Lip Service: How Entrepreneur Tiyana Robinson Built a Community of Makeup Artists - and a Glamorous New Career

By Shana Clarke

 Image Courtesy of Tiyana Robinson

Image Courtesy of Tiyana Robinson

When Tiyana Robinson’s dream job at a beauty industry start-up vanished as the company suffered from internal funding issues, she experienced a serious moment of self doubt. “If I can do everything right and still lose my job, then what is all of this work for?” she said.  But an unexpected request from a friend who admired her makeup skills revealed a new path to becoming a sought-after makeup artist and influential beauty entrepreneur. Here’s how Tiyana took what felt like a career detour and turned it into her dream job.

Identify Your Value Prop

Key for Tiyana’s business was finding her signature style and voice. “When I was preparing for my own wedding, I had a really hard time finding beauty inspiration online that captured the refined, red carpet kind of makeup that I wanted for my wedding day."

When I decided to pursue makeup artistry, I knew I wanted to fill that need so women of color didn’t have to say, well, I want to look like the black version of XYZ. I created my signature makeup style from that place of, ‘what are the gaps I can fill, and where are the voids here?’
— Tiyana Robinson

Acknowledging that her skill set at the time didn’t fit her vision, she started taking lessons and focusing her work on this aesthetic.

 Image Courtesy of Tiyana Robinson

Image Courtesy of Tiyana Robinson

Tap Into Your Adjacent Skills

“The gift and the curse of being a makeup artist is that information about makeup is literally everywhere,” she says. “You can hop on YouTube and learn a lot of what you need to know to get started; it can feel like makeup artists come a dime a dozen.” Tying back into finding her signature look,

I really had to figure out what my perspective on beauty was, what makes me different from every other makeup artist, and how do I convey that to someone who is just kind of randomly searching on Instagram, because that’s where most of my clients find me. That was hard at first but I feel I found my voice, I found my groove, and it’s just been working for me.
— Tiyana Robinson

Hire a Business Coach

Tiyana attributes her marketing and business background to her company’s rapid growth, but another factor played an integral role: hiring a business coach. As many Soloists do, Tiyana struggled with figuring out what to charge, as well as believing she was worth her fees. “My coach helped me shift my mindset about money and what was possible to earn as a makeup artist. We worked on creating packages and she taught me invaluable sales strategies. So now, whether I’m working with a bride, or with makeup artists who want to learn from me, I create packages that are focused on the value I’m able to deliver, versus trading time for money. Based upon that, I’m able to charge what I feel like I’m actually worth, instead of basing my rate on what other artists are charging.”

Face Your Fears

Like many Soloists, Tiyana faced a myriad of challenges when first getting started. Overcoming the negative mental chatter was enemy number one. “Makeup is an occasional service so there’s that internal battle of, is it really possible to make a comfortable living as a makeup artist? Will people book with me? Can I actually sustain myself?” Coming from being laid off, the noise was especially deafening, but working with her coach, she learned how to shift her mindset. Instead of thinking of herself as “just a makeup artist,” Tiyana made an important mental shift:

I started to look at myself as an entrepreneur; I’m in control of my results and the life I’m able to create for myself. It requires a daily practice of journaling every morning, meditating, and reprogramming my mind.
— Tiyana Robinson
 Image Courtesy of Tiyana Robinson

Image Courtesy of Tiyana Robinson

One of her biggest successes became the catalyst for her moving into a full-time career. She decided to hold a live event with the goal of booking brides for future appointments, “because," as she laughs, “if I was going to leave my job, I needed to know I had brides on the calendar.” With the help of her coach, they created the presentation, which included one of Tiyana’s biggest fears at the time: teaching. As it drew closer, “I would call my coach literally boo-hoo crying on the phone, saying, what if no one shows up to my event and what if I forget everything I’m supposed to say? I had just completely fallen apart before this event.” On the day of, “30 people showed up and I was like Oh my God, this is absolutely incredible. From that one live event, where I just did a makeup demo, showed the brides-to-be how I create my signature red-carpet bridal look, and opened up the opportunity to work with me, I ended up generating $7,000 in revenue. That was the ‘aha’ moment that I could be a serious makeup artist.” Even more importantly, Tiyana realized live events would be a great financial stream, and she now counts them as a key part of her business strategy.

 Image Courtesy of Tiyana Robinson

Image Courtesy of Tiyana Robinson

Hire An Assistant (Virtual or IRL)

Work-life balance can be hard to come by. As a newlywed, Tiyana struggled to give equal attention to her new business and her new relationship. However, certain strategies, such as blocking off time for specific tasks and setting a laptop curfew, realign her day. Hiring a personal assistant also helps achieve equilibrium while still growing her business. Resistant at first to the expenditure,  “I told myself I couldn’t afford to sacrifice my relationships with not only my husband but my friends and family, which were really suffering.” Her assistant helps with bookings, general inquiries, on-site support for live events, and helps manage her private Facebook group for professional makeup artists,  which alleviates a good chunk of the day-to-day workload so Tiyana can focus on bigger-picture projects.

Build Your Community

Although Tiyana grew her business on social media, her advice for Soloists is applicable both online and IRL. “When I think about the reason why my efforts to grow my business have been so successful, it’s because I really focus on building community."

My advice to any Soloist is to take the time to understand how you want to present yourself and who you’re marketing to. Learn to understand their needs, what their challenges are, how they’re feeling, and why they’re frustrated, because doing so will help you understand how to lead them to the solution that you offer.
— Tiyana Robinson

These learnings are not a one-way conversation. “Over the last year or so, I’ve been on social media sharing my challenges,” she says, in addition to tips and tricks that help her followers through their tough moments.

 Image Courtesy of Tiyana Robinson

Image Courtesy of Tiyana Robinson

What it ultimately comes down to is sharing value instead of selling. “As you build your tribe of people who love you and are excited about what you’re doing, it becomes so much easier to launch a product, because you have a warm audience that you’ve built a relationship of trust with over time. There are so many entrepreneurs who want fast results, but when they come to market with their offerings, there’s no one there to receive it," Tiyana says.

When you’re thinking about launching a product or service, think about your strategy in two phases. Phase one: how can you show up and provide value so that you can find your people? And then phase two: when you get familiar with your audience and you’re clear about what they need, jump in and create services or products that really speak to that need.
— Tiyana Robinson

Multiple channels of communication also help build this community. “In addition to my Instagram, I created a private Facebook group just for professional makeup artists. We talk about business, share tips, discuss products,” and address other matters on their minds. “I wanted to create a safe space where we could go a little bit deeper with our business talk than we can have on Instagram.”

Hard work builds a business, but a team propels it forward. Tiyana’s learned to tap into her various resources to help her grow not only financially, but personally.   With a strong community behind her, Tiyana is ready to paint the town red (or plum, or peach…).