How to Stay Relevant in an Ever-changing Industry

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this industry after being a full-time working makeup artist and hairstylist for over 17 years, its how much things change.  If I think back to the makeups I was doing when I first started, the products and tools I was using, it’s almost completely different.  Of course, there are fundamentals that will never change, matching foundation colours properly, and how to use light and shade to emphasise features you want to, and hide those you don’t, but the fashions have certainly changed, and continue to change.

In the last 10-15 years we’ve seen eyebrows go from thin, to block-like, to ombre to brushed up and “fluffy”.  Contouring, strobing and “baking” have gone from being techniques used in theatre and by drag-queens to be staples of every 14yo makeup enthusiast’s routine. Airbrush makeup became super popular for a while, and then kind of faded from being the greatest thing since sliced bread, becoming just another method of foundation application.

And then there’s the technology; websites, social media, Instagram, phone cameras, the list goes on…

Obviously practice makes perfect, but if you’re just practicing the same thing over and over, very soon you will become out-dated.  In order to hone our craft, we need to keep up with the trends.  Which means, constantly adding new products to our kit (new, improved formulations of old favourites, and new shades as colour fashions and trends change), along with learning new techniques as well.

In this ever-changing industry, if you want to continue to be booked, it’s vitally important that you keep up to speed with all these changes; staying relevant is a must.  In fact, its one of the steps in my “6 Steps to Makeup Artist Success”.  If you’re not growing as an artist, you’re dying.

From the Vault… hair & makeup by me for Lorna Jane Active Wear campaign… a good 10 years ago

So, how do you go about staying relevant?  I believe there are a couple of ways, and they are all equally important.



Keeping abreast of new trends is part of our job. I often talk about how as a makeup artist, actually DOING makeup is only about 20% of what I do, the rest is business admin, marketing, kit preparation and learning – researching new trends and products.  We are lucky with the internet and social media, we can instantly be kept up to date with what is happening on the catwalks and red carpet around the world. Watching awards shows like the Academy Awards, the Grammys and even our own Logies here in Australia will give you an insight into the looks the top makeup artists are creating for their celebrity clients.

Keeping an eye on the top fashion show makeup artists’ Insta stories during fashion week will show you what they are creating for the runways.  The looks from the red carpet and the runways (well, some of them – not the really crazy avant-garde looks) filter down into the makeup that our fashion, formal and even bridal clients will be requesting.

Go to the makeup counters and chat to the sales people about the new products they have in store, try them out, ask for samples and have a play with new products yourself.  Some you’ll love, some you won’t.  I recently needed to replace a discontinued foundation formulation, as the foundation I was using for my mature clients and VIPs had been discontinued (don’t you HATE it when that happens?) so I went into Mecca and got samples of 4 different formulations and tried each of them out for a couple of days (on my best guinea pig – myself) until I settled on one I liked.

trash the dress, wedding dress, wedding couple in the water, wedding hair and makeup by Sue McLaurin
Trash the dress shoot, the day after Belle & Adam’s actual wedding. Photo: Tom Hall

Ongoing Education

I remember once reading that as a makeup artist, your education doesn’t end when you graduate from makeup college, that’s when it really begins!  While it’s great to have a solid understanding of all the fundamentals and techniques, there is really no substitute for learning on the job.

Depending on what sort of jobs you’re doing though, after a while, you may not be learning enough of the right things, so regularly updating your skill set is also an important part of your freelance journey.  Attending expos, seminars, workshops and Masterclasses is a great way to not only keep your skills up to date, but also to meet and network with other freelancers in your area.  And we all know how important your network is, right?

Masterclasses are becoming super popular lately, and I know some artists who will attend every class they possibly can.  While I admire their enthusiasm, I believe there are a couple of questions you should ask before parting with your hard – earned money on a Masterclass:

  1. Is the CONTENT of the Masterclass is relevant to you and your career? Do you have a plan for the direction of your makeup career? Does this class fit in with your plan? If the content is focussed on Bridal, and you are more interested in fashion, then maybe that answer is NO. Don’t go along to a class just because everyone else is!


  1. What is your desired OUTCOME from attending the class? Wanting to learn new skills and techniques, or learn about new products is great!  The confidence you achieve in a Masterclass can really make it worthwhile. However if your focus is on building your business, then perhaps a business class would suit you better at this stage in your journey.


  1. What EXPERIENCE does the Educator have as a makeup artist? How long have they been in the industry?  What sort of work have they been doing?  Are they CURRENT in the industry?Remember the industry is always changing very quickly, so it’s important to know that the educator is actually a working makeup artist or hairstylist, not someone who has hung up their brushes and is teaching full time (I saw this a lot when I was teaching in a college). The word “MASTERCLASS” implies that the teacher is a MASTER, and you don’t get to be a master in just a year or so!  I recommend several educators to my students and coaching clients wanting to upgrade their skills, and all of them have over 10 years relevant industry experience.  Take a look at their work, do some research, find out about the artist/educator and their career.  Does the artist/educator have a body of published work?  Do they have hundreds of happy brides?  Does their work show a variety of looks, skin-tones and skin-types? Can they demonstrate their ability to work on all types of clients? Are they posting new work to their social media regularly?


  1. Is the EDUCATOR actually a good educator? Just because someone is a great makeup artist, doesn’t necessarily mean they are a great educator.  Some people lack the skills to pass on their knowledge effectively. Teaching involves a different skill set than simply doing.I learnt that very quickly when I started teaching in a college… with some beginning students I had to go back to complete basics, like how to hold a brush!

Is the Educator qualified to educate?  (Here in Australia that means do they hold a Certificate in Training and Assessment?)  While this is not a pre-requisite for hosting a Masterclass (or even being a great educator!), it does demonstrate the educator’s commitment to learning how to teach effectively.  Is the educator experienced?  Have they held other Masterclasses or taught before?  Look for reviews from other students, and ask them.  Video testimonials are great, don’t just trust written testimonials!


  1. Is the Educator actually an artist/educator or an “Influencer” (it is possible to be both!) I’ve actually seen classes advertised (and filled with eager students) which are being held by artists whose portfolio seems to be full of looks on themselves, or just the same look on different people.  While I understand going to a class to learn an artist’s “signature look”; ensure that look is relevant to your career and your clientele.For instance, I sometimes have artists who are interested in my Business Boost program, and then I find out they want to pursue a career working in Film. As I have almost no long-form Film experience, I refer them to other educators who have the relevant knowledge they are seeking.


  1. How many other students will be in the class? Having taught small classes myself, I KNOW how hard it is to teach effectively when there are too many people in the class.  One year the college I was teaching at raised the class numbers from 12 starters to 15.  In one of my classes we finished with 14 students at the end of the year, and I never felt I could give every student enough attention.  If class maximums are more than 10, that would ring alarm bells with me.


  1. Is the class Hands-on? Or simply a “look and learn”?  Obviously you will learn a lot more from a hand’s on class, especially if you are a kinaesthetic learner (one who learns by DOING, rather than seeing something (Visual) or hearing/reading about it (Auditory)). Will you get instant feedback from the Educator?


At this time of year, I am seeing so many classes advertised.  I would LOVE to do all of them myself, but of course, as a savvy business woman, I have a set budget for my continuing education, so it’s a matter of choosing which education is the most relevant for me.  I strongly recommend that all artists set aside a portion of their income for continuing education (it will most likely be tax deductible – check with your accountant).  I hope today’s post helps you navigate through your choices of all the different amazing masterclasses that are available to us.  Happy Learning!


Have you done an amazing Masterclass lately? I’d love to hear about it.  Come and join the discussion over on my Facebook Page.