Building your brand as a freelance MUA

Building a brand as a freelance make-up artist can feel like a mountain to climb. The market is more saturated than ever before, with the added complications of social media and online presence. With so much to consider, we turned to the king of branding himself, Michael DeVellis, for advice on the matter.

Branding is, by definition, the act of creating, representing and promoting a company’s specific personality, values and manner of doing business. In a world, and industry, that is as crowded as that of the professional make-up artist this is no easy task. Just a few short years ago the story was a very different one. An artist who wanted to make a name for themselves would literally beat the pavement and knock on doors to get in front of potential clients, the biggest agents, industry experts, mentors and so on.

Fast forward to 2016 and how times have changed. The media attention around make-up artistry as a profession has soared, and as a result so have the number of make-up artists starting out in our industry. Television programmes such as Face Off and Ru Paul’s Drag Race have put the artistry of make-up front and center in our public consciousness. Shows like Dancing with the Stars, Project Runway and The Voice have given us a look behind the scenes at the process of creating a star – make-up and hair being a part of that look. Social media – YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and more recently Snapchat and Periscope – have provided the broadest audience yet to the art of make-up.

This is all fantastic news for our industry as it provides a relevant and visible stature to a career that was, for the great part of the history of our industry, in the shadows. It also means, however, that the working make-up artist has to make even more of an effort to create a viable and strong business today. Successfully branding yourself is the first, and possibly most important, way to start – or restart – the focus on your business development.

Let’s dig in deeper on some of the ways you can look to build a strong brand, get the attention in our crowded industry that you need to get the work you want. There are a number of key criteria, both from the standpoint of being a real, tangible artist interacting with others and the online presence that runs parallel, which will help define your brand and allow you to stand out.

Be clear on your story
In a field of many, what makes you, you? What makes your business stand out as distinctive to others? By defining the things that define you and your story, you can connect to potential clients and industry partners in ways that are unique to you and your business. Most importantly you must try to make your story as distinctive from other artists as possible. While many make-up professionals got their start working in retail cosmetics, you may have been one of the first male make-up artists at your counter. Some artists get into the field accidentally, but maybe you are a third generation beauty professional. Even something as simple as these examples can help separate your story from others and provide a stepping off point for you to connect with potential clients.

Know your audience
No business, no matter how brilliant in concept and how well run, will be the right choice for every client in your marketplace. Who are your ideal clients? What are their demographics, what is their background, what are the features they look for in your type of business? If you cast your net too wide it can be very difficult to make all of your potential clients happy. What is the thing that your clients come to you for? What makes your audience tick? With my company, The Powder Group, we are among many global businesses who educate in the business and craft of make-up and hair. Yet despite this competition we have one of the longest operating businesses in this field and have created a community that is unrivalled in the industry. Our audience is looking for two things in particular – our experience and expertise in creating strong educational programmes and access to our community of like-minded professionals.

Communicate a clear value proposition
Once you have defined who your audience is, it’s time to give some thought to what it is that you offer which will be worthy of their valuable resources – these being money and time. As an artist in our industry you provide a service that your clients need, but so do many others. What is it exactly that allows you to ensure that they know that you are ready and able to provide exactly what it is that they are needing in an artist? Building a strong value proposition means being able to state to your potential clients, “this is what you need and this is what we are going to give you.”

Define your voice
Every brand stands for something, and while it is next to impossible to have the only voice in your type of business in your market, you need to create a strong and unique voice that represents your brand. Your voice is both literal and figurative, and can take the shape of your verbal communication, email and marketing language and social media tone. How your voice resonates with different clients will be a main characteristic of your brand – that may be a no nonsense approach, or to be funny and entertaining, but be sure to keep it clear that you are offering an expert opinion.

Create consistent visual elements
Consistency is king in branding. This goes for the little things and the big ones as well. The type of text you use for your name on your business card must be the same as the landing page of your website. Your brand – which as a freelance artist is your full name – must be present everywhere in your branding and marketing. Your website is strongest when it is yourname.com, and your email address should follows suit as firstname@yourname.com as well. Your social media should all fall under the same branding or name. Everything that you communicate with should also work within the same font choices and color schemes – right down to your invoices, contracts and email signature.

Get personal
As an individual who is running a freelance business – you are your brand. You want to show people who you are, what your energy is, what they can expect when they do business with you. This can go back to the discussion of your “voice” but then has to be carried through to a visual representation of you and what you do.

Michael DeVellis is founder and executive director of The Powder Group. He has more than 18 years experience working with leading make-up artists, product lines, trade events etc. 

This article first appeared in Warpaint Magazine.