The Freelance Life
I turned 28 this year, it is 2018. I have never been represented by an agent although I like to consider my network of friends and fellow freelancers/professionals to have been the best connection to all of my achievements in my career thus far. It IS possible to support yourself with art and to do it all on your own, especially as a makeup artist. Every single person's talent and style is different so it goes without saying that each person will have a different journey. I can only speak about what my experiences have been but I wanted to give anyone interested but unsure of where to start some insight. When you make the decision to operate as a freelance you become personally responsible for achieving any of your goals. You are personally responsible for taking classes and growing with techniques.
This might be a long one but I’ll break it down in to small segments. Freelancing is not an easy job and it requires a lot of time and attention. It requires a lot of time spent developing your brand, a lot of your money will go into establishing a kit of client worthy products, and some will have to work many other day/night jobs on the side until you can support yourself fully with freelance client work. I'm going to do my best to outline the most important things I've learned and try to stay off memory lane as much as possible. I know some amazing people and they have been instrumental in developing me over the years. Those are the people you need to find and start working alongside them.
Consider Your Goals, Your Options & Your Happiness: What do you want, How do you achieve it, Is it all worth it?
>>>Here’s how it happened for me
Paul Mitchell was the most innovative school at my fingertips in Harrodsburg Ky after deciding that college was not the route for me. After a few fashion based events at Paul Mitchell in Lexington, I knew right away that fashion was where my heart was. I was more attentive and more inspired than I had ever been by a full foil highlight. Right before graduating, I had won a retail competition that got me on a plane to an event in Las Vegas called CAPER. By the time the event date rolled around I had actually already graduated school and was working in a salon extremely unmotivated. CAPER is essentially a weekend of fashion inspired looks with live demos, motivational stories and on-hands training with the most influential stylists in the industry. This was what I needed! I became so inspired- My goal was now to be on set as much possible- working as a hair and makeup artist for fashion shows and photo shoots. I just had to figure out how to make editorial styling just as profitable as a highlight service.
After CAPER, I was back in Lexington considering my current level of happiness. I really wanted to learn how to apply makeup yet I didn’t have enough money to keep a personal supply of products to play with. I made the decision that I wanted to apply to work full-time at Clinique as a cosmetics beauty consultant. I was walking through the cosmetics floor one day at the mall and observing as much as possible. I didn't have a portfolio of makeup work or any proof that I could do the slightest bit of makeup. This became my next goal: learn makeup as fast as possible, build a portfolio and get a job working consistently doing makeup. I got an interview! I have always had an easy time communicating with people and this skill really helped me get this job but I also had sanitation training, had learned about skin and had experienced a lot of customer interaction.
There was ZERO hair involved so you could imagine those around me were slightly confused. I had just spent a year of focusing on hair, skin, and nails; had been given tools to thrive at that skill. At times I get this vibe that most people don't consider cosmetics sales to that big of a career move but for me it served as a launch pad to the rest of my career in editorial makeup. I have worked with multiple brands in a retail setting since Clinique and have learned so much about the application of makeup while working with all skin types/textures and tones. I have learned about each product line themselves and how to use them creatively and efficiently. Most importantly, I learned how to work easily with people from all lifestyles.
A phrase that was projected in school was to "fake it till you make it". Simply meaning that experience comes from doing a skill over and over but you have to possess the confidence that you're going to do a killer job, even if you may be very new. You may not yet have all of the skills as a person that has been working for 10 years but you have to live that dream out daily if it will ever be a possibility. Where we start should never discourage our plan(s) to get to where you want to be in the future.
Life doesn't just roll over for you, you have to plan and execute.
In the beginning, my option was to work in a salon, buildup my clientele and save money to start building a more extensive kit. I didn't even know what to have in my kit. That seemed like the best option at the time but to be honest it was the only one directly staring me in my face. It was after I realized that I would never find full happiness being in a salon environment that I realized I needed to find some other options. I started to think that I just spent so much time and money going to a cosmetology school and graduating only to find out that I didn't relate to the environment. (If you are on this same path- DO NOT let this thought consume you. The skills I learned in school are so valuable and I use them every day, just in a different way than stylists working in a salon might.) I got a minimum wage job and started back on coming up with better options. You may spend a lot of time working minimum wage jobs or even just jobs that are outside the industry in general. The work you do to establish and secure a future in fashion or beauty is done on your off days and during your free time while being on your own dime.
My First Creative Photoshoot
While living with my great friend, Raina Trimble, we had both experienced how cathartic creating art was through these events at Paul Mitchell. I graduated slightly before her but we got to spend each night together brainstorming ideas and daydreaming about what we were going to do in the future. I had been on facebook looking at photographers in the Lexington and Louisville area and came across two names and portfolios that were exactly what I wanted mine to look like. Great quality, fashionable, expensive looking. It looked like these guys had put artistic thought to the concept and gave the model an environment instead of a backdrop and some colorful styling. Looking back, avant-garde fashion photography and beauty was very popular and to find it done right in Kentucky made this an opportunity I had to chase. I sent them each a message- I've always been pretty good at communicating with people and have zero fear starting a conversation. *If you are a person that isn't as comfortable networking and talking with new people, this will need to be something you work on. Get a job that requires you to do a fair amount of time talking on the phone and interacting with people. * I introduced myself to them. Who I was, where I lived, what I did, and how much I loved their style. Raina was the perfect addition to this equation and was definitely involved with this plan the entire time. Her headpieces were extremely artistic and I was/am forever inspired to create something to play with her work. Honestly, I thought that if I could just keep being influential in the organization of a project with them that it would happen and I would be the Makeup Artist.
When I sit down and really think about everything that happened for me to start doing makeup for photo shoots it was a combination of a few elements but the timing played a huge role. I had recently met a few other people living in the fashion lane- Maui Crane and Laura Kirkpatrick. They were hosting fashion show events at a local nightclub, Trust Lounge. Turns out that Clay and Josh, who were from Louisville, had just collaborated on a project titled Searcher/Spector and Maui was hosting an event in Lexington showcasing the series and inviting everyone to dress accordingly to the light and dark theme.
This was my look- bald, white around my eyes and a black hand print. Raina had mad a cage mask to go around her face, way more bad ass than anything anyone else was doing- which is Raina's theme when she creates (just in case you havent seen her work) . Long Story Short, I made a story board and tested out makeup and looked at so many photos for inspiration and finally the day was here. My
Long Story Short, I made a story board and tested out makeup and looked at so many photos for inspiration and finally the day was here. My very first photo shoot, it felt like I had faked my way through the entire time. I showed up with my basic makeup kit from Paul Mitchel including a few new products I bought because I needed them to get the job done. I sat everything out that I thought I would need for the first look and then got started. Luckily, I have a bit of raw talent that always helps me stay a little more confident in new situations. I would never go back, I knew that somehow I would be involved with the groups of people that get to do this for a living. This first shoot was comprised of three models and they themselves had two changes, so this was a long day working on location in rundown warehouse. Only the first look was done in a comfortable situation but the rest were to be done in this place without chairs or tables or light. After a few years of experience you know that this is just a possibility anywhere you go so you have chairs, and tables, and your own light but for the beginner me, this was new info.
If you're considering a profession in freelance hair styling or makeup artistry you need to actually take the time and consider your goals, consider how much passion you have and how much your willing to sacrifice to get there and you HAVE to consider your happiness along the way. If you're feeling stuck in a job that leaves you creatively unfulfilled, its up to make a difference. For some that may mean leaving your current "comfortable" working situation entirely, or maybe it means getting a night job to work for yourself during the day or on the weekends or whatever it may be. I've met many people working 2 jobs to support their art although, they love their other jobs so its a synergistic working relationship- we call these people "blessed" #killingit. I've also met people doing that same thing to support the end of those jobs and the beginning of their own business. Some of these jobs may be in the beauty industry but if you're like me just dont cut it simply because you are not the boss. This all comes down to freedom to make your own schedule, operate as you see fit for yourself and your clients and control everything that is within your control all by yourself- no corporation.