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.
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. However, that's when it might be a good idea to have a makeup artist certification from a school or online program.
This certification demonstrates to clients that you're continuously going through training, plus you're up-to-date on the latest beauty industry practices.
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.
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 our Business License hub and click on the state where you're located. 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.
Important note: If you need to get a beautician license or a business license, your state may require you to take out a business insurance policy.
Depending on the type of coverage you get, your business insurance can protect you from claims of negligence from unhappy clients, help you meet state requirements, and even make it easier for you to rent a chair in a salon.
At Simply Business, we make it easy for makeup artists to find affordable insurance policies. Just use our free quote comparison tool to find makeup artist insurance policies from the nation's most trusted insurance providers. If you see a policy you like, just click to buy - you'll be insured in minutes!
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 anyway.
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 makeup artist 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.
From setting up your business's website to getting your first clients, our FREE guide on how to start a makeup business will show you the steps to take to become a successful makeup artist!
Want to learn how to start your own makeup artist business? Download our FREE guide today!
I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner - I've had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!
Mariah writes on a number of topics such as small business planning, contractor insurance, and business licenses.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated insurance carrier by AM Best. Harborway Insurance is a brand name of Harborway Insurance Agency, LLC, a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. California license #6004217.