At the beginning of your beauty career, everyone seems to be giving you advice from every corner. From blog posts to books, family and friends, they all seem to be giving you information on the secrets to becoming a freelance makeup artist. While some folks mean well, some is just regular ol' bullshit. 

I get asked all the time "Sonia, how did you get started and do you have any advice on my makeup career?"

Since I get asked so often, so I decided to share my secrets and share my story with you. My story is a long one but maybe someone will find some inspiration (and humor) in this and I hope it help others. 

Save Money? Or Sink or Swim?

secrets to becoming a full time makeup freelancer

If anyone had told me this at the start of my freelancing career, I would have given up on freelancing and I would never have made it this far.

Back in 2000, I was living with a lying, cheating Italian man named Stefano. I called him the "Evil Stefano".  I was doing some freelance work at the department stores and doing a few weddings and commercial work. But it wasn't consistent and I wasn't making much money. 

Living in a place like Chicago where cost of living is high, I couldn't afford much on my own. And at 30, I didn't want a roommate. I needed space to be alone and focus on my career. I didn't want any distractions.  My dilemma ran deep: I wanted to move out but I knew I couldn't afford to and I didn't want to go back to corporate. Going back to "corporate" wasn't an option.

So in true "Sonia" style, I mulled over this situation for 9 months.  I have to say it was the worse 9 months of my life. With no real money saved and no 'real' job I was in a really funky situation. 

As you know, leasing an apartment without a "job" and no money in the bank is next to impossible and will make you feel like you're stuck and in a dead end. However I decided now was the time to jump off into the deep end of the pool.

"Sonia, it's sink or swim time" I told myself. You came here for a reason, why are you feeling sorry for yourself? Let's get to work" And that is exactly what I did.


secrets to becoming a full time makeup freelancer

My best friend Andie is also a freelance makeup artist.  Neither of our broke asses had "jobs" at the time but we always looked out for each other, throwing each other work. We were (and still are) a true "team."  Because I never wanted to disappoint her (and I am sure she was tired of hearing my "evil Stefano" stories) I decided to take action. If I had to be accountable to anyone, it would be her...and I couldn't let her down. 

So off I went to a more affordable part of Chicago to look for apartments. Turns out I found an adorable 1 bedroom apartment in Rogers Park right on the lake. (I still live in Rogers Park today) Because I didn't have a job, I filed out the lease application and said that I "worked" for Andie in her company so I could secure a lease on the apartment (Andie didn't have any more of a company than I did, ha!) Shady I know.. but it worked. 

My apartment in Rogers Park. Not bad for $900 a month, ay?

My apartment in Rogers Park. Not bad for $900 a month, ay?

When I signed the lease, I only had $600 to my name.
My first month's rent was $900 and my security deposit was $900. So what did I do? I wrote a bad check that Friday and moved in that weekend.  Omg the scandal. I'm laughing and cringing as I type this.

But guess what?

Because I was scared to bounce a check, I made enough money taking jobs that it never bounced. When you are fearful of the worst, you get off your ass and get to work.
But even more incredible, guess what else happened?   My phone started blowing up the second I made that decision. Jobs started rolling in, calls left and right.  So many that I had to start bringing Andie in to help take them. And when I say that second, I mean literally that following Monday.  

15 years later, here I am with a successful brick and mortar studio and a team. Andie also has a thriving career as a freelance artist. The universe was just waiting for me to take "action" and accountability for my own life.


As you see, when I started to freelance, desperation made me write a bad check for the security deposit on my apartment. Had someone told me to wait until I had saved a year's worth of income, I never would have started full time freelancing and I probably would be in prison right for murdering a man in a crime of passion. There is something about being "desperate" to pay your bills. Failure was not an option. That same drive also helped me open a brick and mortar studio 7 years later. The human spirit is a strong one. Believe in yourself.

If you have decided to become a makeup freelancer, just START. Do not resign from your dead end survival job. Instead, start freelancing as a part time job, as you build up your clientele base. 
You can save any extra funds you make and when you think you have saved enough or you have gained enough clients, you can make the leap and become a full time freelancer. However with the beauty industry being saturated, saving money is a good idea. I doubt if my "shady ass" game plan strategy would work today.

Only you will know when you are ready to become a full time freelancer, but you don’t need to save a whole year's income to start. That’s a rather illogical number for most of us these days but if you can, do it. If not, sink or swim.

Have a Strategy. Not a "Plan".

Secrets to becoming a full time makeup freelancer

Man plans, God laughs. Boy have I said that many times in my life. 

You should absolutely have dreams. You should have goals and targets. You should have a clear career path, absolutely. You should plan to your heart's content. Having a full time freelance life is a lot like playing chess.  But instead of making plans, develop strategies....just like you would when playing chess.

My freelancing experience has taught me that you will encounter pitfalls and sometimes pretty big ones. You will also fall into unexpected lucrative opportunities like booking that big ass wedding or job at the last minute. Therefore, you should be ready to think about being flexible like a tree..... and sway with the changing wind. 

If you tend to be very rigid, you will easily give up on your freelance career as a lot of factors will be out of your control. Trust me, I am going thru this now working on our product line. Shit happens. How you deal with it is the true test of a beauty freelancer.

The best advice?

Focus mainly on the factors that you can influence, like your portfolio, your skill set, relationships, and so on. You can plan all you like, but be ready to change. Got it? Cool.

Now the next time I start freaking out, talk me off the ledge, ok? Thanks. :)


secrets to becoming a full time freelance makeup artist

Okay, I have to go off on a tangent here.  One of the most important things in being a full time freelance makeup artist is TRAINING. Up-to-date skills are imperative. Experience is imperative.


For every makeup artist who takes a job who is inexperienced all in the name of a dollar ruins the the industry for the rest of us.

We all started somewhere, I understand. To become good freelance artist, you must take things slow and show some integrity in your work. If you are inexperienced keep practicing until you can confidently do the jobs that are asked of you. To me that is more important than leaving a corporate job because you have these big ass dreams of being a makeup artist. If your skill set isn't there, sink or swim won't work here. You will definitely sink. 

Invest in your education, learn all you can. Get out there and practice. Once your skills are there the jobs will start rolling in with little marketing effort.


Secrets to becoming a full time makeup freelancer

Take note. One of the reasons you decided to become a FREElancer, is because of FREEdom, not working for FREE for every job that comes your way. It's one thing to gain experience, quite another to be abused even if you are "newer".

If a job looks like it won't satisfy you or help with your skill set, don't take it. It's really that simple. If you think that the money is not enough or the time given to complete the contract is inadequate, do not take it.

You are freelancing remember but be sure you work with the caliber of clients you want.   You have bills to pay, right? Ramen noodles and mac-n-cheese are getting old.
GET PAID for any job you do unless you are testing to build a portfolio of work that you can be proud of. 

Never waste your precious time and energy on below par work with below par clients. Learn to tell a client a polite but firm "thank you, but no thank you." My experience has taught me that saying this to a client does not burn bridges, but it makes them want to hire you even more. 


secrets to becoming a full time freelance makeup artist

Honey, the internet is a scary place sometimes. There are at least 99,999+ thousand blog posts and articles in the world on marketing yourself or business and everyone nowadays is a "makeup educator". They talk about business, makeup and everything under the sun. But are they truly living the "freelance" life? Are they walking the walk or just talking the talk?

Marketing yourself and understanding your strengths is important. Knowing how to describe yourself is also imperative.  Your experience is important- Taking a freelance job because you are unqualified crumbles very fast if you fail to deliver the work. 

Do good work. Continue learning new things. Then do better work. Keep improving.

The more you follow these secrets, develop a hustle and find courage in your human spirit the faster you will be to be on your way to being a full time freelance makeup artist.

Stay Smart,