A comprehensive guide for starting, growing,
Solo Esthetician Spa Guide
Finding the best solo esthetician spa location for your practice
by Wendy Jacobs
So you’ve decided you want to be your own boss. Congratulations! Whether you just couldn’t take being on someone else’s schedule, or you want to seize the opportunity to keep all the profit for yourself, you are about to be faced with many important decisions that will impact the immediate and future success of your solo skin care business. No matter what type of treatments you want to do, who you want to do them on, or how much you want to charge, you need a place to do them. Determining what location set-up is right for your budget, your treatments, and your clients, is the first step.
There are a lot of rules and regulations that vary from state-to-state when it comes to setting up a skin care and spa business. It is your responsibility to be aware of these regulations, and to set up your business wisely and legally. Though the options you have access to will vary based on where you live, lets go over a few different options and why they might be best for different estheticians.
Going from #girlboss to actually being the boss
Before you pick a location, you need to be honest with yourself about what you can afford, and how you will budget your money in the long term. Sit down with your calculator and create a working budget to determine your start up costs before you look at location options.
A business plan can be long and complicated with financials and analysis, or it can be directed and concise. If you’re really going to do this – and do this right – you need to see “it” in writing: your customer profile and how to find it, products and services you’ll offer, basic start up expenses and budget and most importantly, the legalities, insurances and location for opening your dream. Unless you’re approaching a financial institution and seeking formal funding, a one-page business plan is something you can go back into to correct, expand and clarify your vision, mission, objectives and strategies. Skipping this simple step will cost you time and money that you won’t get back.
Can I do that? There?
Knowing your scope of practice is crucial to your future. Our US Constitution grants each state control over determining the scope and legality of skin care practices, treatments, and location requirements. What is legally within the scope of your license varies state-bystate. While many exclaim in frustration that they “can’t do anything here,” step back and remember: technology and ingredient development moves faster than statute, so plan accordingly and be patient.
Before you sink your hard-earned tip stash on this startup-expedition, know your scope of practice and the laws and regulations that you are held to on a state, county and city level. Equipment manufacturers and product suppliers are selling their wares to practitioners of all kinds, domestically and internationally and should not be the go-to for knowing if your next investment is regionally legal and within the scope of your particular practice. Use the resources available to you from your liability insurance carriers, your state’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology website, Environmental Health Departments and the other governing agencies before you sign any lease or commit to any supplier.
Can you have body wraps in the same treatment room that you are doing facials in? Does your county allow for esthetics and permanent makeup services to be done in the same room or do they each need their own rooms that are set up differently? Do you, personally, have the right licensing and insurance coverage for the services you are going to provide? When you run a more focused startup business, not only do you perfect your skills and attract your ideal clients, but you also simplify the need for extra licensing, additional construction build outs and superfluous things that will get in the way of your immediate goal of being a successful solopreneur.
Refer to your state board in finding out which location options are available to you. Once you have a list of legal options, think through the culture and atmosphere of each of these and how it aligns with your vision for your skin care practice.
Here are a few examples of location options and the different pros and cons that come with each:
“Bustling with energy” is what comes to mind when one thinks of a salon environment. It’s a social culture with music, chat, art and vibrant energy all under one roof. Salon startups are great for those who thrive on this kind of hustle and bustle. Depending on location, walk-in clientele is one way of building your book of business along with face-to-face marketing with the stylists’ already loyal customers. Some of these clients have been dying for a one-stop-shop to take care of all of their beauty needs, if they don’t already have a go-to gal. If you and your tribe that will follow you are fun and filled with spirit, this may be the right location to consider.
Along side all of this fun and bursting at the seams energy comes noise, often the thumping of both music and shampoo bowls right on the other side of your wall. Level 4 Reiki treatments and Tibetan Singing Bowl relaxation gurus may not be so happy with this type of cultural interaction and need a more chill vibe. While the temptation of an established clientele may seem like a good idea, is this the client base that you are looking for?
Not sure you’re going to be able to make the rent when first starting out? Sometimes just a couple days a week is right for you. Shared rooms can be found in quiet spas and trendy salons, so its easy to find the right energy level for you and yours. Whether you are starting up with someone you know well or someone new to you, be sure to set up, in writing, an agreement of all of your terms for using the room before you open your doors. This includes the equipment, backbar and supplies, operational hours, changing decor, services offered and much more. Remember; if inspected, you both may be responsible for any violations found.
Ah, your own little establishment with the feeling of a social salon and the ability to close your door for a bit of privacy. Some times quiet, but often not, salon suites can be a great solution for those starting their solo career with a steady stream of regular clients and a desire to network with other stylists and bring in more business. Salon suite franchise owners are looking for a good fit for their culture and often have appealing gradual rent increase programs to get you started. Part social, part private, these little cubbyholes are considered their own “establishments,” so be sure to obtain proper licensing and permits. If you are considering offering esthetic and permanent makeup services, you may or may not be able to perform them in the same room, so check with the respective governing agency for any conflicts before you sign that lease.
“Check with the respective governing agency for any conflicts before you sign that lease.”
Who doesn’t want an awesome esthetician to come to their home or office and save them some time? On-demand apps are hot right now and allow you and your clients a ton of flexibility with the bonus of no rent due at the end of the month! With some savvy packing skills and portable equipment, you can be on the road with your new business venture quickly. Be smart and check the legality of providing treatments outside of a brick and mortar establishment in your state, what services you can legally provide, procure proper insurance coverage and know what city licenses you’ll need.
You have the perfect casita just waiting for you, right in your back yard. It’s quiet, private, has the plumbing you need and it’s all yours. But before you start decorating, check with your city and county laws for zoning issues that may prohibit you from doing business in a residential zone and give your home owners insurance a call to make sure you are covered. Residential spas are subject to the same laws and regulations as any licensed establishment, assuring safety and access for all clients.
Finding you and finding yours
If you love all things sparkly and pink, find your sparkly pink tribe. If you are a makeup glamour girl, find your glamsquad gals. And if all you can talk about is your next triathlon, attract like-minded people. These are the people that will be with you and your business in good times and bad. If you really despise waxing, even though the money may be in it for someone else, that’s their favorite thing to do, but it’s not yours. Hone in on your niche and what you do best, because after all, you’ll be doing it a long time. Remember – you chose to step out and make your dreams happen; follow your passion and your people will follow you.
The process of any startup is overwhelming, so stay directed and focused. There is no need for you to create a vast menu with 57 different facials, three kinds of hair removal, body scrubs and wraps, microblading that you’ve always wanted to try, makeup princess parties, lash extensions and more just to see what sticks. What sticks with clients is becoming the go-to-brow artist in your town, if that is what you dream about at night. Your dream niche will help you narrow your back bar and retail choices, allowing you to start with exactly what you need and takes away the temptation to over commit to products, gadgets and services that you don’t need right now. With feedback from your repeat clients, you’ll know how to move forward.