Remember when your greatest wish as a new aesthetician was to have a full appointment book? I certainly do! It seemed like an almost impossible fantasy in those early years of my new practice. Then, gradually and with patience, my clientele grew until I was forced to create a waiting list for clients I would otherwise have to turn away – unable to see them as soon as they preferred. Great problem to have, right? Well, yes and no. While a regularly packed service schedule might represent career Nirvana for some professionals – after all, who doesn’t like the idea of a predictable income – there are some downsides to it.
DOWNSIDES OF A FULL BOOK
First of all, when our books are full, there’s no room to take on new clients. Like it or not, we do steadily lose clients throughout the working years, needing to replace them as they drop away from our business. And, the newer clients we see are actually the ones who are responsible for the most referrals we receive. They’re more excited about having discovered us in the beginning of our relationship than in years down the line.
Next, a highly busy appointment schedule means heavy demand on our body, testing the limits of physical power and energy. Many aestheticians come to find that long hours in treatment can be challenging, even leading to the need to reduce hours and the elimination of certain back-straining services, such as body waxing. In such cases, more business can wind up meaning less.
When we’re dedicating all of our spa hours to service work, other important aspects of business management (inventory orders, marketing, bookkeeping, and so forth) may go neglected, causing potential harm to the very practice we’re pushing so hard to maximize.
And, then, there’s plain old burnout. We’re overworked and not giving our best to the off-time life a great business is supposed to improve. Clearly our good fortune can come with hidden costs.
So, what does an ambitious professional do under these circumstances? Consider these smart options.
RAISE YOUR PRICES
Raise your prices. Sure, maybe, just maybe you’ll lose a few clients with a price hike, but this will result in several positives. Remember, demand equals price. Think about this:
ADD TIMES TO SERVICES
With higher prices you can add a little extra time on services to reduce work pressure or even hours. I see between six and eight clients per day, all facial appointments, and I allow time for things like late arrival, sudden bathroom visits, and post-treatment retail sales. My above-average prices make this affordable, while giving me time to focus on product sales. When clients call me, frantic about being caught in traffic, I can urge them to relax and just arrive when they can. This makes everyone feel better. Mine is a stress-free practice for just this reason.
OFFER NON TIME-SENSITIVE SERVICES
Focus on services that are not overly time sensitive. My facials-only aesthetics practice fills my day with a service that has the greatest amount of flexibility timewise. I know how to create a wonderful and effective treatment, even when a portion of the hour has been sacrificed to client lateness. If you are heavy in services that cannot be properly delivered if any time is lost, consider changing your focus to one that can tolerate the unexpected. You may also find that these treatments are easier on your body than others.
DEVELOP YOUR RETAIL SKILLS
If you are not strong in retail sales, this is an ideal time to develop these skills. At the beginning of each month in my skin care spa, I add up all of the pre-scheduled services and estimate the before-gratuity service total. For example, let’s say that it amounts to $8,000 at the month’s start. Next, I set an earnings goal for the entire month – in this case I will aim for $16,000, service and retail combined. I realize that, in order to double my income, I will need to be seriously focused on sales. Additionally, I can always expect that there will be a number of clients who will schedule during the month, plus those I reschedule at the end of each appointment (most often acne clients, as they visit more often than age management customers). I track my progress on a small white board in my laboratory, doing what I can to achieve the financial goals I set for myself. It is always amazing to see how walk-in and call-in retail sales, together with those that occur during regular client appointments, add up to many thousands of dollars each month. And, these sales require far less time and labor than equal dollars from service performance in the treatment room.
BEGIN AN ONLINE STORE
Consider beginning an online store for more product sales outreach and volume. This is a perfect way to build business revenue without adding more service hours or the need to physically expand the spa. Over time, your product store could produce revenue equal to your treatment work, and perhaps even more. This is also an easy operation to manage unless you achieve high-volume sales. By then, however, you’ll probably want to devote full-time to this profit generating activity.
By now, you may be wondering why I have not suggested the obvious move for a business with too much demand for a single service provider – hiring help. Becoming an employer involves a set of business skills, responsibilities, expenses, and headaches way beyond what most people imagine. My purpose in this article is to guide you to easy ways to take advantage of a heavy-demand schedule without plunging into even more work and worry. Stay small if you can and reap the rewards of your success. Talk to others who chose to become employers before becoming one yourself. Those are conversations you may be very grateful you had!
Douglas Preston, president of Preston Beauty Professional, has a career that spans 33 years in professional aesthetics, education, and skin care career mentoring. His business articles appear in DERMASCOPE Magazine, Spa Management Journal, and others. He is a past president of Aesthetics International Association and a former committee chairman for The Day Spa Association. Preston has started and operated award-winning day spas, trains spa and skin care professionals internationally, and is a featured speaker at numerous spa and skin care trade events.