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 Permanent Makeup industry growth
The UK brow market by itself is worth a whopping £20million according to market research by The NPD Group. Permanent makeup (or micropigmentation) is one of the fastest growing and most profitable areas within the beauty industry.
As this market continues to grow, so do the opportunities for career choice and progression. Whether you want to be self-employed, or join an existing clinic or salon, it is a great career for flexible working hours, offering the option to travel overseas with your skillset if you wish.
What is Permanent / Semi-permanent Make-up?
Permanent /semi-permanent makeup is a form of tattooing where tiny amounts of mineral pigment are inserted into the skin using a needle or manual tool. It is basically using a needle to place pigmented granules beneath the upper layers of the skin. The technique used will depend on which procedure is being carried out. For example, microblading is another form of semi-permanent make up, but instead of using a needle, a blade is used to gently cut the skin before implanting the pigment, to create the illusion of hair strokes. The effects of both eyebrow tattooing and microblading are long-lasting but vary depending on many factors including (but not limited to) skin characteristics, sun exposure, practitioner technique, pigment colour choice, skin type and medication. Pigment will fade slowly over time, as it is not inserted as deeply into the skin like a traditional tattoo but because we cannot predict when the pigment will be completely gone from the skin, it can be referred to as permanent make up rather than semi-permanent make Up (although many artists use both terms interchangeably to market their services). When done properly by an experienced artist, its benefits are well worth it.
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 aesthetic purposes – such as wanting to give the illusion of fuller, more defined lips, or for medical reasons, such as creating a colour on a reconstructed nipple following breast surgery or to camouflage scars / pigmentation issues.
Seeing a client happy with their cosmetic tattooing results can be really rewarding.
How much you earn as a permanent makeup artist (PMA)?
The cosmetic makeup industry is a profitable, growing market. How much an artist can earn will depend on the decision on whether to be self-employed or work for someone else, as well as the marketing strategy and budget.
Working as a sole trader allows for flexible working hours and location, 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?
The cost of permanent makeup services can range from £75 (beauty spots for example) to £800, with some top-end artists charging as much as £1,000 for work, which gives an idea of how profitable the industry can be.
While a successful artist can earn over £100,000 a year, realistically the average salary is around £30,000 to £50,000 per year. This is significantly higher than a conventional makeup artist earning 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.
What Training Course?
In the United Kingdom there are several accredited and trusted permanent makeup courses providing skilled training for makeup artists.
Before deciding on which course to take, make sure the training provider has all the necessary qualifications and accreditations required. You should also check with your local council what is necessary 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. Worryingly, ‘how to tattoo eyeliner’ is still one of the most popular searched terms on search engines in relation to permanent makeup. 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!
Many permanent makeup training courses have finance options available. Whilst may seem expensive, an investment into a good training course and products 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.
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?
As with any sort of freelance beauty work, it is extremely important to get the correct insurance for your needs. 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.
A number of well known insurance companies can provide a personalised quote for you, depending on your requirements. BABTAC can offer some guidance on this matter and their website is worth looking at: https://www.babtac.com/
Having solid insurance cover will take away unnecessary stress and worry. A good policy should cover all key 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
The next step is to get a licence to carry out treatments. You’re only allowed to work if you are doing so safely and are compliant. your local council will ask for certain documents from you to prove that you are. In many cases they will also want to come and inspect the premises you are using to see that all of their criteria are met. They will typically require a copy of your clinical waste contract (for collection of your clinical waste and sharps), a detailed description of the items you are using and their compliance with UK regulations. They will probably ask to see your training certificates, insurance policy, an electrical PAT test certificate and a fire safety certificate. Requirements vary between councils and it is worth noting that some councils in the UK will only issue licences to individuals with a government approved qualification, such as a 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! This is where your practice becomes a reality. Experience is everything. As part of your training course you should have experience working on models with your trainer overseeing this. However, 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 learn the most, putting everything you have learnt during your training to practice.
Friends and family are a good place to start. You should already be very comfortable using your device and handpiece/microblade, from all the hours you have spent practising on your training mats. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced permanent makeup artist, you can always improve your technique or be brought more up-to-date with current trends, whatever your level is. Practise, practise, practise! There are other materials you can practise on, such as banana skins and floor lino, as well as pig skin, due to its similarity with human skin. Of course, if you are Vegan, this may not suit you and rubber mats are just as useful for getting in some practise.
Once you feel comfortable and confident enough, you can advertise 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. 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 be there to support you at the beginning, so if you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to get in touch with them, rather than taking a risk. No matter who you are working with, they have entrusted 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!) and be organised.
Read through your training notes before you begin.
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.
Your client should have done a patch test before they come for their 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?
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 your qualifications, your background, your price list, locations covered, your contact details and your social media handles. 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. With your client’s permission, also include portfolio images, these are extremely important in selling your work. 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 client base, reputation and buzz. There are many platforms to consider – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and more. Use these accounts to share approved client photos and industry news and trends. Content is everything.
Videos are very important so don’t forget to create a YouTube account (through a Google account). YouTube is the mecca for showcasing your talent via tutorials. If you can, share pictures of before and after photos using permanent makeup.
Find your niche and follow celebrities and influencers in it. 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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
During your training as a permanent makeup artist (pmu), you will have been taught how to use certain branded products and your trainer should be able to offer advice on what to buy, to fit your budget. It’s also worth asking friends in the industry on what they use.
Make sure any items you buy meet UK requirements regarding certification and product testing, so that they meet all health and safety requirements.
Self-employment VS 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 beauticians are, because t can be very rewarding being your own boss and working the hours you want, where you want. However, being mobile comes at a price and means you have to have products and equipment that are always on the go with you. Consider how you will get around with your equipment and how many clients you will be able to see 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 decide to work for a salon, you’ll need create a CV or at least drop off a business card / leaflet to local salons / clinics in your area, or where you would like to work. You can also check adverts on noticeboards and websites like Gumtree, as well as through contacts. Don’t be scared to ask for help when you are building your business.
The decision to go freelance is an exciting one, but it takes preparation and time to build a client base and portfolio. Word-of-mouth and reputation are everything – people like to spread negative experiences, so always aim for your client to leave you happy. You may decide to start off by offering a discount or promotional offer to attract new clients.
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 3 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
Third Space Spa, Bulstrode Place, Marylebone, London W1U 2HU
The Ritz Laser Clinic, 12 Station Approach, Northwood, HA6 2XN
Email me on: Suki@permanentnaturalmakeup.co.uk
Call me on: 07525820681
My website: http://www.permanentnaturalmakeup.co.uk/
Suki Su, April 2018