• Jessica Saint

Being a Makeup Artist or Hair Stylist and What You're Paying for When You Hire One

Deciding to be an artist for a living isn’t an easy choice. But it’s a choice that many of us take because we are passionate about it and we know we can make it our career. Being an artist does not mean we will work for free or that we will lower our pricing. What people often do not think about or, quite possibly, just do not know is exactly how much goes into being an artist no matter what kind of artist that is. Now this blog post isn’t going to cover what goes into being an artist of all sorts, it is just going to cover what goes into being a Makeup and Hair Artist. I’ve seen many posts about what goes into being a Photographer, but not what goes into my side of the industry. This post is also for budding Makeup and Hair Artists, established ones, all of us really. I’m speaking out about our side and why we charge what we charge in hopes that some people will see this and truly understand what they are paying for when they hire us.

As a Makeup Artist I cannot tell you how many times over the years someone has asked me to work for free, for next to nothing, or “for exposure.” But I’m sorry, that does not pay the bills. And yes, sometimes we will do what we call “TFP,” which means “Trade for Print.” Granted we almost never get prints of our work anymore as everything is digital, but it is a term that has stuck around throughout the years. What this means is we are doing a trade shoot with a team who is also not getting paid. We are doing it for new portfolio pieces for all involved. To get us ALL paid work! A lot goes into these shoots because we also submit these to publications in hopes that they get picked up. This sort of gig or shoot is something I personally do a handful of times a year, every year. I’ve been able to be more particular about which trade shoots I take on, but I do do them. Everything else has to be paid so that I can not only pay my business costs, but also my costs of living. Below I am going to lay out what those costs are along with the time we put into everything. This will be a long post so please bear me.


Many of us went to school to get licensed or certified. Many states require this now whereas you used to be able to be a Makeup Artist with just training, but no license or certification. That is changing across the board now. I personally only hire artists who are licensed or certified. Back to schooling, depending on the license/certification we went to school to get you are looking at spending anywhere from $5000-$30,000+. I personally went to Cosmetology school AND then back to get my Esthetician’s license which was about $30,000 total. I paid outright for my Esthi license because they didn’t offer loans or payment plans. And I have student loans for my cosmetology schooling. This does NOT include continuing education which is done throughout the year every year. We attend classes, trade shows, get new certifications, etc. The average I personally spend on continuing education and attending trade shows PER YEAR is about $3000. Some years are more if I find a particular class I really want to take. Most of the time it’s not in my city. Then you’re looking at the cost of the class, travel, lodging, etc. I’m in Philadelphia, PA and oftentimes I have to travel to NYC or somewhere to take these classes. So now that means it’s closer to $5000 or more per year. Most of the trade shows for my industry that are closest to me are in NYC or DC. A lot of smaller cities do not offer continuing education courses or trade shows, so you have to travel to NYC, DC, Miami, LA, San Fran, etc to take classes or attend these shows. If you’re lucky you’re close to one of these major cities and can day trip it, but sometimes you’re spending time overnight if the class or show is multiple days. I know plenty of artists who spend more than $5k a year on education and trade shows. But we’re going to use that as an average for now.


This is huge. A LOT of Makeup Artists I know also do hair. And not only do we also do hair, but we have to be equally as good at hair as we do makeup so you’re looking at twice the schooling, continuing education, and twice the kit costs. The reason a lot of MUAs/MUAHs/ HMUAs (Makeup and Hair Artist terms commonly used in the industry) is because you’ll get hired more over someone who can only do one of those services. I do have a few artists on my team who only do hair or makeup, but most of the time I even require everyone can do both. It’s very common that we can all do both. Either way, below is what we spend on our kits and supplies! Not including shipping as we have to order stuff from California or New York because there’s almost nothing local where we receive our pro discounts. If you live in New York or Cali, then you’re very lucky to have these shops by you so you don’t have to pay shipping. There are also times where we have to run into an Ulta or a Sephora because we need a few things and cannot wait for shipping, so we have to pay full price. Below is what our pricing is without shipping costs and without the random runs to Sephora or Ulta. Again, this is what we pay after our pro discounts annually.

Makeup Kit-

-An array of foundations for various skin types and colors- $20/ea. after our discount give or take. I have airbrush foundation as well as cream and liquids in my kit. My foundations alone were about $500+ total.

-Airbrush Machine/Gun/Hose/Tools- $200+

-Powders- I mostly use setting powder, but also have some contouring powders and various skin tones just in case- $200

-Lipsticks, glosses, stains- I have about 100 or so. At about $15-$20 a pop you’re looking at $1500-$2000 plus I have a palette that was about $60.

-Eyeshadows- In many colors. I choose palettes so I can save on space but have about 10- 15 of these. I spend about $30-$50 per palette give or take so $300-$750.

-Concealers in every color just about- About 10 at $15 each- $150

-Lipliners, eyeliners- About 20 at $10-$15- $200-$300

-GOOD mascara every 2-3 months- $100

-Brow Products- Gels, powders, pencils- $150

-Primers for various skin types- $150

-Setting spray for various skin types and finishes- $200

-Highlighters/other specialty items- $300

-Disposables- Mascara wands, q-tips, cotton balls/cotton rounds, etc.- $250

-Brushes- Multiple sets plus a brush stand, belt or holder. Keep in mind a good brush can costs us about $20-$30/each. Not to mention how often we have to replace certain brushes

like lip brushes, etc.- $3000

-Brush Cleaner and Shampoos- $250

-Brush Cleaning Mat- $30

-Makeup Chair- $100+

-Makeup Light- $200-$500+

-Rolling Makeup Case- $150+

Then there’s skincare!

-I put a sheet mask on all of my clients and sometimes eye treatments- $750

-Facial oil- $50

-Moisturizer- $50

-Eye cream- $50

-Lip Balm- $10

-SPFs- $50

-Moisturizing sprays- $50

-Depuffing creams- $20

-Redness reducing creams- $30

-Misc.- $75

You’re actually looking at over $10,000 altogether, but we don’t always have to replace it all annually. Some of these products last a couple of years. But some have to be replaced every 2-3 months, every 6 months, etc. for sanitary reasons or just because we go through them that quickly.

Hair Kit-

-Blow dryer- $150+

-Curling irons in various sizes- I have about 6 irons- $300+

-Straight iron- $250

-Alligator clips- $75

-Curl clips- $50

-Bobbi pins in a lot of sizes and colors- We go through these A LOT- $150

-Hair pins- $100

-Dry Shampoo- $100

-Mousse- $100

-Powders- $100

-Gels/Pomades- $100

-Hairsprays in various holds- $250

-Scissors (not all of us put these in our kits or need them)- $1500 which will last us years if

we’re lucky and take care of them!

-Clippers/Trimmers- $150

-Brushes- $350


-Fake hair, hair rats, hair nets, accessories, etc.- $500

-Heat mat for our tools- $25

-Rolling kit or backpack- $150

-Extension cord/power strip- $20

-Misc.- $500

Total is about $5020. More for those focusing mostly on hair. This is the average for my own kit, and I focus mostly on makeup, so I put more into that kit. But, the grand total for a makeup and hair kit is about $15,000!


Now you don’t think we would have such an expensive kit and not insure it do you? Not only does this cover our kit but it also covers anything happening to us, or our clients. I’ve never had any client get an infection or anything, but this covers that in case!! Worst case scenario, but still needed! About $100 or more a year. Not bad, but necessary!


Most of us own a car to get to and from gigs. Many of the miles I put on my car are for work. I live in a city where I can walk to do most things, but a lot of my gigs are far enough away that I need to drive. Therefore, I have to have a car. If a gig is within the city then I’m either having my partner drop me off or I’m taking a car service. If it is out of town then I need to get a hotel or an Airbnb. I often look for the lowest, safest option that’s closest to where I need to be. Average annual costs for this are $10,100.

-Annual car payment- $4500

-Car Insurance- $2500

-Gas (to and from gigs only)- $1000

-Maintenance- $500

-Car service for in town gigs- $600

-Hotels for gigs that are out of town- $1000

Some of us have a studio or space where we can do our clients. I share a space with a bunch of photographers so I’m not spending as much as I would if I had my own space. Rent, utilities and internet for the studio only, and studio needs end up being $4500 for the year.


There may be a lot of word of mouth in our industry, but that comes after putting yourself out there and working with many people. Even after all of that we still need to advertise, have a website, print up business cards, go to events, be on social media, etc. This doesn’t include paying anyone to design these things for you. I do a lot of it myself to cut down on costs for now. When I can pay someone to do it for me I will. For now, I do it. Annually I spend about $7500 on this.


-Business Cards/Print Materials- $500

-Internet- $1200

-Ads in publications- $3000

-Memberships on sites like Wedding Wire, etc.- $2500

Last, but not least you have to worry about things like taxes, phone bills, the occasional business lunch meeting, etc. I am also currently looking into switching everything to Square payments as well as using their payroll service to pay my artists. That alone will be about $1100 a year. Plus $1500 a year for my phone and whatever taxes are based on what came into the business.

Total you’re looking at over $40,000/year not including taxes or paying out my artists. This is just what it costs to run my business each year. I didn’t even include the cost of things that are supposed to last several years like curling irons, etc. I added a small portion for what gets replaced each year. This also does not include getting the initial licensing or certification. It does include continuing education costs, however. Keep this in mind when hiring a Makeup and Hair Artist. They still have their personal budget to cover like rent/mortgage, food, taking care of their families, clothing and personal needs, health insurance/medications, etc.

So, for me $40,000+ a year is JUST the amount I need to make from the percentage my business takes along with the money I need to make doing hair and makeup gigs to keep it all going. I don’t take a large percentage because I know how much goes into being an artist, so I pay my team the majority of the pay from each gig or wedding. So, the percent that goes to my business helps to pay for the business costs, however, I still put a lot of my own money into it as well. Which also means that I have to work a lot to cover it all.

Also, keep in mind that with just about every client we exchange about 50+ emails to discuss the logistics. We also spend time coordinating the team as well as schedules. Add onto that the time we speak on the phone to some of our clients on top of the emails we send back and forth. There’s also travel time to and from each gig. Cleaning our brushes and kit before and after each gig. Constantly replenishing products, taking classes, going to trade shows, watching tutorials, advertising/marketing, networking both at events and on social media, designing our own sites and business cards until and unless we can afford to pay someone to do it for us, and so much more. So much blood, sweat, and tears go into this career. The time it takes to build a name and a clientele is YEARS in the making. You don’t just wake up one day, decide to be an artist, and BAM! You have a lucrative income. Thousands upon thousands of dollars and hours go into it. They say to truly become an expert in any field you have to have 10,000 hours of experience in that field. I’ve put in over 15 years. Most of which has been full time. A lot of it was spent trying to figure out how I was going to pay rent or eat the next day. Because I knew I had to keep going in order to get where I wanted to be in my field. I was willing to suffer and put in the incredibly long hours and hard work it took to make my career successful. I had to do free shoots to get my name out there, gigs that only offered “exposure” that led nowhere most of the time, very low paid opportunities to get in with people in the industry. I’ve paid my dues as have all artists who are still going and still working hard to make it. I’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way as well. But in making those mistakes I also learned a lot and have been able to become a better artist and business owner.

When you pay a small business, you’re helping their business to grow and helping their family to survive. We also count on our tips almost as much as our pay from the gig itself. A good chunk of what we make goes right back into the business as you see above, so those tips help to cover our costs of living. It's very helpful! Paying gratuity to us like you would a waiter, bartender, hairdresser, or anyone in the service industry is helpful and very much appreciated! 18%-20% is the norm if you enjoyed your experience and the final product. We are offering a service; therefore, we are in the service industry and it is common to tip. So much of what we charge goes right back into our craft. Here’s an example of what each artist gets. This includes me as the owner.

Say you hire someone to do your makeup and hair. Let’s say for the sake of it that it’s $200 total. From that $200 maybe 25% goes to the business give or take. Some businesses take a larger percentage. But let’s pretend here that 25% is what is paid to the business. This is on the lower end too. Most businesses take a larger percentage! Anyway, $150 is left. More than likely $100 of that goes into their kit, travel, taxes, and other costs. After that they have $50 towards their personal budget. Not much at all. If you tip 20% that gives them an extra $40 towards their personal budget. It’s a huge difference for us. While you're not required to tip, it is common to do so and does help in a major way as it all adds up for us.

I hope this post helped my fellow artists or aspiring artists and also those looking to hire us. We're grateful to be able to be in our industry doing something we are so passionate about. But we also have to make a living so we have to value our worth!

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