom card from VistaPrint costs a whopping $10? :-|. Yeah, I never made that mistake again…)

4 ) Know Your Market
In any given market, there is a median rate that freelancers are getting for certain type of jobs. For example, an average rate for an artist who does Bridal in Milwaukee may be $200 for the bride. In Los Angeles let’s say the average is $400 for the same bride, and in NYC the average may be $600. This means a couple of things: First of all if you are charging $200 for a bride in Los Angeles chances are you are undercharging. Secondly, those averages. You do not have to be average. A median is a middle point of a range and you can be higher or lower than the median. To go back to Crystal’s example; no one is wondering why Morton’s charges more than McDonald’s. No one is wondering why the Ritz Carlton costs more than Motel 6. They provide different levels of service and are in service to a different clientele base. If you find that people are not booking you at your desired rate you might be too far out in left field, however chances are there are holes in your business that you need to go back and re-work in order to prove your worth.

5 ) You May Have To Lose Work to Get Work
As I mentioned in my previous article on rate negotiation, you may have to let certain jobs go. Speaking for myself, I just have a rate threshold that I just do not go below. Not only because I believe that I am worth more (and I do get my rates), but because low-tier jobs have proven over and over to be more trouble than they are worth. A bride who wants herself and her 6 bridesmaids done in 3 hours for $500 total is going to be a Nightmare Client straight up. Let Mr./Mrs. $5 Artist deal with that client, you have bigger fish to fry.

6 ) Make Friends Not War
Of course there is a certain amount of reality that artists do compete for work, and that in any given market there is only so much work, particularly for certain types of jobs (i.e. in most markets there will always be more Bridal than there is media work, etc.). That said, in the creative industries, love is not a battlefield, folks. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, by far my BEST allies in this business have been other makeup artists. When I encounter one of these aggro-undercutters – which is frankly rare because they usually are not usually playing on the same field as me and my artist friends – they seem like sad, lonely, desperate people who need a hug. The field where me and my artist friends play is one of encouragement, sharing resources, job referrals, fun pal times at Trade Shows and industry events, and being genuinely happy for someone else’s successes. Look at it this way: There are artists who have been in the biz 30, 40, and even 50 years. Do you really want to work in an industry where you have to be angry and have a chip on your shoulder for 20+ years? No. No one in their right mind does. A career is not meant to be an endless episode of Survivor and trying to “bump people off the island”. I do not know about you, but I have ZERO interest in living like that.

Let’s face it’s easy to have a “cash flow situation” as a freelancer of any kind. A slow work month coupled with a slow paying client can make any work that will actually pay you start to look good. And for artists in the early stages of your career where paid work is more catch as catch-can I’m not even saying “don’t ever take those jobs”**. What I am saying, what Crystal is saying, and what Kendall was saying lo those many years ago is this: You have the capability to control where your career goes. If you plan well and work accordingly you can put yourself in a position where low-rent artists vying for low-rent jobs will have a minimal effect on your business and career.

**To More Experienced Artists, I AM saying “don’t ever take those jobs”. Undercutting becomes real when we as artists make it real out of desperation…

#BizTalk: Gimmie A Break

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I’m not here now but I will be soon…

Welp, between the Affordable Care Act, the IRS and working on set, this week in Makeup to Go didn’t happen. I have some posts in the tank but they aren’t finished yet and I do not want to jack up some junk posts (an average post takes me about 4 hours to complete). I am shooting again today (night shoot. EEK!) and then I am taking my weekend 100% off. I might not even tweet. Sometimes ya just gotta scream “Gimmie a Break!”.

The importance of days off cannot be overstated for freelancers. I see in our makeup culture – which is really just a reflection of our larger culture – endless posts bragging about hustling, grinding, “I Love My Job”, not sleeping, haven’t had a day off in XX number of days, etc. It sounds sexy. We’re not lazy “artistes” hanging out in the local coffee house, we’re business people on our grind. I have totally done it. I cannot search, but I know I have a LOT of tweets with the hash tag “EverydayImHustlin” because – most times- it’s true. However, I’ve been a working freelancer for around 15ish years now. Freelancer burnout is real. I have seen a lot of people leave the profession in my time as a working makeup artist. Make no mistake there is ALWAYS something to do. I can think of about 20 things I really need to do over this weekend. But I’m not going to. I am going to do the top 5 today, go to my gig tonight, and then enjoy my weekend. The rest of my tasks will be there on Monday morning waiting for me, and I’ll be more refreshed and in a better mind-set to tackle them. When you are first building your career, yes it’s a true statement that you should do at least one thing to progress your career everyday. That said, you want to be balanced. Because the thing is – as all freelancers know – there really are times when you are booked out 2 or 3 weeks at a time when you really cannot do anything else. If you are not yet at that point in your career, its coming so be ready. When you do have precious time off, you have to take advantage. Spending time in the sun is just important as sending “one more email”. Having coffee with a friend is just as important as working on your website. In a business where YOU are your product, you do not want to present potential clients/customers with damaged goods. “Mental Health” days are an important part of keeping yourself whole, and being whole is integral to maintaining stamina and creativity as an artist. This weekend I’ll be judging a Easter Cake Bakeoff (I’m an avid baker in addition to doing makeup, and I have a little side-business TDRBakes), hitting the beach and enjoying the start of the NBA Playoffs. Some time on Sunday night I’ll finish off my articles for next week.

Let me use a trick from Marie Forleo and leave you with a potential “tweetable”: “There’s always something to do, but you don’t always have to do it all.” via @makeuptogo

#BizTalk – Rate Negotiation

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Aside from the question of being a makeup artist assistant, the other question I am most frequently asked is about rate negotiation and knowing what to charge. Being a professional (at anything) means being PAID for the work that you do. Not liking something, not being good at something, etc. People actually PAY you and your work is your livelihood. Therefore in order to be a successful working artist, knowing how to set your rates is paramount to your business.

In a makeup group I belong to on Facebook the question came up of whether or not to post ones rates on your professional website. Artists who do so are – generally speaking – those for whom wedding/private client comprises a goodly part if not all of their business. They feel that posting their rates helps them to separate the wheat from the chaff, and cuts down on the number of inquiries from people who are merely rate shopping. In that world, it may make sense to have a standardized rate schedule. In fact my respected makeup homegirl Yisell Santos has a recent blog post about dealing with just such inquiries (click to read).

I am a media makeup artist and I write from the perspective of media makeup. In the media makeup world it is different. Here is an article I read recently that perfectly illustrates why I am on #TeamNO when it comes to the question of posting rates…

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click to see larger image

What you are looking at is an actual bid prepared by a photo shoot producer on behalf of a photographer bidding on a job. You will note the hair/makeup rate submitted on the bid is $250 for a half day. Sounds low doesn’t it? Well IT IS. And before you start saying “Well, maybe that’s the rate in this artists’ market…”, here is what the shoot producer himself had to say about it;

    Hair/Makeup Stylist: This is typically much lower than the rate I’d include for a hair/makeup stylist, but they were local to the remote location and offered to work a half day at this rate. We originally anticipated that the stylist would travel in with the assistants, and I’d typically anticipated a day-rate of up to $1,200 if that was the case. However, I wasn’t going to argue with the local stylist’s rate, especially since we knew the travel expenses would likely put us over the client’s suggested budget of $15,000″

(note – italicization & underline added by me for emphasis)

$250 for makeup/hair although they were prepared to pay more.

That artist limited themselves out of possibly as much as $300 more for a half-day rate. And I do not mind saying that it makes me feel some kind of way that the artist – a Key/Principal on the shoot – was paid less than the photographers assistants. Nah, son. Maybe that is the going rate for local jobs in this artist’s area, but this was not a local job. This was a goodly sized production coming in from out of town. The production would still have saved some money by hiring a local artist and not having to pay travel and accommodations, apparently it was a direct booking so there were no agency fees, etc. etc. You as the artist do not have to give the farm away for free.

So how do you avoid this happening to you? Here’s what’s helped me over the years…


Being prepared for your negotiations requires some advanced leg-work. Find out the rate range for given types of work both in your immediate area and for the industry at large. Rates for things such as weddings will vary depending on your market, but commercial rates – particularly when you’re talking national clients who may shoot anywhere in the country – are pretty standard. Obviously a more Senior artist might demand a bit more than a more beginning artist, but the rates are not helter-skelter all over the place. Also this is where developing a “family” of makeup artists comes in handy. Being able to ask fellow artists what’s what in the marketplace is invaluable.

This is a tough one. When a potential client asks you your rate, the knee-jerk reaction is to just throw out a number and most of us try to throw out a number that we think the client is going to want to hear. Experts from Crystal A. Wright (motivational speaker/educator and former agent/owner of The Crystal Agency) to Eve Pearl (founder of Eve Pearl cosmetics) all say the same thing: Don’t Do It! Eve Pearl brought this point home in her lecture at IMATS Los Angeles this past January. She had an audience member participate in a mock negotiation and the participant made the typical rookie mistake of just throwing out a number without asking any questions for further information or keeping the door open for further negotiation. How can you know what number to quote to your potential client if you do not know the parameters of the job?! Ask the right questions and then…

When we get that initial inquiry it is just human nature to become excited and to want to do whatever it takes to get the job. As we grow in our career we become more selective, but it takes some time to learn how to quell that “Pick me! Pick me!” voice all us freelancers have in our heads. Do not start out your negotiations by talking, start out by listening.

Once you are ready to offer a number it is important to leave the door open for further negotiations. This is particularly true nowadays as much of the time negotiations happen via email. I always try to get the client to tell me what their makeup/hair budget is FIRST, before I respond with my rates. If/When I cannot get them to answer, I will generally say something to the effect of; “My normal rate for this type of job is $XXXX, however please let me know your budget as I am always happy to work within a clients’ budget”. This is an open-ended answer that invites further dialogue. When you get to the point in your career where people are hiring YOU instead of just “a makeup artist” you will have more room to be more rigid in your rates. Also, things can change when you’re talking about a repeat/regular client. In most instances, however, you will need to let clients know that you are open to working with them. HOWEVER…

Thanks to Mary Erickson for that term because it says it perfectly. Being open does not mean being desperate. Some jobs *are* just bad and some clients are just looking for ways to not pay an artist. Also once you get a reputation for being “The Discount Artist” it is difficult to break out of that caste. Master film makeup artist Marietta Carter-Narcisse taught me a long time ago that you have to be willing to lose the job in order to get the job. If the going rate for a given job is say – $850/day – but the client comes back to me that they have a budget of $300 for the day, that is a red flag and I’m asking questions. I have had two outcomes happen to me fairly consistently in instances such as these; A ) I had to let the job go, or very commonly B ) When I said I could not work at that rate all of a sudden someone found some more money. Yep. Do not be fooled. Shoots have budgets. As illustrated in the photo-shoot estimate above, it is more a matter of how the money is to be allocated. It is up to you to make sure you get your fair share. In fact…

As in the case of the photo estimate I quoted above, artists unwittingly undervalue themselves by assuming the cheapest rate will always get the worm. That is not necessarily the case. I have had several jobs over the years where the client’s budget for makeup/hair was MORE than what I would have quoted. Hence I, again, like to find out what the budget is for makeup/hair FIRST before I go into what my rate is. I had a job recently where based on the job description I would likely have said my rate was $1000/day but it turned out their budget was $1500/day. Um hello, $500 more per day! Why yes, I’ll take that thank you very much! Admittedly, that much of a difference does not happen frequently, but even a difference of $50 or $100 more per day makes a difference, no?

There are a number of great resources out there – from blog posts to books, etc. – that can help you improve your negotiation skills. Again, this is the Internet Age so there is no excuse for being caught out there. (NOTE: I would caution against taking the advice of other artists who do not know either. LOL! That is the downside of some messageboards/Facebook groups, etc. You definitely want to get your information from a reliable source.) It definitely took some practice for me to feel comfortable with setting my rates and engaging in negotiations. The only way to get good at it is to do it so don’t be scurred. If you are prepared you do not have to be scared. 😉


Negotiations 101 by KJ Bennett (click for PDF file)

7 Questions for Determining Your Hourly Freelance Rate (slightly different as it is not specific to makeup or creatives HOWEVER this article gives insight into things you should think about as you move into freelancing for a living…)

Many thanks to Rob Haggart / A Photo Editor Blog for allowing me to snip from their blog post for this article. 🙂