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Tuesday, 27 March 2012 13:54

The Successful Independent Skin Care Practice: Seven Important Business Tips

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Whether you are just graduating from aesthetic school or have been in practice a number of years, almost all skin care professionals dream of one day operating their own independent business. By nature we are creative beings; we envision the freedom and income that only a private practice seems capable of providing us. The envisioned benefits are convincing enough: working our own hours, charging what we want for our services, being our own boss and having total control over our professional life. What's not to like? Many aestheticians choose to begin by working with an established spa or salon with the idea of going independent as soon as they have gathered enough knowledge (and loyal clients) to break away and set up a private studio.

Others feel that they have the ambition and business savvy to start their own business right away. Whatever you are planning to do, there are some important things to consider before and even after you begin an independent skin care practice.
Having worked in the professional industry for 29 years, just recently focusing on beginning another skin care business in Silicon Valley, I will be using a short course to build this new company quickly. For my like-minder readers and colleagues, I here offer some of my best tips for creating and growing an independent skin care practice, particularly with these challenging economic times in mind.

  1. Begin Small … With Minimal Expenses – Avoid large spaces that run up rent and do not allow the fantasy of a thriving business tempt you to commit to costly equipment, leases or an employee to assist you. Even if you have customers ready and waiting, there is still no way of really knowing what your income and costs will be until you open the doors. You can be sure that expenses will exceed whatever you have planned. You do not need the pressure of high overhead to strain your new venture. Allow your business to grow as slowly, steadily and comfortably as possible.
  2. Know What Kind of Customer You Are Looking For … in Advance – This does not mean that you will refuse the luxurious facial appointment, just that if you are looking to build your practice around anti-aging or acne therapies then these are the ones you should be focusing on, talking about and advertising. It is always best to become known for a specialty – being the go-to expert in a specific treatment discipline – than being an anything for anyone generalist. Do more of what you love to do and that business will find you.
  3. Get Your Website and Facebook Sites Up and Humming … Right Away – Especially your website. It is the phonebook of present times and you need it to be discovered in your local market. There are lots of inexpensive ways to start one but get it functioning as soon as possible and then direct your Facebook friends and everyone else you know there. What cannot be seen can not be found, and what cannot be found cannot be purchased. While it sounds like a no-brainer, many aestheticians do not have websites, and if they do their site is non-productive. Find an expert to assist you.
  4. Network With Other Professionals … Do Not Isolate – You simply must get out there and promote yourself if you plan to succeed. And the best way to do that is to connect with professionals that perform services on people that would most likely desire your skin care treatments. Hairstylists are always the best bet; particularly those that work in salons close to you that do not offer facial services. Consider service trades, free services, special incentives for recommending their customers for you (I like small service brochure racks at their stations with a special offer for new clients), whatever will encourage them to promote your services. After all, you can only recommend so many hairstylists to your customers so do not base your agreement on an equal level of new referral business.
  5. Spend Extra Time With Each and Every New Client – We all know that client recommendation is the best and least expensive form of marketing, but few professionals really work to make sure that customers have a well-planned and fun-to-tell story to share about their aesthetician. The most effective way to win the loyalty and referral power of a client is by making sure that they feel special during their time with you. This is accomplished by doing much more listening than talking, by asking thoughtful questions and making a strong effort to build close rapport with customers. Did you know that most clients will not describe your treatments to friends and colleagues but, rather, the experience of being with you as a person, largely shaped by how you cared for them as individuals? This is something even a first year aesthetician can achieve just by putting customers' personal sensitivities and needs first. Remember, in the personal services business the word personal comes first.
  6. Stay At Your Workplace – unless you have a specific promotional activity to do that will help grow business. I cannot overstress how important this is! Yes, you will get bored and discouraged. Yes, you will sometimes want to scream, but stay put! Focus all of your available time on getting the word out about your practice. Write a newsletter (even if you only have two people to receive it), post something fun and newsworthy on Facebook, encourage clients to write a positive Yelp! review, but stay put! A walk-in, call-in or message you send out to the market can result in valuable business that can benefit you for years to come. Very few aestheticians take this advice and it is because of one reason … it takes them a longer amount of time to build a clientele than it should. A great career is the result of great patience and commitment. In other words: discipline. You will earn whatever you put into your practice, and dedicated time is one of the most important ingredients for growing one.
  7. Sample Your Services, Graciously – Scores of aestheticians I have known complain about having to perform what they call "free services," whether for a fellow staff member or even in an Oscar's celebrity tent. They complain that it does not bring them more business, and they do not like being a "slave" to services they are not paid for. This is a common and costly mistake. To grow your business you need people sharing their personal experience of it. That requires talking heads, those that have experienced your magic and will share the news with others even if they themselves never convert into regular clients. You need people out endorsing you to the world and a very effective way to achieve that is by donating some time and skill to training those ambassadors who are in contact with people. This means teaching your guests about the importance of your treatments, the uniqueness of your methods and how to express that message to those they are in contact with. Just doing a facial alone is not enough – you must make sure that you are being represented exactly the way you feel will be understood and appreciated by those that seek skin care services. And this requires both a sense of generosity and care. Better yet, it is a very economical and effective marketing plan, certainly better than texting friends about how slow your days are!

Building a skin care practice, particularly a solo practice, is a long and courage-testing project. Your will to work hard for inadequate earnings (in the early months at least), your passion for the profession, and your self-confidence will all be challenged as you apply your creative energies to the task of achieving a reliable clientele. This reality is a large reason why many formerly independent aestheticians choose to begin with, remain with, or sometimes return to employment by a thriving spa salon or medical practice. Avoiding the burdens of business management (marketing, overhead, tax accounting, scheduling, supply ordering, laundry, et cetera) and the stimulation of working with co-professionals offers an attractive reason to work for others. But, an independent practice for all the additional work it will demand can be a doubly rewarding career direction when the desire for freedom to choose technical methods and a flexible work life is driving it. Your professional success will always be measured by the satisfaction you derive from the practice itself, and that satisfaction may in part require your name on the studio door. The main thing is to know what you want, pursue it with all of your love and energy, and stick to a good plan. The rest is time, growth and the joy of this wonderful career.

Douglas Preston is a business consultant and frequent lecturer in the day and medical spa industry, and has been featured in interviews on CNN and Fine Living channels. Preston's business articles frequently appear in DERMASCOPE Magazine, Spa Management Journal, American Spa, MedicalSpa Magazine, Les Nouvelles Esthetiques and others. He also contributes as an editorial advisor to several respected spa trade publications. Preston is past-president of Aesthetics International Association (AIA), and served as committee chairman for The Day Spa Association (DSA). Preston was named The Day Spa Association's "Spa Person of the Year" in January 2006. He received distinction as "Favorite Spa Consultant" in American Spa magazine's 2006 readers' poll. As consultant to both spa owners, physicians and practicing aestheticians Preston has taught and mentored thousands of skilled professionals worldwide and continues to today. Since 1996, Preston has owned and operated Preston Private Label Products, a provider of fine skincare for the spa/medical industry. He has maintained a California aesthetician's license since 1982 and is also licensed in the state of New Mexico. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 505-603-5585.


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