In less than six months, makeup artist Marisa Warren moved to Austin and built her beauty company, Velvet Beauty, from a fledgling business into a full-blown enterprise. She relied on artistic collaborations, Thumbtack and good old elbow grease to kickstart her company, and two years later business is better than ever. Here’s how she closes deals, gets reviews (100+ five-star reviews!) and keeps jobs coming even during the slow season.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
In 2015, one week before I left San Francisco for Austin, a colleague told me she was starting her own business. I was so curious how she could do that in the tough SF beauty market, and she told me about Thumbtack. I thought she was so bold. I joined Thumbtack in San Francisco to test the waters and went full force when I moved. In Austin, I met a bunch of photographers and was able to build up my portfolio. I offered discounts in my first six months to build business. Within six months of me going all out, I was established.
How did you choose what to include in your Thumbtack profile?
I put my story on my profile. It’s the story of how my business has grown. I talk about how my aesthetic is more natural, I like enhancing natural features as opposed to heavy makeup. It targets the Austin brides.
I constantly change the photos on my profile. I get new photos all the time and I only use professional photos. I try to keep a good variety: model shoots, different ages, different skin colors. I show my range. Clients tell me that other makeup artists are using photos from their phones on their profiles. They like that I use professional photos.
What has been your learning curve on setting the right job preferences?
It’s changed quite a bit. I want to focus mainly on makeup (as opposed to both hair and makeup which is an option in my field), and have set my preferences for that.
You’ve grown enough that you need assistants, how does that work?
I hire girls who are just starting their careers. Once they have been trained, I bring them on as assistants for an hourly fee and pay them as contractors. Right now I have a pool of five assistants. They get experience and I get help I need when I have a ten-person bridal party that all need makeup at the same time. No one girl will do a whole face, though. I have my hands in every part of the makeup. I find women who specialize in lips, or eyes, and that’s what they focus on. It’s a teamwork thing.
How do you stay busy even when it’s slow season?
I have learned to be flexible with my prices. I’m successful because I want to be busy, so I cater to the flexibility of their budget. During the wedding season, I’m stricter about my costs, but I’ve learned that on a Monday in off-season, I can be flexible. That’s the great thing about Thumbtack — I’m able to talk directly to the customer and find something that works for both of us.
You’ve styled some seriously famous people. What’s that like?
I was hired for a business conference to work onsite at the Austin Convention Center for three days. I as set up in a fancy green room to touch up presenters, hosts, and big internet people who were presenting. Turns out the special guest was Matthew McConaughey. I’m glad I didn’t know until the morning of, otherwise I would have been nervous. His wife came too, and she’s gorgeous. We were together in the green room for 45 minutes. At first he didn’t want any touch-ups, but after a while I convinced him to let me even out his skin a bit. I’m so glad I did, now I have him on my client list. He went on and killed it onstage and I was so happy. I wouldn’t have worked with him were it not for Thumbtack.
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