How to become a bridal makeup artist or hair specialist
Bridal hair and makeup can be a lucrative avenue for beauty professionals, either as a specialism to earn extra income on the side of a day job or as the main focus of a business.
But getting started in this field can be daunting. So we toast down with bridal hair and makeup specialist, Jai Prettejohn, from The Event Studios to get her take on the best way to go about setting up as a bridal hair and beauty expert.
Jai switched to a hair and beauty career after initially training in forensic science. In 2001 she completed a two-year, Higher National Diploma (HND) course in hair and makeup artistry.
She then went on to work as a makeup artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company. But while she was there, she decided that improving her hairdressing skills would be important. So she started working for a hairdresser on top of her responsibilities with the RSC to gain some workplace experience.
Jai also continued to do makeup and eventually built her skills and reputation as a wedding hair and makeup specialist. In 2010, she launched The Event Studios with her husband and two friends, to offer a range wedding services, including wedding photography, floral design and bridal hair and makeup.
Here, Jai gives us some of her top tips for succeeding as a bridal hair and makeup specialist. Read on to find out more.
Wedding hair, makeup or both?
Those who can combine hairdressing and makeup artistry are in high demand, in bridal work but also other interesting areas like film and TV special effects work.
Jai believes that it’s definitely useful to be able to do both. ‘For the bride, it means fewer people to organise and coordinate with. And from a professional perspective, doing both can probably make things flow more easily as they are fully in control of the order and timings.’
They are, however, two separate fields of expertise, so if you haven’t had sufficient training in both hair and makeup then it’s better to ‘partner up’ with another local professional.
You could create a business partnership, limited company or simply develop a loose network, working with others on a flexible basis when the work comes in.
Another option is to sell a comprehensive hair and makeup service, then bring in a qualified professional that you know to take care of the areas that you aren’t trained in.
Startup costs and setting your rates
It’s important to consider the startup costs that come as part of becoming a bridal hair and makeup specialist. ‘Your kit needs to cover different skin types and tones which in itself is a big investment that takes time to get back.’ says Jai. ‘You also need to remember that makeup expires, so maintaining your kit is a rolling cost.’
All of these costs need to be taken into account and covered, which means that setting your fees is crucial.
But this can often be a difficult area for those who are new to self-employment. Although there is no surefire way to do it correctly, there are two common approaches that you can take:
- Cost-based pricing which involves working out what providing a product or service will cost you and then adding an acceptable profit margin.
- Value-based pricing which is based on figuring out what customers will be prepared to pay and setting your fees based on that.
When it comes to setting your prices, Jai‘s advice is to ’Value your service, your training and your time.
‘Consider the fact that you‘ll have to do a rehearsal in addition to the wedding itself, pay ongoing transport costs and spend hours each month on communication and administration.
‘You need to look at yourself as an administrator as much as a hair and makeup artist, and make sure these costs are covered.’
It can be hard to increase your prices if you start too low, and not charging enough from the start could also mean you end up being recommended to people who can’t afford the increase.
‘It’s trial and error and you need to ensure that it’s a manageable cost for your area.’ says Jai. ‘That being said, don’t assume that you know how much people are prepared to pay and undercharge. It’s a special service for a special day and if you value yourself highly it gives your customers confidence in your abilities — it’s a transferrable thing.’
One way to experiment with prices is to start with a relatively high rate and give customers a temporary discount. That way, you can prolong the discount as long as you like, reduce the amount or get rid of it altogether. By doing this, you’re giving yourself the option to regularly adapt your prices without looking like you’re always changing your mind.
Finally, make sure that you have a clear payment policy set up before you agree to take on any clients. As many brides will book these services well in advance of their weddings, taking deposits and having clear payment terms will minimise cancellations and make it easier to control your budget and calendar.
Many wedding service providers require full payment in advance and Jai advises against collecting payments on the day itself as it can add pressure to an already busy day.
Advertising your bridal hair and makeup prices
Many bridal services do not advertise their fees openly on their websites and publicity materials. The Event Studios is among them and Jai explains why: ‘Every quote will be personal as there are variants to the cost of service, e.g. the number of people that require hair and makeup, and the location of the wedding.’
A quick Internet search will show you that most experts believe being upfront about charges (even if you only provide a range) has some benefits including helping to save you time dealing with customers who would never be willing to pay your fees.
However, Jai believes that it’s ultimately a personal choice. ‘I’ve known people and companies that have done well both ways. I used to advertise prices but I took them off because I wanted to encourage more opportunities to build a relationship and help prospective customers understand the service that they’ll receive. Brides-to-be aren’t just paying for hair and makeup skills, we provide a full service that includes making them feel special, remaining calm in a pressured environment and educating them about their look and their pre-wedding skincare routine.
Learn some photography skills and build your portfolio
As the old saying goes, ‘an image tells a thousand words’. No matter how beautifully you describe your services on your website or Facebook page, it will mean little to potential customers until they can see the results for themselves.
‘It’s important to have a decent camera, and I actually think that doing a photography course or at least shadowing a photographer is essential.’ says Jai. ‘That doesn’t mean learning how to Photoshop your pictures (and never take photos with a beauty filter as they can look blurry!), but things like getting the right light balance and knowing how to adjust the exposure of you photos are important for creating a beautiful image.’
So unless your photography skills are up to scratch from day one, it could be worth hiring a photographer to give your images a professional look and help show potential customers what the quality of your service is like.
Once you’ve done this, the next step is to find some models. Although, this shouldn’t be too difficult to do, given that you’re going to make them look fabulous!
Including real customers in your portfolio could be a great way to show off the quality of the service that you provide, which could help you to gain further customers in the process.
As Jai explains, ‘I like to show potential clients a full package of what they can expect, so I’ll ask brides if I can include their professional photos in my portfolio. I’ll also try and get to know the photographers wherever I work. Wedding makeup needs to look good on camera as well as in person, something that’s easier to guarantee if you’re working with a photographer that you already know.
They can also be a great way to bring in new business as they’re often booked before hair and makeup artists, so their recommendation of your service can be a great way to get new clients.’
Your bridal hair and/or makeup business will most likely be a mobile service. So you’ll almost certainly need a reliable vehicle to help make it a success. Preferably this wouldn’t be shared with other professionals, so you can have round-the-clock access, and get to a job on a moment’s notice, if necessary. ‘A small van would be ideal or at the very least, one with a decent boot and cup holder!’. Jai explains.
Signage to advertise your services on the outside of the vehicle is a bonus, but Jai warns that it shouldn’t be at the expense of reliability. ‘It’s all well and good to have something that looks fancy, but if it develops a fault, that could be costly to repair. So get a car that can cope with being a bit of a workhorse... and something you don’t mind getting muddy when you turn up to do weddings on farms!’
If you use the same vehicle for both leisure and business purposes, you’ll need to make sure that it’s insured for both uses. In most cases, driving to clients’ homes and other places in the course of your business will not be included under the umbrella of ‘commuting’ use. So making sure that you have the right insurance for your mobile beauty business is crucial.
Want to know more about life as a hairdresser? Check out our interview with Dom Lehane, founder of Hair Club Live to get an insight.
To find out more about becoming a hairdresser, click here.
We’ve also created an interactive tool to help you style your own pathway to success, with information on everything from starting out in hair and beauty, to managing your taxes and VAT. Click here to take a look.