Every week, we talk to Nigerians around the world about money and how they make it.
This week features Nnenna, a professional makeup artist. She shares how she started and the challenges she faces running a business in Nigeria.
She talks about how she balances school and work, how she gets clients, and her plans to get into tech.
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Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m a Geography student in my third year at the University of Lagos. I’m also a professional makeup artist. It took me a while to accept that. I learned from two people and it took a long time, 4 years of consistent work to get here.
Love it. Professional makeup artist.
How did you get into being a makeup artist? What sparked that interest?
In secondary school, I was never that into makeup, I didn’t understand why people would spend so much on makeup items like compact powder.
When I look at people’s faces, I try to figure out what makes them conventionally attractive. I’ve been doing this for a while and it made me notice people’s faces. The ones I find interesting, I try to look at what I like about the face and what I’ll change if I could.
It’s not like I want the person to change anything but I notice the little details.
Chemistry and physics weren’t my strong points in school. If they were, I’ll probably have gone into medicine or plastic surgery. I used to love watching those plastic surgery shows like Dr 90210 and Botched.
So the next best thing I could do was change these things with makeup. Oh, you want fuller lips? Outline the lips, You want a slimmer nose? Contour the nose, You want more defined cheekbones? contour the cheeks.
After secondary school, I told my mum I was interested in makeup, we talked to some people, made inquiries for makeup classes and my mum said 50k was too much.
A neighbor heard me talking about it and introduced me to his friend who’s a makeup artist and was willing to teach me for 30k. I got 100k from my dad, used 70k to buy makeup products, used 30k to pay the makeup artist.
She taught me in detail why you needed to do one thing to get X result. She shared a lot of Youtube makeup tutorials with me.
Did you immediately start making money from it when you started?
I didn’t start making money immediately. People will come to me to help them with little makeup touches. Back then, people didn’t really value or put a price on the service because they didn’t think of it as a business.
How were you able to monetize it then? And get people to pay what your work is worth? Also what year did you start making money from it?
I insisted that they must pay. Back then, I was charging 3k to 5k.
I wouldn’t even agree to just doing brows, you have to pay me to do a full makeup look. It took me a while to really figure out pricing and say no when I had to but I did it.
I wasn’t making a lot of money from makeup when I started, I just wanted to practice on myself, make videos and have fun with it. Plus, I didn’t feel like I was good at it yet. I focused on ushering jobs since I was getting paid more from that.
Last year was when I seriously focused on makeup and started making money from it. I had a client who really helped build my confidence in my work. She’ll call me like four times a month to get her makeup done.
I was constantly doing makeup for her and some repeat customers and I realized that the more I did it, the better I got.
Makeup is something I really enjoy, so I didn’t see it as a lot of work.
I started buying better products, watching more tutorials and my price had to go up as the quality of my work got better.
Then I went for an upgrade class in January and that was career-changing for me
Growth! What’s been your biggest gig so far that made you realize you are a professional makeup artist.
I don’t think the realization came after one job.
It was more of constant praise from family, love from Instagram, acknowledging how good I’ve gotten that made me realize I’m a pro at it.
My sister modeled for me on one of my videos and it blew up on Instagram. It got 163k views with 8k likes and it really shocked me that a lot of people liked my work.
Yes. I saw that video. It blew up.
I was so happy.
How do you get clients?
From returning customers and clients, getting referrals from friends. I also run promotions on Instagram.
I partnered with my friend who’s an influencer, I make her up for new content, she tags me and I get a free promo from that while she gets free makeup. I’m trying to expand to the Facebook market.
What’s the biggest challenge you face being a makeup artist in Nigeria?
The biggest challenge I’m facing rn is pricing. I charge 10k plus Uber fare charges because I don’t have a studio yet.
The uber fare makes my price high, so when some people want me to work for them and they hear my price, they just say they’ll get back to me but never do.
Sometimes I lose customers because of the price. If people don’t know you, you’ll have problems with pricing, except you want to undercharge clients.
But I’ll stick to the price for now and keep pushing it.
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So what’s your relationship with money like?
I think it has been terrible 😩It never stays for long in my account. I need to do couples therapy with money 😭
😂 This brings me to the question, do you save?
I try to, but things are always happening.
What’s that like?
Unsuccessful. I’ve started resisting the urge to buy all the products I want. That’s the major thing eating my money because I don’t even spend it on myself.
My makeup plug had a sale this weekend. I had to only buy the necessary things. It was hard, but I did it. Now I’m only buying the absolute necessary until I save up a certain amount, then I can do a mini splurge.
What about investing? Do you invest or have you ever invested
I’m investing in makeup products 😅
I keep saying I’ll start investing but I never do 😩 I have articles upon articles saved about investing. I’m just a lazy person tbh.
How do you manage to balance school and your work?
I swear, one always suffers. I don’t think I’ve been able to find that balance yet.
What are your plans for when you finish school?
I’m looking at a career in design. 🙃 I must chop tech money.
By hook or by crook 😩
I’ve got the makeup skills. I will do it until I find something more fulfilling. I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing makeup.
Get that money! That’s amazing. How would you like to round off the year in terms of your personal/financial goals?
This year has been weird tbh.
I’m really just happy to be alive and well and getting clients.
But then it’s not too late to set a goal. I mean the year hasn’t actually ended yet 🤔.
It won’t be bad to make a celebrity up before the year runs out. The exposure would be awesome
What’s something you bought this year that improved the quality of your life?
My phone, lighting equipment, and the upgrade class.
What’s your biggest fear about money
That’s it’s forever going to elude me. 😩
If you could change the price of one thing to 1000 naira, what would it be?
High-end foundations. They are so expensive.
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