Makeup Artist SalarySo you want to join the ranks of Bobbi Brown doing makeup for a living. But how much can you earn by painting the faces of bridezillas and move stars? As with most industries, it depends on your skill set. Brush up on your bridal makeup or learn some tips from the pros to make sure you’re at the top of your game.

There’s more to makeup artistry than meets the eye. It’s a business that requires not only technical skill and subtlety but also profound social skills to keep positive working relationships with clients and customers. If you already know how to apply makeup like a pro, start documenting your work like a pro.  After all, from here on in, you’re competing with them.

Getting Paid

As with most professions, you have a number of options for how to get paid for your new skills. You can start up an independent business where you cater for bridal makeup charging per head, hourly, or as a package. You can find a position in a salon where you’ll be giving a cut to the salon owner. The salon will generally have it’s own price guide of what you can charge based on their consumer base. You can work in TV or department stores. The kind of work you do will dictate how much you get paid. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary of a makeup artist can range from $20,000 to $120,000 depending on your skills, location and years of experience. With a range that like, it’s impossible to know if to know if you’re being paid adequately without more research.

Location. Location. Location.

If you want to know what your salary should be, you’ve got to compare with other folks in the same place and with the same skills and experience. While it might be too difficult to ask the local makeup artist her salary, you could always have a conversation with a couple local salon owners to get a guide for what price you should be asking.


Outside of a regular gig at a TV studio or department store, your salary will depend on you. Most people reserve appointments for makeup only for special occasions. That means you need to be proactive about drumming up clients if you’re practicing independently or in a salon setting. Word of mouth will be crucial. Having a website or YouTube channel will definitely help you come across as more of a professional than those without.


Working for a large multi-national cosmetics brand behind the counter at major department stores offers more stability than freelance. You can expect an annual salary around $35,000—depending on where you’re located and how well you can sell, if you’re working on commission. If that sounds like the niche for you, consider brushing up on your sales skills.


Legendary make-up artist Kevyn Aucoin was known to charge upwards of $6000 per session, but unless you have a reputation like him, even in the entertainment industry, you’re salary is likely to be substantially lower averaging between $45,000 and $75,000 depending on your experience. However, if you are a true professional with a growing reputation, there are options for developing your business and your name in publishing. Writing a book, or even teaching a course at, are two great ways to supplement your income.

If you’re just starting out, keep in mind that TV and film aren’t the only productions that need makeup artists. Consider drumming up work at circuses, theater companies, or amusement parks. Just remember, when your livelihood depends on your performance you must always keep up with professional standards in terms of hygiene, appearance, promptness, and reliability. When consulting with clients, keep your input on the positive side and avoid making them feel self-conscious or unattractive.


While it may not be your cup of tea to apply makeup to a dead person, mortuaries do need talented makeup artists to help the deceased to look their best for their final viewing. It may not sound as glamorous as working with brides or actors, but the salary for makeup artists at mortuaries is almost 22% higher than the average earnings for all makeup artists. That’s the difference between $26,500 a year and  $34,000 which is nothing to sneeze at.


Hourly rates for cosmetologists range widely depending on the factors we’ve discussed. The average hourly wage is between $13 and $16 dollars an hour, but that doesn’t included any gratuities you might earn on top of your base rate.

That should give you some ballpark number for what you can expect to earn as a makeup artist, but remember, as with any job, your end salary depends on you. Never stop honing your skills, learning new trends, and finding new ways to get repeat customers. If you are going to start your own business, do it the right way. Brides need all the help they can get when it comes to planning a wedding. So if your clientele is brides-to-be, network with some photographers or videographers and give them some of your business cards to share with their clients. If you want to cast your net wider, consider advertising your services through a group buying site like Groupon or Living Social. Just make sure your website is up and running and looking as good as your clients‘. It’s never a bad idea to keep some new product in your case, so you can sell your favorite concealer to an impressed client. There are always opportunities to up your earnings, if you keep an open mind.

After you’ve spent the whole day making other people feel beautiful, keep in mind that nothing looks more lovely than a confident smile after a job well done.

Fashion students also learn

Empower your team. Lead the industry.

Get a subscription to a library of online courses and digital learning tools for your organization with Udemy for Business.

Request a demo