Going Solo: Assessing if You Have What it Takes

Written by Douglas Preston

Whether you are a newly licensed aesthetician or have been in practice for some time, you may be one of the many skin care professionals whose dream is to run an independent business. Think of the benefits that would follow: no boss, a flexible schedule, full creative freedom, and earning more money than as an employee. Who would not want this? Before jumping into an independent operation, it is necessary to take stock of some important features and skills required of any professional hoping to succeed. Too many aestheticians commit to the time and cost of a solo practice only to find themselves underprepared for the realities that accompany this decision. In this article, we’ll explore how to know if this decision is right for you, some key planning tips, and a list of common mistakes to avoid.
There are many types of independent skin care practices. A professional may consider renting a room in a busy hair salon, day spa, or even a health club. Or, they may even envision opening a stand-alone skin care salon in a private office or at a sola type facility. Some have spaces in their homes that can be converted into a treatment room. Others go the route of mobile service. Whichever concept appeals to you, the planning, marketing, and management of your new venture will require responsibilities that must be skillfully and reliably executed in order to build and maintain a healthy trade. Among the most important are the following.

  1. You need a well-designed plan. This includes sales projections, accurate business cost estimates, correct service pricing, and budget management.
  2. A high degree of self-motivation is crucial. No one will take the lead in growing your business but you. That growth often takes far longer than most new solo professionals expect.
  3. Developing marketing skills is a must. How will you get the word out about your business? What forms of marketing are most effective and at what cost? It is a good idea to study these questions in advance before starting out.
  4. Next, comes sales ability. What happens after attracting new customers? How effective are you at selling your services and retail products? Are you shy about asking clients to reschedule or even visit more often than they do? You’ll need to be strong in these areas to achieve those needed sales dollars.
  5. Organizational skills are critical. Creating piles of paper and ignoring e-mails is not good organization. Do you answer your messages promptly, pay your bills on time, and keep accurate client records? You’ll need to.
  6. Another question to ask yourself is if you have the willingness and availability to dedicate long hours – often unpaid – to the new business. Do not be surprised when this is demanded of you, as this is what most new solo operators must face.
  7. Do you discourage easily? Independent business management, while a wonderful opportunity to create a satisfying career, is also fraught with uncertainty, disappointments and financial fluctuations that can challenge the nerves of anyone. Business is never predictable and rarely goes as planned. Can you handle this reality?

The checklist above is a good way to gauge how well prepared for independent business you are. Spend the time to build up these strengths before starting out.
With that, there are many mistakes new solo professionals make starting out. Here are the most common ones to look out for:

  • Taking on too much expense while having too little customer income.
  • Underpricing services in order to be in line with the local going rate. Price for wants and needs, not simply to attract a customer.
  • Falling for fantasy. Of course, friends and product vendors will say how successful the business is going to be and how they cannot wait for you to open so they can sign up for services. But, once the doors are open, guess what so often happens? Nothing. It is easy to make encouraging statements. It is also easy for vendors to pump you up to buy more products and equipment than you’ll need in the beginning. But ultimately, you are the one affected by the risk, so beware.
  • Overspending on facilities, products, and equipment while having too little in emergency funds in case sales disappoint.
  • Partnering with a colleague or customer in business without a clear understanding of expectations and work roles.
  • Believing that building a large clientele will come more quickly than it will.

Remember, the definition of solo is alone. That can be a lonely place when the full demands of business management rumble in: no benefits, no paid vacation, no help unless you can pay for it, and no money without a customer bringing it in. Moreover, solo business owners have to pay out real money for the money they bring in. That means there is a charge for every hour you work, whereas hourly employed professionals are paid for all of the time they devote to the job.
The good news is that with hard work, commitment, a good plan, and a lot of luck, operating a solo skin care practice can be one of the most rewarding career moves of all. Just be sure to go in with as much knowledge and drive as possible. Over time, you can adjust your plan as your business experience grows.

douglas preston 2016Douglas Preston’s career spans over 30 years in professional aesthetics, spa management, and skin care career mentoring. His business articles appear in many of the top trade journals and magazines. He is a past president of Aesthetics International Association and former committee chairman for The Day Spa Association. His recently published book, “An Esthetician’s Guide to Growing A Successful Skincare Career,” is a top-seller among ambitious working skin care professionals. Preston leads The Inspired Esthetician, a membership-based resource for professional education and career/business mentoring. He also practices aesthetic skin care in his prestigious Los Gatos studio, Preston Skin Center. theinspiredesthetician.com, prestonskincenter.com, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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