EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT BUILDING A BRIDAL TEAM
You’ve built a great makeup business for yourself. You’re getting requests day after day, week after week. But you start noticing something…you’re turning away work. There are only so many hours in a day to do services, so what do you do?
HIRE A TEAM, THAT’S WHAT!
In the 17 years I have owned my wedding on location business, 8 of those years has been with a team.
In my article for you today, I teach you some key fundamentals on how to start a wedding team and grow it with each season.
Grab some coffee. This is a long one, folks! :)
Hope you can learn something from my years of experience!
Let’s get started!
When to Consider Building a Team:
- When you’re turning away consistent work week after week
- When you’re trying to do more than 2 weddings per Saturday
- When you’re sending clients to other artists in your area
- When you need assistants to help you with larger parties
Let me tell you that having a team isn’t for everybody. You really need to ask yourself if you're willing to give up a part of your creative side to run a business.
To manage a team you must be prepared to give up a certain amount of control. Not only your esthetic taste but your brand reputation as well.
Having trust in people you "hire" for your business requires a certain amount of "letting go."
I'll be honest. It took me a little while to warm up to the idea of having a bridal hair and makeup team, but I also knew I had the personality to let people blossom into their own unique artists.
Here's another question I get asked a lot: Is it lucrative?
Depends on what lucrative means to you. What is a lot of money to some isn't a lot to others. Can you make money? Sure. Will you get rich? Define your idea of "rich"?? The answer to that question really depends on you.
THINKING LIKE A BIZ OWNER
For the first 9 years having my wedding business, I gave work to other hairstylists and makeup artists who were friends of mine. I can safely say that they are now independent artists with very solid careers in the wedding industry. I am sure neither would argue with that point.
But here is why you need to think as a business owner and not a makeup artist:
As I slowly grew my business, I knew I was keeping my artist and stylists friends busy with inquiries and paid work. However, when I stopped to think about it, they were getting MY business and MY clients that I had cultivated through my business. They were making money off the money I was spending to acquire those clients.
Looking back, I didn’t think that was very smart, even if I loved them on a personal level. That said, they are still two very dear friends of mine and now I am happy for their success.
This is business it's not personal.
It’s hard to be in this business and want to do good by others. But at the end of the day, being a business owner is a delicate dance. You need to take care of your business and be almost a little selfish.
Because you have to grow your business to grow into offering more jobs. It’s really that simple.
>> Taking Care of Your Team
Here is something that may or may not make sense to you. I believe in taking care of my team over taking care of my clients. Yes. I put them before my clients.
If you take care of your team first, they will automatically take care of your clients. In 8 years it has proven true time and time again.
Tip: Many makeup artists don’t want to be in the business of being the manager and booker. They want to show up and do the makeup and go home at the end of the day. And that’s ok too! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There are all types of flavors out there for you to enjoy!
Experience & Pricing
In our bridal studio, we do a pricing structure according to experience.
For example, our artists & stylists who have many years of experience with good portfolios are the more expensive team members to book. With experience comes a higher fee.
>>For our team, we have 3 levels of pricing:
- Owner Pricing
- Senior Associate
- Associate Arist
As a makeup artist and business owner, I can tell you that 20% of my time is doing actual makeup. The other 80% is behind the scenes of my wedding and retail business. Running a business and a team is a real commitment. Not only to your business, but to the ones you have brought on and they are counting on you to get them work!
HAVING THE HELP YOU NEED
I have been able to afford a full time wedding coordinator to handle all contracts, bookings, and logistics of this branch of my business. It's worth it's weight in gold. (if any of you know me, knows that Bridgit is my right hand gal) Each person will know what they can and can not afford when they start but perhaps you will be the one doing all the bookings and emails when you first begin. The goal is to build up so that you can hire a full time "Bridgit." :P
>>You're The Owner, Charge Accordingly
Once you start to build a wedding team, you will find your time becomes limited to see clients. Because your business requires you to make the important decisions, it’s wise to raise your rate so that your bookings slow down.
While this seems counterintuitive, trust me, you will thank me later.
When it comes to pricing, here is an easy barometer:
- If your growing too fast, your prices are too low.
- If your booking steady your prices are just right.
- When your prices are high, you don’t book as much but you make as much money you would at a lower rate. So you make the same amount of money but work less.
Here's some food for thought: I make the same amount of money doing 40 weddings a year as I do doing 20 now. This type of thinking allows me the time do to important jobs to grow the business.
Tip: I always say, the owner should be doing the $500 hour jobs and hire others to do the $15 an hour jobs. Believe it or not, it will actually save you money in the long run.
So take a step back and think about your pricing as an owner. Always be more in demand, your name is on the door. :)
>> Senior Artist Associates
Senior artists generally have experience with weddings already. These are the ones that know how the wedding day is going to get down. The know the bridesmaids will fight getting in the chair and they have worked with difficult personalities all while smiling and twirling the entire day.
Senior artists also have the speed to do the type of work on larger bridal parties. Senior artists are also reliable and dependable to your business. These are the people you want on your team. These are the folks I say “are easy to do business with” and the ones you want to keep working as much as possible. You love them and they love you.
Senior artists will also actively help build their books, without hand holding or ass wiping. They will help YOU help THEM. While we chase wedding photographers for our team, a good senior artist will also reach out to do portfolio tests that help us build their books. This type of team effort is key, because it helps you book them more work.
Tip: Many times artists with strong portfolios don’t want to work on a team, but some of them do. The key is to find them. A lot of times, you can promote lower level team members to senior levels once they have proven to you that they are worthy of the title.
Many of my senior artists today started out as associates. However many had successful bridal business who didn’t want the headache of managing their schedule or time. Many are stay at home moms who are busy taking care of little ones and like the freedom that comes from working on a team. Whatever the case is, there are people out there.
Associate artists are your brand new babes in the world. They are still wet behind the ears but have a TON of potential flowing through their makeup and hair brushes.
The new artists need mentorship and guidance but they have zero desire to do all the heavy lifting of owning or have the experience in running their own business. Perhaps they may want their own business in the future but for now, they want consistent work. Hey, it happens!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN ARTISTS & STYLISTS
Here are some tips on what to look for in makeup artists and hairstylists.
>>Artists & stylists that are on time
These are the people who show up to the interview on time. You would be surprised how many are late or don’t even bother showing up. I'm almost laughing at how basic this is but it's true! You weed a lot of folks out in the interview process.
If they do show up late, they will give you all kinds of excuses on why they are late. Just nip the interview in the bud and send them home. I don’t care that you had a flat tire, your ass is late. Will a bride be understanding when she has a limited time before she has to be at church? No. And neither should you. Being punctual is CRUCIAL.
>>They have a wonderful attitude and are polite, kind and have good manners
In the day of social media, it’s amazing to me how many times I come in contact with people who I think are the walking dead. My mom laughs at me every time we are out and I come in contact with them. I usually ask these "zombies “Are you ok? Do you have a pulse?” They just sit there staring at me like a deer in headlights. Hello? Is anyone in there? I keep thinking perhaps they are just enjoying buzz of a joint, but who knows anymore. The key is look for someone that at least has a pulse!
A good personality goes a long way in the world of weddings. Find a someone who is not only pleasant to talk to, but shares good manners. (Mother's of the bride will appreciate it!)
>> Raw, natural talent
You probably wonder why this is 3rd on my list of what to look for in a makeup artist and hairstylist right? Well, this is something that CAN be taught. If someone has the other two skills working in their favor, it is easy to cultivate someone with talent, but needs polishing around the edges in terms of skill set.
It's 2017, everyone and their brother is a makeup artist. We all know that. But here's the rub and things to watch out for. This generation has all been told they are special and can do anything they can set their mind to. I hate to break it to you, but I don’t agree at all. If that were the case, I would be researching and discovering new stars, black holes and planets for NASA. The same goes for makeup artists and hairstylists. Just because you call yourself one, doesn't mean you are good at it. So finding these rare gems will be hard but they ARE out there.
>>Leading By Intuition
They key to finding a good team member is to look for talent that leads by intuition. Intuition is 80% of the battle along with problem solving skills. The other 20% of the actual artistry can be taught with time, coaching and practice.
When it comes to hairstylists, you must have a cosmetology license, so these types are easier to find. They will have the basic understanding of how to do styles, and with practice, if they are good, they will get better with each job.
LICENSE TO WORK
What I am about to say is going to get people’s knickers in a fucking twist. Hold on to your mittens, kittens, we are going to rattle some cages.
In most states, YOU MUST be a licensed cosmetologist or esthetician to do makeup.
So when hiring talent for your team, be sure they are licensed in your state.
CHECK HERE TO SEE IF YOU NEED LICENSE IN YOUR STATE
If you still are confused, google “professional regulation in your state". This will give you the phone number to your regulatory agency and they will tell you over the phone if you need a license or not. It's really that simple.
Thanks to the makeup schools that are popping up everywhere, they all tout the “Certification” angle to make their classes feel like it has value. In most states you aren't required to have a license to “demonstrate” makeup (like in department stores) but to work on site, most states require you to have a license.
The ones who argue against it, usually have a financial interest in telling you otherwise. They also are very good at bending the law to work in their favor. Do your due diligence when researching this subject and be sure your bases are covered. I have zero reason to lie to you on this one.
FINDING TEAM MEMBERS
I have hired team members from almost everywhere. Here are some great places to start looking:
- Cosmetology Schools
Cosmo schools are wonderful to get new and eager team members who want to start out as your associate artists. Call the schools you know turn out good students and ask to talk to career placement services. They will usually be glad to help you.
- Facebook Groups and Local Beauty Message Boards
We have our Glossible Facebook Group and I have found artists to assist on there and so have other makeup artist friends. Facebook groups and message boards are a great to watch how people interact on social media as well.
Yes, believe it or not, I have advertised for jobs on craigslist. While I get more coal than diamonds, I have managed to find a few great team members over the years. You have to pay for ads on Craigslist now, so if that’s not in your budget, perhaps networking in other ways is more in line with your budget.
- Social Media
It’s so easy now to put up “We’re hiring” posts on social media, be it your Facebook Page or your Instagram. You never know who may be a fan of your business and would jump at the chance to join your team. These are the ones I find make the greatest team members because they are already watching your business and admire it.
THE INTERVIEW PROCESS
When I initially built my team, I got many applications all at once. I had up to 30 resumes that were amazing and I wanted to interview all of them. But 30 hours of interviews? No thanks!
Here is how I solved that problem.
I conducted GROUP INTERVIEWS where I invited potential candidates in and we talked to all of them at once. We told them about our company, about the position and about how the role of artist and stylist would work. We also got to observe how they interacted with other potential artists and stylists.
After a brief introduction to the company, I did a game called “Listening Skills”. This was a game where each person took 5 minutes to learn about the other person’s hair and beauty needs. Each person told the other about their lifestyle and what they would want for their hair and makeup.
At the end of the game, each candidate repeated back what the other person wanted and made suggestions on what they were going to do for the client. The ones that had exceptional listening skills and made good suggestions made it to the next round-the audition.
TIP: To being an amazing makeup artist or hairstylist is to listen to your clients.
The candidates who made it to the "audition round" were asked to come in and do a makeup or hair auditions using live models. The models came in with a look they wanted to wear and asked artist or stylist to make suggestions or modifications according to their needs.
Once the artist or stylist did the pre-consultation, I have them execute the desired look. At the end of the audition, I chat with them on why they did what they did for the client. They should be able to explain to me why they made the choices they did. This shows me their thought process and thinking skills. While there is no right or wrong answer, this gives me an idea of where they are in terms of skill level and problem solving skills.
After the audition, I dismiss them with a time and date on when I will be back in touch.
>>After the Audition
After the potential team member leaves, I have the model stay behind so I can interview them without the artist or stylists present. This allows the model to speak freely and openly without the fear of being in the room with the artist or stylist.
Tip: When getting models to sit for auditions, here is a great tip. Use friends you trust and who KNOW you. These are the people who are not afraid to give you honest opinions on how they looked or felt in the chair. If the artists or stylists bring their own models, their friends will always give glowing reviews. These friends may also post a disadvantage because they have done their friends hair or makeup before. You want real results and a inside look at how they problem solve with clients they have never worked with before.
In the end, auditions are a great way to see how potential artists interact with people they don’t know. Gather your trusted friends to come in and get a free service on the condition they provide valuable feedback to you.
If they sing their praises, you know you’ve found a winner.
HIRING YOUR NEW TEAM MEMBER
Now that you’ve found a great new team member for your blossoming bridal business, it’s time to protect yourself. This is when it’s important to have an Independent Contractor Agreement for Makeup Artists and Hairstylists. This contract template is to be sure they keep their end of the bargain while representing your company.
I always advise you to consult with an attorney in your state to be sure you:
- can use independent contractor contracts
- that you tailor it to suit the needs of your business
- that you make it clear they are not an employee of the company
We use Independent Contractor Agreements for our studio so that we keep everything transparent and clear of expectations. While some parts of this contract may be null and void, some things you may want to add as you grow your business.
If you decide to download this contract, please take it to an attorney in your state and have them make adjustments according to your own unique needs.
Tip: We created this contract so that you will save time and money in having the attorney make adjustments for you instead of drafting one from scratch. Since most attorney’s work on an hourly basis, this saves you time and money.
HOW MUCH TO PAY
Now this is where the honest, balls on the table stuff comes into play. I have seen many artists who only take a 10, 20 or even 30% commission on their teams contracts.
While you are most certainly welcome to do whatever you want, taking less than 40% is honestly a waste of time. Here’s Why:
When you are the business owner, you are paying for:
- Web hosting (to host their portfolios)
- Managing contracts
- Scheduling software
- Phone lines
- Rent on a studio (where they associate can do their trials)
- Costs of acquiring the customers be it through social media (which takes time out of your day)
- The time it takes going back and forth with brides
- Time chasing photographers for images to build their books
AND THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON OF ALL?
Nothing is more imporatnt than your reputation.
If you hire a team member who ruins that reputation that you take years to build, is a 20% fee on a $500 contract worth the risk?
Hell, is a 100% fee on a $500 contract worth the risk?
Remember think of your biz like a business owner. Do what is best for your biz and make choices from there.
PAYING YOUR TEAM
While I want my team to be earring as much as possible, they should also be performing at the skill level they are being paid for.
For instance, nothing burns my bacon more than seeing someone do a $50 job for a $300 service that I charged the client for. That will send me off into the solar system with fangs and foaming at the mouth. These team members you will want to weed out if you happen to find yourself with them on your team.
This is how they look in my head:
Here is one thing you will experience having a team. They have their hand out and expect you to feed them, just by gracing you with their presence. It WILL happen. The key is to learn how to deal with it and coaching them to be better.
Who are the hand outs? These are team members that never test for their portfolio, never take jobs when offered and are DIFFICULT to do business with. Trust me, I still have some of these people on my team now.
But guess what?
They get put at the bottom of the pecking order. Then when they wonder why they aren't working, you can have that coming to Jesus meeting.
>> STANDARD BRIDAL COMMISIONS
Most bridal agencies take 40-50% of the contract services. I personally take 40% and keep the first trial fee. We also have a minimum before we will send them on location and we also build in a 20% tip into their contracts for parties of 6 or more. I also pay a small commission on any retail product sold. So needless to say I try to make it a win win for everyone involved.
When it comes to training be careful.
When people are independent contractors, you can not tell them how to perform each service. You can tell them where to be and what time, but you can’t tell them how to operate the service.
And to be perfectly honest, why would you want to? Allow them to paint and be their own artists. Everyone has a style and a gift in this department. Cultivate that and allow them to shine.
For example, choosing "looks from a menu" potentially crosses the line on employee/contractor relationship. If you are confused by this it’s best to consult an attorney in your state.
Tip: Laws are always changing, so it’s always great to do a 30 minute consult with attorneys every January and keep up to date with news in this department.
If you have made it this far, then I salute you. I hope this long ass article was helpful for those of you who are considering building a team for your wedding business. Now I need a margarita.
Let me know what you think!