Amy McDonough – ‘Lipstick, Lashes and Learning Curves’

Ellie Birch and Helena Nuttall

“I used to dread going to work before I started my own business”

Amy McDonough is an International Makeup Artist, Lash Extension Expert and Dermaplaning Specialist from The Midlands. She set up her business, Pretty Faces by Amy, 3 years ago. Since then, she has loved working as her own boss and now cannot imagine working for anybody else. We were really keen to interview Amy and ask her all about her career so far…

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I was always into makeup, but at my school it was never seen as an actual job. I always wanted to go along the fashion route; I was very creative and arty. I was never academic, and I was only really good at art. I almost wasn’t allowed to stay at the school to do my A-Levels, but they let me in to do Art, Textiles and Graphic Design courses.

So, how did you end up in the makeup industry after leaving school?

I still didn’t know much about any makeup careers then. I still really wanted to go into fashion but the only way into fashion back then was to move to London and I really didn’t think it was for me. I didn’t want to move away from home. I applied to go to University of Loughborough to do an Art Foundation Course, but I applied really late and I got put into a hall of residence that I didn’t like. I still wasn’t sure that uni was for me. So, I lasted a week at uni then quit. I went to work in Selfridges for a couple of years and I went into a recruitment job after that. I knew that what I really wanted to do was to make money. Then I actually got made redundant from the recruitment job and I just thought to myself “I’m just going to do it, put it out there and do makeup for a living”. I think losing my recruitment job was actually the best thing that could’ve happened to me because it pushed me to start my business.

What would you say have been the main pros and cons of starting and running your own business?

The biggest pro is probably that you can work whenever you like. Today, for example, I have had the day off and been shopping! It is also great because I work by myself, so I haven’t got to ever report into anybody. But, of course, there are some cons too. Things like… you don’t get any holiday pay if you want to go away and there are unexpected things that can happen like Coronavirus. I was able to get a grant but it wasn’t amazing so it may have been more stable had I been working for someone else – because I would’ve been furloughed. But I could never ever go back and work for someone else again. I love working for myself!

What would you say have been some of your biggest achievements or proudest moments in your career so far?

I would say my first big moment was last year when I got flown abroad to do a wedding in Rhodes. I was paid to go to Rhodes, do makeup and sit in the sun…which obviously was unbelievable and that’s when I thought “this is so good.” Then I also got put forward and nominated and shortlisted for the ‘West Midlands – Makeup Artist of The Year’ in ‘The English Hair and Beauty Awards’. It was meant to be in March but has been cancelled for now, because of Covid. I also did a Charity Masterclass for Marie Curie in January which was probably the biggest thing that I have done. I was thinking “Oh My God! I am actually really proud of myself!” when I did that all for charity. I am all for charity and I would definitely do that again. I hope I can do some more of the master classes at some point.

Have you experienced any sort of challenges as you set up Pretty Faces by Amy? If so, how did you overcome them?

When I first started, I was jobless, so I literally had no money. My parents lent me the money for me to do my lash course. With the makeup side of my business, I am self-taught.When you first start, it takes a lot of time to build your cliental up. I was struggling for money and I didn’t have much makeup. I was having to mix foundation shades and I only had a few eyeshadow palettes. So that was quite hard at the start. But I wouldn’t say I have had any major challenges. I have been so fortunate that a lot of my clients have been returning customers and a lot of my work has come from recommendation so I could build my business quite quickly and buy more makeup and equipment.

Obviously, a lot of your success has come from building up your client-base and social media marketing. What do you think about this?

Honestly, I love Instagram so much! It is, obviously, free marketing… but I do find that it doesn’t matter how many followers you have on Instagram. You could have 50,000 followers, but not be fully booked, or you could have only have 1000 followers and be really busy. I just think that a lot of young people nowadays think it’s all about how many followers you have but I think it’s more about your loyal customers. And also, I get a lot of people recommending me through word-of-mouth. I really love to hear when someone has recommended me! It can come down to being in the right place at the right time or knowing the right people.It is so important to speak to everyone and keep up to date with as many people as possible to spread the word.

It is a really big commitment to make when running your own business. How do you stay motivated on a day-to-day basis?

I used to dread going to work before I started my own business. But now, I don’t feel like my job is a job; it’s really more of a hobby! I am very lucky to love my job now. I really think that if you are in a job that you don’t enjoy, you should quit it and move on. There is more to life than not enjoying your job. I love it all now! I am really motivated… unless it involves going to the gym! Haha!

So, one final question Amy… what advice would you give to your younger self?

Save! Save! Save Money! Save money from literally when you start earning. Everyone used to say it to me, but I thought “I don’t need to save money, I’m going to go and buy that Louis Vuitton bag”. It’s only really since I have been with my boyfriend that I have saved because we wanted to buy a house. Luckily, we have just got one! Obviously, that’s a massive milestone. But yes, I would definitely say to save as soon as possible! Also, I would say “Don’t be afraid!”. I used to not want to put out on Facebook and Instagram that I was a makeup artist because I worried what people would think. Don’t ever be afraid of what people think. I have really worked hard and proved people wrong. If you want to do something, go for it. Everything happens for a reason. Be brave – because there is always another option if things do go wrong.

If you would like to check out more about Amy, please go to her Instagram -@prettyfacesbyamy or read more about Amy’s fundraising by clicking the following link

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