When I was 16 I started thinking about becoming a professional makeup artist. I was good at doing makeup and I enjoyed transforming people so I figured it was a no-brainer. Plus makeup artistry was an artistic career so I wouldn’t have to deal with all the boring, businessy stuff. I’d never have to worry about marketing, or sales, or customers. I just had to worry about putting makeup on other people’s faces, right?
Safe to say 21-year-old me knows way better than 16-year-old Isa.
When I started my career as a makeup artist I quickly realized that I did need to know how to sell and market myself. But most importantly I needed to know how to deal with customers. It’s not just makeup after all.
As a makeup artist, I work directly with my clients. 98% of the time I’m literally touching their face. And that’s part of what makes my career so fulfilling. I get to transform people’s lives directly and even though customers can be difficult at times, they’re part of what makes my job meaningful.
I’ve been a freelance makeup artist for about five years now and through touching many faces I’ve learned a lot of people skills. The most important one being the art of listening and collaborating with my customers.
While it is true that the customer is always right, it’s also true that they’re coming to you for a specific set of expertise, which means they also expect you to be right. Their key is in finding the balance between the two.
This is an ongoing process and every time I interact with a client I learn and refine said art a bit more. It’s not easy, but with practice, it almost becomes second nature. So take a page from my book and learn how to listen and collaborate with your customers.
Do your research before meeting
Before I meet with a new client I always do my research. I do a bit of cyber-stalking because that’s the easiest, fastest way to get to know a person. It gives me a general idea of what I can do for them.
Are they wearing lots of makeup in their pictures? Do they enjoy a bold look? Or do they mostly stick to wearing black, minimalistic clothes and a bit of mascara? The way people present themselves tells me a lot about how to approach them and how to approach their makeup to make my clients feel comfortable.
If they wear minimal makeup, I won’t give them a purple eye look because I know it won’t make my client feel or look like themselves. On the other hand, if they enjoy experimenting with makeup often, I can suggest a more intense look.
I tailor my clients’ experience before they even get on my chair. Not only does that save me time but I also eliminate the pressure for them. A lot of the time, customers don’t really know what they want. They know what they don’t want but it’s my job to show them what they do.
Whenever you’re working with a new client, do your research. Look them up online. Reach out to someone who might know them and ask them about the best way to approach your client. It takes a few minutes of your day but it will make your interactions with your customers seamless and you will be better prepared for any challenges that might arise.
Think about your interactions as building a relationship
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a makeup artist it’s that when people give me their face they’re sharing part of their identity. When they sit in my chair they’re vulnerable and there’s a certain level of trust that’s already established. Whether it’s our first time working together or not.
Every time I interact with a new or recurring client I always treat them like a friend. Mind you, I always keep it professional but I do so in a way that feels human. People want to feel understood and that’s hard to do if you’re thinking of them as just another client that brings in money.
Part of my job is also becoming good at reading people.
If a client comes in and they have a soft voice and they’re timid, I’m not gonna chat their ear off as I do their makeup. They probably want some peace and quiet. If a client sits in my chair and they’re full of energy and have a commanding presence they’re probably much more open to conversation.
Listen and actively seek to understand your customers. Read their body language, ask them questions. Make them feel like they can trust you.
Establishing a relationship with your clients will not only make them feel more comfortable with you, but it will also make them come back time and time again (if you’re good at what you do, of course.)
Even if you’re not the best yet, the way you interact and build relationships with your customers can be the deciding factor for whether or not they want to keep coming back to you.
Don’t be afraid of feedback
Feedback is crucial in the makeup artistry business, as I’m sure it is in many others.
Whether I’m working for a designer and bringing his vision to life on a model’s face or working on a young girl’s face for her quinceañera, asking customers what they think or how they feel allows me to tweak their looks until I find a perfect balance between what I like and what they like.
I used to be afraid of asking for the client’s feedback because I felt like if I had to fix or change something, I had failed. But I quickly came to realize, feedback only makes my looks and my job better. It also shows my customer that I want them to be steering the ship and choosing what works best for them.
If I finish a look and they feel like it needs more color, I add more color. If they change their mind about the lipstick, I take it off and try another one. It’s all trial and error until I find what my client feels the most comfortable in. That’s how I know my job is done.
Asking for feedback not only allows you to improve your collaborations with your clients but also signals that you care about what they think. It signals to them that this is a team effort and you wanna work together to create something magical.
Even if you are fantastic at what you do, having that mindset of ‘what can I improve?’ will make you even better over time. So what are you waiting for? Ask for that feedback!
Always have alternatives
In a perfect world, your vision and your client’s vision align. The reality is that most of the time, visions clash. And I’ve had to learn to deal with it.
Sometimes a client will come to me with a reference picture of a look that doesn’t suit their face or eye shape. And it’s my job to advise them on what would look best, because once their vision sits on their face they’ll realize it looks nothing like the reference picture. I’m looking to avoid all that and find a happy medium between what they like from the reference picture and what suits them.
Explaining to your clients why a certain look won’t suit them is never easy. It’s kind of a delicate subject. So I can’t just outright tell them ‘this wouldn’t suit you, I won’t do it’. That wouldn’t benefit me or them in the slightest.
Since I’m the expert, it’s up to me to find a way to either tweak their vision and make it work on them or find an alternative that my clients will like and that will suit them better. If I let my client down gently and propose alternatives they’re more likely to listen to what I’m saying and be open to trying something new.
Think of finding alternatives as problem-solving. If something isn’t working, either for you or your client, be quick on your feet to bring an alternative to the table. Otherwise, it’s gonna sound an awful lot like complaining. And you never want to come off like that to a customer.
Be a proactive thinker and your clients will know that you have their back even if your visions clash. When you bring alternatives to the table your customers know that you’re a good problem solver and are open to workshop ideas and collaborate with them.
Listening and collaborating with your clients is an art so don’t worry if you’re not good at doing any of these things yet. Like any other art form, the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
So get to practicing!