makeup artist career guide

My name is Anabelle LaGuardia. I am a professional NYC freelance makeup artist with 20 plus years experience as of 2019. I created this informative blog post sharing all I have learned and experienced in my 20 year career.

my journey

become a makeup artist

At a very young age I discovered my talent for art and makeup through my mother, Sharon LaGuardia, In my early career as an administrative assistant within the corporate office of Lancome, I invested in evening makeup classes at NYC’s Empire Beauty School. Upon graduating in 1999, I embarked on my career as a professional makeup artist with the prestigious Laura Geller Makeup Studio on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Over the four years I worked for Laura Geller, I managed to climb the ranks to become one of Laura’s top artists. In June 2003, I launched my own freelance makeup business, Anabelle LaGuardia Makeup Artistry. I continue to establish a diverse clientele for special events and weddings, head shots, fashion shows, photo and video shoots, private makeup lessons.


the reality about the Makeup Industry

nyc makeup artist

The long road to success demands many years of hard work, and many long hours on your feet while working on location at a wedding, photo or video shoot, fashion show, retail setting, television or film set.  No matter how well established one becomes, in this business, it will always be necessary to continue networking for new opportunities. In the early-going, you might have difficulty striking a balance among the needs to assist established makeup artists for experience, to continue your education so that you may perfect your craft, and to pay your rent and bills. If your not one to dedicate yourself to the hustle this career is not for you.


nyc bridal makeup

A professional makeup artist makes a career-long investment into continuing education by attending makeup classes and seminars. There are many amazing schools worldwide that have extensive makeup programs. Programs vary from school to school, but most offer a nice combination of basic and more advanced skills. If you have the time and the finances, it’s invaluable to have the experience of learning in a makeup program from seasoned makeup artists who have been in the business for years. For more advanced makeup education with master educators check out Erica Carr Classes.


nyc makeup artist

Building Your Kit

nyc makeup artist

While building your kit, invest in quality makeup brushes and pro-grade, camera-ready products that perform properly.  Please trust that you will spend more money, in the long run, stocking your kit with low-grade versus professional products. Most professional-brand makeup companies offer a pro and student discount. Information on pro and student discounts will be available directly on each company’s website. When in doubt, you can locate an email on the site to submit an inquiry.

Building your portfolio

To build your portfolio, you will need to do TFP (time for print) or TFCD (time for CD) collaborations with photographers, hair stylists and fashion stylists. This entails everyone coming together to collaborate, for free, on a photo shoot, in exchange for photos to use in your portfolio. You can also contact local modeling agencies to request being added to their test list. When new models are signed, they need photos and this is an excellent way for you to build your portfolio as well as relationships with agencies, photographers, hair stylists and fashion stylists.

Assisting Other Artists

Assisting Rules

As an assistant you are responsible for attending to the needs of the key makeup artist. In the beginning stages of assisting you will be doing everything but applying makeup. In time, once you have built a relationship and trust with the makeup artist, will you be allowed to start with actual makeup application assistance. Makeup artists are very particular of who they bring on as an assistant. If you are granted the opportunity consider it an honor. An amazing resource on the dos and don’ts of assisting is the book, Assisting Rules, written by celebrity makeup artist and educator, Deshawn Hatcher.


Never underestimate opportunities to network with and refer other artists that specialize in your areas of interest. In creating these symbiotic relationships you will have presented yourself as helpful to your peers, simply by referring a client to someone in your absence or who more directly matches their need. This is one very effective way to build your business, because the next makeup artist who benefited from your referral won’t soon forget the courtesy you showed them.

Marketing and Online Presence

All of your marketing material and online presence should always be polished, easy to view and navigate. Your business card, social media and website should reflect who you are but in an understated and tasteful manner. Look at other successful makeup artists website and marketing materials to get ideas on how your marketing material should be presented. Having clean and effective marketing materials are a must if you want to stand out and be taken seriously.

Liability Insurance and Kit Insurance

If you are going to work for yourself as a freelance makeup artist it is imperative to invest in liability and kit insurance for your business. This will protect you in the event your kit is lost or stolen or should anyone try to sue you for any bad reaction from your products or injury from any of your tools.

Do I Need to Be Licensed to Apply Makeup?

Salons and spas require that you have a cosmetology license. You need to check with your own state for detailed guidelines for working outside of a spa or salon as a freelance makeup artist.

What is the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Union Guilds and should I be a member?

The Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Union Guilds are comprised of makeup artists and hair stylists working in the television, film, network-broadcasting, commercial and theater industries. The guild is part of I.A.T.S.E. or The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. There are two “Local” chapters of the hair and makeup union:

Local 798 represents hair stylists and makeup artists on the East Coast.
Local 706 represents hair stylists and makeup artists on the West Coast.

While there is plenty of non-union work in independent films and print work, the vast majority of TV, film, and theater work is union. If you want to make a living out of working in that field, you should look into joining. The goal of the union is to create better working conditions for their members. Members are eligible for higher wage scales, excellent medical benefits, retirement plans and numerous other perks.

In Summary

nyc makeup artist

As you begin to explore a career as a makeup artist take your time to do your research on schools, artists you admire, and spend time perfecting your craft. Volunteer your time to assist and learn from established artists. Spend your free time collaborating on TFP (time for print) and TFCD (time for CD) shoots to build your portfolio. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek out help. Prepare for the ride of your life and know that the path to success is long and takes patience and diligence. It is perfectly normal to become discouraged and frustrated, and honestly, you can count on it because everyone in this business feels that way, from time to time. Another great resource to help you navigate the industry is Crystal Wright’s, The Hair Makeup & Fashion Styling Career Guide. Good luck on your journey!


Hair Makeup and Fashion Styling Career Guide