commercial makeup artist, makeup artist education

5 things to Know when Setting your Rates

I’ve recently written a few blog posts about Makeup Artist Rates, raising your rates and charging what you are worth, and not competing on price!!  Whenever this discussion happens there are always those who will say “oh but I work in a small town” or “oh I’m just starting out”, or “people won’t pay that much”. And yes, ALL of those things are valid points.  So, just how do you know what is a realistic price for you to be charging, so that you WILL be booking clients and still making a profit?

Here’s 5 things you need to know when you are setting your rates:

Know your market.

There are several aspects to this.  Firstly, it’s important to consider your GEOGRAPHIC market.  Are you in a big city or a small town?  Are you in a well-heeled suburb of that big city, or an outer suburb with a lower socio-economic demographic?  AND, then consider whether you want to stay working in your immediate geographic area or if you are happy to travel (or move).

It’s true that people living in the (inner) city may have more disposable income than someone who is from a small town, and you would need to consider pricing your services accordingly.

Then consider the style of work in your market.  Is it mainly commercial and editorial work?  Is there loads of fashion, or are you mainly working with brides, proms, formals? Are there a lot of race-days or other special occasions?

Know the job

One of the big mistakes I see artists making is charging incorrectly for commercial jobs.  I will often see someone asking in the Facebook groups how they should charge, when a job calls for them to do 8 talent (half of whom are male) in a 2 hour period and then stick around for the duration of the shoot.  “I normally charge $150 for hair & makeup” they say, “but I’m not sure what to do here”.  The only time you should be charging a “per person” rate, is when you arrive, do the hair &/or makeup, and leave.  So this is primarily bridal and events, although, there is a growing trend in e-commerce fashion jobs to hire an artist to just “do and go”, in which case a per person rate is appropriate here too.

Whatever the job, make sure you have all the details before you quote.  If it’s a wedding, obviously you will want to know the number of faces (adults and juniors), distance you need to travel (if you are mobile) and likely start time (in case they are having a morning ceremony and you need to start before the sun is up.

If it’s a photoshoot, commercial or otherwise, always find out how long you will be required for, and charge for your time if you will be required to stay for touch-ups and changes to the makeup or hairstyling.  Most commercial jobs are charged at a half-day or full-day rate, rather than per hour, but make sure that you do specify how long your half- or full-day actually is, and when overtime kicks in (because you don’t want to charge a full-day rate and be there for 16 hours with no extra pay!)

Wine ‘n’ Dine ’em Campaign… photo: Stewart Ross, makeup by Sue McLaurin (this job was charged as a half day, not per person)

Know your Numbers

“It’s not what you earn that is important, it’s what you get to keep” [Robert Kiyosaki].  One of the first things I do with my coaching clients and Business Boost students is get them to work out their profit margin. Sure we all do makeup because we love it and are passionate about our craft and helping others feel good about themselves, but if you’re not making a decent profit, you are only going to end up burnt out and resentful.  The number one reason that most small businesses fail, is lack of cashflow; they are not making enough money to keep paying the bills and keep going.

So many makeup artists begin their careers as a “side-hustle” and in doing so, many of them get stuck in what I call “hobby” mode.  These artists charge what they think is a fair amount, but in reality they have NO IDEA about what their business is actually costing them to run. They don’t keep records, and if I ask them “What’s your profit margin?” they cannot answer.

Now I completely understand that as creatives, the majority of makeup artists and hairstylists don’t love admin, and probably don’t really understand the accounts side of their business. However, the reality is, if you are a freelancer, or aspire to become a freelancer, you are running a small business, so all of those other admin and accounts type things are a vital part of your business.

Take some time each week to tally up how much money you have earned, how much you have spent on your business (and this is ALL your expenses), not just what you’ve spent on makeup supplies! And how many people sat in your chair. (There are actually a lot more things you can measure, but these are the most important when it comes to setting your rates.  If you do this each week, it doesn’t become a mammoth task at the end of the year (tax time). You’ll then also have figures for each month, which will help you to PLAN for busy and quiet times in your business. One of the biggest challenges many artists face is developing a stable income.  The reality is, we work in a seasonal industry, and sustainable income really isn’t that likely, however, once you know your numbers, you can plan for the busy times and the quiet times.

Its all very well to make $50,000 profit in a year, but if that means you are doing 30 faces each week, you’re soon going to get very tired of it!

Know your Competition

Hold on a minute… Aren’t we supposed to NOT compare ourselves to everyone else?  Absolutely! However, its important to know what other artists in your market are doing, because you don’t want to undercut other artists, and conversely, you don’t want to price yourself out of the market.

Find out the going rates in your market.  Look at what other artists are charging.  (check their websites, a lot will have their prices displayed, or simply call them and ASK). When you do this, it’s important to be looking at artists who are doing the same sort of work as you, or that you hope to be doing.  If the bulk of your work is glitter cut-creases on formal girls, you won’t be charging the same as an artist who does high-end bridal or regular fashion & commercial clients, even if she lives just down the street from you.

For me, the biggest benefit in knowing my “competition” has been actually making friends and business colleagues with so many fantastic artists, who I can refer work to, and who refer work to me!

Know Yourself (and your Work)

I wrote recently about the artist who reached out to me because she wanted to raise her rates but wasn’t sure her work (or herself) was WORTH IT…  and this just highlighted to me that issue that so many artists have of self-doubt and limiting beliefs about their own abilities as an artist.

If you’re not sure if you’re worth being paid a certain amount, then practice more.  Build your portfolio more.  Get more confident working with different skin-tones, ethnicities, skin-types, ages…  Practice, practice, practice!!  When I was first learning hair I had a hair dolly and every day I would do at least one hairstyle on that dolly.  I’d look through magazines (coz, ya know, Pinterest didn’t exist), and find styles I liked and figure out how to replicate them.  I did that for probably two years, until I felt confident that I could break down any hairstyle I saw a picture of (then, of course, the challenge becomes dealing with different hair types and textures, but that’s a whole other blog post…)

Seen a look you liked on a famous artist’s Instagram?  Grab a friend and re-create it.  How about some of those fantastic looks from the recent Met Gala ball?  It’s been great seeing so many artists do their recreations of these looks all over Instagram.  The only way you will improve as an artist is to keep practicing, and when you improve, your confidence improves.  Competence builds confidence.  The more confident you are, the less you will have those “Am I worth it?” feelings when you are setting or considering raising your rates.

I hope you’ve found these 5 things to KNOW helpful. I have a FREE Downloadable worksheet that will help you work out your costs per face, and how many faces you need to do to cover your costs.  You can get the free download HERE

Please feel free to share this post on your Facebook page, or in any groups where you think it might be helpful.  If you have any questions, simply comment below or reach out to me on my Facebook Page.

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