The beauty and wellness industry offers an abundance of career opportunities, not necessarily in a salon or spa. There are numerous non-traditional career paths that licensed cosmetologists, barbers, estheticians, massage therapists, nail technicians, and makeup artists can pursue. All you need to do is think outside the box to find a career that’s right for you.
Here’s a list of some non-traditional career paths for you to consider:
Are you a fashionista? Then you might want to consider working behind the scenes in the fashion industry from runway shows, photo shoots, and editorial work. The best way to get your foot in the door is to assist a key hair or makeup artist who is already established in this area of expertise. Celebrity beauty professionals can command between $1,500–$3,500 for a full day, depending on the scale of the production and the size of the budget. The rest of us mere mortals charge per person or a flat day rate that is commensurate with experience. The average per person rate is between $75-$200 and flat rates start at $250-$500 per day.
Your day will typically start early around 7:00am and end around 5 or 6:00pm. This may also require prep work prior to the photo shoot or fashion show. Many stylists still work part-time in the salon when working in the fashion industry, since there is usually prep work with each of the models.
If you want to take this path, also consider working with one or more of the many retail establishments, such as a Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom’s. Catalog and e-commerce sites offer consistent work and is often the bread and butter for the many artists.
Look into hiring an agent to represent you? Their standard fee is usually 10–20% of your earnings and they don’t take an upfront fee. In addition to booking you for jobs, they also bill the client and track down payments owed to you.
If you want to try out this path, showcase your talent by creating a website. Think of it as your online portfolio, an easy place for people to view your extraordinary talent. There are very easy and inexpensive options out there to get started, like Wix or Square. Upload your work and post all the clients you have worked with. Link all your social media accounts to your site. If you want more help building your strong personal brand, check out this read (link Online Marketing in the Beauty Industry)
Film and Television
Is working in film and television a dream of yours? Do you love research and period pieces? Is the thought of creating iconic looks for some of the most memorable characters interesting to you? Every production has a makeup and hair department, teamed with beauty professionals. We know what you're thinking, “I don't live in LA or NYC. There’s no way I can work in film or television.” Believe it or not, location isn’t a deal-breaker. Plenty of opportunities for work as a freelancer on-set can come in many shapes and forms; you just have to be willing to explore them.
In the Atlanta-area for example, TV commercials, and corporate video productions typically pay around $300-$450 for a half-day rate, $450-$850 for a full day. Feature films and scripted TV shows (Union productions) can certainly pay more, depending on where you fall within the tiered pay system on those productions. Reality TV shows (which are non-Union shows) run about $150-$350/day (depending on the season, network, budget, and if you are handling both hair and makeup on your own or if you are sharing that budget with someone else).
This is not an industry for people who have a need of planning several days in advance, and do not have the ability to be flexible in scheduling. It is not at all uncommon to have shoot dates, times, and locations change all at the last minute. Your personal life will be scheduled around the jobs you take on. The average workday is 10 hour or 12-hours. At times, even 13-15-hour days will happen. If you are working on a TV show or film, you are working many weeks at a time on that project. In addition, you could be on shoots that start early evening and go overnight, etc.
To break into this industry, you must be willing to be on any job they have you on the call sheet. Your personal life will take a hit, but if this is a path you want to explore, you may need to make a few sacrifices to achieve your dreams.
Love being the center of attention? A career as a platform artist might be the perfect career fit. It requires traveling, teaching, and inspiring other industry professionals while on stage at beauty shows or other industry events. You will demonstrate the latest collections, products, and techniques.
Platform artists work for a color or product line, demonstrating the latest trends and innovations in the beauty industry. They are the spokesperson for a specific brand and as such are required to be exclusive, so if you like experimenting with different product and brands, this may not be a good fit for you.
The average fee a platform artist makes is between $600-$800 a day plus expenses. This fee varies based on technical and presentation skills. If this a path you want to explore, being comfortable performing and educating on stage is a must. Next time you find yourself at a beauty show, make sure to stop and watch all the live presentations, take notes, and approach your favorites. Ask them how they got started and what advice they have for someone interested in becoming a platform artist.
Most beauty and wellness professionals begin by presenting and educating locally, then progressing to regional, national, and international stages. You can reach out to your local distributor or manufacturer rep and set up an informational interview to find out the best way to get started. If the thought of reaching out to strangers to ask for help intimidates you, read our LINK Networking for Beauty Professionals guide.
Mobile or Freelance Beauty Professional
More than likely, you've heard terms like on-call, freelance, on-demand, remote, or even mobile beauty professionals. Although each of these careers sounds different, they all have one thing in common: you are not working in a traditional salon, spa, or shop.
Today, many professionals are choosing to work as freelance artists (or any of the titles listed above) because they can provide a great deal of flexibility and freedom. However, it can also require a great deal of work because you are self-employed.
If you are considering becoming a freelance professional, remember that it’s not as simple as throwing your tools and products into your car and showing up at a client’s house. As a matter of fact, there are several key factors you need to take into consideration before you take the big leap.
Does your specific state allow you to operate as a mobile/freelance stylist or artist? If your state allows, you will need to obtain any necessary operating permits and licenses.
Do you have a business plan? You will need to create one to outline your business strategies. Remember: this is your business, and you are personally responsible for all business-related tasks such as marketing, purchasing supplies and tools, tax reporting, insurances, etc. A plan is crucial to making it as a freelance beauty professional. If you're looking for some tools to help you build this plan, check out our online classes.
Once you have a plan, and you have made an inquiry and have received the green light from your state, begin contacting companies that hire freelance stylists. Thanks to technology, more and more companies offer on-demand beauty services or on-call beauty services. These companies are looking for freelance beauty and wellness professionals to help fill their on-demand beauty appointment needs. Clients in many states can book their on-demand beauty service with a simple click. I like to refer to this concept as the “Uber” of the beauty industry. Once again, do your homework: you want to make sure that these companies are working by the laws and regulations set by your state.
Next, consult with industry experts in the areas of business licenses, liability insurance, and proper tax filings/reporting as a freelance self-employed professional. Running your own business is no small feat; you must learn the ins and outs of running a business so that you stay out of legal and financial trouble.
Just like any other career path, working as a freelance professional requires taking the time to do your research and knowing before you take the leap that it will require a great deal of self-discipline. If you’re a self-starter, multi-tasker, and invested in small details, this might be the perfect career choice for you.
Passion for adventure and the open seas? Working as a service provider aboard a cruise ship salon or spa can provide the opportunity for travel, filled with a variety of clients and experiences.
Requirements needed to work on a cruise ship are at least 18 1/2 years old, a licensed professional and at least 1 – 2 years salon/spa experience. Part of the interviewing process is a background check and you will need a visa, which your hiring company will help you with.
Service providers earn between $2,000 – $2,400 a month and in some cases are required to pay a stipend for their food and uniforms. Before you sign any contracts, make sure you fully understand what the terms are and what is expected of you, especially any out of pocket costs.
Steiner is the most recognized company hiring beauty and wellness professional across a fleet of cruise ships. They offer comprehensive training at their academy in London prior to starting. Once you are hired and completed your training, they will assign you to a cruise ship. Unfortunately, you do not have a choice where you will be assigned. Schedules are typically 12 hours long, 6 days a week and you are expected to upsell services and sell retail.
Working on a cruise ship offers a chance to see the world while doing what you love. A typical contract is 8 months and you can re-sign for another 6 months if both you and the cruise line agree. The days are long, and since you are sailing the seas, your friends and family are your shipmates for the duration of your contract.
Teaching is a rewarding career. You get to share what you learned working in the industry with the next generation of future industry professionals (and shape the future!)
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 4% growth between 2014 - 2024 for all post-secondary vocational education. Instructors are typically employees and earn an annual salary and benefits. They earn an average of $49,500 a year.
You will need a license in your field of study, 2 – 3 years of experience in the industry, and an instructor training certificate. Community colleges offer teaching certificate programs as well as some cosmetology schools. Check with the schools in your area to find the right program for you. There are also plenty of ways to increase your expertise as an instructor beyond your initial school. In fact, Milady has been certifying educators for over 25 years through the Master Educator online classes and in-person workshops. Most likely, at least a few of your instructors in school hold this certification.
Each state has its own set of regulations, so before you venture into anything new, check with your state board to find out what requirements need to be met and then put your plan in place to achieve your goals.
Do you have an eye for details? Being an image consultant gives you the opportunity to put it all together from head to toe. Coach clients on wardrobe, hair, and makeup. You can also work with clients in the media spotlight to help them look their best.
An image consultant/stylist can charge anywhere from $50-$500 a session depending on reputation and experience.
There is no formal training needed to be an image consultant/stylist, but it is highly recommended to join professional organizations. The Association of Image Consultants International is a highly respected organization, offering certification to help you establish credentials and valuable education.
These are just a few careers that are available to you outside of the traditional salon, spa, or shop. Your opportunities are endless.