When it comes to setting your makeup rates, every artist old and new has heard this:
Client: How much do you charge for makeup?
You: I charge $xyz.
Client: Oh. That's too expensive. Can you work with my budget?
Your Brain: Son of a bitch!! I don’t have the time or the crayons to explain this to you.
Pricing our services is often one of the most challenging tasks for makeup artists, but it's the most important when trying to earn a living. Here’s the rub: Clients want a price that will provide value for their money while freelancers want to be compensated fairly for their work. No one ever sees eye to eye.
MY TOP SECRETS FOR SETTING YOUR MAKEUP RATES
1. Quality vs Quantity
When you're trying to set your makeup rates, trying to do a lot of work for a low fee often compromises quality, especially when your ass is tired from the damn cheap jobs….
You know what I’m talking about. By the time you have done the 9th bridesmaid and the 100th wedding, no wonder you're driven to drink. You're at the last wedding of the year and you're counting the minutes until you are out of there stuffing your face with the nearest Taco Bell. While you're stuffing your face with a chalupa you start to wonder if maybe you should work smarter and not harder, right?
Focus on offering high quality services and gain clients that will pay the higher fee you charge. Work less, make just as much as you did at a lower rate. Smart, right?
2. Profit Is Necessary
Ok, come on now britches, I know yawl watch Shark Tank right? Repeat after me: There is nothing wrong with making a profit. It's how you grow and become financially independent. (Trust me, retirement will be here before you know it).
Any good business person knows you are in biz to make a profit. If people are not giving you real money to do makeup, you have a hobby, not a career.
I know this seems like the obvious, but new makeup artists are terrified to ask for their worth, especially those who have never had a business before. If you need to figure it out, calculate your expenses, then add 40-50% profit. If you have a hard time with figuring out expenses, download our Setting Your Rates Worksheet Here.
3. Raise Your Salary Every Year
As you grow as an artist, the more skills and experience you gain the more you can justify giving yourself a raise.
Keep reviewing your price so that it reflects your current levels of experience and skills AND cost of living. These are crucial when it comes to setting your rates as a makeup artist.
In addition, prices of running a business will keep increasing due to inflation, so review your price regularly.
Here is it, 2018 and I see artists charging the rates I started out with in 1999. That is insanity. I know my rent is higher today than 18 years ago. People get raises all the time, why aren’t you? You have my full permission to give yourself a raise according to your living and business expense. Plan to give yourself at least a 5-10% raise every year.
4. The Devil is in the Details
Have you ever heard “the Devil is in the details?” Yep, and in makeup it’s no different. Seasoned pros know what I’m talking about….. It goes like this:
You send a quote for the project without a lot of details…only to find out on the day of the job it’s not anything like what the creative director asked for…..and you end up losing your ass on it. Ouch.
It is imperative to always estimate the effort that will be required to complete a certain job before quoting a price and setting your makeup rates for the particular job. To do this, you need to know as many of the details as possible and have processes and language in place in case shit goes into overtime.
5. More work means more time.
If your client gives you more work on your project than what you had agreed to the contract, then they should increase your rate. Period. Which is why understanding the job scope is critical before booking the job and quoting the job.
Very important: You should make additional work in your contract an “additional expense” and take necessary steps to factor this in. For example, those of us in the wedding industry. One word. Overtime. You can't finish the job because Aunt Bertha isn't ready cause she's over at the buffet table stuffing her face or bitching how she doesn't want to go now because the makeup won't be as fresh come showtime. I see overtime happen quite often and you must plan for this and have a process in place to get paid if this happens.
Just because you are there on set or at a wedding doesn’t mean you are there to get run over by the client. It happens a lot more than you think. Be sure you have a plan in place to be able to charge for any additional overtime/work.
6. Base your price on the current job, not empty promises for future work.
Seasoned pros…we have all have heard this before:
“If you do this for me cheap, I will have more work for you in the future.”
Uh, really, fucknuts? More often than not, clients try to negotiate a reduction in price by promising you that they “may” have more work for you in future. Do not agree to this unless the client is willing and ready to sign the contract, for that future work, now.
I would say 90% of the time this is complete and utter bullshit. They are preying on your naivety and trying to pull one over on you, even if it's not malicious. If you teach them how to treat you, they will always treat you this way. Base the price on the job, not the promise of future work. Now, if it's a big fish you really want to land, you can make the offer to work a one-off in hopes you get the job and let them KNOW this is why you are offering what you're offering. But be careful, that can bite you in the ass too. Be sure this a client you really want to land.
7. Exposure does not pay your bills.
How many times have I been asked to donate my services? Oh, about 3 times a day I get requests. Either from a charity event or a test shoot. Never work for exposure or experience. That shit won't pay your bills. Since the invention of social media, I never got ANY traction from ANY time I have experimented from doing free shit for exposure. Trust me on this, I have zero reason to lie to you.
While thinking if this is the right call or not, always keep in mind that free equals to no pay. If you are thinking to do it, keep in mind why you’re doing it and what benefit it has for your book or to feed your soul.
When it comes to charity, I only do charity for things I believe in. If asked to donate my services for charity that I am not really invested in, I have one barometer to this test: If people have used my business in the last year, then I will consider it more than someone who has never thrown work my way. Do I want to donate a makeup service to your kids school? Depends. What's in it for me? Have you ever used my services or bought products from me? If the answer is no, so is mine. At some point the word NO is a very powerful one. Be classy as fuck when turning the work down but save your time for charity you care about and for people who have been fans and continue to throw work your way.
In regards to testing, where you test for free to get images for your portfolio, there is one rule you should live by: “Test Up” Always be sure you love the photographer and model you're working with. You want images you can use.
8. Work for money, nothing else.
There have been many times that potential clients may ask you to work for other things like exposure or experience. Others will try to ask you if you would accept barter. While bartering is great from time-to-time, especially if it makes sense for a one-off, be sure you have a barter contract in place as well. (I can't tell you how often I got the short end of that stick!)
Cash is what pays my bills and I have made a 6 figure living for years being a makeup artist. Unless I know the person and am willing to work for something really valuable that I need, cash is king, cha-ching-ching. Pay that rent, baby.
9. Quote Your Jobs Efficiently.
As good as it seems to give a rough figure before knowing the exact details of the makeup job, never place a firm price before you know what’s involved.
I know folks want an immediate answer but trust me on this, don’t guess and get the facts. Take your time on quoting each and every job. There isn’t anything wrong with it. While it may seem cut and dry when it comes to wedding services, those are the most complicated of all the jobs. Aunt Sally hates the mom and wants you to go to two locations on the wedding day? Didn't factor that in and now a 5 hour job has turned into 9. Take your time quoting the job to be sure you get it right.
10. Secret: Charge a Pain in the Ass Rate. (Yes this exists)
As a freelance makeup artist you should be in control of what you charge. If you think that a certain project will be more challenging, or will require more effort than most do, raise your rates to compensate for that extra effort. I call this “Pain in the Ass fee.”
If doing the job will require more work, more time, and more effort than a usual job, charge for it. There is nothing wrong with it. Call time at 4 a.m.? Charge for it. Traveling to a destination wedding and you have to be at the airport with luggage, pay for cabs to and from airport, meal expenses, the craziness of airports? Charge for it! When in doubt, refer back to #2.
11. Secret: What is your competition charging?
As a freelance makeup artist, you are not in the game alone. There are other makeup artists offering the same services as you.
You can find out what they charge by checking at competitor websites or, hell, even calling them. (don't be scared, shit. Pick up the damn phone and call them.)
What IS RUDE? Pretending to be a client. Just call them or email them and say, “HEY, I’m working on my rates and making sure I'm not undercutting in the industry… can you let me know your rates and what you include in those rates?” Most artists won’t mind and, to be honest, I like that we all can have the conversation, especially in our Facebook group.
It’s too bad most makeup artists undercharge but I figure it's just a lack of education.
12. Set Expiration Dates for Your Job Proposals & Quotes.
Kitten, would you like a client to offer you a five-year contract at a fixed rate that you have set today? Surely, in five years, inflation will have gone up, expenses gone up and your skills have gotten better. Be sure you have expiration dates if you get into long term contracts.
Bride proposals can change too, especially if they change locations on where they are getting ready. Be sure to cover all bases.
13. Know the Scope of Work Before You Commit
Pricing packages (especially in bridal) are a great motivator to potential clients. Take time to understand these packages and make sure that any package you offer makes sense to your beauty biz. Every bride and every client is different…so before you offer packages be sure there isn't any grunt work involved because it's not one size fits all.
While packages work for some, I have never been a huge fan, especially in the generation of “everyone is special”…so if you do offer “packages” make sure they make sense and help you with the bottom line.
14. Secret: You CAN and SHOULD charge late fees.
How many times have you shown up for a job or wedding and they were not there or they gave you the wrong address causing you to be late? In every contract that you agree on, always include a stipulation for late fees and what I call “fuck up fees.” (These types of fees will vary depending on the job)
Also, clients who do not pay on time can inconvenience you a lot, hence, the need for this stipulation. There are many ways to charge for this depending on what type of job you are quoting. Be sure to manage expectations right from the start.
15. Charging for a rush fee
If the job or project you are about to take has a last-minute deadline, then you should consider charging more for it. Need to drop what your doing, rearrange your day and cancel other things to make it work? Charge for it. Bride has a makeup artist that cancelled at the last minute and now you're trying to save the day? Charge for it. Have to find a babysitter cause bride wants you to do a last minute preview because she forgot to plan her day? Charge for it.
You don't have to say you're charging a rush fee but add a little extra for the hassle.
16. Don't set your rates too low.
When you are getting more work than you can handle, this is an indicator that you need to raise your rates because they are too low. You want to do a good job so that you earn an excellent reputation, not too low and do a half ass job and never get hired again. They don't call it “Turn and burn” for fun. Turn and burn is exactly that. Turn it too often and burn out is sure to come.
17. Don't set low rates and expect great clients.
A widespread misconception among makeup artists is that the lower the rates, the more clients they will get. Not true. As a matter of fact, the lower the rates, the more distrust you create for your personal brand. Then there will always be a factor you will ALWAYS be competing on: Price.
If I see Elf sitting on the shelf next to Armani, but I have a celebrity client in my chair, which product would I choose for the job? Perception is everything and being cheap isn't necessarily a good thing. Value is the keyword you should be focusing on, not cheap.
Always remember: You're selling time, not a product…so think about your services and time as “inventory.” Lower isn’t better and doesn’t lead to more clients. It leads to more pain in the ass clients. Since we can't re-order time, it's the most valuable when it comes to selling your makeup services.
18. Secret: Track Your Time To Be Sure You’re on Track.
Tracking your time will help you know the correct hourly rate that you are earning. There are plenty of online tools to help you track time. Lots of apps out there that can help. I use them often and they really help me keep an eye on my biz.
19. Rejection isn't a reflection on your rates.
Don't apologize for trying to run your biz. Sometimes it feels very personal, but in all honesty, it's quite normal. Rejection isn't a bad thing. You have the right to earn a living like anyone else. Don't be sorry for what you charge and make yourself more valuable.
If you would like to ask the person doing the hiring why you were overlooked, do so. Even if another artist came in cheaper, maybe their work was better and they saw a better value. Or maybe they came in more expensive but their work was superior. You won't know unless you ask. Then reflect and readjust.
20. Secret: Fixed Vs Hourly Rates.
In every project you bid for, you have to make a choice between fixed price or hourly rates. In the world of makeup, it's all over the fucking place. Ensure that you understand the pros and cons of each well, so that you can know which to use, and when.
Fixed rates are the usual standard, but if your job can be quoted more efficiently by hourly, try that too. Find what works best for you.
Ready to take your business from barely breaking even to earning a profit?