How To Find Work As A Makeup Artist

Monday, March 25, 2019

You’ve got the training and you’re ready to go out into the big wide world to find your first job as a makeup artist.

And because the media industry is unlike any other, the prospect of job hunting is daunting.

Being a freelance MUA has its uncertainties so it’s totally normal to feel nervous about whether you’ll be able to do the job that you love and be able to support yourself financially.

We asked the pros who teach at The Iver Makeup Academy what advice they had for newly qualified makeup artists. Here’s what they had to say:

Broaden your skill set as a makeup artist

When it comes to working in the media industry, having a diverse range of hair and makeup skills means more opportunity. The skills you need for a horror film, for example, will be different to the ones you need working on a period drama, so practising everything from SFX makeup to wig work and fashion and beauty makeup will make you eligible for more work.

Iver Makeup Academy Principal Liz Tagg-Wooster suggests applying for work experience or internships not only on TV and film productions but also in professional makeup stores, wig makers or prosthetics workshops.

“This can be a good source of steady income while you wait for a position in TV and film or theatre, and it gives you the chance to practice niche skills day-in and day-out. Plus, you’ll be meeting the makeup artists and designers who visit these places so it’s your first chance to make a good impression and network.”

Build your MUA portfolio

As you start to apply for jobs, you need to make sure you stand out from the rest with a clear and precise C.V and strong portfolio of work, but without much experience it can be tough to show examples of what you can do – a real catch-22 situation.

A good time to build your portfolio is during your training. Any chance you get to pick up the brush and create a look is an opportunity to add to your portfolio, and you’ll need high-quality images taken by a photographer to show your work in the best light.

Your hair and makeup portfolio can take a number of forms though. A website is a popular way to showcase your work and is another way for employers to find you. You can also have your CV on your site for people to download.

But this doesn’t mean you won’t need a hard copy of your portfolio too – “It’s good to be ‘old-school’ sometimes, just in case technology lets you down during your interview. And the person interviewing you might even prefer that medium” explains Liz.

What about Instagram?

Instagram is definitely a growing medium for MUAs, and if you have a good following it can be a great way to get work in the fashion, commercial and event industry.

But keep it professional – have a separate account for your personal holiday selfies and always reply to any nice comments people leave you.

Just remember that posting anything related to contracted jobs on social media can be a breach of your contract, so always check first.

Know What To Look For

Searching for work can be a full-time job in itself. There are so many roles out there for hair and makeup artists and knowing what to look for will help narrow down your search a bit.

In TV and film there are the following:

  • Films of all budgets
  • TV: drama, light entertainment, studio news, children’s TV
  • Corporate films
  • Music videos
  • Commercials
  • Digital content

And demand for makeup artists in other areas include:

  • Fashion: photographic and runway
  • Advertising
  • Theatre
  • Bridal
  • Events
  • Personal MUAs

Agencies can help you find jobs

With so many opportunities it can be hard to know where to start your search. Joining an agency is one option for freelance hair and makeup artists. Agencies book jobs for their artists but most will charge a fee, so it’s worth doing your research to find one that’s a good fit for you and the type of work you want.

The Iver Makeup Academy has its own agency which is open to all graduates of full-time courses and free of charge. Liz explains: “The jobs available can vary from student films paying expenses only, to theatre, fashion or assisting a designer on a film or TV production.”

“Jobs can come up quite quickly and they get emailed out to artists. I really recommend staying on top of your emails and keeping your CV up-to-date so it’s ready to send at any moment.”

Network, Network, Network

Just like any industry, having the right contacts in your chosen hair and makeup field will help make your job hunt easier.

Hair and makeup designers, directors, fashion designers and event planners are likely to call on their network to work on whatever project they’re heading up because they can personally vouch for their skills and attitude. So the more people you meet and leave an impression on, the better.

Vice Principal Tamsin Barbosa gave us her advice for networking: “ Be nice to everyone! Be prepared to work for free or expenses only at first so you can build your contacts. And take any opportunities offered to you – there is often an element of luck in being in the right place at the right time.”

There are lots of ways you can grow your network. Pinewood Studios has regular networking events for people working in all aspects of TV and film, and there are websites like My First Job in Film which is home to an online community of filmmakers so makes a great place for meeting others in the industry who could be your future collaborators.

Attitude Matters

Networking is crucial. But if you’re meeting all the right people and not leaving a good impression, that could do more damage than good for your career.

Beyond your craft skills, there’s plenty of soft skills you need to develop. Just to name a few, they include:

  • Excellent communication and people skills – makeup artists have to get up close and personal with the models or actors they’re working with, and people aren’t always comfortable having their makeup done, so you need to be able to put people at ease quickly
  • Stamina – makeup artists are usually the first to arrive on set and the last to leave so it’s tiring work! But tiredness isn’t an excuse to be lazy and your work has to always be of a high standard
  • Teamwork – the makeup department can drastically vary in size depending on the production and everyone is expected to pull their weight

A good work ethic and can-do attitude is the one thing that every successful makeup artist has in common.

Liz explains: “There’s a lot of competition out there, you may be an excellent hair and makeup artist, but if employers aren’t impressed by your attitude, they likely won’t ask to work with you again.”

Be Patient

Finally, it helps to be patient while you’re looking for work as a makeup artist.

When you’re just starting out in film, you should expect to be a trainee for at least 2-years before you move onto a junior level (although this is a little bit different for TV, theatre and fashion).

Don’t be disheartened by this though. Every job provides experience which is invaluable, even if it’s not demonstrating your creative talents.

Some jobs trainees are asked to do include:

  • Setting up workstations
  • Maintaining stock levels of makeup and disposables
  • General running duties
  • Filling in continuity sheets

These all provide a great chance to get a feel for working on set. Plus, you get to see everything beyond hair and makeup that the department is responsible for, like continuity and fittings.

There are so many opportunities out there for aspiring hair and makeup artists, and following this guide will help you make the most of what’s available. We understand that going freelance is a scary thought, so we offer career support for our graduates who have gone on to work on feature films, theatre productions, fashion shows and more.

Take a look at what they’ve done over on our student success page.

Meet the Author
Liz Tagg


A highly talented and award-winning makeup artist, Liz has over 30 years of experience working in the film and television industry. A professionally trained makeup artist and hair designer, Liz’s career highlights include BAFTA and Emmy award nominations, as well as a recurring position as a member of the BAFTA jury.

01753 659 213