When to Turn Down a PMU Client and Refer Them Elsewhere

when to turn down a pmu client
⏱️ 6 min read

Here’s a business topic no one ever discusses, at least not in public – sometimes, you have to turn down a PMU client.

When you start working in the PMU industry, obviously one of your main goals is to get as many clients as possible. For one, more clients means more profit, which is especially important for getting a return on the investment you’ve made – your course, your salon, all the equipment, etc.

Getting clients in the beginning can be a real challenge, especially with the market being more and more saturated with PMU artists. The surge in the popularity of permanent makeup has also resulted in a very large portion of clients coming in with previously done work, and correcting such cases can be difficult even for experienced artists, let alone someone who’s just starting out.

So let’s discuss how artists can filter out who is a good candidate and who isn’t, red flags that may point to someone being particularly problematic, and when it’s justified to turn down a PMU client and refer them to someone else.

Why Would I Want to Turn Down a PMU Client?

We know what you’re thinking – getting clients is so hard, why in the world would I turn down a PMU client?

But hear us out.

Artists who work a long time and have many clients under their belt know that sometimes, accepting a client at all costs can do more harm than good. Sometimes, a particular client isn’t a good candidate for the treatment, or simply isn’t a good fit for you. And while, as a professional, you should be able to work with anyone, there are cases where it’s just not possible and it’s justified to turn down a PMU client.

As you’re working and encountering different clients, you will go through all sorts of situations, and there will probably be cases where you think back and decide it wasn’t really worth taking on every single client. Here’s a run down of such situations, based on the experiences of fellow artists.

When Is It Justified to Turn Down a PMU Client?

It’s justified to turn down a PMU client if you feel like their skin isn’t suitable for the procedure you’re offering, if you feel like you won’t be able to fulfill their expectations, or if they seem too difficult for you to handle.

Here’s more on each scenario.

Their Skin Is Unsuitable or Compromised and Can’t Be Worked On

As an artist, you’ve gone through training and you know what the contraindications for your technique are. But clients who book with you probably aren’t aware of them, especially the ones that have to do with the characteristics of their skin.

So if a client comes in and you assess that their skin won’t handle the treatment well or that the results won’t be satisfactory, you shouldn’t force things – you can do more harm than good. This applies to the following scenarios:

  • They have scarring from previous PMU in the area. Scarred skin doesn’t take pigment well, and doing more work on top of the scar tissue can make the situation worse. This especially applies to microblading – machine shading can work fine.
  • Their skin is compromised – either too thin or otherwise damaged. You shouldn’t work on damaged skin because you can cause further damage, risk your client’s wellbeing, as well as your own reputation or business.
  • Their skin type isn’t suitable for the technique you’re offering. This primarily refers to microblading. Clients with oily skin aren’t good candidates for this, and need to be pointed in the direction of machine work. If you do both techniques, great! But if you don’t, it’s better to refer them to someone else.


Sometimes, clients don’t realize that their skin isn’t suitable for performing a PMU treatment, and may react with frustration when you try to turn them down. You need to be empathetic here and take the time to explain to them what could go wrong if you go ahead with the treatment, even if you won’t be closing the deal.

They’ll definitely appreciate this and respect you as someone who cares about their clients and not just their cash.

microblading scarsImage source: Instagram @eliselouisemelbourne

They Have Old Work You Don’t Think You Can Improve

Clients who have visible prior work are arguably the trickiest ones. By far.

With permanent makeup being so popular in the past few years, clients who’ve already had something done and want a touch up or a correction from a different artist are more and more frequent.

There are several potential problems here.

First, the skin that’s previously been treated can be compromised. In the case of not-so-great technique or frequent touch ups, scarring can occur and the skin can toughen up. This isn’t the rule, of course, but it’s definitely a possibility.

But perhaps an even greater issue from the point of view of you as an artist is the fact that, once you touch previous work, the whole thing becomes yours and your name is attached to it.

So you need to be very careful when accepting corrections, and you need to be realistic. If you don’t feel 100% confident that you can improve the state of the client’s existing PMU, you should turn them down and refer them to someone more experienced.

Working over old work means you have to incorporate the pigment residues into the new design, and that can be very difficult, plus you don’t know how pigments added on top will behave. It’s always a challenge, and for beginner artists, it can be too much.

Of course, you’ll have to start taking on corrections at some point, but start with easier ones, where the old pigment is barely visible.

The same goes for color corrections – start taking the easier cases, but only once you’ve gained some experience with color matching and color theory.

PMU client wasn't happy with microblading resultsImage source: Instagram @mbrow.marina

They Seem Like They’ll Cause You Trouble

This is perhaps a controversial topic, but we should mention it.

Doing someone’s permanent makeup entails building a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. Each of the treatments is done in at least 2 sessions, so it’s a journey, not a one-off, and you’ll be in contact with the client for a certain time.

A friendly rapport is therefore very important for the success of the treatment, but you also need to exert a certain dose of authority. You need to respect your client’s wishes, but they have to respect your expertise.

Each and every one of us is an individual and has different personality traits, and not every client will be easy to work with. Over time, you will inevitably encounter clients who will:

  • Have unrealistic expectations and blame you for not being a miracle-worker
  • Ignore aftercare and blame you when they get poor retention
  • Demand touch ups sooner than it’s safe to do one
  • Dislike the results and ask for refunds even if you do a good job

Going into it, you can’t really know if a client will cause you trouble down the line, but doing in-person consults prior to the treatment can definitely help you assess how easy or difficult a client will be to work with. If there’s anything that seems off, or if you notice a client is not taking you and the treatment seriously, don’t be afraid to turn down a PMU client.

You may lose a customer, but imagine how hard it would be handling a client who disregards your authority, expects unrealistic results, and then blames you for not delivering.

Here’s an article on handling difficult clients where you can read more about this topic.

Turn Down a PMU ClientImage source: Freepik

The Importance of a Solid Consent Form

As a PMU artist who essentially tattoos people’s faces, you have a moral responsibility to provide the best results possible and do everything in your power to keep your clients safe, healthy, but also satisfied.

But in order to protect your business and your image, you need a solid consent form. As sucky as it is, there are clients who lie on their medical forms or who promise they’ll follow aftercare and then don’t, and you need to be able to prove that you’ve presented them with all the important info.

So make sure your consent form covers everything that seems like a potential issue in the future. If they’ve read and signed everything, from the medical form to the prescribed aftercare instructions, you’re in the clear and you can’t be held accountable should something go wrong or the client ends up unsatisfied.

If you need more info, here’s an article on what a consent form should cover.

Cover image source: Freepik



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