I don’t usually do this, but there are some things that need to be said.

Disclaimer: It is not my intention to offend or single anyone out. This is written with the best of intentions. If you don’t want my view, then please stop reading now.

As you can imagine, we talk to hundreds of scalp micropigmentation and permanent makeup artists every month. During the course of our various discussions, we inevitably learn a lot about them and what makes them tick.

Almost everyone we talk to gets into this business because they want to do something good for people.

That’s right. It’s not about money. Or fame. Or opportunity. They do this out of love, first and foremost. The business plan is there of course, but that’s not their primary reason for doing what they do.

Let’s face it… there are easier ways to make money, right?

This desire to do good, to make people happy, to improve peoples lives, is a truly beautiful thing. It makes me proud of our industry and the people in it. But in so many cases, this ideal gets corrupted along the way.

We all know that as children, we’re full of wonder. Of hope. Of creativity. But then as we get older, we lose our innocence and often become guarded, cynical and risk-averse.

I see the same thing in our industry, every day.

I’m not saying we lose our passion. Although some of us do, its actually our PURPOSE that often falls first. We forget our mission and our dreams, and just as when children grow older, we become guarded, cynical and risk-averse.

10 Things Every Artist Should Do Right Now

I don’t have all the answers, but after 10 years in this business I believe I have a decent understanding of some of the issues that cause so many artists to feel disillusioned or demotivated.

If you want to work happier, be more successful and feel more fulfilled, here are the top 10 things you should consider. Some of them may apply to your particular situation, others perhaps not, but here goes:

1: Accept that business is really, really hard

Nothing stifles ambition more than feeling scared and isolated.

Ironic, isn’t it, that when business gets difficult and we don’t have a support network around us, we enter a self-perpetuating cycle that actually makes things harder? We hit a few brick walls and we convince ourselves that things will always be difficult for us. We lose our fire, at least some of it, and that makes things even more difficult.

The sad reality is that most businesses do not make it past 5 years. Running a business and making it consistently profitable is not an easy task.

But… remember why you got into this. You’re building something to support you and your family for years to come. Don’t let a hard day, week or month throw you off course.

Some obvious but practical advice:

  • Carefully monitor your cashflow
  • Minimize your expenses
  • Save the frivolous purchases until later. Yes, that includes the flash cars and designer furniture
  • Make every marketing penny count
  • Forget business cards and brochures. Trust me, they’re not a priority
  • Focus on sales, reviews and photographs of your work
  • Get found on Google
  • Never stop learning
Matthew Iulo
Matthew Iulo of Scalp Micro USA speaking at Meeting Of Minds 2017. Matt’s business is one of the most successful SMP companies in the world, but it took a long time and a lot of hard work to get to where he is now.

2: Stop trying to be something you’re not

There are many artists out there making huge amounts of money, enjoying all the trappings of success we want for ourselves.

So what do we do? We try to reverse-engineer what they did to get to where they are, and we try to emulate them.

But we’re missing the point.

Almost all of the time, those artists achieved great success because they are UNIQUE. They didn’t try to emulate anyone else. They didn’t copy anyone else. They didn’t spend too much time looking over their shoulder to see what others were doing.

They stayed true to themselves, and built the business of their dreams.

You can do the same. Not by trying to be them, but being the best version of yourself you can be, and molding your business around your own unique style and personality.

You’re never going to please everybody. Just do YOU, it’s what you’re best at, and you’ll find people who’ll love you for it.

Remember, we live in a heavily filtered, moderated, selectively revealed world. What we see on Facebook and Instagram does not reflect reality.

What we actually see is a 1% snapshot of reality, and even that is obscured. Those perfect photos of perfect results…  they simply don’t tell the full story.

There is nothing wrong with any of these practices, but you should be aware of what goes on:

  • I know artists who seek out the best looking models, and as part of their marketing strategy, do their procedures for free. Perfect skin. Perfect hair. Perfect lighting. And that’s the ONLY work they put out on social media. They make their money off of regular people who don’t quite match up.
  • I know artists who recycle their social media posts every 3-6 months, so they look busy even during quiet periods.
  • I know artists who ask their clients to wear different outfits on the same day, so it looks like they’re treating more clients than they really are.
  • I know artists who say they charge X amount, when the reality is very different.
  • I know artists who offer training, only because they’re struggling to find clients for treatments.

I’m not judging anyone who does any (or all) of these things, but its important for people to know it happens. Stop trying to measure up to something that is not real.

3: Avoid social media addiction

Facebook is addictive. So is Instagram. It’s also a proven fact that social media makes us depressed.

Micropigmentation artists spend a LOT of time on social media, so this is important.

Using sites like Facebook gives us a shot of dopamine, a highly addictive substance that we quickly get hooked on. Here’s Simon Sinek talking about the effects of dopamine on heavy social media users.

4: Closely manage your expectations

A successful scalp micropigmentation or permanent makeup artist is generally perceived as such if they make a lot of money. Some artists earn as much as $500,000 per year and are able to build teams, and perhaps multiple locations, to support further growth.

What many don’t appreciate however, is what it takes to get to that point.

Most successful artists had to work through years of financial scarcity while building their brands and businesses. It didn’t happen overnight.

Don’t fall for all the photos of Maserati’s, amazing homes and packed-out training classes. That’s not how 99% of the industry are faring. You can get there, but it takes time!

Furthermore, also consider what else you would need to do to earn, say, $500,000 per year. For that kind of salary, most of us would need to spend 5-10 years in higher education, spend a 5-6 figure sum on tuition fees and spend years, even decades, paying it all off.

It is unrealistic to expect the salary of a doctor or a lawyer, without a serious amount of work to make that happen. Time and time again I hear of people who complain they spent $2000 to setup, or even $10,000, to set up their business and get trained, as if that’s comparable to what others have to do to achieve that kind of income.

Get real people… that’s not how the world works! You want to spend $4000 on a machine and 5 day training course, and expect the income of a doctor or lawyer? That ain’t gonna happen without a lot of hard work.

5: Ramp up your marketing

The harsh reality is that without customers, you don’t have a business. The best training, the latest handpiece, the most beautiful office… none of this matters if you have no people to serve and no money coming in.

I’m sorry to tell you this guys and girls, but the market is only going to get tougher. Both the SMP and PMU industries are becoming more crowded. Customers are prepared to travel less and less, and there is ongoing downward pressure on prices.

To be successful, you have to work within the bounds of how things are.

Make sure you’ve done all the obvious things:

  • Your branding looks professional
  • You’re signed up on the most important social media channels (Facebook and Instagram) and have growth strategies for each
  • You’re registered on Google Business
  • You have a professional looking website with solid search engine rankings
  • Your office looks presentable and professional
  • You have a methodical consultation process
  • You make it easy for customers to contact you
  • Your pricing is appropriate
  • You actively pursue referrals and recommendations

With more customers and reliable cashflow, everything in your business, including your mood, is transformed. But take action… this isn’t going to happen on its own.

6: Seek proper support

Virtually every training course promises exemplary post-training support, yet so many people feel thoroughly unsupported and alone.

Isn’t that weird?

Of course you need to choose your trainer carefully, but that’s not really the main issue here. The simple fact is that most artists in this industry work alone, and no matter how supportive your trainer tries to be, they can’t be with you all of the time.

It’s no wonder so many people turn to Facebook groups. It’s scary running a business on your own, and even scarier when you have a client in your chair and you don’t know how the hell you’re supposed to approach their procedure.

Support extends far beyond just that provided by your trainer. It is true that the industry is way more supportive than it used to be, and we’ve made real strides in how we interact with one another and help each other. But many would argue we still have a long way to go, as I elaborate in Reason 7.

Find people around you who you like, and share the same values. Ask for help when you need it, and likewise be prepared to help if and when asked. This support network will serve you for years to come, so invest your time and build new friendships.

7: Avoid toxic people, but don’t be too quick to judge

In stark contrast to my points under Reason 6 (above), its disheartening to see so many bitchy and unhelpful comments on social media, made by one artist against another.

It is fair to say that our industry has some issues to deal with. Poor training, poor technique in some cases, unethical business practice and lack of regulation all cause many artists to react to situations in ways that are less than ideal.

On one hand, there are many industry veterans who have grown weary of the lack of education and proper training that rears its head so often on social media and elsewhere. In addition, many feel threatened by the huge influx of new technicians entering the industry, and report of bad work they’ve seen that they have to fix.

On the other, many newer artists are keen to learn and want to produce work to the best of their abilities, and like it or not, many of these people demonstrate extraordinary talent far beyond their pay grade. They are right to feel belittled and undermined, when they are judged solely on their lack of experience or gaps in their knowledge when they’re just starting out.

The consequence of this division?

A number of people act appallingly towards one another and are too quick to try to bash others or humiliate them online.

Many veterans offer a wealth of knowledge and experience and do all they can to support others, while others exude an air of smug superiority that it neither constructive or helpful. Many have a lack of empathy and patience with newer artists who are still finding their way.

Newer artists often feel disengaged with the industry, like they’re not in the ‘in crowd’. This leads them to treat veterans with disdain. Many do things that veterans know to be wrong or even dangerous, and show little regard for the consequences of their actions, or simply do not want to listen to sensible advice or constructive criticism.

Of course there are times when people need to be called out, but there are ways and means of doing so. Sometimes it feels like people are just trying to score points, and would achieve so much more if they tried to help one another instead of ridiculing them for their flaws.

Remember… behind every Facebook profile is a real person who is just trying to earn a living. We should never be too quick to judge harshly, particularly when we don’t have all the facts, as illustrated so well in the following video:

8: Say no to segregation

It is only to be expected that artists will eventually congregate under the banner of a particular product brand, or through membership of organisations or qualifying bodies. Some are new, while others are well established.

Most of the time, this is a positive thing. Artists discover new support networks, gain a more professional image or status, and get to rep the brands they’re passionate about.

However, this is not always how things turn out.

We have seen many cases where brands and their teams have been pitched against one another, causing disharmony and division where previously none existed.

We have also noticed that certain accreditations are often used as markers of superiority, usually without just cause, causing resentment among equally talented people who do not possess such accreditation, or have no desire to obtain it.

I am a huge advocate of partnerships and ongoing education, the value of which cannot be denied. However, it is important to remember that as an industry, we are all ONE team. We should be pulling together, not pitching ourselves against each other in anything other than friendly and well-spirited competition.

9: Learn to handle problem customers

One of the most common reasons why artists lose their way, is because they get knocked off course by a particularly difficult customer. Sometimes this is the result of a less-than-optimal result. Sometimes the customer is just an asshole.

Dealing with difficult customers is part of being in business. This applies regardless of occupation, location or price point. What’s important is how situations like these are handled.

If the artist is at fault

The most important step is to acknowledge there is a problem.

Depending on insurance or liability implications, it may be that fault is acknowledged internally but not to the customer. Other artists may choose to admit the error to their customer. Either way, a resolution cannot be reached until some kind of acknowledgement is made.

The most important thing here is communication. Remain calm and professional. Do not ignore your customers calls or messages, and do not allow yourself to be bullied. Take reasonable steps to resolve the matter, and see it through.

If the artist is not at fault

Remember that the work of a micropigmentation artist is subjective and open to opinion and intepretation.

The first thing you need to do is to honestly and calmly ascertain whether your customer is raising a reasonable concern, or if they’re being unreasonable. Try to be objective and neutral in your assessment.

This is where having your paperwork in order, an effective consultation process and managing expectations become really important.

If the customer is being reasonable, perhaps they changed their mind about the style of treatment or maybe they’re just freaking out, then my advice is to work with them to come to a resolution. They will almost certainly thank you for it and review your business favorably.

If the customer is being unreasonable, do not allow yourself to feel threatened or intimidated. This is where the various support groups come in, enabling you to seek help from other artists who may have experienced a similar situation.

10: Acknowledge your abilities and limitations

Often, particularly in permanent makeup, artists can lose faith in their own talent. This usually happens for one of the following reasons:

  • A particularly difficult customer
  • A lack of customers
  • Negative comments from other artists
  • Poor training

The first thing you need to figure out, is whether or not this is an actual problem for you.

If your skills are not where they need to be, you need to be honest with yourself and seek further training. There is no shame in admitting when you need help.

If your work is good, then your mindset needs resetting. It’s easy to get thrown off course… it happens to the best of us… but remember this is YOUR business and YOUR future. Don’t let anyone bring you down without good reason.

Have your say

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2 thoughts on “From The Heart: 10 Things Every Artist Should Do Right Now

  1. Michelle says:

    Excellent article really resonates with starting and running your own business in both SMP & SPMU and it is very much like being on a rollercoaster but definitely one of the most rewarding industries on a good day and isolating on a bad day but articles like these and conversations and the events we have help to overcome the isolation

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