Slow Season Survival:  9 Ways to Survive the Off Season Without Eating Ramen

Right around mid-November, a lot of makeup artists see their bookings slow down considerably and the phone and email get super quiet.  You may think to yourself, “Omg, what is going on?  Was it this quiet last year?  Will I ever work again?!  Will I need to live in my car?! Or worse …. get a desk job!!!???” Don’t stress!  Here are 9 ways to get you through the slow season and still live your dream!

Remember back in May when you were so busy you couldn’t remember if you’d eaten between the hours of 6am and 6pm?  Money was coming in at a rapid rate and you felt unstoppable!  Now, it’s December.  No money is coming in and if it is, it certainly isn’t at a rapid rate.  No matter what area of makeup you specialize in there are always busy seasons and slow seasons, but winter seems to be slow for most of us.  Snow falls, and so does our checking account balance and, if you aren’t careful, so do your hopes.  Even though your brain knows that it’s only temporary, that business will pick up and inquiries will start flowing in, your heart is concerned you’ll have to eat cat food to survive.  So, let’s talk about some ways we can get through the slow season without resorting to foods not meant for human consumption!


Bank a portion of your income during the peak season so you aren’t distraught when you see your account balance in the off-season. 

Plan Ahead

You know how a lot of teachers don’t work over the summer?  Have you ever wondered how they survive their “slow season?”  Well, some do continue to teach summer school or at a local college, but a good number of teachers have a portion of their income set aside so they can still draw a check over the summer.  You can do this too, although it’ll take a little more discipline.  The best way to survive the slow season comfortably is to bank money throughout the peak season so you can live off of it when times are lean.  If you’re banking about 40% of your income during the peak season, you’ll be doing fine when business is quiet. 

Raise your hand if you know that you’re not going to set money aside during the peak season, despite your best intentions. 

Stagger Payments, Heavy Deposits, & Payment Plans

Ok, so maybe you know yourself and you know that there is a 100% chance you are not going to bank anything throughout the year.  If this is the case, let’s work smarter, instead of letting ourselves fail!  You can make your retainers heavier (50% upon booking to secure the date, 50% final payment due).  You can also offer payment plans to your clients (although this will take time, effort, and patience to manage) to help ease the feast or famine of seasonal work.  Balancing when the money comes in will definitely help balance your finances throughout the year.

Encourage prospective clients to book under current pricing before it increases after the first of the year!

Incentivize Bookings

If you’re in the bridal word and considering a rate increase for the new year, think about creating a marketing campaign to target prospective brides.  Letting brides know that your rates will increase January 1 incentivizes them to book now.  You’ll get retainers coming in and your clients will secure the lower price.  Everyone wins!  You can also run deals for your off-season clients like free lash upgrades or complimentary airbrushing.  Maybe all clients you visit in December get a small gift or coupon for their next application? 

To stand out, reach out to your former and current clients while other vendors are staying quiet

Stay In Touch With Clients (When No One Else Is)

Now is the time to get in front of your clients.  If you don’t already have a client contact database using a subscription service like MailChimpConstant Contact, AWeber, etc, I highly recommend you get one.  This is the best way to keep your former and prospective clients updated on what you have to offer.  If you’re running a special or offering a new service, this is how you’ll let them know.  But most importantly, communicating with these clients during the off-season means you might be able to get more of their attention since other seasonal vendors might be dormant. 

Private lessons, done right, can put thousands of extra income in your pockets.  

Private Lessons

Private Lessons are an amazing way to keep money coming in during the off-season.  You can market lessons to many different target clients:  moms for their teenaged daughters, men to their wives, groups of women, groups of men (for grooming tips), people transitioning to new careers, or even those transitioning to new lifestyles, etc.  You can make them casual by offering them in clients’ homes or luxurious by holding them in a studio space.  They can be simple or incredibly comprehensive and detailed.  Your price point needs to account for any materials you leave with the client and your time.  

Image:  L’Oreal Paris

Holiday Events

Tis the season for holiday parties, balls, galas, charity events, and more!  If you can attract these clients, you can keep your books heavy for December, at the very least, and possibly even a smattering into January and February.  If you do makeup and hair, even better — these clients are typically looking for both.  How do you attract these clients?  Ask yourself who are you looking for?  Are you looking for thirty-something moms, military event attendees, mature women, etc?  Where are these people shopping, hanging out, or otherwise spending their time?  What social media platofrms are they on?  When you understand who your client is, it’s easier to get in front of them. 

Now is the time to sell gift cards!

Gift Certificates

Why not sell gift certificates for services during the off-season?  This capitalizes on holiday gift-giving and keeps money coming in throughout the slow months.  There are pros and cons to gift cards — on one hand, it’s immediate income and on the other, you’ll feel like you’re working for free at some point later in the year.  However, if you can maximize those bookings and turn them into repeat clients, you’re still winning. 

Working at a cosmetics counter can be steady income and sometimes you get free product!

Holiday Season Retail

The holidays are one of the easiest times to come on as a freelancer or do counter work with a cosmetics brand.  Not only do you get experience working on hundreds of different faces, you will typically also get product training, semi-stable income, and sometimes, free product.  If you love people, love the energy of a Sephora in December or a busy cosmetics counter, then this may be a great tactic to get through the off-season.  

Take advantage of the peak season in another industry!

Alternative Services

What else are you good at?  Can you make things?  Are you phenomenal at organizing or graphic design?  Can you decorate a mean Christmas tree?  Think of ways you can capitalize on the holiday season with services you can offer, even if they are not makeup-related.  Perhaps look into becoming a virtual assistant?  Maybe you can offer organizational services, graphic design, or sell homemade candies/candles/soaps/socks for the holidays.  Did you know that there are people who will pay someone with great penmanship to write their holiday greeting cards and address the envelopes?  If your handwriting is the kind of perfection only a high-school English teacher typically has, get on that and make some money!

Do you have other ideas on how to survive the slow season?  Comment below and let us know!  Subscribe for more tips, tricks, and beauty business info!

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