There are so many articles out there by make up artists on bridal make up and professionally applied make up and the costs involved. We constantly feel we have to justify our prices as it is so easy for potential clients to think we stick £££££ on because it is a wedding or we are ripping you off because someone else is charging £15 to do make up at their house. I’m writing my own article that covers everything all in one post. My aim is to defend all professional make up artists, for potential clients for a better understanding of our role and costs involved and for wannabe make up artists who are wanting to learn. I wanted to be totally honest about my pricing and write it from my personal perspective. Stay with me, its a long read but hopefully it covers EVERYTHING!
I'll begin with what it actually costs for ME to be a make up artist per year. This cost will vary artist to artist based on area and the field they work in. I'm based in a little town in the Midlands and mainly do bridal nowadays.
I’d hate to guess the current value of my kit but it is probably around £5000?? With the exception of brushes (these are between £10 and £40 each and I own about 150) everything needs constantly replacing at a cost of about £150 per month. For example I spend on average £30 per month on lashes, £25 on beauty blenders which each client keeps (you CANNOT sterilise a blender, its a SPONGE its thriving with BACTERIA in every little crevice!!!)
£20 on cleansers, wipes, skin care. £10 on cotton wool, mascara wands, cotton buds. And then the rest on replenish product.
I have to keep a full range of shades of foundation, concealer and powder as I never know who is going to be in my chair whether its a bride, studio work or photoshoot.
Liquid products have a shelf life of around 12 months (once opened) it may be about 24 months before you can smell that a foundation has gone off but trust me, each time you open a bottle you are letting air in, once anything hits air it starts to go off and after 12 months, its gone off! Without boring you with the ins and outs of how the skin works, you may as well eat that gone off product as put it on your skin. The result would be worse but you get my point. Your skin is porous and absorbs anything you put on it, including out of date, bacteria packed make up.
Then there is product with active ingredients such as SPF, AHA’s etc. These ingredients do a job. If they’re out of date they wont do that job. You are wasting your time.
Many opened products I throw away once their time is up. You dont pay me ££££ to wipe bacteria on your face, waste is just a cost I have to suck up.
Keeping up to date
I spend money on new products to keep up with the current market and I’m unfortunately not at a place where people send me free stuff * must up social media game*. Sometimes these products are great, sometimes they aren’t and so guess what? I either give them away or they go in the bin. I could just stick to what I know but its my job to try new things so I can give you the best advice and keep with the times.
Studio Rent £3000
Yes thats extremely cheap and I know it. I’m very lucky to be based in a salon, Gemini Hair and Retreat in Heanor, Derbyshire where the owners are now my closest friends. They’ve not increased my rent in 10 years, on the few occasions it has been mentioned I just pretend I didn’t hear or have a diva moment and say I’m leaving and its not mentioned again. All joking aside I appreciate all the support you guys have given me and I wouldn’t really leave if you put my rent up!! (shit, did I say that out loud?)
Car inc fuel £4000
I cover many miles for weddings and photo shoots plus to and from the studio. I couldn’t do my job without it so ive included fuel, insurance and maintenance. This doesn’t include cost of the car purchase.
Wedding fairs £300
Including website, Facebook ads, Google ads, magazine ads, directory listings.
Marketing materials £100
Business cards, banners for shows.
As you can see i’m paying out £10,000 before I make a profit. If I were to only charge £20 per face I need to do 500 faces before I get paid!! Yes I could cut corners but that would be detrimental to my profession, the finished look and the clients safety. Anyone who charges such small amounts and yet still following correct procedures are doing so out of pure love or as a hobby or sideline as believe me they are not making a profit.
What do I charge?
I charge £35 for party and special occasion make up. This is actually quite cheap compared to many professional make up artists. I can charge this price as all special occasion make up is done in my studio (with my cheap rent) and to be perfectly honest, special occasion make up and make up lessons are my bread and butter. My specialism and main source of income comes from weddings.
Being studio based I have all my products, equipment and means of sterilising my kit to hand. I book out one hour slots per person and the application process takes around 45 minutes. I then have time to sanitise my brushes and products ready for the next person.
Mobile make up I charge £50 with a minimum booking of 3 faces. If I were to come to you for one make up application it would take me fifteen minutes to prep and pack my kit (all forty shades of foundation, telling me your skin tone is “just normal really” wont cut it!) I travel to your house (at least 40 minutes as anyone closer is happy to come to me as it's cheaper), unpack my kit, apply your make up, re pack and travel to the studio. Un pack again, sterilise my gear and reset up for the next person. Therefore travelling out for £35, less consumables and product ie lashes, blenders, fuel (approximately £12) has taken 2-3 hours which would equate to less than the minimum wage.
Right then, why do we charge heck of a lot more when its bridal make up? You think because we see the word wedding we think “Ker ching, I know you’ve spent £10k so far so what’s another £300??” That's not the case at all and I hope this explains why.
As stated I charge £35 for in studio make up. Less lashes etc I get about £28 of that. You make an appointment, turn up, I do your face, have a little chit chat, 45 minutes later you’re done, next one in.
Bridal make up I charge £130 for the bride including a trial and bridesmaids and mums etc £60 per person. Packages are available for large parties.
Before we’ve even had a sniff of money we’ve probably answered several messages at often unsociable hours. Just to clarify I don’t begrudge this, its part of the job I love and I wouldn’t expect you to hand over a chunk of your hard saved wedding budget after one message.
You may have seen me at a wedding fair which I paid £150 to stand at all day on a Sunday or paid £50 for a wedding advert on Facebook or Instagram.
Booking secured, paperwork written up and sent, (T&C’s cover both you and me). Deposit paid so this chunk of my admin time is covered if later you decide to go with some whipper snapper charging £20. *inserts wink face*
This is the best day of your life, your photographs are around forever, you want to look your god damn best and make sure you’re the fittest looking bride out of all your mates and my job is to make that happen. Cue more messages to get a brief understanding of you and the look you want to achieve. Ask me anything! Its what you’re paying for, send me a million Pintrest ideas if you want! All this helps us to be on the right page before your trial.
I book out two hours although it may take less. Nothing is too much trouble in this trial, its all about YOU! We make notes, discuss your colours, your aspirations, your hair, your dress etc etc. We plan a face chart and then do a practice. We discuss and amend any instant changes but I ask you to go away and see how the make up sits, go and ask friends and look in your own mirror in familiar surroundings and then tell me if you still like your look. We discuss skin care and what you can do to prep your skin over the coming months to get it in the best condition it can be. Good make up starts with skin prep. I will then be in touch the following day for feedback
The Big Day.
I usually get up about 5am on the day of a wedding, I make myself presentable almost to the level of if I were going on a night out. Those sneaky photographers usually include me in the pictures and not only do I have my reputation to consider I don't want to ruin the lovely photo of me applying your lippy whilst dressed in jeans, trainers, my hair scraped back and my scary make up free face and basically looking a tramp. I get to you nice and early to set up, I allow for mishaps such as bridesmaid dramas, people having to dash off and fetch Nan, breakfast not being ready on time etc. I can often be stood with no one in my chair for half an hour but this is fine, its what you pay for!! I stay until the last possible minute and even hang about in the lobby incase of any last minute emergencies.
I dont see wedding and whack the price up, if you were to come into the studio on the morning of your wedding, show me a picture and I copy it, I would charge you £35 like I would party make up (trial extra). I charge the extra for everything explained above. Not to rip you off.
So how do I know all this stuff??? Because I was formally trained and ive been doing this job for over 20 years.
This brings me to untrained make up artists and influencers. To the best of my knowledge, here in the UK you don’t need a formal qualification to apply make up to someones face. However most insurance companies only cover you for services and treatments that you are qualified in therefore, if you cause a reaction or infection to anyone and you have no qualification i’d guess your buggered. I would not like to face the wrath of a bride whose day was ruined by a nasty reaction!!
A one day course or even an online course may be sufficient to get insurance but how can you gain the same knowledge in one day that others it takes years? Application is a skill but knowledge and expertise is worth paying for.
Dont get me wrong, there are some amazing self taught artists out there and they can put a beautiful face on you for £20. But when you’re paying £100 plus from a professionally trained artist you are getting peace of mind that that person has been trained in skin care and anatomy, correct hygiene procedures, product knowledge, recognising skin types and conditions, colour theory, product ingredients etc etc etc. For example, If you’re using a certain primer with a certain foundation on a certain skin type and its going patchy, a professionally trained artist will instantly know why just by comparing the ingredients. We know what ingredients work together and which ones don't.. Any make up or skin care questions you have a professionally trained artist will know the answer. This is what you pay the extra for.
I understand everybody starts somewhere, the make up industry, especially today is tough and full of competition and when you’re training and learning then expect to work for free.
The cost of a professional kit is expensive and takes time to build up and you may want to start off with cheaper high street brands. This is fine but if you are training and using non professional products you should not be charging your client. Not even to cover your costs. Those people are doing YOU the favour by lending you their face. Dont worry, if you’re good they will come back to you and pay your worth.
I’ve been doing make up for over 20 years and if I want to try something new I still get a model in for no charge. I wouldn’t expect him or her to PAY ME to sit in my chair for two hours whilst I faff around their face and the look may not even be something wearable. Everyones time is precious and i’m sure they have better things to do! As a thank you I even offer them a free make up for a night out.
On saying this, dont be taken advantage of especially once your are qualified or at a level where you feel you can start charging people. You and only you decide if you want to work for free. If you are approached by someone asking you to offer your skills, knowledge, time and equipment for free then do your research.
My biggest peeve is when someone tries to convince you that you will be rewarded in exposure or its a chance to showcase your skills. I personally would rather they just be straight and tell me they cant afford (or often don't want) to pay me but it may get your name about?
Dont bullshit me with “exposure” last time I checked I couldn’t pay my mortgage by promising the bank that I will tell everyone who my mortgage is with.
Choose your freebies wisely, my favourite “unmissable offer” was by a woman who asked me to do her daughters make up for free as she was entering Miss East Midlands” she assured me it would be great publicity. I thought about this and came to the conclusion it would only be great publicity if she won. If she came last then the fact I did her make up was not something I wanted publishing!! Yes, she could have won and it lead to more work but I felt this woman was just out to get what she could for free. If I was entering a beauty contest I would be hiring and paying the best hair and make up team I could afford!
Before you beat me up for being mean, I do have a large heart and I know some people can’t afford such services. I do charity work for time critical weddings and free prom make up to guys and girls who genuinely can’t afford it or situations where someone just needs their big break but I choose who I do this for. Believe me if I could afford to do more work for free I would, I just don't have time for piss takers.
Anyway, moving on.
I do a number of collaborations with a select few photographers and wedding suppliers that ive worked with and got to know over the years. We all admire each others work and put concepts and shoots together to showcase our various skills or products. There's trust in each others work, we all know theres going to be good results, and we work as a team aiming for the same goal. Not every shoot makes it to a magazine but we’ve had fun, been creative and all have some great pictures to share.
If an unknown photographer or company contacts you out of the blue to work for free, do your research, get a full understanding of the aim and even look at getting a contract drawn up. This protects you in case you aren’t happy with the final result and yet the images still get plastered all over the internet or if the images are great but you don’t receive your credit.
I hope this article has cleared a few things up. Its not written with the aim of promoting myself or generating business but just to cover subjects that us pro make artists can grumble about in our forums. I hope it helps people wanting to be make up artists understand the costs and hope it gives potential clients and brides-to-be a better understanding of our job. I know that if you aren’t in the trade you don't always understand our pricing, our costs and why we sometimes say “No”. Here are some common questions we have to say "No" to.
“No its not cheaper if I use your make up”
“No I wont do just eyes as when you then cake eighteen different shades of foundation/bronzer on and then ‘bake’ your face you’re going to tell everyone I did your make up”
“No, I wont do a “quick look” for half the price”
“No you cant sign and say you’ve had a patch test when you haven’t because you cant find the time to come in”
And “NO I WONT PRICE MATCH”
I like a bargain as much as the next person but when it comes to someones hard learned skills in a craft that they pride themselves in this is really insulting. You wouldn't go into Marks and Spencer and ask if they will take Lidl prices so please don't do it to us. You’re basically saying you want me to do it but at the same price as someone who you don’t want to do it because you think my work is better yet you don't want to pay my rate.
A lot of this is said in a tongue in cheek way but also covers a lot of valid points that we get asked daily and I hope it gives you an understanding of the fact that we aren’t being greedy or mean. We take pride in our work, we value your safety and we know our worth. I’m happy to answer any questions from potential clients, people who want to be make up artists or anyone else with a question.
Asking questions is FREE!! Me answering them is also FREE!! If only we were all solicitors and lawyers and could charge per email! Wooo hooo I could retire today!
Photo Credits. In order. John Price Photography. HBA Photography. Hayward Jones Photography. Sarita White Photography. Jen Mason Photography.