What is my work worth?

Sometimes, as artists, we struggle with setting out prices, and raising them over time, because we aren’t sure what our work is worth. I can remember when I was starting out, I wanted to charge $100 per person, I wanted to have that sort of business, and to be making that sort of money.  But I didn’t, for a long time.  I didn’t feel like I was good enough, AND I didn’t’ believe that anyone WOULD pay that sort of money to get their makeup done.  “Who in their right mind would pay someone $100 to do their makeup?”  And this is the key thing here…  We often tie our own self-worth with what we think our work is worth.

Mind you, there were a couple of artists charging those sort of rates in the town where I was working, but I think, for the most part, the going rate was between $60 – $80 (yep, I’m a dinosaur).  I remember the in-house makeup artist at the Sheraton was charging $120 and supposedly taking 2 hours per application.

I had a makeup artist contact me last week asking me to have a look over her portfolio, as she wanted to put up her prices, but didn’t know if her work was worth what she wanted to charge.  Now while free business coaching is not a thing, I was intrigued by her message, and I’d started writing this post, so I figured we could help each other!!  And while she initially talked about what her work was worth, she later said “I’m just not sure that I am worth $xx”  (her words)

If YOU are struggling with your pricing, like I struggled in the early days, it’s important to ask yourself why you feel that way.  Remember, the quality of your life depends on the quality of the questions you ask.  Here’s some questions, and tips to help you know what you need to focus on to get to a point where you can be charging what you want, AND to know that you are worth it.

Hair & Makeup for Lauren Brant for Who Weekly. Photo: Richard Whitfield

WHY do you feel like you aren’t (or your work isn’t) worth the prices you want to charge?

Is it because you don’t feel you have the experience? Then get more experience.  Practice more, get any friend, family member, ANYONE in your chair, and practice, practice, practice… Experience isn’t just dependent on the number of years you have been a makeup artist.  The important thing with your practice is that you are LEARNING from it.  So, after you do a practice makeup (or after you do any job), reflect on it.  What worked, what didn’t work.  What did you find easy, what did you struggle with.  What did the client love straight away, what did she ask you to fix.  Take photos of your work, and really look at your work critically.  I like to take a photo on my phone immediately after I finish a makeup as I often see things in the photo that I don’t see looking at the clients face.  That way, I can fix it then and there, and take an even better photo.

Do you feel that people in your area won’t pay that much?  Research the sort of work being done in your area, and what the other artists are charging. While its true that SOME people won’t pay higher prices, there will always be bargain hunters, and its up to YOU to decide if they are your ideal clients or not.  I know there are artists in my area who will do makeup for $50 or less. However, I charge more than twice that amount, and my clients are happy to pay that.  It’s all about knowing who your ideal client is and what your style is. Try lots of things, and develop your own style.

Is it because you think your portfolio sucks?  Look, everyone’s portfolio sucks in the beginning.  We all start with one image.  Portfolio building is a constant in this industry, you will ALWAYS be updating and building your portfolio.  We are so lucky to be living in these times where portfolio building is actually 100 times easier than it used to be.  Digital photography, phone cameras, Instagram…  its so much easier and quicker for a makeup artist to build a solid portfolio now.  Make sure that you tailor your portfolio to the work you want to be doing, and the client you are trying to attract.

Is it because you feel that your work isn’t as good as (pick an artist).

#truthbomb time. There will ALWAYS be someone better than you! Comparitis is an insidious disease that you need to vaccinate yourself against.  YOU have a unique strength and a unique story.  There are amazing clients out there who are looking for YOU. Its simply a matter of figuring out who they are and communicating the right message to them through your marketing and your portfolio.  If you need to, unfollow some of the other artists, while you focus on what YOU are doing, and the clients who you are trying to attract.

Still shot from the Weber Stores TVC I worked on mid 2018 Photo: Elouise van Riet Gray

There are so many things you can do to improve your business, you can work on your skills, you can improve the quality of products in your kit, you can build a strong portfolio, and while you’re doing all this, you can be working on your mindset and your feelings of self-worth too.  Remember, at least 50% of your success in business is down to your mindset, or psychology.  You can have the best skills, products, and portfolio in the world, but if you don’t have a strong sense of self-worth, you’re not going to be able to confidently charge those prices, and have clients book you.  You need to show up confidently.  Nothing happens overnight though, it’s always a process, and it’s a matter of taking small steps every day, and keeping working towards that goal.


So, when should you raise your prices?

Firstly, you can raise them arbitrarily at the beginning of the year or the financial (fiscal) year.  But the best time to raise your prices is when you are fully booked at the prices you are currently charging, and you are turning away a lot of work.  You should also raise your prices if the artists who you refer work to (and who refer you) are charging more than you.  Having your prices in line with artists who are doing the same style of work as you is a great business strategy, as it will encourage them to refer work to you.  (nobody is going to refer work to someone who is a whole lot cheaper than them – obviously!)


Be aware that when you first raise your prices, you’ll notice a drop off in bookings. This is temporary as some of your regular clients may leave and go find an artist they can afford.  But, you will be attracting new clients at that price point, and that’s a good thing!  It may just take a little time, so be patient!!





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