If you’re think about becoming a permanent or semi-permanent makeup artist, it isn’t as easy as you may think it is. It takes time, lots of training and perfection, together with upfront costs for equipment and training. You also need to consider licenses, council regulations, premises and insurance.
Here is a quick guide to get you started.
The beauty industry and permanent makeup
You might be surprised to learn that the eyebrow market in the United Kingdom alone is worth a whopping £20million? Permanent makeup tattooing is one of the fastest growing and most profitable areas within the beauty industry.
As the beauty industry gets bigger and bigger, so do the options of career choices and development. Whether you want to be self-employed, or join an existing clinic or salon, it is a great career for flexible working hours, with the option to travel overseas with your skillset if you wish.
As with starting any new career, the road ahead or where to even start can be a scary prospect and sometimes off-putting, but believe me it will be worth it in the long run.
Let’s start at the beginning….
What is Permanent / Semi-permanent Make-up?
Permanent makeup is a cosmetic treatment which uses tattooing (permanent pigmentation of the skin) to produce results that look like real, natural makeup, such as eyeliner and other semi-permanent enhancing colours applied to the face, lips, and eyes. It is very frequently used to produce artificial eyebrows, especially in those people who have lost them through old age, over-plucking, alopecia, chemotherapy, or a genetic disorder, and to disguise scars and white spots on the skin e.g. with vitiligo. It is also used to create or enhance breast areola (nipples) after breast surgery (mastectomy). Permanent makeup is also known as pigmentation and cosmetic tattooing. The most appropriate is cosmetic tattooing, since permanent makeup is applied under sterile conditions like that of a tattoo.
The most popular permanent makeup treatment is for eyebrows, since many of us over-plucked back in the day when it was popular to have thin eyebrows. Oh, if only we had known! There are various permanent eyebrow techniques. Some clients opt to have a solid brow and have standard tattooing. Others opt for Ombre brows which fade from light in the center to darker on the edges. This can be achieved through powder brows also. Microblading is a slightly different technique which uses a blade instead of a tattoo machine, to create hair strokes to emulate real hair. A combination of both is sometimes used, depending on the client’s wishes.
How long permanent makeup lasts will vary from person to person as it is dependent on skin characteristics, how your body breaks down foreign objects in the skin (the ink), pigment used, how well the treatment has been done by the practitioner, exposure to sun light, medication and much more! For most clients, it means smudge-free makeup from the moment you wake up. A great benefit of permanent makeup is that it can be used for aesthetics. It can be used to create the illusion of fuller, more defined lips, to camouflage scars / pigmentation issues or to recreate 3D nipples after surgery.
Seeing a client happy with their cosmetic tattooing results can be really rewarding.
How much you earn as a permanent makeup artist (PMUA)?
How much you can earn as a PMU artist will depend on the decision on whether to be self-employed or work for someone else, as well as your marketing strategy, skills and budget.
Working as a sole trader allows for flexible working hours and location (multiple locations also), so income can vary greatly. If working for a salon, you will be limited to a pay rate or they may take a percentage, depending on your agreement.
A successful artist can earn a 5 or 6 figure salary depending on their location, marketability, client base, qualifications, reputation and experience and whether they work for themselves or for an existing clinic / salon.
How much does a permanent makeup treatment cost / how much should you charge?
How much you can charge again is dependent on the above factors. Starting costs in London, for example, for a simple beauty spot (think Cindy Crawford) is from £80. On average, permanent eyebrows usually cost £350-£500 on average, unless you have a high reputation for amazing brows with celebrity clients, then you can charge more.
It is possible to earn over £100,000 a year but realistically the average salary is around £30,000 to £50,000 per year. This is significantly more than your regular makeup artist who can earn approximately £20,000-£25,000 a year in the UK. This is no doubt due to permanent makeup being viewed as a highly a specialised profession requiring much more skilled training and upfront costs to get started. Regular makeup can just wash off if you don’t like it!
What Training Course?
This is something to really do your homework on before paying out, as it is very expensive and you want to get it right. In the United Kingdom there are several accredited and trusted permanent makeup courses providing skilled training for makeup artists. I will list some below which have great reputations, but it is down to the individual to make an informed decision to make sure that course is right for them.
Before deciding on which course to take, make sure the training provider has all the necessary qualifications and accreditations needed. You need to also check with your local council what is required for you to have in terms of qualification, in order to be issued a license.
As with any lucrative industry, the popularity of permanent makeup has resulted individuals carrying out unqualified treatments. You will find individuals out there who think watching Youtube videos is enough. If somebody needs to be watching Youtube videos or reading on the internet about how to perform permanent makeup treatments, clearly they are not professionally trained – you definitely wouldn’t want them treating you! Having a verifiable certification from a reputable training company will put you in good stead and provide confidence with potential clients.
There are quite a few permanent makeup training courses with finance options available. Whilst may seem expensive, an investment into a good training course and equipment can be made back very quickly.
Some popular courses include:
However, please do you own research and find the course that is best for you. Finding a cheap course isn’t necessarily going to teach you correctly and in the required level of depth to walk away confident.
No matter what your background is, with the correct training, there is no reason why you can’t start a new career in Permanent Makeup. Obviously, a background in the beauty industry is advantageous and will help, but it is not essential. The flexibility and freedom a career in semi-permanent make-up offers is very appealing.
What insurance company should you use?
It is extremely important to get the correct insurance for any sort of freelance beauty work. This is especially true if you are self-employed. Whether you have your own treatment room, work as a mobile artist or work in someone else’s premises, you need to be covered in the event of a legal claim or accident.
There are a few well known insurance companies can provide a personalised quote for you, depending on your requirements. BABTAC can offer some guidance on this https://www.babtac.com/. An affordable insurer is INSYNC so definitely take a look at what they can offer. https://insyncinsurance.co.uk/beauty-salon
With a good beauty insurance, you can relax and not worry about any action being taken against you. Your policy should cover all major areas, including (but not limited to) contents cover, liability and legal expenses.
Check what qualifications / documents they require in order to get insured and have this information ready for them.
Applying for a license from your local council
After your training, you’ll need to get a licence to carry out treatments. You can only work if you are doing so safely and are compliant with regulations. The council will ask for documentation from you to prove that you are compliant. It is also normal for them to want to come and inspect the premises you are using to see if you meet all of their criteria. They will usually require a copy of your clinical waste contract (for collection of your clinical waste and sharps), a detailed list of the items you are using and their compliance with UK regulations. They will probably ask to see your training certificates, insurance papers, an electrical test certificate (PAT test) and a safety certificate for fire regulations. What each council requires will vary and some councils will only issue licences to individuals with a government approved qualification, e.g. VTCT Level 4. You can read more about the courses available here: https://www.vtct.org.uk/qualification-category/beauty-therapy/
Practising on models
Now you’re all set up, it’s time to practise! As part of your training course you should have experience working on models with your trainer overseeing this. The first time you work on a model on your own and out of a controlled training environment can be worrying. However, this is the time when you will accelerate the most, utilising all the skills you learnt on your training course.
Friends and family are a good place to start. You should already be very comfortable using your device, from all the hours you have spent practising on your training mats. Whether you are just starting out or an advanced permanent makeup artist, you can always improve your technique or get more up-to-speed with the latest trends.
Practise, practise, practise! There are other materials you can practise on, such as banana skins and floor lino, as well as pig skin (very similar to human skin). Of course, if you are Vegan, this may not suit you and rubber material mats are just as useful for getting in some practise.
Once you feel comfortable and confident enough, you can start marketing your treatments. There are several avenues for advertising which I will cover in the next section. The more models that you can work on the better. Some new artists will offer their services for free or greatly discounted, just to get the practise in and build their portfolio of photos. Work at your own pace and don’t rush. Remember you can say no to any work you do not wish to take on if you don’t feel comfortable. This is especially true at the initial stages of working if someone asks you to correct someone else’s work. Keep in mind that even if the client is just a model, or if they’re paying, as soon as you touch someone else’s work, it then becomes your work which could lead to problems if the previous work was bad. Make sure you take photos at every step of the treatment to cover yourself – you will need this for insurance purposes as well as confirmation with your client what they agreed with you.
A decent trainer should always offer support to you at the beginning, so make sure you get in touch with them with any concerns or queries, rather than taking a risk. No matter who you are working on, they have trusted you to work on their face and their safety and expectations of the treatment are so important.
It’s common to be nervous when you first start out working on models, so here are some other top tips:
- Be on time (or early!)
- Be organised
- Keep calm – breathe!
- Read through your training notes before you begin to refresh you memory
- You will need to give a full consultation to your new client before you begin. All consent forms and medical history forms need to be filled in and signed. You will also be responsible for looking over their answers and checking there are no issues with carrying out treatment. The most important aspect is managing a client’s expectations Your training provide should have given you the basis for consent / consultation forms.
- Each client should have patch test before they come in for their full treatment and this will have been covered in your training course.
- Dress appropriately and remain professional at all times – keep smiling – you will have all sorts of personalities walking through the door, so remaining neutral is extremely important.
Advertising Your Business
So how do you get your clients and build your business? This is indeed a huge task and will take time. The more you put in, the more you will get out, but be patient.
You’ll need a name – decide if you want to just use your name or go with a business name. When considering this, check domain name availability as well as social media to see if what you need is available. Keeping consistent across all platforms is a good idea, if possible. Try to keep is simple so there is less chance of people making mistakes when looking for you online. Check out www.one.com or www.names.co.uk for potential domain names.
Ideally, you’ll need a website if you want to come across as a serious business. Having a Facebook business page is fine, but it is seen as an easy, lazy way to promote your business, plus this isn’t going to work as well for search engine optimisation (e.g. Google search results).
Unless you’re technically minded, you may want to pay for a web designer / developer to create your website. They will need information about yourself, including information on your experience, your qualifications, your price list, locations covered, your contact details and your social media details. They will also need to know any other pages or functionality you want on your website, such as a blog, social media feeds, a database, a newsletter sign up to capture details to market to later down the line etc, so they can quote accurately. Keep in mind when treating clients that you need as many photos as possible, so ask for their permission at the time and include portfolio images on your website – these are extremely important in selling your services. Also consider if you need a logo designed, as this will cost more.
At a minimum, your website needs to cover the basics and show that you have an online presence.
Once your website is up there, nobody will know it is there unless you tell them. It will need submitting to search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, as well as local directory listings. If you have the budget, you may want to invest in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) so people searching online can find you on the first pages. Keep in mind that SEO is very time- consuming job and that you will be looking to spend anywhere from £300 a month for a decent provider, to make any impact. You’ll also need to install Google Analytics on your website to monitor its performance, including where the most traffic is coming from, from your efforts.
Get some business cards printed advertising your website and social media. Flyers promoting your services with promotional offers are always a good idea and think about where you can circulate these e.g. at your local gym, your local supermarket noticeboard, other non-competing salons etc.
Social media is massively important and shouldn’t be underestimated for growing your business. There are many platforms to consider – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and more. Use these accounts to share approved client photos and industry trends and news. Content is everything.
Videos are very important so don’t forget to create a YouTube account (through a Google account). YouTube is the hub for showcasing your work. If you can, share pictures of before and after photos using permanent makeup, or show the process from consultation through to finished product. Video tutorials are always a great way to get attention online.
Look at local non-competing businesses in your area and interact with them on social media, as well as interact with their followers, as they will usually be local too and may be interested in your services at a later date. If you are on their radar, they will come to you when they are ready. In a similar vein, look at what your competitors and doing and do better! Follow any celebrities and influencers in your niche.
Word-of-mouth is extremely important in the beauty industry and creating a solid reputation is key. Try to get testimonials from all clients that you can use on your website and social media.
If marketing seems an overwhelming chore and you just want to focus on treatments, I recommend getting in touch with Zena http://www.zenamaywebservices.co.uk/ who can help with everything from the start – branding, design, web build and SEO / social media marketing. Email email@example.com for more info and a quote.
Buying Quality Treatment Products
A good workman never blames his tools, right?… Hmm maybe not…
You’re only as good as the tools you use, so it’s worth investing in high-quality products that adhere to the highest safety standards. Although budget might be tight, it’s best to be safe and not take risks with cheap products.
You will have been taught on your training as a permanent makeup artist (pmu how to use certain branded products and your trainer should be able to offer advice on what to buy, to fit your budget. If you know anyone else who works in the same field, ask themalso for any advice. Buying a product that someone you know has used and knows is good, is a great start as you don’t have to worry.
You need to oake sure any equipment you buy meets UK requirements regarding certification and product testing, so all health and safety requirements are met.
Self-employment or working for someone else?
There are pros and cons of both working for yourself and working for someone else. You have to choose what is right for you and you can always change your mind later!
Of course, going to work for an established business takes less effort to get started, as that business owner would have put in the effort to get their business out there already and will already have their own client base. You will have regular income, albeit less than being self-employed. Working in a salon or rented space great for building relationships and long-term clients, whether it is your own salon or someone else’s. It comes across as more professional and you may not be comfortable with people coming to your own home anyway. Getting out of the house is a necessity for some people, as is going to work in an office. Some people need a routine and the more social aspect to working away from home each day. If you are working in someone else’s premises, it may mean that some of your insurance costs are covered as well as the council license. You should never assume this though and you must check what you are covered for and what you still need to sort yourself. A downside to working for someone else is not having the flexibility to work the hours you want on ad-hoc basis or expand your client base. If you are a Mum, for example, a flexible career is very important.
Despite the extra effort to get set up being self-employed, the majority of beauticians are, because it can be very rewarding being your own boss and working the hours you want, where you want. But consider this – being mobile comes at a price and means you have to have products and equipment that are always moving with you. Consider how you will travel with your equipment and how many clients you will be able to treat in a day.
Not having a salon mean you will have to put yourself out there more to find work and let people know you’re there. They won’t be walking past you in the street without a shop front. If you can open your own salon, then great! Whether you take out adverts or rely on word-of-mouth, marketing is key to being successful. Being self-employed means having to file your own accounts – you can do that yourself if you wish or employ an experienced accountant. Consider than less overheads of having your own fixed salon, means more profit for you in the long-term, once you have got the word out there and started to build your client base.
If you make the decision to work for someone else, you’ll need create a CV or at least leave a business card / leaflet to local premises in your area, or where you would like to work. Checking adverts on shop noticeboards and websites like Gumtree, Craig’s List etc is a good idea. Don’t be scared to ask for help when you are building your business from any existing contacts you may have.
If you decide to stick at being a self-employed freelancer, then the road ahead is an exciting one. But be prepared to take a lot of time to build a client base and portfolio. Word-of-mouth and reputation is everything – people like to spread negative experiences, so always aim for your client to leave happy. It might be an to start off by offering a discount or promotional offer to attract new clients. I know when I started I offered services for free initially just to build up confidence and my portfolio.
It’s all about letting people know you’re there and getting seen, as well of course and providing the best service you possibly can and doing everything correctly.
Working in beauty is not always easy or cheap to get started, but it’s a rewarding career and a very popular, lucrative industry. I have been doing permanent makeup now for 4 years – I love my job and wouldn’t change my career choice for the world! I have chosen to work from 4 different clinics, on a self-employed basis. I provide permanent makeup Harley Street, eyebrow tattooing Harley Street, semi-permanent makeup Harley Street and permanent makeup north london. In Northwood, there are not many other clinics offering Microblading near me. Of course semi permanent makeup London is a very competitive market.
You can find me at:
The EA Clinic, 99 Harley street, London W1G 6AQ
Lule Hair & Beauty, 54 Bridge Street, Pinner, HA5 3JJ
Gig Hair & Beauty, 2 Church Street, Rickmansworth, WD3 1BU
Skin Transform, 186 New Road, Croxley Green, WD3 4JH
Email me on: Suki@permanentnaturalmakeup.co.uk
Call me on: 07525820681
My website: http://www.permanentnaturalmakeup.co.uk/
Suki Su, April 2018