OWNING A MAKEUP STUDIO. IS IT WORTH IT?
Our makeup studio has been getting a lot of Pintrest traffic lately by those of you who dream of owning your own makeup business. But I get a ton of emails from you asking me:
That is the question. Since I love ya'll you know its all about you...but the deal is, I have to be my real, authentic self. No bullshit, right? I am going to give you the honest truth. #getready
As long as you are ok with that, I will tell you my experience of 7 years of owning a makeup studio. Get comfy! :P
THE MYTHS OF OWNING A MAKEUP STUDIO
A lot of makeup artists I meet tell me: "If I owned a studio, it would fix all my problems from working out of my home".
That couldn't be farther from the truth. You are trading one set of problems in for another. I am not trying to discourage any of you from following your dreams. That isn't what this article is about. If ya'll know me by now I don't coddle or tell you it's gonna be alright. I answer the hard questions. I also don't pretend to think I know everything but I do know a lot. So let's get our big girl/guy pants on.
First things first......
WHAT QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE OPENING A STUDIO
If you have "problems" with your home studio you need to ask yourself these 10 questions:
- What are the problems I am having with my home studio/office?
- Do I have the EXISTING clientele to support an additional $X.00 of money in rent for a studio and my mortgage?
- Do I have the clientele to support an additional $x.00 in money to pay for overhead & staff?
- Do I have the personality to own my own business?
- Do I have the personality to manage a team? (not everyone does)
- What are the worst things that can happen if I fail?
- Do I have time to devote 12 hours a day minimum to my studio?
- Do I have 6 months of savings after I open my studio, to fall back on if something happens in case I can't work?
- Is my family behind my decision? And if so, can they offer free help to help run it/do things until we are up and running? And if so, are they willing to put in the hard work and hours as well?
- Is your credit good?
- Do you like the taste of coffee? If not, learn to love it.
The question #6 is one of the single most important questions I always ask myself before I do anything somewhat risky.
The bottom line is, if I can live with or survive "what the worst thing that can happen to me" in question #6 then that pretty much tells me it's "game on". If I can live with the absolute consequences of my actions in question #6 I usually make the decision to move forward with my choices.
In the years I have met many of you aspiring artists, I have told you that the expense of having a studio is a lot more than you may bargain for. Let's not even discuss the unexpected expenses that can occur. Be sure you always have a back up plan in case some shit jumps off you didn't expect. Owning a business is a journey that never ends....If you shortcut the journey, you are bound to make way more mistakes along the way. You can re-make the money but you can't replace the time. And time is more valuable than money. Well. Sometimes.
OWNING A MAKEUP STUDIO MEANS DOUBLE THE CHORES
Yes, you heard me. Even as a makeup artist with a staff of freelancers doesn't mean you won't see me scrubbing floors or doing the dirty work. After I get done with that, there are times I have to go home and clean my house too.
If you aren't into cleaning two homes, (your studio and your own home) then think twice about owning a studio unless you have unlimited capital right out of the gate to hire folks to do this job.
Today, I have a crew that comes in and cleans once a week, but I still am doing other cleaning in the interim. Time is money and paying someone $65 to clean my space is less than my hourly rate that I charge to do the important jobs I do.
Business owners need to be doing the important jobs, not the cleaning. This doesn't mean I am above cleaning the toilets, it means that $65 is a better "deal" and more affordable than 3 hours of my time that I could be generating 5x the income of that $65 I paid someone to clean.
When you are a brand new studio however, you may not have that cleaning crew luxury until income comes rolling in. So the small jobs can turn into hours...and take you away from the important stuff and generating income.
When I first opened my studio I had to do everything! And when I mean everything, I mean EVERYTHING!
My days went a little something like this: (and sometimes still do)
- See clients in the am.
- Return 100 plus emails
- Babysit freelancers (SIGH)
- Put out fires
- Find out one of your freelancers is stealing your client list
- Find out that same freelancer is opening their own studio and lying to your face
- Technical issues with website. #nightmare
- Babysit clients who can't read their email
- Clean the studio
- See clients in the pm.
- Interview new freelancers to replace the dishonest ones
- Get interrupted 4x a day by marketers. I call that "Interruption Marketing"
- Run to a photo shoot for a last minute TV guest
As you see, you are running around with a chicken with your head cut off.
Can I tell you how many days I would scream "TIME THE FUCK OUT" when I wanted everyone to just stop for a moment to catch my breath. Ask my trusty assistant Bridgit or assistants past if that didn't really happen. LOL! I felt like hens pecking at my brain and finally I snap. It's never good when a kitten gets backed into a corner. The claws come out. But it happens to the best of folks.
Basically, if you have responsibilities at home and then responsibilities of a makeup studio, take this word of advice from me. Coffee is your friend. Nuff said.
JUGGLING YOUR TIME
There are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done you need to when you own a makeup studio or hell any business for that matter. I try very, very hard to manage my time wisely but in a socially connected world, I can't seem to escape it. Everyone wants a piece of you.
No matter what advice people give, you can't escape days that I call "Shit going south". Those days are the days you plan one thing and you do anything BUT that one thing you have planned. Why? Because someone or something ends up needing to be the first priority of the day. Sometimes people want your attention RIGHT THIS MINUTE and it doesn't generate income for you. Because they expect shit right this minute, right now.
For example: Someone hacking your website and putting up zombie porn...(well who could really be mad about zombie porn. At least it was creative) and then the 3 blog posts you were gonna do gets pushed back 3 weeks cause you ended up having to completely redo your website even with all the tech help you have. Then you get bitter because the pro beauty bloggers get all the credit while you are here slaving away doing 200 things. HA! It's no wonder the working makeup artist is a "dying" breed. We are busy WORKING!
Owning a makeup studio seems like you have more of those days than you like. And it's a constant struggle to find balance..or even find days to go out with your husband or girlfriends. Or have good hair. HA!
"EVERYONE WANTS TO PICK YOUR BRAIN"
When you own a business, you will get hundreds of emails a day from people who want help with "this, that or the other" because you are looked at as the "expert". "Can I take you to lunch, or coffee and pick your brain". Um. Do we know each other? Have we shared a meal? Why is my time not valuable to you? Am all I worth is a cup of coffee?
In the information age, everyone wants what you have right now, right this second. Some people want to take all of your years of knowledge and tell them exactly what to do to get to where you are without so much as a thank you. The sad reality is, you have to put in the sweat and TIME. The bad thing is, you don't want to be rude by not helping someone in need.
Answering those types of emails all the time doesn't keep you productive and if you looked at that time spent over the year, you have lost thousands of dollars in "money generating time". I don't mind giving information to folks but not for free. Why should I give it away for free? Don't I still have bills to pay? And writing this article takes several hours to write and post.
While it's flattering to get emails like that, it's also a major time suck of your day. And what you need is TIME! Time is the precious commodity that all business owners need because owning a studio is so much more complex than you think. When you give that information away for free, you haven't accomplished one thing on your "to-do" list and you damn sure haven't generated any income for your business. And if you haven't generated income for your business, your business will slowly start to die.
If your business starts to die, the people who rely on you for income (freelance makeup artists) can't eat or pay bills. So not only do you have a responsibility to your own pocketbook, you have the responsibility to your team (or at least that's how I think). Be careful about how you manage your time.
MANAGING A TEAM WITH A STUDIO
I love my team and while there are days I want to strangle them and put my foot up their asses, I love all of them. I am somewhat of a mamma kitten to them. They help me and in return I want to help them earn a living and be independant.
One of the greatest joys I get as a business owner is giving people jobs. I still don't know why that is, but I do think that is the biggest thing I think is worth owning a makeup studio. The independence I can give others because of my hard work over the years to create a name for myself.
Here are some of my thoughts about managing a team. You will get burned. On more than one occasion. There will be folks you hire who will steal from you, lie to you and try to be you. Thing is? It's normal...but it stings.
Recently one of my longest working team members started a studio with my old admin. It stung like hell. Especially the dishonesty behind it. But guess what? It happens and it happens from the people you thought you could trust. And it will happen over and over again. So if you don't have the personality to deal with that kind of disappointment, I am not sure owning a makeup studio would be up your alley.
How did I deal with it? I cut off all ties, blocked all views of them both and wished them well. It serves no purpose to be enemies, but I damn sure won't be helping them further their career. The industry is small and when you treat people like this, you earn a reputation and it carries with you. Karma is the ultimate ass kicker.
YOU DON'T BOOK ENOUGH WORK TO HAVE A STUDIO
If you got into makeup as a hobby or "weekend warrior" owning a makeup studio may not be for you. However, if you are wanting to quit your full time job and give it a go with the already existing clientele, then go for it.
Keep in mind, the more expense, the more hours you will have to work until you can have a team to help carry the burden. Even with the team I have, I average about 14-17 hour days, 7 days a week. But I am a slight workaholic.
I work more now than I ever did at my makeup corporate job, so if a certain lifestyle & freedom to do what you want is what you're looking for, owning your own makeup studio may not be for you.
Remember, I am not discouraging you in the least, but do you really want to throw away thousands and thousands of dollars if you really only want to work part time and on your terms?
Owning a business doesn't mean you work for yourself. It doesn't even mean you work for a shitty boss. The boss you really work for is your customers. And sometimes, those customers can be shitty (but 98% of the time they can also be amaze balls...as I sit here smelling flowers a client sent me for teaching her proper ways to highlight & contour! HA!).
The reality is, if you have the clientele to move forward, go for it. But be fully prepared to work your fucking ass off.
RETAIL IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
Another common misconception about having a makeup studio is that you can afford all your expenses through makeup services. That couldn't be farther from the truth either.
If you go into business, you should invest in a some sort of retail to sell to your customers. You can reorder a lipstick, but you can't reorder time. Think wisely.
When you carry a retail line, ordering inventory can be expensive if you don't manage your money correctly. There are many makeup lines that will allow you to carry inventory in your studio. I plan to write an article about how to find that info and bring in retail into your store. Stay tuned for that post.
Retail is a great way to pay for your overhead if you manage it correctly. Don't go nuts and order stuff that won't sell. If you do all you have is money sitting on your shelves. I've been guilty of that on more than one occasion. This is what I mean by "buying retail can be expensive." If you have all your money tied up in shit that doesn't sell, well...that is money that isn't working for you.
As artists, we love all the pretty little things. Just because highlighting & contouring is a big trend that will bring customers to your studio, they still end up buying that nude lipstick that is safe. When you are overloaded in highlighting and contouring inventory that isn't selling that isn't smart. That is the example of your money is just "dead in the water".
Start small and build up from there. Track what sells. Make that money work for you. Turn your money and inventory wisely.
DOES A STUDIO GIVE ME MORE CREDIBILITY?
I hate to break it to you, but I had just as much credibility working out of my house as I do owning a studio.
I saw clients in my home for 7 years before opening a studio. As a matter of fact, I always got much better Yelp reviews when people would come to my home. I had over 75 5 star Yelp reviews before I even opened my studio...and I call that credibility.
When someone is a guest in your home it feels way more personal to them and they are more likely to let you get away with simple mistakes that a brick and mortar studio.
A big makeup studio like ours is held to a higher standard, but for some odd reason, folks have a lot more expectations from you when you reach brick and mortar makeup studio status than working out of your home. So while if feels like you have more "credibility", your work and your work ethic is what sets you apart from others. Not a studio. A studio just means you have to try 300% harder to win them over.
If I didn't already have the revenue and existing clientele, I doubt very seriously I would have opened a makeup studio. It was a huge risk, but one I am glad I took. I apparently have the patience and stamina for it, but it's not for everyone.
SO IS A MAKEUP STUDIO WORTH IT?
I am still asking myself this 7 years later. But I keep working every day....Days turn into weeks...weeks turned into months, months turned into years. How is it I have owned a studio for 7 years? I still don't know. Some days yes, some days no....but most days I do enjoy it...but is it worth it? It depends on all of the factors mentioned above....and if that suits your personality.
I won't lie, there are many days I dream of being a physicist for NASA and chase planets and moons, but I'm not smart enough for that. My brain is creative, not mathmatic. Sadly. HA!
What is my ultimate take away? Owning a studio is the somewhat easy part... working with people is the hard part. Generating the revenue and time management is the hardest part. There are so many working parts now. There are rare days I do absolutely hate it. Like today while I type this I see my logic board on my new computer is dying. For the 5th time. Balls.
Combine all of that together and you better be sure you open your studio right next door to Starbucks. It may be your only saving grace.
If you are thinking of opening a makeup studio, what are you the most nervous about? Leave a comment below and let me know if you enjoyed this post. Also, what other posts about business would you like to read?