Wednesday, 20 July 2016 09:10

Taking the Next Step: Planning a Solo Career in the Skin Care Profession

Written by   Douglas Preston, L.E., president of The Inspired Esthetician

Many skin care professionals dream of starting and running their own private skin care spa. There are a number of assumptions that influence this big decision, including the presumed satisfaction of owning an independent business, having creative freedom, and fulfilling ambitions. However, it is important to push the pause button on this fantasy and take a deeper look at what it truly means to run a business. Behind the dream of independence and success lies the realities of operating solo and, like marriage with children, it is important to know what it entails before signing papers and committing money.


The desire to be one's own boss. In this scenario, the professional no longer has to deal with annoying or limiting employers and coworkers.

The freedom to create whatever service programs they like and use any product line they prefer.

The ability to set their own work schedule and hours.

The possibility of expansion, taking on employees, and having the business make money for them, even when they are away from it.
The expectation that they will have a higher income than they did when working for someone else.

These reasons are pretty attractive in the argument for going solo! Who would not be happy with a career as described above? But, are these expectations practical? Look at it this way: if a friend said that she was getting married because she was expecting a lifetime filled with love, romantic evenings, and unending joy, what might be the response? Discouraging her from marrying the person she loves is not ideal, but it could be helpful to the lasting power of that marriage to equip it with a few facts of life.

When beginning to share the solo dream vision with friends and family, many of them will immediately support the goal. They will brim with enthusiasm for the great idea and say that they will be the first to sign up for an appointment. This kind of morale cheerleading can persuade the professional to overlook the risks and conditions of an independent business. They will feel protected and supported, reducing their natural inclination to proceed with wiser caution.


It is one thing to have a vision of a successful independent practice, but quite another to possess the special qualities and skills that success will demand. The following list notes some of the most important aspects in the challenge of building a worthwhile skin care business.

Self-motivation – A skin care professional is truly on their own. No one will set their alarm, get them out of bed, plan their day, or force them to fulfill their daily business obligations, of which there will be a lot. It is all up to the professional, so they should be sure they are fit for the task.

Total Reliability – Be sure to arrive to work on time and restrain from the constant need for or habit of taking time away from the business. Pay the bills when they are due, never shortchange clients on service quality, or collapse under pressure.

Self-promotional Abilities – Unless the professional has a generous marketing budget, they will need to use every form of promotional activity available to them, particularly those that are low-cost or cost-free, such as social media, newsletters, public presentations, and one-on-one conversations with everyday people. This form of marketing is not for the shy or those who do not like to talk about themselves. A quiet demeanor will result in a quiet practice.

Service and Retail Sales Confidence – If the professional does not like to sell, They should not venture out on their own! A great deal of time will be spent on promoting and selling; there are no sales skills that are more important than those used when a professional and a client together are involved. A private practice is not the same as a busy day or resort spa where clients are often self-driven to visit.

Organizational Skills – As a solo business manager, the professional is signing up for a big load of new responsibilities, including website management, rent and other bills, banking, accounting, inventory recording and ordering, tax records, marketing, and many others. If being organized is not a top talent, the professional may quickly become overwhelmed by the non-service tasks they will face. This common weakness among skin care professionals can seriously harm or delay a business' health.

Spending Discipline – Supreme willpower is a must when it comes to budgeting money and keeping enough funds on hand to pay your expenses and meet emergencies. If this quality seems like a difficult task, then there will be trouble ahead.

A Strong Work Ethic – Going solo requires many long, unpaid hours for a period of time that could be many months or longer. This time is when all of that passion for skin care the professional believes they have will come into play. The true achievers in this industry are people who know this hardship is coming, do it anyway, and do not quit, no matter how much they feel like it at times.


If the skin care professional feels like they have all of the required qualities to go solo and be successful, it is time to consider what type of independent practice they might prefer. There is a number of possibilities, but the following list notes the ones that are most frequently started.

A complete skin care facility of any size, possibly including service, retail, and waiting areas.

A single room practice or rental that is either by itself or in a shared environment with other professionals, such as a beauty salon, health club, wellness center, or professional complex.

A private practice that is operated from a room in the professional's home.

A mobile service, including on-demand, on-site services for hotel guests or at a client's residence.

Each option will have varying requirements and costs associated with the startup. Begin by identifying the type of working situation that feels the most comfortable. Once that is decided, consider the advantages and disadvantages of each, particularly when it comes to marketing and shared expenses.


A Complete Skin Care Facility – This choice will likely involve the largest initial startup costs, as almost everything that will be needed will have to be covered by the professional. Necessary build-outs, salon décor, equipment and fixtures, inventory, signage, marketing, and a long list of other expenses will add up to a sizeable investment that may not be returned for quite some time.

Single Room Practice – This option will be far less demanding on a startup budget as the professional will only have a single room to outfit. In some cases, a treatment room may be pre-equipped with the needed tools for their work and are figured into their rental price. There may be an option to sell the salon's current product line on a commission basis, relieving the professional of the need to invest heavily in treatment lines in the beginning. By being associated with other beauty or medical professionals, a referral base to quickly start new clientele.

Private Practice Operated from the Professional's House – This option may be the least expensive. Because the home expenses are already being paid, adding a treatment room from an existing space is fairly simple. Still, the professional will have to buy equipment, supplies, and marketing materials and cover different marketing methods. Having clients come into the home where the professional resides, no matter how much they are liked, can be a downside for this option.

Mobile Services – While there will be no facility costs to pay for this option, it is very time-intensive, requiring a large amount of driving, parking, loading, unloading, setting up, and more. The professional will need to charge enough to make all of that effort, including gas and car upkeep, worth their while.


This short planning guide for starting a solo business should be worked through before getting too deep into the buying and building stages.

Money –When starting a business, professionals will end up spending a lot of money. Generally, money will leave the business more than comes in. The professional needs to know exactly how much money they will need to cover all of their expenses, including living expenses if they are a sole supporter and then figure out how to make that happen. This number will affect the business' service charges, retail profits, and required sales volume. Do not have the mindset that all will be well if the best is done as it does not always work out that way.

Time – The less the professional is available, the harder it will be and the longer it will take to succeed. Does the professional, for instance have kids to look after or other obligations that limit their availability? Starting up and managing a business eats up time, lots of it, so be honest about what can be done.

Services – The skin care professional should keep in mind what skills they have and what services they will not get tired of repeating over and over. These preferences bring in the most income per hour or have a strong retail connection to them? It would be wise to put focus on the strong money-makers and not the things that they simply enjoy, unless those services are the big money-makers!

Cash – Be sure to have some backup cash. If the professional has to live on their immediate earnings right from the beginning, they may reach the finish a lot sooner than expected.

Emotions – Be prepared for disappointment, worry, anxiety, and serious doubt. These emotions are normal, even for those who are well beyond the scary startup period. Professionals will need the strength and determination to make career's success more important than nearly anything else or they might wither under the weight of a slow start and periodic business slowdowns.

For skin care professionals who are considering entering into an independent skin care career, keep in mind that there are plenty of rewards for those who make it. Few things are more satisfying than the praise and joy of happy clients. The pleasures of working completely under one's own control are immense. If a good plan is in place, the professional can wind up with an income that is well above what first hoped for. It is all possible!

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.

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