A conversation with Sue McLaurin
This week I am spending a lot of time creating additional content for the next evolution of Makeup Artist Bootcamp (which will include a new name!). One addition that we normally talk about in the live class, yet hasn’t featured much in the book (yet), is the art of finding balance between following your passion and earning money doing what you like - because sometimes working your passion takes years to achieve financially. If you don’t know what I’m talking about… What you may not have heard at makeup school is unless you have a financially supportive partner or ‘special friend’… there is no such thing as just launching right out of makeup college and directly into a well paid freelance career. Or straight onto a big budget feature film. Or right in to head creative of a brands makeup team. You, at some point, will have to do some jobs that don’t exactly keep you awake with nerves and excitement to earn money as an artist. (or not. I know many artists who have side jobs completely unrelated to makeup to alleviate the financial stress of what being a freelance inevitably experiences at periods.) Either way… there’s no shame in it… most of us have to do it at some point in our careers just to be able to keep doing makeup!
I’m a big advocate for following your passions and joy… in fact, that’s an underlying theme for MUA Bootcamp… however it would be irresponsible to tell everyone to just “go follow your dreams and forget everything else!” (even worse if they did what I suggested!?!) The idea, is to spend some time taking a look at where you are focusing your energies, and ensuring you find that sweet spot to balance out between what you need and want.
And sometimes artists don’t need to have a side project… they want a side project as they think it would be useful for our industry.
Take Sue for example… Sue McLaurin is a Brisbane based Makeup Artist who created a business for herself that’s core is to be super useful use for Makeup Artists working in the bridal industry - The Bridal Beauty Pro App.
A working Makeup herself and represented by Arc Creative , Sue McLaurin is renowned in Qld for her beauty work and is a sought after makeup artist in Bridal, Fashion and Advertising. AND she teaches! Sue is a wealth of knowledge and certainly one of the more generous artists sharing their wisdom learnt from a 17 year career. Well known in the Queensland industry, Sue has become one of the first artists I think of when it comes to recommending Brisbane artists for work, probably because she’s good… and she’s also professional, down to earth and fun!
As I was pondering how to approach the subject of ‘passion/money balance’ elegantly in the book… I thought it was perfect timing to speak with Sue and get her insights on a couple of topics I am working on. I also wanted to find out about her webinars coming up!
Becca - For those who haven’t met you before…Tell us about who you are, how long you have been in makeup, why you got into it in the first place and what interests you now. That’s a lot… I know you can handle it ;)
Sue - I have been a freelance makeup artist for 17 years now. I came to makeup rather late in life (mid 30s) and I kind of fell into it really. I spent most of my 20s travelling in Europe, and I worked for one of the large 18-35 coach tour operators for 5 years. What I loved about that job was helping people have the “holiday of a lifetime” and helping them feel good about themselves. That was hugely rewarding to me. When I returned to Australia, I got a job in recruitment, figuring that helping people find their dream job would bring me similar rewards. However, it turned out to be more of a sales position, and I was stuck in a cubicle for 10 hours a day, with a boss breathing down my neck hassling me about my sales figures. Talk about sucking my will to live!! My sister had signed up with a cosmetics direct sales company and I went along to be her model at her training sessions. I realised that doing makeup for other people could be a way for me to get that reward from helping people feel good about themselves, so I did a makeup course, and the rest, as they say, is history…
To me, I believe there is a spectrum of WHY someone becomes a makeup artist. At the one end is the super creative, the true ARTISTS (like you, Becca), and at the other end, are those (like me) who are not so much about the creativity and art, but who do makeup to help others, and to enjoy that feeling when the client looks in the mirror and says “Oh my god, I love it”. Of course, it’s a spectrum, and we are not all one or the other, but I find our motivations interesting. We are all artists, and I think our motivations push us in different directions regarding what sort of work we do.
B - Oh you’re absolutely right! There is such a spectrum! I definitely got into the business to be creative but also explore the beauty side and help people feel good about themselves… I knew that much starting out… I kind of jumped in doing the splits on the spectrum… but after a few direction corrections, I was eventually able to do exactly what I wanted. I find in Australia, I felt I had to be sliding ALL OVER most parts of that makeup spectrum… and especially as I am more attracted to the creative work, I had to slide around the spectrum over all types of makeup just to show I had full range . I’d feel sometimes dizzy! In America, I am sensing if you want to sit at any point on the creative/natural beauty spectrum, and stay there, you can. Niche is O.K. But there’s always a risk of painting yourself in a corner with niche and then dropping out of the industry if everyone thinks you’re a one trick pony. There’s always the next person. That’s very prevalent here in the states.
I’m excited to see where our industry goes over the next year/s… I feel like it’s going to get even more inclusive, more focused on integrity and I feel a golden moment in Beauty happening over the next few years (at least these are my hopes!)
S - I’ve seen so many changes in the industry over the last 17 years, I was around before social media, and I know you’ve talked about this in your other articles Becca… I believe as makeup artists it’s important to stay relevant, not only with makeup trends and techniques, but also with the other aspects of the industry as well. Technology is not going anywhere!
B - I love seeing how seasoned artists who know life before Instagram have been embracing social media. I think throwbacks were invented for experienced artists who had years of content unseen on social media yet ha! I was still too new to throwback to old work and have that be a proud moment. My throwbacks to old, old work would be a tad embarrassing. It would be a sea of 80s style family glamour shots. Wait a minute… that could actually be amazing! I wish I had them!
S - Oh gosh... I remember all the brides with pink eye shadow... and barrel curl buns and tiaras!!! So funny how trends change...
B - Something that I have been really interested in lately is what other makeup artists do in their life that they are passionate about and lights up their life. For me, it's all art related but that's not the case for everyone. What lights you up and why do you love 'this' so much? What do you get out of it?
S - Over the last few years I have become more and more passionate about understanding human behaviour. I went through a very traumatic separation almost 8 years ago, which left me in a dark place for a while. I’ve spent the years since then learning a lot, at first it was to understand my own situation, and help me heal, but I became more and more interested in learning more about the human mind. I am actually a qualified sociologist, although I’ve never worked in that field, so I guess I always had that interest. I don’t know that it relates to ART at all, like you said, for me, its about helping other artists, inspiring them to believe in themselves and follow their own dreams to success. I honestly love to see my students and coaching clients achieve their own goals. Whether it be their first publication, first wedding booking, or getting flown overseas to work on a fashion show (all goals achieved by my clients last year), I genuinely celebrate along with them. Again, it comes back to helping someone feel good about themselves. That’s the reward for me!
B - This is why we get along so well! We both love similar things! I remember in my first ever MUA Bootcamp, a MUA told me another artist with a 'big reputation had said once “I don’t know why Becca does all that work to help other artists…” I guess there’s more than one type of artist after all.
What does having other passions teach you about yourself as a makeup artist?
S - I guess it teaches me that I can actually have a big impact as a makeup artist. Especially someone working in bridal, you know it’s not just about the actual makeup I apply to the bride, its about how she FEELS during her preparations. I always strive to have my brides feeling relaxed and stress free, and I understand the importance of timing on her big day. Its not about me, its not about getting the right behind-the-scenes pics for my social media, its about HER and her big day.
Its also a reminder that as an artist, we are a creator, and whether that is creating a piece of art, or an experience for another person, having that right mindset and motivation, and self belief is really important. I find that so many makeup artists (and people in general) have self doubt, which is sad and unnecessary .
B - So you agree that having other interests is important to ourselves as artists?
S - Yes I do. I think we need to be able to have a break. Especially in this day and age when everything is about the social media perfection. For me, I’m also a big outdoors person, and an adventure sports junkie. It always surprises my makeup industry acquaintances to learn that I do Mountain Biking for example, just as it surprises those Mountain Biking friends to learn I work as a makeup artist. But I love that my worlds are so different.
B - I remember seeing kite skiers in Sweden last year and thought of you! I don’t know if I could be trusted as an adventure sports person ha ha ha. You’re certainly brave and strong!
Now, can we talk about your App? When did you launch ‘Bridal Beauty Pro App’ and what motivated you to create it in the first place?
S - It was 2015, and I had the idea to create an app that would make life easier for makeup artists. I pride myself on being an organised person, but was frustrated with having my information everywhere! Bride’s details in my diary, or on emails, photos in the camera roll on my phone, trail notes on paper… somewhere… It became ridiculous, and all came to a head one day when I was outside a bride’s apartment block for her trial and realised I didn’t know the apartment number. I had put the address into google maps before I left, and inadvertently left my (paper) diary at home. I had to go searching back through email archives to find her phone number to call and ask which apartment number. I knew there had to be a better way, and that’s how Bridal Beauty Pro App was born, and we are making life easier for makeup artists and hairstylists everywhere by keeping all their bride’s (or client’s) details in one place.
B - What's your favourite part of the app?
S - For me definitely that all the info is in one place! For each bride, her wedding and trial dates, addresses, trial photos and product notes. I can arrive on the wedding day and not have to scroll through the 11,059 photos on my phone to find her trial photos (yes I actually have that many photos on my phone!). Also that its cloud based, so if you lose your phone or diary, all the info (and photos) is safe.
B - I’ve got your app it’s super handy even thought I don’t do too many weddings currently.
You are going to have a free webinar soon. What will it be about, how can we log on? (I’m in!)
S - Yes, so in addition to being a working makeup artist, 7 years ago I started teaching makeup (that was after a couple of years being a mentor in the Green Brush Project). I taught diploma for 4 years, but left the formal education system because I didn’t feel that the curriculum adequately prepares Makeup Artists to be successful out in the real world. ( B - I 1000000000% agree with you… but it’s changing) S - There is a lot of business strategy (and mindset!!) that is missing. Of course makeup artists want to paint faces and create art, or help their clients feel good through the power of makeup, they DON’T want to be thinking about profit and loss, marketing plans and business strategy, but without those skills, and the right mindset, you can be the most talented creative artist out there, and still not be successful. So, for the last year, I have focused on helping other makeup artists be more successful, by providing mentoring and coaching on business, marketing and mindset strategy. The webinar I am hosting next week is part of that, we will be focusing on “How to stand out in an over-crowded space” which is one of the challenges artists tell me they have, whenever I ask.
B - Bloody preaching to the choir here! I love what you get up to.
Years ago you came and did MUA Bootcamp knowing it was for ANY artist, not just newbies… How did you use MUA Bootcamp tools to launch your coaching business/programs?
S - Definitely the process you taught in Bootcamp about breaking down a goal into the smaller action steps. Right after bootcamp I had used that process to creatively direct my own editorial (and get it published), and the process had worked so well, I figured it would be a great way to deal with what seemed like such a massive undertaking!
B - Yes Milestone mapping has helped me SO MUCH over the past few years… wish I knew how to do it when I first started!!
What advice would you give to any artist who has lost their other passions because they think they have to give themselves 100% to makeup?
S - I would remind them that there IS more to life than makeup. And just like everything, if you devote 100% you eventually get burned out and then what do you have left? Having other interests and spending time doing other things, hanging out with people who don’t talk about makeup actually makes you a BETTER makeup artist, because when you come back you will be more refreshed. Its OK to not post to Social Media for a couple of days!! So you might lose a couple of followers, but were those followers your ideal client anyway??
Always when you take time away, you come back with fresh eyes. Having that renewed passion helps you to do better work, improves your creativity, and your customer service skills too!
B - AMEN to that. Sue, what else do you do to replenish yourself as an artist and human?
S - I guess this ties in with the other question about having interests outside of makeup. As I said, I love being in the outdoors, whether it’s the bush or the beach, if I can get away (and particularly away from the online world) for a couple of days, I always come back replenished. My partner and I have a favourite camping spot on a beach which is only accessible by 4WD vehicle. There is no phone or internet reception at the beach, but we can climb up a cliff and then a tree above the campsite to get reception. We only allow ourselves to do this once a day!!
I started meditating about a year ago now, and that has made a MASSIVE difference in my life. My moods and emotions are so much more stable, I yell at my kids MUCH less, and I think it has really helped with my stress levels too. It also allows me to tap into who I really am, what I really want, and that can only help me as a person and an artist, right?
B - One hundred million percent Sue (if that was a thing). I don’t know if you know about it… But at least once a day I’ve been using the Insight Timer App… its been especially good for getting to sleep. I’ve never had a sleeping problem before until I moved to NYC!
S - Yes! I love Insight Timer! Kenneth Soares is my favourite teacher on there!
B - MEEEEE TOOOOOOO! He melts me into sleep I have no idea what the end of his meditations are like.
S - I am secretly in love with him. Actually it’s not much of a secret.
B - That ‘Deep Sleep Meditation with Affirmations’ by Kenneth Soares is my jam. I hope he doesn’t talk that delicious all the time… no one around him would want him to stop talking ha!
Sue’s webinar will be held Tuesday 22nd or Wednesday 23rd, depending on where in the world you are, and you can register at:
p.s. None of this post is paid or written with incentive. Both Apps mentioned in this post are bloody excellent and I like talking with Sue. You should download them you will find them useful!