Beauty On-the-Go: Mobile Makeup Artist

Destinee Cushing

Featuring expert advice from Destinee Cushing

If you want to work as a makeup artist but crave freedom, flexibility, and variation, becoming a mobile makeup artist might be perfect for you. You'll get to work in different environments, meet all sorts of people, and choose the bookings you are interested in. It can be a challenging path—but many feel the difficulties are worth it.

Sound appealing? Read on!

What Is a Mobile Makeup Artist?

Mobile makeup artists perform the same services that they would in traditional settings, but they go where the clients are rather than having clients come to them. They might go to residences, businesses, theatres, assisted living facilities, and many other locations—tools, equipment, and all.

Makeup artist Destinee Cushing applying makeup to a woman in a kitchen

Destinee Cushing is a licensed cosmetologist and on-site professional vintage hairstylist and makeup artist who founded the beauty services business Vinspire. Though she sometimes works in salons, she frequently finds herself at hotels, corporate offices, photo or video shoots, private homes, wedding venues, and, once, an aquarium. She's done makeup for public speakers before presentations and worked at "pop-up" salons that are sometimes part of public events.

She emphasizes the importance of thinking ahead and anticipating what you will need before you get in the car. "You don't know what kind of lighting you'll have for makeup," she points out. "I always try to bring my own lighting setup with me. You'd be surprised how dark some hotel rooms can be, even in the middle of the day."

However, no matter how well mobile makeup artists plan, they frequently have to improvise. They must work with what they have and walk the fine line between bringing too much equipment—meaning more heavy lifting and chances of losing things—and not bringing enough.

Note that although "mobile" generally refers to traveling to different sites, in some states it is a legal distinction reserved for beauty professionals who work out of campers, converted buses, or other vehicles. These states often use the terms "on-site" or "concierge" to refer to makeup artists who move from gig to gig but don't perform services in vehicles.

How to Become a Mobile Makeup Artist

Many mobile makeup artists start by working in a spa or salon, building a client list, and then transitioning into a freelance career—often while still keeping their salon job. Others start by working in retail beauty businesses.

Makeup artist Destinee Cushing applying prom makeup to a young lady

Cushing, however, took a different route—she actually started out working in marketing, not beauty. When she decided to switch careers, she knew she wanted the independence of having her own business, so she kept her marketing position while launching her own business. She connected with photographers and other professionals to market herself and build her client base.

Becoming a mobile makeup artist doesn't necessarily mean you have to start your own business. There are companies that specialize in mobile beauty services, like beGlammed and Spa O on the Go. Working for such a company can provide the stability of a salon but the lifestyle of a mobile makeup artist. Cushing mentions that although she has her own business, she has worked for mobile companies to earn extra money and network with new clients.

For those who do wish to start their own business, though, it is important to think things through before diving in. You should create a detailed plan and check into your state's licensing and insurance requirements. You also need to think about how you will build your business once you start it.

Start With a Plan

No matter your strategy for entering the field, becoming a mobile makeup artist requires significant planning. Although that plan will be different for everyone, you will need to consider variables like:

  • What equipment you'll need
  • What supplies you'll need
  • What services you'll offer
  • What you'll charge for services
  • How far you're willing to travel
  • What kinds of clients and events your business will focus on

You'll also have to think seriously about your budget—branching out on your own requires a financial investment in equipment, marketing and advertising, and, of course, transportation, among other things. Some mobile makeup artists partner up with mobile hairstylists, mobile estheticians, or other beauty professionals to pool client lists and spread out the responsibility and expense.

Check Insurance and Licensing Regulations in Your State

Before you start drawing up your business plan, make sure your state allows mobile beauty services in the first place—some don't. Some states permit on-site/concierge services, but not vehicle-based mobile beauty services. Some allow both vehicular and on-site services with limited restrictions, others with significant regulations. Further, in some places, makeup artists are only permitted to provide on-site or mobile services for specific clientele, like the homebound.

In virtually all states that allow mobile makeup services, you'll need to earn a special license or certification. Additionally, if your state does allow mobile services, you'll have to purchase insurance. Beauty Insurance Plus, for example, offers coverage to cosmetologists, protecting against problems such as rental damage, lost or stolen equipment, and liability.

Build Your Business

Cushing spends a lot of her workday updating her website, keeping up with her social media accounts, responding to emails, and scouring for new clients. The moment she falls behind, business drops off. You must have an online presence—a professional website, current and compelling social media profiles, and a YouTube channel packed with authoritative content. You should also build a profile, network, and list your services on top freelancer sites like Toptal and Upwork.

Don't forget that word of mouth is still a powerful force, and referrals from your current clients are the best advertising on Earth—and they're free.

Should I Start a Business as a Mobile Makeup Artist?

"Being on your own boss is equally liberating and risky," according to Cushing. Life as a mobile makeup artist brings freedom and independence—but it comes at a cost. The job can be unpredictable, both socially and financially. And the responsibility of earning a living is yours and yours alone.

The Pros of Being a Mobile Makeup Artist

Cushing says she wouldn't trade her job for anything. Why?

"I run around my city and get to see it from so many different points of view because of my unique job," Cushing said. "I also get to do a good amount of traveling for work, all over the country and world."

She talks about controlling her own schedule, picking the jobs she wants, declining those she doesn't, and the sense of ownership she feels over her life and career.

"When the work does come in, you aren't giving a hefty portion of the payment to a salon owner," she says. "That money is all yours. You earned it."

The Cons of Being a Mobile Makeup Artist

If job and financial security are important to you, starting a mobile makeup business may not be the best choice. "The uncertainty of exactly how much I'm going to make from week to week can be something that makes this line of work less than ideal for some," Cushing said. "You don't have a salon or retail company that is going to pay you for the time that you're at work, whether you get a client or not. If you aren't working, you aren't making money."

You will also need to spend a good deal of time on business endeavors such as marketing, finance, and regulatory issues. If these things don't appeal to you, you are probably better off working for someone else's company.

Meet the Expert

Destinee Cushing

Destinee Cushing

Destinee Cushing is a professional vintage hairstylist and makeup artist and the founder of Vinspire. She does freelance work full time in New York City, doing hair and makeup for photoshoots, video shoots, fashion shows, weddings, special events, and in-home beauty services. Destinee is a licensed cosmetologist in New York and has several makeup certifications in addition to her cosmetology school training. She found her passion for vintage beauty services when she started swing dancing in college, and it led her to pivot her career from Internet Marketing to doing hair and makeup. She loves her work and feels as if she's gaming the system by getting paid to do it!

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