How This Woman Went From Laid Off Marketing Executive to Washington DC’s #1 Makeup Artist

Posted on Posted in Entrepreneurship

In case you haven’t noticed I’m obsessed with interviewing women who’ve taken a bold and fearless risk to redefine success on their own terms. So this month, I caught up with  Tiyana Robinson a trailblazing woman in beauty who went from a laid-off sales and marketing executive to Washington DC’s Best Makeup Artist of 2017 in just 3 years. “I never knew that being a Professional Makeup Artist was a viable career option,” says Robinson. 


In middle school, I saved my lunch money so I could buy makeup from CVS. And when YouTube came out, it was a wrap! I would watch tutorials for hours and replicate the looks. But it wasn’t until I was laid off  and someone asked me to do her makeup that I decided to pursue makeup as a side hustle to hold me over until I could find a full-time job.”


Currently, Robinson provides makeup services for everyday women of color who want to look and feel as though they’re on the red carpet and training and coaching to Makeup Artists who struggle to get paid their worth. Approximately 90% of clients find her on Instagram and she’s scaled her business to six figures, without working with celebrities or relocating to NYC or LA.  And believe it or not, she never enrolled in a traditional makeup school.


The journey from side-hustler to full-time beauty entrepreneur.

During our interview for Black Enterprise Magazine, Tiyana dropped a  few gems about how to get over your self-limiting beliefs, scale your business, price your services and charge your worth.



Every next level in your career requires that you step outside of your comfort zone. What self-limiting beliefs did you need to let go of to get to the next level in business?


I had to get rid of the limiting belief that only certain types of makeup artists (i.e. Celebrity makeup artists) could be successful and have the type of lifestyle that I envisioned for my family and myself. I couldn’t see how it was possible to live in DC, and work primarily with everyday women and be successful. I made a huge (and terrifying) investment in a one-year high level-coaching program, and my coach helped me map out a blueprint for my business.


What were the moments in your career, when you knew you could make a living from doing makeup professionally?


After about 7 or 8 months of not having a full-time job, I was re-hired by the hair extensions brand. However, by that time, my makeup business had grown to the point that I was booked solid almost every weekend and on some evenings during the week. I told myself that I would spend one year working my full-time job during the week and doing makeup on the weekend. I made it six months.


When I got to the point that I was not only turning away more clients than I could accept, but I was landing amazing opportunities to work with international beauty brands, clients were flying me out to do their makeup, and I was booked to serve as Key Makeup Artist during New York Fashion Week — all within 2.5 years of applying makeup on someone else for the first time — I knew that I was onto something and that I could pursue makeup artistry full time!


Know Your Worth, Then Ask For It. 

How did you learn about pricing your services?

When I first started doing makeup, I made up my rate. I charged what I thought people were willing to pay. Then, I connected with other makeup artists and discovered I was severely under-charging. So, I looked at the highest rate, looked at the lowest rate and priced myself right in the middle. But that wasn’t sustainable, especially if I wanted to do makeup full time and pay my bills. Once I got a business coach, I learned how to have a value-based business instead of trading time for money.

To grow out of the hustler mentality and into the role of entrepreneur and CEO, I understand that rates are highly personal should be based on the results that I want for my business, and not based upon what other artists are charging. So, whenever I pitch a rate to a client, my first thoughts are always “What would make this worth it for me? How can I bring value to my client so this experience is amazing?”


Rates are also largely determined by your mindset. If you hold the belief that no one would be willing to pay the rate you want and deserve, that will be true for you. After I smashed the limiting belief that people wouldn’t be willing to pay the rate I believed I deserved, I began booking premium clients and was able to scale my business to multiple six figures, without working with celebrities or relocating to NYC or LA. I began building my dream business on my terms.


You also host a series of makeup classes. Why did you make the decision to add classes to your business model?


As I became more visible on Instagram, people began reaching out to ask if I would offer group and 1-1 lessons. At first, I was hesitant because I thought I was “too new” to teach, but after holding my first class, I knew that I had something special to offer to my students!


From a business perspective, teaching was also a great way for me to scale my business because I could generate from one class what would otherwise take me one or two months to generate by doing one-off makeup applications.


When it comes to attracting clients for your business, what do you think is the most overlooked skill?


When it comes to attracting clients, I believe the most overlooked skill is simply being brave enough to be yourself and be visible. So many artists want to be successful, but are either trying to be a carbon copy of someone else or are scared of being seen.


I truly believe the only thing that’s better than being the best is being DIFFERENT. The way you show up differently in the world is by first getting clear about what are the unique gifts, skills, and talents that you possess, and how can you weave those gifts into your artistry to create a look and vibe that’s all your own. When someone can see your work and know it’s your work without your name being on it, you’re winning!

What makes you different than other makeup artists?


Me! I’m the “special sauce” in my business because I know that there’s not another Makeup Artist in the world who’s had the same life experiences, perspective, or possesses the same skillset as me. I use the full breadth of my experiences and what I learned in my capacity as a Director of Marketing & Sales in the beauty space as a differentiator, and my professionalism has definitely given me a competitive edge. I always look for new ways to innovate and push to industry forward.


For an aspiring makeup artist, what are the first 3 investments they should make to get started in the business?


  1. A look and learn” (aka a “Demo) makeup lesson with a reputable Pro Makeup Artist who does the type of work you aspire to do.  He/She should have a proven track record of being a skilled educator because not every great artist is a great teacher. At this lesson, you will not only learn their full application technique, but you’ll also understand what a working Pro carries in her makeup kit.
  2. From there, I recommend that you make an investment to either start or upgrade your pro makeup kit. Focus on making sure you have a global range of foundations, great skin prep products and setting powders, and good tools. 
  3. After getting your footing and practicing your skillset,  invest in a private hands-on makeup lesson. Private lessons are a bigger investment, but you get the benefit of spending 1 on 1 time with a Senior Artist who will laser in on your particular pain points and give you tailored feedback and support.


My biggest advice to new artists is to have patience and focus only on growing your artistry and getting clear about your signature style. Once you’re confident in your skills, you can then begin to think about making investments in business courses, coaching, etc. But those things aren’t beneficial if your artistry isn’t strong and/or you’re not confident in what you offer.


Follow Tiyana Robinson on Instagram. You can also join her Makeup Collective Facebook Group.


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