Anonymous: Hey, I see you have fantastic experience! I love your work and would love to hire you for our project!
Me: Oh thank you! I would love to work on your project. What is your budget?
Anonymous: We don’t have a budget, but we are giving free meals and an IMDB credit!
……….Let’s see a raise of hands (aka likes) if you have had this happen to you? I can’t count how many times this has happened to me. I’ve been a working artist for over 8 years now, 4 years specially in film. In those four years, I have accrued about 7 feature films under my belt. This was something I only recently realized is a big accomplishment from a friend of mine. I’m rather hard on myself as an artist and think I should be at like, 3o, Ha! But we are our own worst critic right? Anyway- That’s besides the point…..
Did you know out of all the freelance hair/makeup artists in the fashion and entertainment industries, only 1% actually stay freelancers?! We as freelancers always get the short end of the stick. Especially as a makeup artist in LA. There are thousands of us, and many who ARE willing to do the work for free. #thestruggleisreal but Just because we are freelancers, it doesn’t mean we work for free.
Let me get one thing straight though- When you are in the beginning stages of becoming a makeup artist, expect that you will be doing a lot of free work or internships. But do these with caution! Make sure the reason why you are doing these gigs for free will help you in the end result. For instance- building your portfolio, working on student films for the experience, assisting your mentors, getting work in a magazine, etc.
I, however, am at that super awkward stage of my career: The “struggling” stage. I don’t get approached for free work as much as I used to, but I still get approached quite often to do work for only a kit fee. Now…will $25 for a three day short film with 12 hour days help me with my bills that add up to over $2,000/mo? eh..not quite. But with that being said, if or when there is no work, how can you say no? Well….when it’s that low, I typically just say, “No.” haha
I want to emphasize to anyone in the struggling stage, or the beginning stage: know when and where to say Yes or No to these gigs. There are times when saying yes to free work, it can lead to amazing opportunities! Buuuuut on the other hand, if the end result doesn’t benefit you in some way or another, pass it along.
“Good, Fast, and Cheap. You only get 2 out of the 3.” -Alix Koochaki
Take a moment to think about this quote. I wish this was in every persons mind when they start the hiring process for their makeup/hair department. On anything. Everyone should want GOOD and FAST, meaning it won’t be cheap. Who wants Fast and Cheap…. then you won’t have good right? Then all that’s left is Good and Cheap- Now fast is out of the equation, and time is money, right??
I suggest if you are approached by situations like these, write out the pros and cons of the outcome. If there are at least 5 pros, maybe the gig is right for you! But know your worth. In the first 2 years of working in the business, these experiences will only help you. You’ll learn the good and the bad. Some of the best experiences I have had were from low/no paid gigs. These experiences helped me realize the right questions to ask in order to avoid certain circumstances. We learn from our mistakes, right?!
To all of the artists with 3+ years still being asked to do gigs for free, know that you are not alone. (**like I said, there is a time and place when to do these free gigs, I’m not saying to NEVER EVER do them. For instance, in a few months, I am offering my services to an actor friend of mine who will be attending a red carpet premier. Of course I’ll do that for free.) I’m no agent, so I can’t sit here and be like…. year 3 ask for $xxx, year 4 ask for $xxx, etc. But I can be your cheerleader in telling you to never under-sell yourself, only do free work when it truly benefits BOTH parties, and don’t beat yourself up if you still are approached by these low/no paying jobs. Being a freelance artist is one of the HARDEST careers to stay in. Keep your head high, stay positive and remember:
We are free lancers, NOT free workers.
Amber Talarico- Director/producer of What It Takes: a film about hair and makeup artists