I know, I know, not all people born in August are Leo’s, but doesn’t it kind of feel like it? And that’s the way they would want it. (That’s a joke for the astrology crowd.) I’ve got a lot of Leo’s in my life and we tend to get along well, so I’ve got nothin’ but love for my lions. In tribute to them, I am calling this August recap “The Leo Month Recap.”
In August, Allison Barbera Beauty celebrated 11 years in business. I have a pre-teen! That’s crazy. We had 15 weddings, a bunch of trials and some corporate shoots. All of the brides I personally worked with this month were awesome awesome awesome. Jamie, Caroline, Taylor, Victoria and Kate–you rock! Thank you for being so great to work with.
We also booked a lot of 2020 weddings, which I’m psyched about. Next year is going to be BANANAS busy, y’all. We ready.
I tried the Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation (which Sam from Pixiwoos raves about), but I got a lighter shade that I needed so I’ve just been using that on the center of my face with my regular MAC Face & Body that matches me on the rest of my face. I need to get the right shade of Light Wonder to use on my whole face so I can really review it. I also tried her Legendary Lashes Volume 2, which I liked a lot.
On the personal front, I had some fun times with friends old and new. I had a party with several friends and relatives to celebrate 11 years in business and we had a blast. I dragged my mom to a bunch of stores to help me find more furniture and decor for my apartment, and we were successful even though she pointed out the SAME EXACT CHAIR I told her I didn’t want, thrice. I took my father to Animal Adventures in Bolton, MA for a private guided tour (his Father’s Day present) and he had the best damn time.
I started physical therapy for this (the doctors think) vestibular disorder I’ve had since last October. It messes with my balance and I’ve tried a lot of things to fix it, but PT is the first thing that seems to be helping. I’m still not totally out of the woods, but I can’t tell you how much of a relief is it have found something that is helping.
August was overall a good month. It maybe didn’t feel as balanced as July, but it didn’t bury me as much as June did. Now we are in September, the second busiest month of the year for AB Beauty. It’s September 5th, and we’ve already done four weddings with two more happening tomorrow and four more on Saturday. That’s 10 in seven days, if you’re counting.
And that means I should probably go to bed. I’ve got two great brides this weekend, and they deserve a well-rested makeup artist.
Like every other entrepreneur and small business owner, I’ve got a lot on my plate. I do as much as I can to be organized, and I systemize whatever I’m able to. There are some business tools and resources that have made a world of difference in my solopreneur life, and I am thankful for all of them. So let’s close out this Top 11 series with a list of my business essentials that will probably still be in my life 11 years from now.
Hatch Tribe Members Circle. If you’ve read this blog before, you know how I feel about the Hatch Tribe Members Circle. Hatch Tribe is a group that “cultivates and connects women entrepreneurs,” and the Members Circle is the amazing online platform for the Tribe. With a very reasonably priced membership (which you can do annually or monthly), you get access to a ton of free classes, posts about topics relevant to business owners and the opportunity to ask the many other boss ladies in the Members Circle questions. I’ve learned so much and made so many great connections and friendships since I joined the Members Circle. It’s one of the most important resources in my entrepreneur life.
17Hats. For years, I did my contracts and invoicing in Microsoft Word. It was inefficient and made the wedding booking process take much longer, since people had to print and mail their contracts, and I had to do the invoicing math myself (instead of letting software that didn’t almost fail every Math class it ever took do the work). I knew I had to find an online client management system that I could send contracts and invoices from, so I did some research (aka had the person who was doing some admin work for me do some research) and landed on 17Hats. Between that and starting to accept credit cards, the booking process has been cut down from 7 – 10 days to three or less. I can also send the questionnaires we have for various things right from 17Hats, which makes for a quicker response time. There are a lot of other functions in 17Hats that I don’t use and probably should, but the contract, invoicing and questionnaire functions alone are worth the $300 every two years.
Stripe. I held off as long as I could with accepting credit cards because I knew that the processing fees would add up. But eventually, I caved in and chose Stripe. I knew that we had lost some wedding clients because we didn’t accept credit cards, which makes sense since around 60% of couples who pay for their own wedding use credit cards. I did the math (about 17 times, and mostly got the same answer each time) and realized that if accepting credit cards made it so we booked two to three weddings in a year that wouldn’t have if we didn’t accept credit cards, that would cover the credit card processing fees. So I took the plunge, started accepting credit cards and made us a more appealing wedding vendor for potential brides.
Square. Let me give you some numbers. I currently have 19 Independent Contractors on the team. We have 10 weddings in the first seven days of September alone. There are sometimes as many as six people from my team at a wedding. And they each bill AB Beauty separately for every job. Paying out for jobs used to be one of my most time consuming tasks. I would review all bills on the designated day (which I still do to make sure they are correct), print each bill, enter it in Quickbooks, pay each bill, print all of the checks, sign them, put them in envelopes, address them, mail them, then staple the check receipt thing from Quickbooks to the bill I had printed and file that. It was a monster task which I was doing once a week for most of the year. I finally thought, This is insane! and starting thinking about a better way to do it. I landed on direct deposit, and after my attorney gave me the okay to pay Independent Contractors using that method (you can’t mess around with worker compensation laws), I did my research. Square was the best option for me, and at only $5 per Independent Contractor per month (and they don’t charge you for an IC if you don’t pay out to them that month), it’s affordable. They also prepare and file 1099s for you, which saves me money that I would have otherwise spent having my accountant prepare and file those. But mostly, using Square for direct deposit has been a giant time saver. I still have to review bills, pay bills and enter them in Quickbooks, but I don’t have to deal with checks or printing anything (which is better for the environment too). Switching to direct deposit in Square was one of the smartest business decisions I’ve ever made.
OneTab. I like open windows in my house, because I enjoy the ocean breeze (most of the time) and hearing the hustle and bustle of my busy neighborhood. But open windows on my browser? It can be both overwhelming and distracting. My tech guy, Dan, also told me that having a bunch of windows open slows down your computer, and is there anything more maddening that that?!?! He suggested OneTab, which allows you to put Google Chrome windows–or tabs, if you will–you are not actively using to sleep without losing them forever. It saves them for as long as you’d like, which is key for me because sometimes I have sites that I don’t need to look at for a while after the initial time, but I know I will later, and I don’t want to have a zillion bookmarks. When those tabs are snoozing, they’re not slowing things down, so your computer can be its best efficient self. I’ve been using OneTab for several years now, and I recommend it to anyone who ever looks at more than one website. (If that does not apply to you, who are you? My father?)
Google Calendar. My last job working for someone else was at a construction company. I was the Office Manager, and I learned a lot from my boss, Ralph. He used Google Calendar to keep track of his appointments and reminders about tasks that needed to be done, and now I do the same. GC runs my life. It allows you to create various calendars and share them with different people, so I have a company calendar so the Independent Contractors on my team can see job details, and a calendar that only I can see with all of my meetings and personal appointments, as well as reminders for the 70 million tasks I have to do. I have recurring reminders, like “Review Independent Contractors Bills” every Wednesday morning, and one time reminders like “Follow up with 9/8 wedding planner re: location change.” The email reminders pop up on my laptop and phone, and get sent to my inbox so I have no excuse. I would forget 90% of the stuff I was supposed to do without GC, so I honestly don’t think I would have gotten very far without it. Thanks, Ralph!
Dropbox. Girl, you looks good, won’t you back those files up? That was from Juvenile’s lesser known recent hit, “Dropbox”. I guess he uses the same file hosting service as I do to back up his files. Interesting! Backing up files is of course super important for any business, and Dropbox makes it easy. I pay $10 a month, and all I do is copy some folders into Dropbox when my weekly reminder comes up. It’s one of the easiest tasks I do all week, and also one of the most essential.
The E-Myth Revisited. I don’t know any business owners who don’t read business books. We all crave the expertise from experienced bosses who have succeeded in their respective fields. I first read The E-Myth Revisted in the early years of my business, and it forever changed the way I look at my company. Author Michael E. Gerber talks about the three main types of jobs entrepreneurs often do: the Technician (in my case, Makeup Artist), the Manager and the Entrepreneur. His advice is to hire Technicians and Managers and solely be the Entrepreneur. As someone who has been filling all three roles for the past 11 years, I agree that choosing one–namely the one that grows the business–is the smartest choice. I re-read this book every year or two and it helps keep me motivated.
Quickbooks. I first learned how to use Quickbooks when I was an Office Manager in Delray Beach, FL in 2004 – 2005. The OG of accounting software is still widely used today, and I’ve found no reason to switch to another one. Taking care of your books may not be the sexiest part of being a business owner, but it has to be done. I could fully outsource everything I do in Quickbooks but for now, I can handle most of it and my bookkeeper comes quarterly to reconcile and make sure I’ve entered everything correctly. Quickbooks allows you to run reports to show all kinds of details about income, expenses and comparison to previous years. As a business owner, you have to know your numbers–and know them well–as they tell you how your business is doing. Vital information, don’t you think?
My Business Advisors. I don’t have all of the answers (in business and in life). I probably don’t even have half of them. That’s why I crave advice from the business-minded people in my life. Sometimes that means my Members Circle girl gang, my family members who also run shit, or my friends who–even if they don’t own a business–have experience in the business world. I don’t turn to my advisors with every question I have, but when I’m really grappling with something, I hit ’em up. These folks have helped me countless times, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
My Family and Friends. I’m probably not an easy person to be close to, hopefully mostly due to my career. Being friends with me requires a certain level of understanding, because this entrepreneur lifestyle is not the norm. (My family is kind of just stuck with me and forced to try to understand it. Sorry, guys!) I’m very lucky that the people I’m closest to get it, and therefore get me. They are one of the big reasons I started a business–so that I could spend time with them without having to potentially get denied a time off request. When someone else dictates your work schedule, that impacts your free time, which then affects how often you can see your friends and family. Sure, I’m limited by my workload during wedding season, but I still do get to see my friends and family more than if I had a 9 – 5. I’ve got a lot of spectacular, loving, funny, intelligent, kind and considerate people in my world, and spending time with them is what keeps me going. I’m not going to say “keeps me balanced,” because I’m not nearly as balanced as I’d like be (and I don’t just mean because I’ve had a vertigo-like thing since October). But they keep me sane, or as sane as a Type A, INFJ ambivert entrepreneur can be.
And that does it for my Top 11 series! It’s been a supa dupa fly 11 Years In Business Anniversary Month for AB Beauty. Business is great, my team is killing it and we’ve left a trail of happy clients in our wake. I’ve got a lot more than 11 things to be grateful for, that’s for damn sure.
Full disclosure: I’m not a hair stylist. I have no professional background, and any knowledge I have comes from AB Beauty hair stylists or from hair stylists I’ve gone to. But I do have a lot of hair! It’s naturally curly and dark brown (most people think it’s black) with blue on the ends. It’s prone to frizz and my scalp is more dry than oily. I have gray hairs in the front, and while I don’t have a ton of them, I have enough to be annoying, so I get a color touchup every 5 – 7 weeks. My hair grows crazy fast, which is good for the times I’ve gotten a bad haircut and bad for the roots touchup schedule. My locks are long and I’ve got follicles a plenty, so for most of my life, hair stylists have needed to schedule extra time for me.
Due to my hair type and the fact that (not to be cocky) I get a lot of compliments on it, I think I’ve been using the right products. I’m giving all of the credit to the pros who have guided me, but I think they would be good with me sharing my Top 11. So here we go.
Olaplex No. 3 Hair Protector. I put my hair through a lot. Twice a year since 2013, I’ve been having the bottom third of my hair bleached and then colored blue. Blue touchups follow every month or two, and gray coverage color every 5 – 7 weeks. Up until June, I blew my hair out straight (or someone more qualified than me did it for me) once a week. I now occasionally let it air dry and rock my natural curl, but it’s usually blown out. And when it is, I sometimes add in big curls with a two inch curling iron. So between the bleaching, hair coloring and heat styling, my hair can show some damage. Olaplex 3 repairs that damage, and it does it well. I use it 2 – 3 times a month, and my hair looks and feels better every time. I’m convinced this product is saving my hair from looking and feeling like hay.
Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo. This shampoo came out after Olaplex 3, and was recommended to me by Kristin, one of the licensed AB Beauty cosmetologists. When I use it (before Olaplex 5, which I’ll get to next) after an Olaplex 3 treatment, the combination of all three products does something magical to my hair. Before this came out, I used Olaplex 3 with whatever shampoo and conditioner I had, but it didn’t feel or look quite as good as when I do the 3, 4 and 5 together.
Olaplex 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner. This could have been grouped in with Olaplex 4, but hey, I needed 11 products! This conditioner is part of my Olaplex Dream Team, so I love it. Some conditioners leave a film on my hair, but Olaplex 5 does its job then rinses away perfectly. Bravo, No. 5.
Moroccan Oil Treatment Original. I first used this for a while in my early to mid 20s, before I started straightening my hair. I thought it made my hair feel heavy, but I suspect I was using too much of it. A few years ago, I started using it again to prevent the frizz I get some days during my winters in South Carolina (I get Brazilian Blowouts to knock out the frizz during my summers in Rhode Island, but I try to keep those to twice a year). I now use the correct amount on damp hair prior to blowing out my hair or letting it air dry, and I can tell it helps with the frizz. It’s a hair stylist favorite for a reason!
Sachajuan Volume Cream. It gives volume and protects the hair from hear styling damage? That’s all I need to know! I’ve been using this for a couple years and I haven’t been tempted to switch yet. I apply a little to each section after the Moroccan Oil but before I start blowdrying. Simple as that.
Pssst Dry Shampoo. You can’t expect a girl who only washes her hair once a week to not use dry shampoo, right? This stuff works, it’s cheap and it doesn’t have a strong scent, so what’s not to like? And should I continue to only ask questions about this product? What do you think?
DryBar Triple Sec. I like messy, textured, bedhead kind of hair on myself. Too smooth or polished is not my jam. I love Triple Sec because it gives me that type of look without having to use multiple products or tools. The original Triple Sec had a strong scent that I loved, but a lot of people didn’t, so they now have a unscented version which I accidentally ordered then got mad about. Even without the scent though, it’s a stellar product.
R + Co Dry Oil Spray. Another AB Beauty team recommendation, this time from hair stylist, Emily. My hair can get a little dry looking, and nothing brings back moisture like oil. I’ve found some hair oils to be too heavy, but this spray oil is lightweight and fast-absorbing. Love.
Living Proof Humidity Shield. I like humidity for my skin, as it reacts well to that kind of moisturize, but my hair is a different story. I get Brazilian Blowouts in May and July and they keep me virtually frizz-free for the highest humidity months, but I’m still prone to frizz once my Blowouts have washed out. That’s where this hairspray comes in. A light mist of it before I leave combats mid-level humidity. My hair type needs the Blowouts for the kind of humidity that makes people complain on Facebook, but this hairspray is good for the other times.
Living Proof Nourishing Oil. This no frizz nourishing oil is heavier than the R + Co Dry Oil Spray, but I use that more for shine and this more for frizz control. A little goes a long way, and I appreciate that in a $38 hair product.
Celeb Luxury Viral Colorditioner in Blue. My hair stylist friend, Jennie Kay Plumb, recommended this to me to use as a conditioner between blue retouch appointments. It can also be used for color touchups if you leave it on for 30 minutes. I really only use it for that now. I didn’t think it was the best as a conditioner because my hair didn’t feel as soft after as it does with Olaplex 5, but as a blue color touchup, it’s one of my favorites (and I’ve used a lot). It also comes in silver, rose gold, coral, lilac, turquoise, green, red, magenta and purple, so pretty much anyone who has fun colors in their hair is covered.
And that’s it! Thank you to all of the hair stylists who have helped make my hair a better person.
You know what I say–the skin is the body’s largest organ, so friggin’ take care of it! Here’s how I do it.
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm. Talk about a luxurious cleansing experience! This cleansing balm feels like heaven, smells divine and removes every trace of makeup. It’s a new-ish addition to my beauty life, and I am grateful for its existence.
Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micelle Solution. My eyes can be a little sensi to eye makeup remover, but the original micellar water doesn’t sting, burn or otherwise irritate my peepers. I have been using this product for years, and I can’t stop, won’t stop.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. Hyaluronic Acid is the MVP of hydrators, and this obscenely inexpensive one from The Ordinary is the bomb. Everyone I’ve recommended this to has told me they’ve noticed results within a few weeks of using it. It’s great for all skin types, so just get some already.
Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture Broad Spectrum 35. You know, I’ve tried a zillion moisturizers, but sometimes its best to keep things simple. This is a no frills moisturizer that does the job on my combination skin, and occasionally helps me get Extra Bucks.
Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil. Yo, you like moisturized skin? Of course you do. This Argan Oil is idea for facial massage, post retinoids application and elimination of dry patches. If you’re super oily, they have a Lite version too, so no excuses.
Trentinoin Cream 0.05%. It’s the Fountain of Youth in a tube if you start on it early enough. My 37 year old face is often mistaken for a 27 year old face, and I think a big part of that is due to Trentinoin. If you can get a hold of this stuff before the fine lines get too deep, you can seriously slow done the progression of those lines. Some people call it magic, I call it science.
Hydroquinone 4%. I have melasma, a section of hyperpigmenation (dark patch of skin) above my upper lip. It gets worse when I’m in the sun so I make sure to protect my face with sunscreen, but the only thing that fades it is prescription hydroquinone . So I use it, and it works, and it makes me less self conscious about my melasma.
Lancome Advanced Genifique Eye Cream. I don’t use this as much as I once did, solely because I now have two nightstands and it’s on the one opposite the side of bed I sleep on, so I forget about it. (Weak excuse, and I’ll move it to the bathroom tonight so it goes on post-face cleansing.) When I was being smart, I used it every other night, as I use the Trentinoin as an eye cream every other night. It’s a great eye cream–no stinging, burning or irritation and it really seems to hydrate and plump up the fine lines nicely.
Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. If you’re thinking “Wait, didn’t you put this in your last post about makeup products?” I did, you astute little blog reader, you. That’s because it can be used as a foundation primer and as a face mask. When I’m on top of my game, I use it as a face mask every week. It brightens and refreshes dull skin
Glossier Balm Dotcom. They call it a “universal salve,” but I only use it on my lips. I’ve found the Original and Mango shades to be the most hydrating of the ones I’ve tried. They are truly the best lip balms I’ve ever used. Nothing heals my lips like the Original and Mango Balm Dotcoms. I use the Original on every wedding client, and so many of the remark on how good the balm feels. This universal salve is a staple for my pro kit and my personal life.
Glossier Invisible Shield. A serum-like sunscreen that protects my skin, doesn’t leave a white cast and doesn’t make me break out? I’m in.
And that’s how I keep my skin in good shape! I’d love to hear about your faves too.
In honor of 11 years in business for AB Beauty, I figured I’d do some Top 11 lists. And naturally, we’ll start with makeup. Here we go.
Dior Diorshow Mascara. I’ve been using this mascara for a decade, which makes it the longest relationship I’ve ever been in. Nothing gives my top lashes volume like Diorshow, and until I find something better (and to be honest, I’m not even looking) I stand by this mascara.
MAC Face & Body Foundation. I use this foundation on myself and the majority of my clients. It lets the skin show through while giving a nice glow. It transforms from a sheer to medium coverage the more you work it in, so it’s really like having two foundations in one bottle.
MAC ProLongwear Concealer. This is the Holy Grail of concealers, as far as I’m concerned. Its acrylic paint-like consistency makes it buildable, and its pigment and range of shades makes it ideal for both under eye coverage and spot concealing. It’s a gem.
Blinc Mascara. I started using this mascara on my bottom lashes this summer because the Clinique mascara I was using was smudging in the heat and humidity. Beauty tubes mascara do not smudge, and since this is the OG of beauty tube technology, why wouldn’t I use it? It’s called a no-brainer.
Benefit Hoola. Some cult favorites get hyped up for no good reason, but Hoola is as good as they say. This neutral matte bronzer now comes in four shades, as it should. It’s blendable, matte and just the right amount of bronze. It’s the only bronzer I’ve found that works as a contour too. If they ever discontinue Hoola, there will be a revolt.
MAC Eyeshadows. I rarely use any other powder eyeshadows on myself or my clients because these are just the best. And that’s all.
I did a June recap, so it only seems right to do one for July. Don’t you think?
July is always the slowest weddings month, for reasons I’m still not sure of. (People going on vacation? Too-hot weather, even though August is usually hotter? Couples not wanting to share their anniversary month with America?) June 2019 was the busiest month in the history of AB Beauty, so I was ready for a little break in July. Joke was on me, though! While July had a lot less weddings than June, we booked a ton of weddings for 2019 and 2020, which kept me busy. We also did a lot of trials–I personally did seven times as many as I did in June–and I started training two new makeup artists. We broke our all-time yearly weddings booking record which was set in 2018, which I’m psyched about. We also had a new hair stylist finish training and I’m in talks with two more potential new hair stylists. I worked with some wonderful new clients and left all of my jobs smiling. I ended up being way busier than I thought, but I had a little more of a breather some days.
On the personal side, it was a marvelous month. It started off with a Southern Charm binge watching night with my friend Julie, then a fun Fourth of July day out (notice I didn’t say “night out,” because I’m 37) with my girl, Kristin. My father had a big cookout the first weekend of July, so I got to see a lot of family and some friends there. My college friend, Caroline and my Charleston friend, Arryn, were in town the following week, and I was so happy to spend time with them. I made a new friend with someone who has been in to makeup model for makeup artist training sessions, and we had a fun first-time hangout. I went to see Nick Kroll in Providence with my newlywed friends Greta and Chris, and I always have a blast with them.
At the end of the month, I went up to Montreal for the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival for my second year in a row. I went with my aunt Michelle and her friend/business associate, Christine. They run the Women In Comedy Festival in Boston, and they are awesome. JFL was fantastic. I saw a ton of great comics and went to a bunch of panels about different shows and topics. I saw people give television show pitches to major networks and I went to two live recording comedy podcasts. I went to a “Boast Rattle,” where comics tried to out-compliment each other. I saw some of my favorite comics and added a few more to my list. I’m already excited to go back next year.
I can’t claim that I had a balanced month, because contrary to the length of the previous paragraphs, I worked way more than I played. Except for when I was in Montreal, 12 – 14 hour workdays were the norm. But hey, that’s the life of a business owner in the wedding industry this time of year, you know?
We have more than twice as many weddings booked for August as we did for July. On top of that, August will be busy because September is our second busiest month this year (and could potentially beat out June as our all-time busiest month), and the month before the busiest month is also always crazy. I’ve got a lot of makeup artist trainings on top of that, plus some trials. In August, AB Beauty will celebrate 11 years in business. That’s bananas, right? I can’t believe I have a pre-teen.
And now, work time. I’ll be back with an August recap before you know it.
I was recently hanging out with a college friend, you know, talking for about five hours straight as I do with my friends. She told me how she was out with the regular group she goes out with and a friend who didn’t usually hang out with them joined and couldn’t believe how much they complimented each other. My friend and I were talking about how we both do that a lot (she’s better at it than I am, especially because I sometimes say compliments in my head and forget to say them out loud).
I’ve been thinking about that conversation and how I often do compliment people–friends, grocery store cashiers, doctor’s office receptionists, whoever–on their makeup, hair and nails. If I see a pretty lipstick color, the compliment is out of my mouth before I know it, followed by “I’m a makeup artist,” I guess to justify it (totally unnecessary). When I compliment people I know, it might be a physical compliment like “I love your new haircut” or “That blue shirt looks great on you,” or something about their personality like “You’re always so patient with things. How?” or “You’re a great listener.”
I also compliment pretty much every client who sits in my chair, because I do think everyone has at least one beautiful feature. It can be eye color, eye shape, lashes, skin, lips, bone structure, etc. I think complimenting clients helps put them at ease, but that’s not why I do it. I genuinely mean every compliment I give.
This has all made me think of how much I have appreciated compliments people have given me. Some of those verbal gifts have stuck with me, and those are the ones I want to share now. I appreciated those compliments when they were given, and I appreciate them again whenever I think of them. Because of that, we have ourselves a blog post.
Here we go.
“You’re the only one who knows how to treat the people who work for them.” Someone who works for me said this to me when she was having a tough time at her day job. She had a series of bosses who were mean or didn’t appreciate her, which blows my mind because she is an incredibly hard worker, professional and really a dream employee (or Independent Contractor, in my case). I try my best to make AB Beauty the kind of company hair stylists and makeup artists want to work at, so her compliment meant a lot.
“You look exotic.” A guy I briefly dated in college said this to me when we first met. I don’t know what made him think that–I suspect maybe it was because in comparison to the more preppy styles around me, I looked different–but I took it as a compliment.
“You should do standup!/”Do you do standup?”/”I can’t wait until your Netflix special!” I gave the Maid of Honor speech at my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in 2017, and it was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. I started writing the ten minute speech (turned into 12 minutes with laughter breaks, so what’s up) a year and a half before the wedding, and decided to memorize it. I know I could make my brother and sister-in-law laugh, and maybe my parents and few friends, but I did not expect the reaction I got during the speech and the dozens of people who came up to me after the speech to tell me how funny it was. Granted, my “audience” was a group of wedding guests who knew the subjects of my speech and didn’t have the comedy expectations you would watching a comic, but I still won’t forget all of the compliments.
“How many men have you killed with those eyes?” This pickup line–my favorite one ever–was given to me (at me?) a few years ago. This gentleman kept telling me my eyes were the most gorgeous eyes he had ever seen, which I attribute to some black waterline eyeliner and the tequila he was drinking. Still though, I chose to take it as a compliment.
“Allie is the busiest person I know, and she still makes the time to visit us.” When it comes to visiting friends, I feel like I should get an F. The nine-ish months a year I live in New England are also the busiest months for my business, and it’s rare that I have more than a couple hours twice a week to hang out. So if a friend lives an hour away and I’ve only got maybe three hours max, with the drive time, it’ tough to pull off. I still try to visit though, and the friend who said this (my friend’s husband, but I am friends with them both) lives a couple hours away. They used to live an hour away so I was able to visit them and their kids a few times a year, which was when he said it. Anyway, I always feel like I don’t visit my people half as much as I would like to because of my career, and I have some major guilt about that, so this compliment made me feel a million times better.
“I need to check your hair.” Said to me by a TSA agent at I forget which airport (either Boston, Charleston or Nashville). I had my hair up in a ponytail with the shorter front layers pinned back then pushed up a little because I HATE flat hair on me. (I’d go full 1960s Priscilla Presley every day if I could.) Apparently my hair looked big enough to be hiding something in it, so the TSA agent had to pat it down. I took that as the ultimate hair compliment.
“You two have the most expressive eyes! You look like anime characters.” This was said to actress Dominique Swain and I by an actor on the set of a Lifetime movie I did the makeup for. I feel like I have very few expressions, so it was a huge compliment to be lumped in with an actress whose expressive eyes are part of what makes her great at her job.
“You are the most organized person I’ve ever met.” A bride said this to me at a trial last week, so this is a fresh one. I don’t know if she’d say the same if she saw my house, but I certainly try my best to be organized when it comes to my business. When a client tells me that and how it makes the bridal beauty process easier for them, it really means a lot.
“You read too fast!” Something my father says every time we watch Jeopardy. I am a fast reader, and although it makes my father mad because I can read and answer a clue before he’s halfway through reading it, I think it’s a good thing. Right?
“Damn, white girl can dance!” Said by a fellow club goer in Ft. Lauderdale, 2006. This was the era of “droppin’ it,” which pre-dated twerking, and as someone who is already close to the floor, droppin’ it was not hard. I’m not a good dancer but apparently this man thought so, and that brings me great joy.
“We’re going to need to use the small blood pressure cuff on you.” Said to me at a recent doctor’s appointment. I feel like my upper arms are bigger than they should be, but my primary care implied otherwise. I’ll take it as a win.
All of these compliments have made me feel good, and I hope I’ve done the same for others with compliments I’ve given. The conversation with my friend–and writing this post–has made me want to consciously give more compliments. Not in a fake way, but when I notice or realize something positive or flattering about someone I should make sure to say it out loud. For me at least, sometimes a compliment can turn a bad day (or bordeline bad day) around. Wouldn’t it be nice to possibly do that for someone else, just with a few simple words? I think so.
Now that you’ve read Part 1–thank you–and know what you need in your kit, it’s time for the rest of the list. This list covers the items I think you need to make your day easier and more comfortable, as well as some essential intangibles. This is just as important as the list in Part 1, so listen up, friend.
Snacks. You can usually get a hold of water on a corporate or commercial set, but the food available (called “craft services” or “crafty” on a film or on a job with people who work in film) may not always be to your liking. I’ve seen it range from tables of crappy junk food to corner of a counter with a few sad looking pieces of fruit and some crackers. I have a gluten allergy and a list of other things that bother me, so I always bring snacks with me. You might want to do the same on set, and at a wedding job if you’ll be there for long enough that you’ll want to eat. Sometimes there’s a big wedding-morning-spread or a bride asks what you want when lunch is ordered, but usually you’re on your own.
Phone Charger. A “full day” on a commercial or corporate set is generally considered to be anywhere from 4 – 10 hours, and it’s not unusual to go over the 10 hour mark. I don’t know about your phone, but mine will start draining battery after a while, especially if I’ve been answering emails during breaks. That’s why I always bring a phone charger to set. As long as the makeup is being done inside (I’ve done my fair share of parking lot, field and garage makeup setups), you should have access to an outlet. If you’re doing a wedding and will be with the bride all day, I would also recommend bringing a charger and plugging it in whenever you can.
The Right Clothing. I’ve worked in freezing cold warehouses, on exterior shoots in January in New England and blazing hot houses in August where the a/c couldn’t be turned on because it would affect sound. And some studios are kept icy cold even in the summer, which is great for the talent because it keeps them from sweating, but unbearable for people like me who get cold if they hold a drink with ice in it for two minutes. So, I suggest bringing a sweater in the summer and if you are going to be in a studio, and always have a jacket with you if you might be outside and temps are cold enough for one. As far as being too hot, tank tops, shorts and sandals are not appropriate for corporate or commercial work, so lightweight clothing is key. At a wedding job, you can get away with a light dress as long as it’s not revealing (and not white!). Sandals are also fine for weddings.
Business Cards. As a makeup artist, you will meet a ton of people. If they are in your chair, you might be having anywhere from a 5 minute to a one hour conversation with them. You might find that the talent you are talking to has a daughter getting married next year who needs a makeup artist, or the bridesmaid you’re clicking with owns a real estate company and wants makeup for marketing photos of her team. You’ll also meet crew members who might work on a future project that needs a makeup artist, and if they have your card, they can easily refer you to a producer. All of these people are unlikely to remember your name (sorry) without a business card, so why risk it?
Contact Info & Parking Instructions. Before you go to any job, make sure you have a contact phone number, parking information, building name or hotel room number and any location/entrance details ahead of time. If you wait until you get to a location to try to find out this information, you might be S.O.L. There’s no reason you can’t request this info a few days before a job. Clients like prepared makeup artists and your stress level will like that too.
A Full Gas Tank. You’ll do some jobs where you stay in one location all day, and others where you drive around to several locations. Unless you know for sure that you won’t be changing locations, make sure you have a full tank (especially if you have a long drive home). I’ve done political campaigns ads that required stops at five different locations in a day, some with 30 minute drives in between. You’re not going to have time to stop for gas in that type of situation. In fact, I don’t even recommend stopping for gas on the way to a job. Why add something your plate the day of when you might need that extra time if you get caught in a traffic jam or the parking lot you were told to park in is full? Fill up the day before and give yourself five points for preparedness.
A Book. On some jobs, you’ll have a lottttt of dead time. You may also be in a location where you have no signal and there’s no WiFi around (like working on a commercial in a field for 12 hours, which I’ve done). Maybe you’d be fine using that time to re-organize your kit, talk to someone (if there is anyone around) or, I don’t know, meditate, but I usually have a book with me in case my phone is useless and I’m in a far away hair and makeup room by myself. That way I don’t die of boredom during an hour-long camera and lighting set up or wedding ceremony (waiting for the bride to get back for a pre-Cocktail Hour touchup).
Set & Wedding Etiquette. This is a monster of a topic. Set etiquette covers who you talk to, when you talk to them, the lingo you use, where to position yourself, when to move, what to wear, etc. If you want to work in film, this is a good read. It’s a little different on a corporate or sometimes commercial job, but these worlds often cross over. There’s no set at a wedding, but there is wedding etiquette. Like say “Happy Wedding Day!” or something similar when you see the bride, don’t wear a white dress, don’t take food or drinks without asking, don’t move things without asking (if you need the space for your setup), don’t talk about breakups/divorces, don’t drink on the job (you will be offered mimosas at some weddings), etc. Some of it is common sense and manners, but you’d be surprised what I’ve seen and heard about from other companies and in reviews I’ve read.
Professionalism. That means always be on time, don’t have inappropriate conversations, don’t take care of personal To Do list at a job, don’t disappear from set or while you’re supposed to be working on clients, invoice accurately, clearly and quickly, etc. You can be the best makeup artist in the world, but if you get a reputation of being unprofessional, you won’t get far. I either have to stop this paragraph here or write 97 more paragraphs about it, so let’s stop.
Between this post and this last one, I think I’ve covered all of the big stuff. Being a makeup artist–at least a successful one–means doing more than evening skintones and filling in eyebrows. It requires preparation, tact and professionalism. The beauty industry has become a very competitive place to work, so my recommendation is to learn everything you can before you start so that you can be more prepared than the other newbie makeup artists. I hope this helped, and I wish you the best of luck in your career.
Starting out as a makeup artist? Welcome to the club! When I started out, I not only had no idea what I was doing but no clue what I needed in my kit. Now I’ve got a fully stocked kit (as well as an overflow bag…and two set bags) and my makeup artist luggage is so heavy I sprained both wrists one summer. So I think I’ve got a good grasp on everything you need for products, tools and supplies.
I will say that what you carry in your kit depends on what part of the industry you work in. I primarily do makeup for weddings, commercials and corporate shoots, but have done film and photoshoots as well. I can’t speak on runway or special effects makeup, so I’m afraid I’m no help there.
I’ll break it down into the two subsets I do the most work in–weddings and corporate/commercials–to help you be as prepared as possible should you want to work in those arenas. I’m not going to list every product, tool and supply you need, but will focus on some really important ones as well as some things you might not think of unless you’ve been there, done that.
I have a Zuca bag and an overflow bag filled with tons of eyeshadows, eyeliners, lipsticks, blushes, mascaras, concealers, foundations, powders, highlighters, brushes, sponges, cotton swabs, etc. Those are the basics for any non-special effects makeup job, but what I’m listing below are the things I’ve found to be extra important for wedding jobs.
Eye Primer, Foundation Primer, Lip Primer & Setting Spray. You won’t always be around for touchups after the initial makeup services are done, and you want to make sure the makeup you apply lasts. Primers and setting sprays will help lock it all in.
Small Scissors. The technical use for small scissors is to trim strip lashes and long brow hairs, but you’ll probably find they get used most often for cutting bridesmaid dress tags and those little loops that you use to hang dresses on a hanger.
Safety Pins. Another bridesmaid dress helper. Safety pins have nothing to do with makeup, but it’s nice to keep a few in your kit to help a girl out.
Hand Mirror. And make it a pretty one! Photographers loooooove to take photos of brides looking at their makeup in a hand mirror, so if the mirror has a nice design on it, it looks better in photos. That makes your client–and the photographer, who you may be requesting photos from after–happy.
Waterproof Mascara. Because weddings make people cry! And humidity, sweat and eye drops make mascara run, so the self proclaimed non-criers are not exempt. Why chance it?
Disposable Mascara Wands. You best not be touching anyone’s eyelashes (at a wedding or any other job) with the wand that comes in the tube unless it’s their own mascara or you’re giving it to them. That’s Makeup 101.
Plenty of False Lashes. I use individual (aka cluster aka flare) lashes on 90% of my wedding clients, so I always have several packs of varying lengths and thicknesses in my kit. It’s not unusual for me to go through a full pack of Mediums and a full pack of Shorts at one wedding. I say stock up on these if you plan on working weddings.
Two Kinds of Lash Glue. Duo is the pro fave, but it contains latex, which some folks are allergic to. So you’ll definitely need a non-latex version in your kit too.
Tweezers. You might use them to apply false lashes (I do) as well as to pluck the rogue eyebrow, upper lip or chin hairs. Just make sure to keep them sanitized.
Scotch Tape. Glitter abounds at weddings. It’s sometimes found on decor, shoes, morning-of mimosa glasses, etc. And where there is glitter on an object, you’ll find glitter on nearby faces. Scotch tape is great for lifting glitter off the skin, so I always have some in my kit.
Paper & Pen. The Maid of Honor is going to love the lipstick you put on her, right? So when she asks you what you used on her so she can buy it after the wedding, why not be a good person and write it down? Not only is that a nice thing to do, but the better a client’s overall experience is with you, the bigger chance that will come back to you in the form of repeat work, referrals and glowing reviews.
CORPORATE SHOOTS & COMMERCIALS
I bring my Zuca bag and my set bag (the bag you bring on set for touchups and makeup emergencies) to all corporate shoots and commercials. If I’m trying to make my Zuca lighter, I take out things I know I won’t need–shimmery highlighters, foundation primers, some of the false lashes (which I rarely use on commercials and never on corporate shoots). Everything else pretty much stays in. And a lot gets added.
Anti Shine. I use some anti-shine products at weddings too, but they are extra important for video and film shoots, where shine is the enemy. I’ll put some on a bald head too, as those domes can get shiny.
Pressed Powder. For the same reason, pressed powder is key. When it’s time for a touchup, powder is imperative. The person or people looking at a monitor probably won’t notice the perfect shade of blush you chose, but they will notice a shiny nose or forehead. I keep one pressed powder inside of each pouch I have in my set bag (each person on camera–called the “talent”–has a pouch with the products I might use to touch them up during a shoot).
Lip Balm. Lips can get dry during a long shoot, so keep some lip balm on you. You can either have a stick or pot of it that you apply or dip into directly then give to the person at the end of the shoot, or you can use one that you can squeeze or scrape out.
Body Lotion. As a makeup artist on set, you are expected to be able to handle issues on all of the exposed skin–not just the face. If the talent has dry hands, arms, legs, etc., they may ask you for body lotion. Be prepared for that request!
A Handheld Fan. The lights used on set can get very hot. And what do people do when they’re hot? They sweat. And what does sweat do to makeup? Wears it off. A small, handheld fan will help keep the talent cool, but if there is a hair stylist on set, he/or she will probably hate you for using it. The fan will cool the client but might move their hair as well, so if you’re not responsible for their hair (more on that below), make sure you consult with the hair stylist first.
Makeup Remover Wipes. A long day on set means several touchups, and that can be a lot of makeup. Some people want to get it all off before they leave for the day, so makeup artists are expected to have makeup remover wipes on hand. Always keep more than you think you’ll need, because you’ll go through them quicker than you expect.
Gum, Mints & Cough Drops. If there’s something someone needs that’s on the face–even it has nothing to do with makeup–people will go to the makeup artist for it. So make sure to keep some gum, mints and cough drops in your set bag, but also make sure the talent doesn’t have anything in their mouth when they start filming.
Tissues. If the talent needs a tissue, the makeup artist is expected to have that too. So keep some close to your set up in case they need one during the makeup application, as well as some in your set bag in case of a sneeze or runny nose mid-filming.
Dental Floss. You might get some requests for floss after lunch breaks. I keep the individual floss picks in my set bag. Because, yes, teeth do fall under Makeup Artist Territory on set…
Eye Drops. And eyeballs do too! I keep eye drops for redness, allergies and contact wearers in my set bag. Somewhere along the way, I acquired some single use eye drop packs that are great for that #setlife.
Nail Polish Remover. Were you under the impression that makeup artists didn’t have to worry about nails? Maybe on a big film set, but it’s all on you on most commercials and I would say all corporate shoots. Chipped nail polish or bright colors won’t fly on most commercial or corporate shoots, so I always have some nail polish remover pads on me.
Nail File & Clippers. If the nails are too long or jagged and there’s going to be a close up of the hands, it’s up to the makeup artist to get those claws camera ready.
Lint Roller. If there’s Wardrobe on set, this won’t be your responsibility, but if not, keeping a lint roller in your set bag will make you the temporary hero of the day if there’s some lint on the talent’s clothing.
Makeup Cape or Paper Towels. If the talent is already in wardrobe when they come to Makeup, you’ll need to be careful not to get any makeup on their outfit. You can protect their clothes with a makeup cape (think a hair stylist cape, but shorter) or paper towels tucked into the collar or neckline of their top or suit jacket.
Razor & Clippers. Sometimes male talent facial hair needs to be trimmed or shaved off (usually just trimmed for commercial or corporate), so be ready!
Hairspray, Pomade, Comb, Brush, Hair Dryer, Curling Iron, Flat Iron & Bobby Pins. Ohhhhhhhh, you thought makeup artists just did makeup? Sure, that’s the case at wedding jobs, runway, editorial and film jobs, but at most corporate shoots and on commercials with smaller budgets, the makeup artist is at least expected to do some hair grooming. That means getting rid of flyaways, pinning back pieces of hair, sometimes giving a once over with a flat iron, etc. If you’re not a licensed Cosmetologist, I recommend finding someone you can hire to teach you some hair grooming basics.
Other makeup artists may look at these two lists and think I’m missing some things (in which case, please comment away!). But I think this is a good, solid list to work off of as long as you have a fully stocked kit and brush cleaner.
If you want my full lists with every product, tool and supply I use, please email AllisonBarbera@gmail.com for details.
I’m experiencing major writer’s block right now. I’m not even sure what the rest of this sentence is going to look like. I usually have several ideas for blog posts, but I’m coming up blank. Maybe it’s because we just finished the busiest month in the history of AB Beauty? 26 weddings, two groups of wedding guests, one hair and makeup for a re-shoot of some 2018 wedding photos and 12 trials, five corporate shoots and four makeup artists training sessions. Hundreds of email, non-stop texts and phone calls on the daily. We are just about to smash our all time record of 108 weddings, and the year is only a little over halfway done.
I cried a few times, felt like collapsing regularly and caught a virus that still hasn’t gone away because I haven’t had much time to rest. But I also worked with a lot of brides who I love, met some cool people who came in to model for makeup artist training sessions, got two new makeup artist trained and two new ones who are starting their training now and booked several 2020 weddings. I got to see my family once, had a few fun friend visits and a classic Newport Summer day with a local friend, and saw Hannah Gadsby perform in Boston (she was AWESOME). So as rough as the June workload was, I’m choosing to look back on it as a good month.
It’s not that I dislike my job. Quite the contrary, actually. This is my dream job! My makeup artist work itself is great. I genuinely like my clients and I have fun talking with them at trials, weddings and shoots. The business side of my job–client communication, scheduling, invoicing, coordinating social media, etc.–is not super hard, it’s just a lot in combination with my makeup artist job, recruiting and training new makeup artists and growing the company. The makeup artist training program is intense, but I do enjoy teaching and getting people ready for a career in makeup artistry. It’s just when it’s all happening at once with no time to breathe that I feel a little buried. And that was June.
July is much quieter with weddings, but busy with trials and trainings. Even so, it feels lighter and I’m able to get a bit more balance. I have a good friend coming to town for Fourth of July (you’re damn right we’re wearing red, white and blue), my father’s big pool party/cookout this weekend, a Charleston friend visit next week, I’m going to see comic Nick Kroll in mid-July, then off to the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal at the end of the month. There will still be long days, but I’ve got great clients and a rockstar team, so it’ll be a good month.
That’s all I got, friends. My brain is stopping me from writing anymore.