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

Have you ever dreamed of being able to create your own schedule, work with different clients daily, and be your own boss? Combine that dream with your passion for beauty and you’ve got a freelance cosmetologist! As a freelance cosmetologist, you’re able to do what you love for a living: you can get paid to make people feel and look their best. Though you may think it will be difficult to become a successful freelance cosmetologist in a place like Orange County, California, we know that you just need to follow the right steps to make it possible. Whether you’re already a freelance cosmetologist or are aspiring to be one, you can become successful in your practice if you follow our tips.

a freelance makeup artist does the makeup of a model

How to Earn Money as a Freelance Cosmetologist in California

There are many ways to earn a higher paycheck as a freelance cosmetologist in California. For starters, if you’re searching for the better paying cosmetology clients, you’ll need to make certain that you are always working, whether it’s in the field, in the studio, or even just locally. Like other art forms, it’s also vital that you’re consistently learning and studying new and modern cosmetology techniques that will keep you in touch with other cosmetologists, hairdressers, and beauticians. As with most occupations, the more work that you put into your craft as a licensed cosmetologist and freelance cosmetologist the more you’ll eventually get out of your occupation and art form.

If you’re in Southern California, you have the added benefit of being close to Hollywood. That can mean movie sets, television, and film as well as working with directors, models, and designers on set. If you’re a professional freelance cosmetologist for TV or film, there’s a great chance that you’ll run into on-set directors that may often challenge you by changing the artistic theme halfway through a film or TV job. As a professional you have to be flexible in order to get re-hired by them as well as earn a reputation that you’re a cosmetologist that’s very easy to work within the film industry in Hollywood.

a freelance makeup artist does the makeup of a film actor before filming

Learn to Adapt as a Cosmetologist

As a freelance cosmetologist on-set, some of the directors you work with may want to add more high-fashion or glamour or go in a completely different direction using wigs and hair accessories. They could want you to apply a hairpiece or mix color and chemicals on the spot, and as a well-trained cosmetologist that’s out in the field, you have to adapt to a changing environment.

Out in the field, you will have to be just as comfortable creating standard looks for print as well as the high-fashion and glamour looks for runway photographers, and art directors. You’ll also need to bring everything that you’re going to use that day inside your cosmetology kit in order to give your clients that look while out in the field, as you can’t leave the set in most cases.

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In order to please the sometimes high expectations of this type of clients you may need to leave your comfort zone. That means trying new things and being confident in your work. This will almost always pay off and you’ll probably see that simply going out of your way for a client, will often lead to getting another callback.

a freelance makeup artist films a makeup tutorial

How Do You Get Paid as a Freelance Cosmetologist in CA?

If Hollywood and films aren’t really your style, there are tons of ways to change the way you earn your paychecks as a freelancer, no matter what your profession is. As a freelance cosmetologist, one way to get paid more is to provide clients an intro rate that doesn’t last forever. A lot of well-known freelance cosmetologists got their start doing reduced-rate hair jobs early on in their careers. For example, you can take on higher-profile clients who you know will either re-hire you or help you network and start off by telling them you’re going to give them a great introductory rate in order to earn their business.

Intro rates for your freelance cosmetology clients will not only set you apart from the freelance competition but after you’ve secured the job, you can then show the client that you’re worth a lot more and that your true rate is actually substantially higher. This is a feel-good moment for most clients because it proves that you are willing to cut them a deal in order to start a successful partnership that will thrive in the future. Keep in mind that this is also a great way to get your foot in the door and begin gaining that upper-tier level of clientele that can refer you to other high-end clients, especially if your work is consistent!

There are some other great ways to get your name out there as a freelance cosmetologist. One way to do that is to stay working and to continue working hard within the beauty industry by continuing to pursue your cosmetology education. You may be able to teach classes at the hair and beauty school that you went to or at regional occupation schools and cosmetics and beauty colleges. You can approach these from a mentor perspective if you’re unable to teach full-time or you can always be a guest lecturer. Staying active within the hair and cosmetics education system is also a great way to get and keep your name out there.

How Do I Set My Rates as a Freelance Cosmetologist in California?

There are many ways to set rates as a freelance cosmetologist in California. Some swear by setting rates very high from the get-go for their daily and hourly hair gigs. While doing that might attract a certain clientele that is looking for an experienced and high-end freelance cosmetologist, it can also scare away clients that you could have grown with. It can be dangerous to your reputation if your experience doesn’t match up with your hourly rates. Some freelance cosmetologists charge a flat fee for their work, while others swear by charging hourly with a minimum number of hours per gig. Other experienced freelance cosmetologists say that they wouldn’t accept a flat rate for a day because hours on-set can go long and deep into the night – something running 12 to 16+ hours long and making you work for a flat fee is doing way more than you bargained for.

Other things to consider are charging a kit fee for the hair products you consume during any of your freelance hair gigs. For instance, some freelance cosmetologists charge upward of $45-100 for standard on-site cuts as well as $200 to upwards of $600 and $700 for special chemicals, cuts and other customized work. Because they are using their own colors, chemicals, and equipment, these prices (while much higher than salon prices) are often justified. As a freelance cosmetologist, you’re often putting together specific looks for your client, meaning that there is a lot of customized processes that were thought through and your clients should know that. Keep in mind that this is all generalization and that in most cases your rate is set by your experience, portfolio, background, metropolitan area, clientele and most of all your education and reputation within the industry!

Work with other cosmetologists to get their opinions, and as you set out into the world of freelancing you can try different rates to see what works best for you.

Getting to the Upper-Tier Clientele as a Freelance Cosmetologist

There are a few additional things that you can do in order to ensure your success as a freelance cosmetologist in California. One of the most important things that you can do is to be genuine, kind, and professional with each of your clients. Remain honest and work exceptionally hard at your profession. Not a lot of people get to work in their dream career and be out of the office earning a steady paycheck, so it’s important to work hard and take time to be grateful. Remember that it’s not only the person that hired you but every single person that you come across while out in the field that will tell others whether you’re a great freelancer or awesome to deal with on a day-to-day, and that usually gets around, especially with the advent of online review markets like Yelp, Facebook, and Google.

Lastly, nothing will be more important than your foundation. If you want to become a freelance cosmetologist in California, you’ll want to attend a well-known cosmetology school, like Colleen O’Hara’s Beauty Academy in Orange County, CA. We’d love to give you a free tour of the campus and show you why we’ve been one of the longest running cosmetology schools in California.

Please call us at 833-841-4201 in order to start your career as a licensed cosmetologist today! Our cosmetology instructors and advisors are standing by to help you start your career as a licensed cosmetologist or freelance cosmetologist immediately!