My “Secret Weapon” for Makeup Artist Success

One of the most common questions I get asked by aspiring makeup artists is “how can I book more clients?”

Sometimes other artists are surprised when I tell them my greatest source of new clients and makeup jobs. can you guess what it might be? As an agency-represented makeup artist, many people assume I get most of my work booked through my agent. As a 19 year veteran makeup artist, many people think its because I “know all the right people” like photographers and producers, or that I have a long list of past brides who refer their friends and family to me.

While its true that I receive enquiries and book work through these sources (and I’m truly grateful for that), the biggest single source of my work, and what I consider my “secret weapon” is referrals from other makeup artists.

Right from the beginning of my career I have made it a priority to make friends or at least form working business relationships (which usually turn into friendships, because, ya know, all the makeup chat!) with other makeup artists.  At first it was out of necessity, I needed help and advice when I was starting out, just as everyone does…  but I soon realised that having a strong network of other artists who I could refer work to when I was busy, and who would hopefully return the favour, meant a big boost to my business.

I don’t think this was ever a CONSCIOUS decision; it just kind of happened that way.  When I was first starting out, I received an email one day, requesting my prices.  It was just a short email asking what I charged for brides and bridesmaids makeup. She didn’t actually SAY she was getting married, she literally just asked the question.  I recognised her name as another makeup artist in town, so I responded, giving her my prices, because I’ve got nothing to hide.  In fact, I now put my prices on my website. I also asked her if she was that makeup artist I had heard about.  Anyway, long story short, we ended up working together a LOT, and referring work back and forwards to each other.  Even when my business grew so large I sub-contracted work to a couple of other girls, I would still refer work to her at times, and she continued to refer work to me.

I actually refer to networking with other makeup artists as the “secret weapon” to my success, and I stand by that.  I never decline a job without referring someone else.  I believe in the Universal Law of Referrals, which states that for every referral you give out, you will get three back.  Of course I’ve never kept track, the Universe doesn’t work that way, but, like I said at the beginning, the biggest source of all my work is referrals from other makeup artists.  I have had a contract with one of the major TV networks for almost 5 years because one of their makeup artists referred me to the station when she went on maternity leave (thank you Amanda <3)  She came back after her baby, and they kept me on as a freelancer as well.

It’s important to note that whenever I “throw a bone” to (ie refer) another artist, I don’t EXPECT anything in return.  I don’t charge them a booking fee, commission, have them work under my brand, or anything like that.  That’s not the way the Universal Law of Referrals works.  You get back what you give out…  Knowing that my client (or person who has enquired with me) is being looked after properly is enough.  If the artist calls, emails or messages me to thank me; that is a bonus.  If they reciprocate and refer work to me; that’s a double bonus!  This is not to take away from those artists who have businesses with a team of artists working for them, I’ve done that before, both as the contractor and sub-contractor – that’s a different kettle of fish entirely.  I’m just talking about referral business here.

So this week I encourage you to look at your friendships and working relationships with other artists. Do you have friends in the industry? Do you refer work to one another? How do you view other artists? Competition or Colleagues?  We are all in this together. What can you do to make better friends with other makeup artists?  This is not about making “fake friends” with people just so you can get something back from them.  I’d like to think that all my makeup artist friends think I’m a good, loyal friend. How can YOU provide value to other artists, so that they will think of you and refer work to you?  (*hint:  its NOT by undercutting them!)   When someone refers work to me, especially if its a commercial client, I like to check their rates if possible, so I know we are charging the same or similar.  Obviously sometimes that means I do a job for less than my normal rate, but sometimes I will get paid more too.

There is plenty of work to go around.  Yes, there are more makeup artists around now than there were 15-20 years ago, but there is also a lot more work.  Back when I started it was quite rare for someone to get their makeup done for their formal, and special occasion makeup was almost unheard of.  Now it’s quite common.

John F Kennedy once said: “A rising tide lifts all boats”, lets all work together to make the industry better which will make each of our businesses better too.


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