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A Handy Guide to Pay and What to Expect as a Trainee Makeup Artist

by Natalie Wright
A Handy Guide to Pay and What to Expect as a Trainee Makeup Artist

A Handy Guide to Pay and What to Expect as a Trainee Makeup Artist

As a trainee makeup artist I was always unsure what I could expect to earn when it came to different jobs. I was just grateful to be thought of in the first place, and to be getting experience. Educating myself as to what was to be expected, was half the problem, hopefully this article will help guide you through. If nothing else, you will know you aren’t alone in your confusion! 

Firstly, you have most likely spent a lot of time and a lot of money perfecting your craft. Sacrificing sleep, your social life, bank account and much more. Working for free isn’t ideal but unfortunately in many circumstances it is a necessary evil, but trust us, your hard work will pay off!

 There are various ways to approach the big taboo subject of pay, depending on the sector you are working in. Hopefully the below will give you a better understanding and arm you for the beginning of your exciting new career.

Fashion Week Makeup Station


Fashion Week is, and most likely always will be, a freebie. You may get some complementary products at the end of it if you're lucky, but don’t expect a cheque. Nevertheless, it’s a great experience, just make sure you take full advantage of the free popcorn and tinned water. Always keep in mind, every job gives you an opportunity to network, paid or not.


Much like Fashion Week, Editorial is generally considered a privilege to be involved in. I know, you can’t pay your rent with privilege, but it’s a good way to get some high-end shots of your work for your portfolio. Some of the all-time favourite pieces of work I’ve been involved in came out of non-paid editorials, as the team you work with are such talented individuals at the top of their games. Travel expenses are sometimes reimbursed but try and manage your expectations in terms of a decent wage. Saying that, asking never hurt anyone.


Film is another medium in which rates will vary depending on the size and budget of the production. Student films for example are usually expenses only. However, if we’re talking a little less student union and a little more Pinewood, you’re looking at around £250 as day rate or as a daily artist. Let’s be honest, if you bag yourself a job on a film then you would probably pay them! I know I certainly would have when I was starting out.

 Prosthetic Workshop

If you are lucky enough to get to work in a Prosthetic/Prop Workshop, often the money isn't amazing, but the experience is great, and consistent. It is so nice doing a job where you have stability, set hours and are surrounded by incredibly talented people every single day. Your time at a workshop will likely include general tidying and cleaning, running flat moulds, spraying cap plastics, packaging pieces and delivering to set, life-casting, stock maintenance, tea and coffee duty (obviously), and a bit of painting, sculpting and finishing, if you are trusted to do so.

With Music Videos, the size of your pay packet will again depend on the size of the budget and/or the artist. If there's a label behind the artist you can expect to make £200 - £300 as a day rate. As a trainee your role on set will most likely be to assist the key makeup artist, or cover the makeup for dancers or extras. It’s actually really fun to do, and some of my favourite jobs have been in this sector.

Commercials are often paid based on APA rates (see link below). Filming time for commercials is often squeezed into as few days as possible, and almost always overrun. Most likely your designer will release you and any other assistants/ trainees if it looks like the commercial will run into overtime. (Unless you are entrusted with looking after a principle artist or there is a lot of crowd/extras)

If you are looking after a principle or crowd you’ll inevitably end up coming in super early, or hanging around a lot longer than you thought you would. In this case your designer will let you know what overtime you should be paid for. 

Pinewood Makeup Room

So say you get everything right? You do an amazing job, looks great on your CV, meet some amazing new people with the bonus of an excellent day rate. Be sure to keep an eye on your bank statements to ensure you are being paid your proper rate, ON TIME. If you, like me, struggle keeping track of your invoices then there are some great free apps you can use to do the work for you. My personal favorite is Invoice2go. Another great avenue for advice are the lovely people at BECTU, this is one of the many things they specialize in so be sure to take advantage and sign up! 

You haven’t invested this much to work for free your entire life. It does and will get better. Stick with it. Work hard. Good luck!


For more info on rates and salaries see below:

APA Recommended Crew rates including Makeup and Hair 

Bectu Hair and Make-up Resources 

Bectu Fashion Hair and Make-up Ratecard

Bectu Hair and Make-up Film Ratecard 

Nasmah National Association of Screen Make-up Artists and Hairdressers 

Production Base Rates of Pay 

Makeup Artist Salary (America)