1. Hustle, but don't discount
When we start off solo, we often want to do anything and everything we can to get people to book with us. This includes discounting our prices, or offering model pricing to build our portfolio.
The truth is, discounting our time and services not only attracts the wrong clientele, but you're putting in energy that can be better spent elsewhere.
Think of it this way: is it more advantageous to do a $40 facial, making $35 profit, or is it better to spend time building a network that will further your reach? It's 100% the latter, because when done correctly, the return will be more fruitful.
Plus, the client coming in for a $40 facial is almost always the one looking for a deal, and frankly as a solo esthetician, we can't afford to be doing facials for $35.
What about family and friends? I often see fellow esthis asking about extending discounts to family and friends. The short answer is, no!
Family and friends will never, or should never, expect a discount. They should want to support you and your business. If you have a family member who is pushy about discounts, I would just kindly remind them that this is your livelihood. Unfortunately, people who don't own businesses may not realize what goes into running one. So it's our job to educate, but maintain boundaries.
We are worth full price.
This brings me to the hustle. Hustling to me is being flexible, and resourceful.
Flexibility could mean working longer hours than you originally intended, or changing your schedule to accommodate a client. This isn't something you will have to do forever, but if you're a new esthetician, and a client reaches out, I found it to be in my best interest to squeeze them in, within reason.
Once my books started to fill up, I stopped being so flexible, although I'll admit I have a few OG clients who treat me really well and I do from time to time accommodate them!
2. Strategize how to get clients in the door
Here are some things that have worked for me:
- Create a spa menu that isn't overly complicated, but has unique offerings. For example, my studio focuses on Korean skincare. What makes you unique could be a themed spa, an offering of treatments that aren't mainstream, a specialty service, the way in which you operate your business, your location, etc.
- Choose a business location with intention. The outside appearance of your space does matter, because making a good first impression is important. In addition to finding a space that has a pleasing exterior, try to find a location that isn't over-saturated with spas, and isn't too expensive. Keeping overhead low is important, especially in the beginning. If you're struggling to find the perfect space, reach out to other business owners in your desired area and ask if they know of any available spaces. That's exactly how I scored my $450 storefront space when I first went solo.
- Network, Network, Network. I want you to abandon the idea of handing business cards to random people, or putting flyers on cars or in cafes. Forget about posting on Instagram with 100 hashtags. If you're newly solo, without a clientele, the single most important thing you can do for your business is network - more on that below.
- Facebook check-in. Offer a small incentive for your clients to check in to your business. This can help get your name out there.
- Ask for reviews! Always ask for reviews, and focus on google reviews. When I ask new clients how they've found me it's either 1. Google search 2. Word of mouth 3. Facebook mom group. People trust reviews, and reviews improve search rankings.
- Find a niche that sets you apart, and find your ideal client. This could be a type of service (brows, anti-aging treatments, spray tanning), organic skincare, or even working with oncology patients. Then find a way to market that makes sense for your business. More on that, also, below...
3. Network = build relationships
The power of networking should not be underestimated! Networking can mean a lot of different things, so I'll specifically share what has worked for me.
When I started my own business, I signed up for a couple of classes at a fitness studio (much more intimate than a local gym). Because of the more intimate setting, you naturally start talking with people. Soon, the owner knew I had my own skincare studio, and she came in for a treatment. That was the beginning of our relationship. She began telling people about me, in part because I was supporting her business, but also just to support another small, female-owned business, and hopefully because she enjoyed her facial!
I purchased flowers from a small flower shop to put in my studio. I would take photos of them, and tag the business. She shared my photos, and I started to get followers, and also started to get referrals from her.
I went to a small retail shop, a few doors down, and I purchased something small and met the owner. We talked for a little bit, and I told her I was her new neighbor, and would love to treat her to a complimentary facial. Soon after her appointment I started getting her referrals.
The key take away from this is the fact that I worked on building relationships with these small business owners, and I invested my time (and money) in their business. To drop off business cards, and expect a return from that is not realistic.
You have to put in the work, and the best part about it is the community you'll build through networking. To have the support of other business owners is priceless. It's comforting when things get hard, and inspiring when we've lost motivation.
4. Intentional marketing
I am the first to admit that I've thrown things at the wall to see what sticks. I still do that at times, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
Intentional marketing means finding where your ideal client is, and then devising a plan of making contact. For example, my ideal client is middle age or older, and is invested in taking care of themselves, and their community. I will most likely find them at the boutique fitness studio I mentioned above, or frequenting local businesses to show support. My ideal client is not the person looking for the best deal, shopping for skincare on amazon and doing their own skincare treatments at home. I've been able to access this group of people by investing my time in building relationships within my community.
If you specialize in acne, your ideal client is likely a younger clientele, or women in general who are dealing with hormonal acne, or using comedogenic products (of course there are exceptions). Your focus should be on educating, and certainly selling home care that will support clear skin. You could connect with a functional medicine doctor and see if you could build a referral network with them. Look to see if there are any local mom to mom facebook groups that will allow you to post (just don't spam the group). Even if you can't market in these groups, I would still join, that way when people ask questions you can chime in, or thank those who refer you. I get so many referrals from local mom groups, and I always make sure to thank them!
5. Never stop learning.
We work in an industry that is constantly changing. Through research, and product development, there is always something new to learn. I recommend setting aside a percentage of income that you can use towards education.
I also find staying current with industry trends helps me stay invested and passionate.
Learning can include reading books, attending industry events, taking online courses (check ours out!), or participating in hands-on training.
6. Pay yourself
It can be tempting when you first start to throw everything back into the business. Believe me, I did that for a long time, and I was not organized at all. However, I have found having your finances in order will allow you to measure growth, and paying yourself will keep you invested and help avoid burnout. I personally follow this rule: 50% profit goes to my paycheck, 30% goes to taxes and 20% goes into building my business.
Of course this list could go on, and on, and perhaps we'll make a blog series of it. In the meantime, we are always here to answer any questions you have, and if you're looking for more support consider joining our Facebook group!