Being a professional makeup artist should be as simple as finding people who want to hire you for your makeup services, right?
However, if you want to get high-paying gigs such as makeup for weddings, photo shoots, and more, you may need to be licensed. Here’s why: Many venues won’t work with you unless you have a business license. That’s because they want to protect themselves if you or your employees accidentally damage a client’s property (it happens!).
Plus, clients may be willing to spend more money for a professional makeup artist who is certified and licensed, especially if they’re hiring you for a large event.
The process can be a little confusing, which is why we’ve dedicated this article to spelling out which licenses you should have as a professional makeup artist, as well as certifications that you don’t need.
What Licenses Do I Need as a Makeup Artist?
A Makeup Artist License.
Good news here: There’s no official makeup artist license that you need to begin working as a makeup artist. However, there are exceptions to this rule that are important to be aware of, such as:
If you plan on doing makeup AND hair: If you’re adding hairstyling to your overall services, your state may require you to get a cosmetology or beautician license. This specific license indicates that you’ve been trained to apply makeup and style hair (in some states, it is called a beautician license).
Each state has different requirements around getting a cosmetology license, so if you’re interested, check out this directory to find your state’s specific requirements.
If you plan on doing makeup, hair, AND skincare: Want to expand your services even more? Then it may be a good idea to get an esthetician license, which means you’re legally allowed to perform a variety of services, including makeup application, hair care, cosmetic facials, face treatments (like dermaplaning and medical facials), and more.
Getting an esthetician license is a little time-intensive, as a number of states require you to either go to a trade school or complete an apprenticeship. However, a lot of makeup artists we talked to said getting an esthetician license is a great way to expand your services.
Again, each state has different requirements for getting an esthetician license, so we found this handy directory to help you find your state’s exact laws.
If you’re thinking of opening a retail location or spa: If being a freelance makeup artist is that first step toward opening your own place, it may be a good idea to get your cosmetology or esthetician license right now. Most states require you to have a cosmetology or esthetician license to open up your own place, especially if you’re planning on providing haircare or skincare services.
If you’re only focused on being a freelance makeup artist, you may not need any of the above licenses. But if you’re planning on working at wedding venues or want to align your services with photographers, theater programs, or other professionals, you’ll likely need a business license.
A Business License.
Having a business license isn’t just a legal requirement; it also can be key to getting clients to trust you and hire you.
Wedding venues probably won’t allow you on their premises if you’re not licensed and insured. Prominent professionals may be reluctant to work with you if you don’t carry a business license and insurance, as you could be a liability to work with.
And you may find yourself running afoul of the law if you don’t have your business license, depending on the state where you’re working.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to determine if you need a license for your makeup artist business:
- Visit the Small Business Administration’s website and search for your location. This will allow you to see any state and city requirements around getting a business license.
- Complete and submit all forms required by your state.
- Pay your license fee; this could range from $40 to $400, based on the state where you’re located.
After submitting your application, you should receive your business license within one to two weeks.
Depending on your state, you may find that you’re not required to get a business license. If that’s the case, we recommend double-checking with your city or town hall to verify this information. You may not need a state license, but your city may require you to register your business.
Is a Makeup Artist Certification the Same Thing?
Getting certified as a makeup artist is not the same as being licensed. For the most part, getting certified means that you passed some makeup artist courses.
While a certification can show customers that you know your stuff, it’s not absolutely necessary before you start a makeup artist business. Plus, you may still need a business license if you’re planning on working with other vendors or growing your makeup artist business. So if you’re worried about spending money on makeup artist certification, a lot of makeup artists recommend skipping the certification altogether.
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