After 10 years in the industry continuously training, learning and experimenting, I have a pretty good handle on what works and what doesn’t – so I thought I’d pull together a list of the key things I’d do if I was starting my journey all over again. Things that I know will allow me to build a business model that is not only lucrative but will ensure that I enjoy my work and can look forward to every new day. I strongly believe they are non-negotiable if you want to become a successful MUA or hairstylist who is sought after and rewarded handsomely for providing an incredibly skilful and wonderful service to your clients.
1. Choose your courses carefully and learn from tutors, not from schools.
Having studied privately and then in large group courses at well-marketed and known makeup schools, I can see a huge difference in the amount of knowledge I gained when I chose to study with the tutors I admired rather than a particular school.
Getting the correct tuition right at the start will save you years of wasted effort and retraining. Strong foundational knowledge is the same as the foundations of a house – they’re essential and will support everything that happens next. Invest wisely so your career can flourish, not fail. To this day my most effective study time has been spent learning from tutors whose work I admire and whose achievements inspire me.
2. Study something new in makeup artistry several times a year.
Those who think they know it all are limiting themselves to a certain level, and will inevitably restrict their growth and development. If you want to stay ahead of the game, stay on top of your skills.
3. Practise on at least 2 to 4 models every week for 3 months…
…before you even think about getting paid bookings. Lack of skill and insufficient confidence can be spotted easily. Practise, practise and practise again. You’ll notice that all those techniques you learnt will eventually come naturally, which means you can focus on how to wow your clients with your creativity, rather than worrying about your technique. You’ll be able to build your reputation rather than ruin it (A bad word will spread 1,000 times faster than a good one).
4. Ignore what everyone else is doing and focus on your own unique strengths.
If you feel like you don’t have any yet spend some time thinking about it, decide what you like and focus on working super-hard to perfect that chosen skill to make it your unique trait.
If we just copy what other MUAs/hairstylists do we’ll end up being one of the thousands who haven’t got a lot difference between them all fighting it out for a handful of clients (think all of those instantly forgettable and very similar websites, Insta timelines, blog posts, “About Me” pages, etc.)
5. Under-promise and over-deliver.
Give your clients a service that blows away their expectations! Be punctual, helpful and respectful. Be attentive, share useful makeup/hairstyling tips and leave your work station spotless. Surprise the bride with a selection of lovely portraits that capture the emotion of the wedding morning. That you and only you were there to snap. Give a quick free makeover to the bride’s mum, who wasn’t booked in but was worried that she wasn’t doing a very good job on herself that morning. There are so many things we can do to make the whole experience really special. Delighted clients will become your biggest fans and will promote your work for years to come.
6. Study social media and learn how it can help your success.
Try out different strategies to see what works for you, and don’t give up if things don’t go the way you’d hoped. There’s no such thing as a failed attempt because you’ll be learning something with every attempt. Social media is such a hugely powerful customer magnet, and once you crack the formula, there’ll be no looking back.
7. Learn how to take fabulous portraits from the get-go.
Don’t depend on anybody else for images of your work. Buy the best camera and portrait lens you can afford and take full control of your portfolio. You’ll then always be in charge of creating amazing portraits capturing your work beautifully – with the correct light, consistent colour scheme and supreme quality.
Great portraits will help your social media go stratospheric. Use your own photography to surprise brides, by emailing them a few images you snapped on their wedding morning. It’s the best way to get your work out there and see a stream of new enquiries and followers as they share your photos on their own social media.
Being confident with your own photography means you can submit images to bridal magazines knowing that they’d want to print them or put them on their cover.
Never include an average or less than average quality photograph that doesn’t do justice to your work.
8. Take care building your team.
Of course, you want to find good people with peerless skills, but there’s more to a perfect team than skill. You want to surround yourself with a team that shares your values. Only choose a team that like you will put your clients’ needs at the heart of everything they do. They also have to be extremely passionate for their craft and the industry (that’s you, fab K-Team ladies!) Skills can be honed but personalities can’t be changed, so choose wisely. If you know you could enjoy a long journey to a wedding with them, you’ve probably found your dream team!
9. Give away freebies to wedding suppliers.
Go into your local bridal florists and bridal dress boutiques as well as wedding venues with a gift voucher for a free makeover so that they can experience what you have to offer.
Aim to please fellow wedding industry providers so much that they won’t stop talking about how wonderful you made them look and feel. And don’t forget to snap their portrait as a bonus that they can use to showcase their beautiful selves and your fantastic work with their social media friends and followers.
10. Document your journey on a platform such as Instagram, Facebook or a blog.
Include your highs and lows right from the start. People love following others on their path to their dream job. Your story will serve as inspiration for people who are itching to get started, but are unsure if they can take that first step.
11. Offer freebies to actual brides.
At the beginning of your career before you’re ready to start taking paid bookings offer your services to 3-5 brides getting married locally (friends or friends of friends). You’ll gain valuable experience in the real wedding world and benefit from some genuine bridal portraits that you’ll be able to add to your portfolio. If you do a fabulous job they’ll bring you loads more brides-to-be, from their wedding party and their social media followers.
12. Hire an experienced copywriter.
To help write engaging, unique, authentic web content and bring your passion, knowledge and experience to life on the page.
13. Buy a good website template and then seek out a web professional.
To help load all the information and SEO onto it. Ask your friends and acquaintances. If they can’t help, ask for recommendations or go to websites like fivver.com or freelancer.com to find help. Don’t attempt to do all of this yourself unless you really know what you’re doing.
14. Focus more on getting at least 15 amazing bridal and beauty portraits than a fancy website.
There’s no point having an amazing website if your images are not good enough. You want to achieve the most polished look you can, but you don’t have to spend £000’s to get a great website. Focus on finding a template that’s simple and modern, and that looks straightforward to keep up-to-date, so you won’t avoid keeping it up-to-date!
15. Enter The Wedding Industry Awards newbie category.
Then every year thereafter enter into the relevant category. Having a goal that could have such a huge impact on your business will inspire you to work harder at perfecting your skills, delighting your brides and not cutting corners on image quality, web content and social media presence. We all need motivation and this was the biggest driver for me to try to do the very best I could in every aspect of my business.
16. Start out charging just a tiny bit less than the MUA/hairstylist average.
Aim primarily on amazing as many brides as possible with your services and so that they’ll want to spread the word about your skills (everyone loves getting credit for a great find!). When your diary gets 2/3 full for the year go ahead and increase your prices, but only about £20 at a time. There’s no need to go crazy with huge price hikes. That day will come. Let the number of bookings you have confirmed in your diary dictate when the next price increase is due.
17. Get networking!
Networking events and meetings are brilliant opportunities for you to meet like-minded people and show off your skills. Impress the crowd by showing them what you have to offer and word will spread like wildfire. You’ll soon have a queue of people waiting to experience your magic and recommend you to their friends and brides-to-be.
18. Put your brides’ needs before yours.
Do what they want without ever showing any sign of displeasure (think frustrating last-minute location or time changes – 4 AM start in the middle of nowhere? No worries!).
You might make your bridal party look amazing but if your service doesn’t come with a big smile and a “no-problem” attitude, they’ll notice and you may lose your chance to make them your biggest fans.
19. Don’t dwell on failed trials.
They happen to everyone. Even the most experienced service providers can’t please everyone. The most important thing is that you did your best. Analyse and learn from trials that didn’t go to plan. You might need to ask better questions next time, or suggest more than one type of product. As long as you’re thinking about what you could improve for the next opportunity you can gain something.
20. Never give up when the going gets tough.
Half-empty bookings calendars? Infrequent enquiries or lots of enquiries but no bookings? It’s easy to panic but try to ignore the instinct. Instead, try to understand what’s behind this and see what you can do to improve things. Ask for feedback from brides after a failed trial, or ask honest friends to look and comment on your website and Instagram feed. It’s always good to get insight from a fresh pair of eyes who could also be a potential customer.
21. Don’t be shy to show off your testimonials.
It’s the best way to sell your work. Potential clients love seeing them and knowing that you consistently deliver the goods to your customers, is a great way to guarantee that they’ll book with you.
22. A “before and after” gallery is a must-have!
But make sure that the ‘before’ pics are taken in the most flattering light and with the most genuine smile. Your skills should be good enough to create beautiful “after” transformations and you shouldn’t need to artificially make your clients look worse in “before” pics. If you do that you run the risk of making them feel uncomfortable if they happen to come across them in your gallery.
23. Get a good mentor. They’re worth their weight in gold.
Having someone guide you, who’s walked the path you want to take is vital. You’ll gain wisdom from your mentor’s experience and discover insights that you’d never have had yourself, saving you huge amounts of time learning from mistakes or ineffective strategies.
And the last tip? Enjoy the unpredictable, crazy but fun and fulfilling journey. There’ll be challenging lows, but incredible highs and I hope these tips will help you to focus on the right things as you become a successful and highly sought-after MUA or hairstylist, famous for providing an incredible service to your clients.