makeup artist online education

“Can you do it cheaper?”

One of the biggest mistakes I see Makeup Artists making is Competing on Price.  When artists feel pressure to “stand out” in an overcrowded space (and let’s face it, every second person is a makeup artist these days, right?) often the only way they know how to compete is to lower their prices, or agree to a discount.

While this may result in an influx of clients in the short term, this business strategy is not sustainable, as you won’t be making a profit, – and we’ve all got to eat, not to mention buy more makeup!!  All this strategy leads to is frustration, resentment and burn out…  and little to no profits. I’ve been in the industry a long time (17 years) and I’ve seen a LOT of makeup artists come and go.  Now, I’ll admit, when I first started out, I wasn’t charging anywhere NEAR what I’m charging now, but I soon learnt, through making mistakes, and watching my money go back out the door as soon as it came in, that I needed to be a bit smarter – and put my prices up!

Some makeup artists and hair stylists mistakenly think that if they do a “special price” for a client now, that in the future they will be able to raise their prices and their clients will stay with them.  Unfortunately, this isn’t true.  A bargain hunter will always be a bargain hunter, and the person who shops based on price will always be looking for the lowest price… they won’t be loyal to you.

I see this a lot with commercial shoots – artists will take a job for the promise of “exposure” and “it may lead to paid work in the future” but what actually happens, is the client will just move onto the next artist happy to work for free and the same promises.  You can’t pay your rent with tags on social media posts.

Whether it’s a bride, a formal/prom/deb client, or a commercial client, there will ALWAYS be those people out there looking for the next bargain.  But, its like anything in life…  some people drive a Hyundai car, and others drive a BMW…  some people buy their makeup from Priceline or the $2 store, others shop at Sephora, Mecca or David Jones (Or Nordstums/Macy’s or Selfridges).  Some people eat at McDonalds while others enjoy fine dining.  Some people wouldn’t dream of eating at McDonalds… and its got nothing to do with what they can afford.

BUT, the important thing to remember here is that BMW is not bothered by what Hyundai is doing in their business, or how much they are selling their new release 4 cylinder car for. Because they know that their ideal clients are not interested in buying the cheapest car, they are interested in a quality, European made, prestige car, and happy to pay the price tag that goes along with it.  It’s the same for us…

So, what do you do when faced with the feeling that you need to lower your prices to compete?  And, why do some artists still get booked solid when they are charging 3 x as much as the $40 artist down the road?  And, why do you even care about the $40 makeup artist?

wedding hair stylist
Hairstyling by me for Ruth’s wedding. Photo: Liz Wilson

Get clear on YOUR Business… and focus on that.

One of my friends has the saying “stay in your lane” and I’ve been known to pinch it a few times, because it’s TRUE.  Once you know who your ideal client is, why she would book you (your Unique Selling Point), and how to communicate that to her through your marketing message and your portfolio, you will be attracting the right clients, who are happy to pay your price, AND repelling those who are not your ideal clients and who can’t afford you.  You are not the right makeup artist for everyone.  I’m not the right makeup artist for everyone.  But we each have our own ideal clients, and we don’t all need to be competing against each other.

Of course, I get it that when you’re first starting out, you are not going to charge premium prices…  but, you do need to be making a profit!  Make sure you know how much your business is costing you, and how many faces you need to be painting to cover your costs.  If you feel that you still need to be practicing and building your portfolio, that’s what testing/TFP is for.

So, get clear on what you want to do, and who you want to work with, and make sure that you tailor your portfolio to that sort of work.


Be clear and confident with your pricing.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Put your Prices on your website.  YES, its true that some people will be turned off – and that’s a good thing! You don’t want those clients.  I can almost guarantee that when I get an enquiry that just says “how much do you charge for makeup?” that the person WILL NOT book me.  I usually figure she hasn’t read my price list, so I just tell her, and move on.  9 times out of 10, I don’t even hear from her again.  Bless and Release… she is not my client. If she is shopping based purely on price, she is looking for the $40 makeup artist.  Fortunately I don’t get TOO many of these sort of enquiries, and I got a LOT more when I didn’t have my prices on my site.

Now, there will be some people that will argue that if you don’t have your prices listed, that you get the chance to establish a relationship with the client, to nurture her, and that might encourage her to book you, but I believe time is valuable, so I’d rather not spend my time going back and forth with clients who can’t afford me in the first place.

Just as some people want to spend 3 x the price on an expensive, luxury car; some people want to spend a bit more on a makeup artist who has experience, a good portfolio, and offers a quality, luxury experience.

commercial makeup artist
La-Z-Boy campaign shoot, Hair & Makeup by Sue McLaurin

Be happy to Let them Go…

This is where a bit of Mindset and Psychology comes into play (and remember, at least 50% of your success in business depends on your mindset or psychology).  I encourage you to think LONG TERM and BIG PICTURE…  Saying NO to a bargain hunting client today will help you build the business you want to have LONG TERM.  Remember, charging bargain basement prices is NOT a sustainable business model.  Do you want to be a makeup artist in 10 years time?  Do you have big dreams for your career?  Again, I’ve been around a long time, I’ve seen a lot of artists come and go… the ones who have stuck around (and who now have superstar careers) are the ones who stuck to their guns, and didn’t discount their prices just to get a booking in the short term.

Honestly, I don’t think about those clients who don’t book me because they can’t afford me.  Now, you might be thinking “oh that’s easy for you, Sue, you’ve been around since the dinosaurs and you have a well established career”.  Yes, that’s true, but it wasn’t always like that…  I struggled in the beginning just like everyone.  I had to deal with wondering if I was good enough to be charging $100 per face.  Was I worth it?  Did my work suck?  You know what though?  Every time I have put my prices up, my business has gotten better.  Every. Single. Time.

Inevitably when I talk about pricing, and not discounting, someone will ask about working for “free” or doing TFP.  That is a completely different kettle of fish, which you can read about HERE:


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Cover Photo: Just for Love Photography



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