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Assisting: The Golden Opportunity

Are you where you want to be in your freelance career?  Are you keen to book more clients maybe do more editorial, commercial and film/TV work? But it’s so hard to get your foot in the door, and you’re feeling unsure about where to even start.

If you feel like this sometimes, or even if you’ve been around for a while but would like more and better jobs, then assisting an established makeup artist can be a great way to fast-track your success.

Assisting is not only about learning how to do makeup, but all those little things that go into getting regular work, because actually DOING makeup is only around 20% of our job, there’s so much other stuff that goes into being a successful makeup artist.

A while ago I wrote a post on Assisting, what you can expect when you’re assisting, and what is expected of you.  You can check out that post HERE:

The thing to remember with assisting is that it is a reciprocal agreement.  There needs to be a benefit for both parties.  So whether you’re looking to assist someone, OR, looking for an assistant to help you, its important to be clear on what the assistant’s duties and responsibilities will be, so there’s no confusion:

Why should you Assist?

  • You will learn makeup and hairstyling techniques by watching a more experienced artist at work,
  • See new products and how to use them
  • Learn about timing, and how an experienced artist manages their workflow
  • Learn who’s who on set, as set-etiquette is an important part of the job in TV/Film


But I believe the number one benefit of assisting is the golden opportunity to impress someone who can help you further your career.  This was definitely my experience with assisting.


After I had been a makeup artist for 4 years, I moved to a new city, and basically had to start all over again. All my experience to that point had been in Bridal (except for a couple of small commercial jobs and one big TVC – but I could count that work on one hand!)  As my kids were school age, I wanted to get more work during the week so I could spend weekends with them.  Commercial work seemed like the logical pathway for me.  I signed up with a crewing agency and was sent out to assist an artist on a big TVC.  This artist was so generous with her knowledge.  I assisted her a few times, and then she went on maternity leave and started to refer some of her clients to me, those I had worked with when assisting her.  And those jobs led to other jobs, as people got to know me, and I started to show commercial work in my portfolio.  I’m forever grateful for that artist’s trust and faith in me, as who knows how long it would have taken me on my own.

And of course, since then I have been able to do the same with several of my assistants too.  When my teaching gig meant I wasn’t always available for one of my big clients, I suggested they try my assistant, which worked out well for all of them, and I ended up passing that client to her permanently, as she lived a lot closer than my 1.5 hour commute to get to their studio. And I recently passed on a VERY COOL Music Video gig to one of my former assistants, as I was already booked (and between you and me, I was a little bit jealous!!)


Sue’s Tip:  Treat every Assisting opportunity as a potential GOLDEN TICKET to your dream career…



How to get the GOLDEN assisting jobs

Just like anything in life, sometimes you have to go through the crappy stuff to get to the good stuff. That might be hard to remember while you’re cleaning brushes or curling hair on a 6 person wedding with an artist who is under the pump and giving you short, sharp orders!  I always reminded myself: a tough day on a makeup job beats a good day sitting in an office!

Your network is going to be the best source of assisting jobs.  I have found assistants and recommended assistants within my network many times.  If you see other makeup artists as your competition, believe me; that will only hold you back.  Make friends with as many other makeup artists as you can, particularly those who’s work you admire, and who are getting the jobs you hope to be doing in the future.

If an artist you admire is holding a workshop or a Masterclass, sign up for it!  And AFTER you have signed up and paid, send them a message asking if you can volunteer to assist them on the day (remind them you’ve already signed up).

Reach out to artists you admire and ask questions.  Liking their Instagram posts or commenting “beautiful makeup” will probably get lost in the sea of other likes and comments.  Make your interactions meaningful and engaging, and you’re much more likely to get a thought out response, as opposed to a quick “thank you” and a couple of hearts.

Be persistent in building your network.  If I had a dollar for every time an artist said to me “oh I reached out to [insert artist’s name] and I never heard back” I could buy a bunch of beautiful makeup palettes!  Seriously though, it’s not enough to contact someone once.  People are busy, and even if they do respond, that’s no guarantee they will remember you.  I get so many artists reaching out to me asking questions or for advice, and I always try to respond.  Sometimes I’m surprised to see that there is a history in our message thread, we’ve spoken before, but it might be AGES ago and I’ve forgotten about them.

That’s not to say be a stalker!  Making contact every couple of months is a great way to build your network at first.

If you have the opportunity, introduce yourself face-to-face.  Remember, even “famous” makeup artists are real people too, and you’d be surprised how many of them are actually introverts, and DON’T feel comfortable around loads of people (despite what you might see on their Insta-stories!) I recently had the opportunity to chat with a “famous” artist who I’ve “known” online for over 10 years, but never actually met in person.  We have referred work to one another over the years, so it was awesome to actually make that face-to-face personal connection, and that was only because I got over myself and went up and said Hi.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful.  I see so many questions in the Facebook Groups about how to get assisting jobs.  It’s really just a matter of reaching out, and following up…  and being in the right place at the right time!

Good luck!  and Happy Assisting…


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