How to Become a Freelance Makeup Artist (MUA) in California

If you’re interested in a career doing makeup as a makeup artist or freelance MUA, you probably already know that SoCal, and especially Orange County, can be a great place to start! With Orange Country’s close proximity to Los Angeles, Hollywood, Malibu, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, it’s no wonder that the industry is booming locally!

We are surrounded by potential opportunities in the cosmetology industry and attending an accredited school can help give you the foundation you need as a makeup artist in Southern California, and also help make sure you’re prepared to take the State Cosmetology Exam and to prosper as a makeup artist once you graduate.

Opportunities for Makeup Artists in California

Your opportunities could be endless. You might use your makeup skills to apply makeup on theater performers or provide makeup services for celebrities who grace the silver screen or have daily television roles. Since we’re also so close to the capital of West Coast Fashion, you could also be helping fashion models, print and glamour models, and even internet celebrities prepare for attending a big event.

Some stars are even known to hire a makeup artist to be their personal guru on the daily!

makeup artists doing a woman's makeup on a studio set

Some make-up artists decide that while they love freelance makeup, they may also want to practice in a spa or salon on a full-time basis, while building their clientele books and gaining makeup client referrals.

Others, yet, might prefer to work within a niche like bridal makeup or partner with professional photographers.

There can be a ton of opportunity in front of freelance makeup artists, but it doesn’t always come easy. Building a solid foundation with education, learning how to build a client base, and putting together a killer portfolio can make the journey that much easier! In most cases, however, you will need to obtain a cosmetology or esthetician license in California.

Is it Important to Go to School if You Want to be a Makeup Artist?

To get your cosmetology license in California, you must put in at least 1,600 hours of coursework plus training at an accredited cosmetology school within California. To receive an esthetician license, you’ll need to put in at least 600 hours of coursework plus outlined hands-on training from an accredited cosmetology school in the state.

While some people may argue that it is not absolutely imperative to obtain your license in order to find side-work as a freelance makeup artist, most successful cosmetologists and MUAs will be the first to tell you that you should have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of beauty, cosmetology, makeup artistry and of course customer service and business skills.

makeup artist doing a blonde woman's eye shadow application

The cosmetology school you choose to attend can also make a very profound difference in the start (as well as growth) of your career. This is why so many successful makeup artists graduated from a long-running cosmetology school like Colleen O’Hara’s Beauty Academy.

Beyond learning the basics and gaining the fundamentals of makeup and cosmetics, think about prospective employers and the clients that you pick up if you want to become a successful freelance makeup artist. Both consumers and the prospective employers (such as salons and spas) will most likely want to know where you obtained your training and if the cosmetics school you attended is accredited or a well-known makeup school in California. Even further, if you can prove you’re well qualified, it can also impact your starting salary!

Makeup Programs Offered by Colleen O’Hara’s Beauty Academy

The makeup programs at Colleen O’Hara’s Beauty Academy consist of both theory as well as hands-on practical sessions. Some of the makeup artist courses we offer at our Santa Ana campus include:

Makeup Theory

  • Basic principles of makeup and freelance makeup artistry
  • Balancing skin tones for different film and lighting
  • Finding clients and gaining referrals
  • Marketing yourself as a freelance makeup artist
  • Client’s expectations of their makeup artist

Practical Makeup

  • Preparing the skin for on-camera makeup
  • Custom blending foundation on live makeup clients
  • The basic principles & application of blush, highlight & contour
  • Lip shaping, color blending and correcting makeup
  • Makeup for use on older skin, men as well as light makeup technique for children

At Colleen O’Hara’s Beauty Academy in Santa Ana, we specialize in helping give our students the fundamentals and makeup foundation that we believe can help them become successful freelance makeup artists and thrive in their chosen field.

We’d love to hear from you and give you a quick tour of our modern Santa Ana campus, located right here in the heart of Orange County. We are proud to offer financial aid to those who qualify. Please call us at 833-841-4201 and find out how you can get your start as a freelance makeup artist today!