Whether you work in film, fashion or weddings, being a makeup artist in the UK usually involves being self-employed and working on a contract basis rather than being a permanent member of staff. The Producer's Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) recommends £200 per day for a freelance junior makeup and hair assistant. Permanent, salaried makeup artists positions start much lower than this and are extremely hard to find. Yet they offer more regular hours, job security and potential for promotion. Competition for these is tough but those with good skills, persistence and a confident personality might find these roles as lucrative as elusive freelance work.
Many cosmetics retail companies employ makeup artists as specialist consultants. Even for qualified makeup artists, entry level roles in retail involve product demonstrations, customer service and cash handling. Salaries do not start high and makeup work for pharmacy brands usually starts at minimum wage, which all retailers should adhere to. This is currently £6.19 for over-21s. Most high-fashion companies pay considerably more. In a department store you should be able to start in a role that pays at least £12,000 per year. This can increase quite rapidly as you gain experience and a strong sales record, up to as much as £23,000. Team bonuses as well as commission tops up the monthly salary. You are also likely to get free products, and occasionally a grooming allowance.
Once you have gained some commercial experience as a makeup artist, cosmetics brands offer roles as regional or national representatives. While, being retail based, these jobs involve travelling, working on special events and even occasional fashion or editorial shoots. Salaries can be attractive because these fall under retail management pay structures, similar to roles like area manager and trainer. You could expect to earn £30,000 for a good quality cosmetics brand and more if you have excellent experience coupled with a good sales record and strong negotiation skills.
One of the few non-retail sectors to offer permanent, salaried makeup positions is television. Unlike retail, television work requires full training before starting your career, and keeping hair and makeup skills up to date. Salaried roles are few and far between, so permanent positions are hotly contested. As the UK makeup industry is heavily reliant on freelance work, and fairly unregulated, salaries are extremely variable. The BBC cites £15,000 - £25,000 per year as an average makeup artist's salary in 2013.
Spas and salons occasionally have makeup artists on their permanent staff. Smaller establishments are more likely to employ beauticians, who can do makeup but have other skills, such as nails, spray tanning or waxing. Some top salons, in big cities, have makeup studios offering lessons and make-ups by appointment. Salons do not always offer a good basic salary but they will pay minimum wage. The Guardian 2012 national salary survey results records a median salary of between £11,700 and £14,800 per year. Beauticians and makeup artists rarely earn high rates like hair stylists, but you can often supplement your income with tips.