Whether you intend to work for a spa or salon, or to begin a solo practice, the future successful aesthetician will need a good career plan and much dedication in order to grow a solid business. Beauty schools are still lacking in teaching the fundamentals of career development, and many prefer to avoid addressing the often unpleasant realities of establishing a new practice for fear of losing paying students. The ranks of newly licensed aestheticians are regularly thinned by the challenges and disappointment discovered in the first year or two of skin care practice, with small initial income and harder-than-expected work leading the list of reasons for dropping out.The good news is that aesthetics is not such a difficult career to prosper in if you know what to expect in the beginning and then follow through with some well-planned strategies. This column is dedicated to helping new (and some already-established) skin care professionals shorten the path from starting out to waiting list in a skin care practice.
Step One: Know What You Want
In the early going you will probably be happy just to do a lip or brow wax in a single day – anything just to have a customer to work with and a little money for the time you invest. That is all fine. But, you should begin to think about the services that you most want to perform in a given day, with special consideration for those that will yield you the highest service, retail and repeat business opportunities. The services you think about the most will also be the ones you talk about the most. And what you talk about most frequently will become the services you sell the most of and that those clients will refer others to you for. If you do not want to become the brow guru or discount service provider then be careful not to promote those programs too widely. After all, Macy’s was once a top-end retailer until non-stop sale campaigns accidentally turned it into a discount house. That mistake bankrupted the company and forced it to stock lower-quality goods in order to profit from its sales.
Step Two: Find a Great Place to Work … and Then Stay There
You may not realize it but one of the surest ways to grow a skin care clientele is to work at a single salon location where other aestheticians already work. Sooner or later those skin care professionals will move away and some of their customers will remain behind, falling neatly into your schedule. Choose a salon that is already known for its aesthetic services and benefit from the established reputation while working to attract new business on your own. Just make sure that you are the one who stays put and appears more stable while other less-satisfied professionals come and go, as they certainly will.
Step Three: Self-Promote
Okay, you simply have to learn to do this whether or not you feel good about it. If you are and remain shy, reclusive, tongue-tied when introduced to customer prospects or hate talking to strangers you need to get over this right away! Clients are not going to search you out to any degree that will allow you to build your practice soon, if ever. Sure, we all have a “comfort zone,” but there is nothing comfortable about staring at an empty appointment schedule and check book balance. What is the best thing you can do? Try this:
- Get friendly with everyone in the spa or salon and then spend your free time close to where others are performing services. Ask for introductions and be prepared to talk to prospective clients about important skin care subjects like anti-aging, acne and personal care products. Offer a free skin analysis or after-hair appointment makeup touchup. The key is to make yourself known to anyone coming into the salon so they will be personally aware of you either for their own services or someone they know.
- Spend time helping front desk personnel and ask them to suggest a brow shaping, skin analysis or facial treatment when scheduling appointments. These folks are busy and often distracted so do not expect them to remember your needs just because you have expressed them. Out of sight, out of mind really applies to that department! Better yet, volunteer to work as a front desk scheduler or even accept some paid hours in that role. You will have a fully funded hotline to potential new customers with preferential scheduling on your books! It is simply one of the wisest things you can do in the early going and it will keep your mind away from the gloom of inactivity.
- Get a business review site (such as Yelp, CitySearch®, insiderpages™, et cetera) in place and trade services to anyone that will provide you with favorable feedback. Those reviews are an increasingly valuable source of new business.
- Talk to people – all people – about what you do. Skin care is a subject that almost everyone is interested in and likes to discuss, especially women. Be sure to carry your business cards and maybe a salon brochure when you do.
- Build an e-mail list for future promotions. That list is incredibly valuable to you so get names from the salon or other non-competing beauty professionals when-
Step Four: Create a Specialty Service That is Yours Alone
What will you be known for that no one else will be – a special facial technique, a unique facial massage method, or special brow shaping style? Work to come up with something original to you that others can talk about. Special is special.
Step Five: A Thorough Pre-Service Consultation
Make sure every client receives a thorough pre-service consultation. This is your chance to really shine and demonstrate how much you care about your clients. A great consultation – something still often overlooked or poorly performed by too many aestheticians – is the best way to win new business, generate product sales and to get that client right back on your schedule. Customers want to know what to do, what you think they should do, and then when to do it. Do not leave it to them to decide – take the lead!
Step Six: Be Unfailingly Reliable and Professional
After 30 years in the professional skin care business, I still see it happening: aestheticians forever changing their schedules, moving clients for their own convenience, taking lots of hours and days off, showing up for work late and following many other bad practices that damage their reputation and business. Not only is this rude and troublesome for both customers and co-workers, but it lends to the idea that beauty professionals are a cut below others in the skilled trades. There is no excuse for poor service and certainly no rewards for it. And, there is no better way to lose clients and referrals.
Step Seven: Conquer Your Retail Fears
There is not enough article space here to help you overcome possible blocks or concerns about product sales. In the beginning of my aesthetic career, I was petrified to suggest even the least expensive skin care product to my treatment clients. Today, it is like brushing my teeth – almost no thought needed to do it well. The best thing is to commit to improving this very important part of building an aesthetics practice and then deciding what you need to feel good about it. Whether it is taking a training class, reading an article on spa/salon retailing, or watching an expert in action, doing anything well begins with the determination to grow personally and professionally. It is a fact that clients that buy products from you are more satisfied clients. Do not hold back.
And, finally, do everything possible to keep your enthusiasm and faith in yourself at a peak. Your career will take time to mature and you will likely have periods of doubt when the schedule is slow, client no-shows occur, and your confidence sags. These are all normal and to be expected. Every successful aesthetician has endured difficult times of uncertainty as she or he gathers experience and a better working knowledge of managing a practice. Join professional groups, make friends among your peers and do not isolate. In time and with the right effort, you too will become a bright star in the field of aesthetics. Just stay with it!