Freelance Career / Starting Out

How to become a successful freelance makeup artist in India

. 9 min read . Written by Kritiksha Sharma
How to become a successful freelance makeup artist in India

Last updated 26 May 2022

Wondering how to become a successful makeup artist in India?

Here’s the ultimate guide for women, by women!

We got in touch with some successful freelance makeup artists to compile this makeup artistry guide - the celebrated prosthetic makeup artist Nikita Kapoor, Chetna Mehra and Samriddhi Thukral - for an insight into this career through their journeys and unique tips on how to make it big as a freelance makeup artist..

In this guide, we'll be covering the following sections -

  • What is a freelance makeup artist?
  • How much does a makeup artist earn in India?
  • What skills and qualifications does a makeup artist need in India?
  • How to start a career as a freelance makeup artist
  • How to find clients and network as a freelance makeup artist

What is a freelance makeup artist?

A freelance makeup artist is an individual who isn’t associated with any particular organisation, production house, editorial company, salon or parlour but instead works independently. They work on a freelance basis with intermittent clients rather than on a permanent employment basis.

How much does a makeup artist earn in India?

The earnings vary depending on multiple aspects, but mainly on the clientele and the network you've created through your stint as a freelance makeup artist.

Before one can successfully zero down on the exact figure, the aspect that needs to be understood is that the makeup industry is a highly seasonal profession.

But for a rough estimate of earning slabs,

Starting out: NIL - 5000 per project
Mid-level: 10,000 - 50,000 per project
Established: 70,000 per project to as much as your experience and network of clientele accounts for.

What qualifications and skills does a freelance makeup artist need?

Enrolling yourself in a makeup school is a good place to start for someone who's just starting out afresh in the field with no prior knowledge, background, or network. Several makeup and cosmetology schools have varying degrees of intensity and periods. Moreover, undergoing professional training gives you an added benefit in networking and creating your clientele base.

Most of the freelance makeup artists we spoke to mentioned how a makeup school is the first and the most significant step to creating your clients. This happens by training and working under professionals in the field. Interning with these experienced trainers, assisting them on their projects, and going out on the field with them is what helps networking.

Makeup schools in India

  • Delhi School of Beauty & Makeup
  • Glam Skills
  • LIMA - Learning Institute of Makeup & Hair
  • Makeup Artist Institute, Dehradun
  • Natural Training Academy, Delhi
  • FATMU, Mumbai
  • Da Makeup Lab Academy

Apart from the professional rigour, here's a list of other skills that one needs to become a successful freelance makeup artist.

  • Basic knowledge of skin tones and colour theories: This is a foundational skill that one can develop through training or practical experience. A fundamental skill that is significant to finding success as a makeup artist is matching skin tones with the nature and type of foundation.
  • An impeccable sense of personal hygiene: The art of makeup is particularly intimate. And since it involves a lot of personal contact, things like good personal hygiene, clean brushes, organised makeup instruments, etc., go a long way.
  • Knowledge of products and skin types: There will always be several brands of varying efficiency and popularity competing for your attention as a makeup artist. It's essential to match respective products to their definite utility and then have those match the different skin tones.
  • A passionate dedication: Finding success as a freelance makeup artist involves networking, hustling, seeking referrals and contacts from clients, etc. It requires a certain kind of grit and a dedicated zest to make it as a makeup artist to follow through on this intense networking dose.

Types of makeup artists

It's essential to define your niche as a makeup artist. To find success, define your identity, choose your specialisation, and decide on your niche so your clients can approach you for work.

  • Bridal makeup
  • Editorial makeup
  • Camera makeup (For ad shoots, films, tv, shows, etc.)
  • Prosthetic makeup

How to start a career as a freelance makeup artist

There can be various entry points into this career. Two of the most common ones are mentioned below. Click on the respective titles to jump to the sections.

Starting out through a makeup school

As a definite point of starting out, enrolling yourself in an intensive 6-month or 1-year makeup school is an excellent way to start.

Chetna Mehra decided to take up a full-time career as a makeup artist post-motherhood. Having worked in sales for over nine years, she found her true calling as a makeup artist and chose to channel this dedication into a full-fledged career. She enrolled herself in a 1-month course at the Namrata Soni Academy in Bandra, Mumbai.

Similarly, Delhi-based freelance makeup artist Samridhi Thukral started her career as a makeup artist after a 1-year course at Pearl Academy in Delhi.

Both of these successful makeup artists believe that being associated with organised institutions gave them an edge and a definite starting point in makeup.

Most of these aforementioned makeup schools emphasise the need for practical experience. They get their students to intern and work with other mentors and professionals in the field.

This is also facilitated by group assignments created when these institutions tie-up with different brands for their various events - editorial shoots, fashion weeks, shoots, etc. Working and interning with these opportunities facilitates networking and creating your own set of contacts and clients.

For Chetna Mehra, one of her biggest exposures and her most memorable starting experiences was the Bombay Times Fashion Week. As a student of the Namrata Soni Academy, she had the opportunity to work the fashion week. A rather demanding, intensive and exhaustive week – this was the place where she had her first hands-on experience as a makeup artist.

As she retrospectively thinks about it, this was also the place she found her footing as a freelance makeup artist. During the fashion week, Mehra had the opportunity to work with several celebrities - a lot of whom admired her work. Post this, she started receiving many calls to take up various makeup assignments.

Starting out via experience in retail stores

Another path to starting out as a makeup artist is working in a retail store. Several brands like MAC, Nykaa, Colorbar, etc., have various retail stores.

For Samridhi Thukral and Nikita Kapoor, life as a makeup artist post makeup school started with working in a MAC retail store. Retail stores like these are a practical and valuable way to start. One of the primary reasons is that they have dedicated and rigorous work shifts, plus new makeup artists have the opportunity to work on a wide range of skin tones and skin types.

Samridhi Thukral worked for six months with the MAC retail store at the Delhi Airport. This implied long day-night shifts and the chance to experiment, learn, find her style and grow. She believes working in the store gave her immense exposure.

Makeup is an art that has no single definition. It's all about figuring out skin tones, skin types, the relationship between products and skin types and the degree of aesthetic that the result of these combinations can bring about.

While working in a retail store, Thukral had the opportunity to figure this out by working with numerous people, working on so many variegated skin types and having to curate a look for each. This vastly contributed to her experience and growth as a makeup artist.

Having garnered considerable exposure at MAC, Samridhi then took up the role of a Makeup Artist Manager at a salon in Delhi. As rigorous and enlightening as working in a retail store can be, the question of sustainability and growth often impedes continuing as one. The role of a makeup artist manager is how she started creating her network of clients.

How to find clients and get work as a freelance makeup artist in India

There are multiple different ways to seek clients on this career path. Three of the most common ones are mentioned below. Click on the respective titles to jump to the sections.

Networking, networking, and networking

Makeup as a full-time profession is incredibly seasonal. The demand for a makeup artist is considerably sporadic as various event seasons occur intermittently during the year - the wedding season, fashion weeks, etc.

Owing to this whimsical nature of demands for a makeup artist, one of the most significant modes of networking as a makeup artist is through word of mouth.

Post her stint working in a retail store where she had gathered enough clientele to branch out professionally, Nikita started taking up bridal makeup assignments.

The networking game in this field is similar to a domino effect. You start working with a store or assisting someone and go out on the field for different assignments and makeup jobs - all of this is an organic contribution to your set of potential clients.

In my telephonic interview with Nikita, what struck me the most was her contagious enthusiasm and her confident zest, which is a fundamental trait to thrive in this field. When I asked her how she managed to find work and build her network as a celebrity prosthetic makeup artist, I received perhaps what was one of the most fun and inspiring responses ever.

With her graduation in finance and accounts, this career switch had her in a new and unexplored territory. And branching out without any connections can indeed be daunting.

But the best way to get through to find your ground is by getting in touch with people through calls, emails, texts, social media, etc. Nikita belonged to a completely different field before she started out as a makeup artist, which means she had no point of contact. The result? She googled the names and profiles of big shots in the industry and got in touch with them through phone calls. She ensured that she would send them at least one message daily, requesting to work with them, intern with them and how much she loved their work.

This hustling was a major success as the people she was trying to get in touch with eventually reached out to her for work opportunities. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Portfolio

Since makeup is a rather visual field, your portfolio defines who you are. It is imperative to have an organised and, more significantly, a handy and ready-to-go portfolio ready to be sent whenever asked.

Your portfolio is the first thing that clients ask for. It has to be the most presentable aspect of your work - something that briefly explains your work and your capabilities. Create a lookbook for your work. Invest in this portfolio. Have your docket ready to be sent at the drop of a hat.

This is yet another advantage that a dedicated makeup course poses over starting afresh - mentors, professors, and assignments significantly help create this portfolio. While Nikita managed to develop a solid portfolio through her makeup school and the various projects that she ventured on after, Chetna has a rather fun story of creating hers.

She thought of a career as a freelance makeup artist post motherhood. But coming from a background in sales, she didn't have a definite point of contact in the field. But where there is a strong passion, there is certainly a way forward.

She tapped into her primary network with her immense interest and dedication to making it as a makeup artist. She reached out to her friends, neighbours, and people in and around her locality to be featured in her portfolio.

Working on close friends. Creating different looks for different people. This is how she managed to develop her work portfolio.

Networking through social media

Most successful freelance makeup artists vouch for the 'word-of-mouth' process. Interestingly enough, even though we're living in the digital age, makeup artists believe in the power of face-to-face networking. One of the most understandable reasons for this once again brings me back to the notion of intimacy and personal connection.

Makeup as a profession is most certainly intimate, operating more on trust and personal contact than anything else. Because of this, most clients prefer to work with someone they can trust and feel comfortable with. Once you've established a personal rapport and a relationship with your clients, this relationship will always take precedence over someone whose work might be par excellence but they're not comfortable with.

However, one cannot completely ignore the power of social media. It's crucial to be out there, have an active Instagram and Facebook account and post regularly.

Various makeup artists get several work and assignment inquiries simply through their social media accounts. Posting regularly ensures that you're constantly in the minds of your clients. This will make them reach out to you for any additional work and opportunities.

So here's coming to the end of the journey as a freelance makeup artist. Feel free to reach out to us with your questions in the comments section below.

If you found this guide useful, you might want to check out these articles:

  • For information on how to become a freelance content writer in India, click here.
  • To know more about how to become a freelance photographer in India, click here.
  • If you wish to start out as a freelance baker in India, click here.
  • For information on how to become a freelance graphic designer in India, click here.

Research credits: Ainee Nizami, Devika Awasthi & Priyanka Sutaria

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