How much does a make-up artist earn?

September 14, 2023

Make-up artistry is an exciting profession to get involved in, and you’ve probably asked yourself the question: “how much does a make-up artist make?”.

The short answer to that question is “how long is a piece of string?”. That’s because there are so many variables at play, including your levels of skill and experience, the type of make-up services you’re offering, and whether you’re working full-time and self-employed. But if you want an approximate guide to inform your future career plans, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we’ll take a detailed look at how much make-up artists earn. We’ll explore typical figures for different branches of the profession and differing levels of experience, and highlight a range of ways that you can maximise your earning power.

Typical make-up artist earnings

We’ve divided this section into four different categories, so that you can understand the difference between types of make-up artist work. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that these figures can also vary depending on which part of the country you’re living and working in:

If you’re working in retail

Working on a retail counter, such as in a concession in a department store, is one of the most accessible ways into the make-up artist industry. As a newcomer, you’ll probably start on the National Living Wage: this varies according to your age, but is currently £10.42 per hour if you’re 23 or older. As you gain experience, this will improve over time, and as a full-time employee you’ll also gain extra benefits like sick pay and paid holiday. You may even be able to agree on a level of commission for products you sell.

If you’re a trainee

If you decide to pursue a more specialised make-up artist career, such as working in the media or in fashion, then you will start out as a trainee. You will most likely start out on the National Living Wage (see above), although if you’re working in London, you should look for the higher London Living Wage, which is currently £11.95 an hour. On the right job and with the right skill sets under your belt, you may be able to get as much as £14 as a trainee.

If you’re working in TV and film

Once you’ve gained enough experience and contacts as a trainee, you’ll then be able to hire yourself out on a freelance self-employed basis for TV and film productions. As the hours you can expect to work will be relatively fluid, it’s usual to charge out your services on a day rate instead of an hourly rate. Rates vary wildly depending on the size and budget of the production, starting at £140 a day and potentially rising to more than £400 a day.

How to make more money as a make-up artist

If you’re looking at those rates listed above and aspire to reach that level, or you just want to move your earnings to the next spot up the ladder, there’s plenty you can do to boost your earning power. We recommend the following:

Get more qualifications

A continuous approach to learning and development can help you improve as a make-up artist all the time, and taking extra courses for additional qualifications can help you do that. If you’ve already got a degree or a Level 3 NVQ, then you can look at taking things to the next level with more specific qualifications, from prosthetics and special effects to beauty therapy and even hairdressing. The more qualifications you have, the more attractive you’ll be to a company that wants to hire.

Specialise your skills

The marketplace for make-up artists can be competitive, and so it’s vital to stand out from the crowd. Many hiring companies may well be looking for specific types of make-up to suit their needs, and will prioritise those specifics when looking at freelance candidates. So one excellent way of increasing your earning power is to focus on particular types of make-up artistry that you’re good at, and market yourself on that basis.

Move to where the work is

If you really want to commit to make-up artistry as a career, then you may want to consider moving further afield. For example, London is a hub of fashion and media activities where qualified and skilled make-up artists are always in demand; it’s also a place where there is a larger industry community. Therefore, it’s worth looking at moving towards the big cities if you can: your living costs may rise, but so will your earning potential.

Network for new opportunities

The make-up industry is very much one that operates on contacts and word of mouth. You’re highly unlikely to find the best job opportunities listed on a website: it’s who you know that will get you a foot in the door. Make sure you work hard to meet new people and make contact with them on every job, and develop a strong profile on LinkedIn so that other people in the profession can find you and network with you.

Hone your portfolio

If prospective employers want to find out more about you, then one of the first things they’ll be looking for is your portfolio. They don’t just want to read about your skills on your CV: they want to see practical evidence of what you can do. Ideally, you should review and update your portfolio regularly, and ensure it’s in keeping with current trends and fashions. Also try to mix up the content within it to showcase a wide range of styles and applications.

Get make-up artist insurance cover with Protectivity

One way that might hamper how much make-up artists earn is if they face a claim for compensation. The best thing you can do to protect yourself against this major financial risk is to put in place comprehensive, specialist make-up insurance. At Protectivity, we have years of experience insuring small businesses such as make-up artists, and our flexible cover extends to public liability; products liability; equipment and stock; equipment hire; personal accident; and even employers’ liability if you hire other people to work for you.

Take two minutes today to explore make-up artist insurance from just £3.44 a month.