10 Tips to Growing Your Esthetics Career

Many of us in the skincare business entered this profession more focused on an idea about what an aesthetics career would be like, rather discovering the potential realities of it. Maybe you were attracted to the notion of working in a helping profession, gratified by providing solutions to skin problems. Perhaps you were excited at the prospect of working in a luxurious resort spa or day spa. Or, possibly, you anticipated that an independent practice would give you lots of freedom and flexibility. Whatever originally drew you toward a career in aesthetics, it's likely that your experience as a practitioner has differed substantially from what you imagined it might be. In those first months on the job, you may have suddenly encountered many questions that weren't carefully considered while training in school: How long does it actually take to build a good clientele? What is the best kind of business to work for? Just how much money can I make doing this anyway? In the early going, when your schedule is as bare as a freshly waxed brow, doubt can easily settle in. You have plenty of time to wonder and worry as you face the real test before you—surviving the challenges all by-appointment professionals confront when time is abundant but paying clients are few. Doctor, attorney, architect, or consultant—they all must enter the great and challenging search for sustainable new business, and hopefully before the want of income chases you out of the game altogether. What to do?

If you'll take it from someone who began his career in aesthetics with perhaps more than the usual measure of self-doubt yet was able to succeed beyond modest expectations, then allow me to hold up a light for you on the dim path of practice building. It's easier than it appears, if you follow a careful plan, apply patience and determination, and avoid the common temptations that always lead away from a positive outcome. And while failure is a simpler achievement than success in the skin care business, both are the result of your decisions and actions, not accident, fate, or the economy. I've witnessed many a skilled aesthetician bow out of the profession defeated not by lack of potential, but lack of will. They melt away like the first flakes of snow while the more passionate and resilient among us go on to fill the ranks of the true aesthetics professional. Is success in your future? The following tips will help you stay on track, keep your motivation high, and prevent ideas and distractions that can collapse a budding career.

Success by the numbers: what you need to do (and not do!) to build a prosperous career in professional aesthetics

1. Know what you're getting into before you get in!
It's remarkable how many aestheticians-in-training ask me how much they should expect to be paid when looking for a job, and then are shocked by my answer. "I can't make it on that!" or, "I deserve more than just 30%!" Oh, really? This leads me to ask:
Why do you deserve more—because you went to aesthetics school?
Because you think you're worth more? Based on what criteria?
Because you have a minimum required wage to make ends meet? And if so, why did you wait until now to think about a beginner's pay potential?

At the outset, the new aesthetician can expect to put in some long and, often, unpaid hours in the effort to build up a clientele. If you choose to work for someone else, your new employer may provide you a place to work, tools and opportunities to grow your practice; however, you alone are responsible for making the most of your situation. All non-salaried professionals face this reality, which is why only the truly dedicated among us remain in the business for more than a year or two. Farmers plant in the spring and harvest in the fall—in between they weed around the sprouts, kill the bugs, and pray for rain all in wait of a future reward. It can take years to build a solid, reliable book of paying customers. Do you have the will or wherewithal to reach that goal? If not, you may want to reconsider your choice of professions.

2. Design your ideal career—the sooner the better!
Okay, you have the courage to stick it out and build your business. But what does the finished career model look like? What will you be doing all day in that little treatment room? What kind of clients do you want to work with? Do you want to work in a day spa, medispa, resort, or go into private practice? And what's motivating your choice? Is it money, growth opportunity, prestige, or the ability to work independently? Each choice has rewards and consequences. Some have the potential to pay better than others. Some will provide you better access to new customers. One setting might require a greater degree of cooperation and responsibility while another is loosely structured. You may like the idea of working with clients receiving medical grade treatments, or prefer the soothing, pampering environment of the resort spa. Don't wait until you're dropping off résumés before planning this important aspect of your career or else you'll end up doing the next thing I'll warn you away from, which is...

3. Do not change workplaces repeatedly!
Here is one of the sure-fire career killers so many aestheticians can't seem to resist. As an employer for 18 years and a consultant for many spa owners, I've witnessed this costly pattern, and its consequences, far too often. The list of reasons for job-hopping are as long as the list of former aestheticians: didn't like the place I worked, business was too slow, boss was a jerk, co-workers were talking behind my back—on and on it goes. It all adds up to or, rather, reduces one to starting over again and again in the tough process of client and career building, and halts all financial progress. Employers are wary of the job hopper, suspicious that their investment in this job candidate will evaporate as quickly as others have. Job hoppers look flaky, unstable, like a potential problem. Think about this: each time you change employers you set your career clock back one full year! Is this what you want in a profession? Don't do what so many others do! Research employers in advance, talk to employees working there, buy a service, and hang around in the spa's reception area long enough to get a feel for the mood and character of a potential job site. By doing this you reduce the chance that you'll make an unfortunate job choice; your employer and your wallet will both appreciate the effort!

4. Learn to love retail and service sales, and get good at it.
You and your employer need to make money, as much money as possible so they can keep the doors open and you can drive away from the spa waving your paycheck from that cute convertible. But it's finally beginning to dawn on everyone in this business that handiwork alone doesn't pay all of the bills. Retail sales are the best and, dare I say, easiest way to build your business and income. Let's face it: most of us, at some level, are afraid we'll get chewed out by an angry customer who feels their serene spa service was spoiled by a high-pressure sales pitch, right? The truth is, however, that our customers want to buy skin and body care products from us—what would they be doing in a spa if they weren't interested in self-care? To not suggest ways for clients to take care of their skin at home is to do a disservice to them. So why let the Lauders and La Mers of the world have what you're working so hard to create—your customer's business? Take a class, get hypnosis, fake it, find your own style, but whatever you do, learn to have fun fulfilling your professional mission: to provide the means for your clients to get maximum results from working with you, both at the spa and between appointments. Are you listening...? Your employer will love you, and you will love the money from those sales commissions!

5. Be a problem solver, not a problem maker.
Seems as though many people in our profession have a negativity gene at work in their outlook on life. Never satisfied with the job, friends, employers, or income the doom and gloomers of our industry are there to make a mess of workplace harmony—your workplace. They're determined to convince you that your boss is just as unfair as they think she is. They want ammunition, co-conspirators, friends-in-misery. Don't buy into this; take the high road at every opportunity. Steer clear of these people and keep your garden well weeded. It's work enough to earn a successful clientele without having to wade through the battles of others. Think about what's going right in your life, not about what could possibly go wrong. To do otherwise will cost you some serious cash and happiness.

6. Ride out the empty hours of your schedule with a positive attitude.
Yes, those long, boring hours without client appointments can be difficult to endure. You've flipped through every magazine in the spa, folded mountains of towels, and even gave a free facial to the receptionist during her break, but you just can't stand doing nothing all day. You want to go home, to go anywhere something is happening that's more interesting than this! Besides, why should you stick around the spa when you're not being paid to do it? Here's why: because you must have the will to stick it out and be ready when opportunity comes calling. My first walk-in client came to me monthly for the full 16 years of my practice, and largely because I was there when she first stepped into the spa, and because I continued to work there for that long. This one client spent a lot of money on my services and products over the years. To have gone home early that very unbusy day, as much as I might have wanted to, would've cost me many thousands of dollars in income. Not just income from her appointments, but also that generated from the many referrals this kind woman sent to me over the years. Be there, stay there, wait it out! You can't catch fish by staying at home and you'll likely spend what little money you have if not occupied by your career. Every doctor, attorney, and personal trainer will second this opinion: client building is like farming—you plow and plant today so you can eat tomorrow. You'll get out of it what you put into it so, put in your all!

7. Market yourself! Don't leave it up to the business to do it for you.
What should you do with all of that free time then? Promote yourself, of course! Sure, the spa has printed brochures on the front counter, an ad in the phone book and newspaper, and a great street location but why aren't the clients rolling in fast enough for you? Because marketing, that slow and almost invisible process of making yourself known and attractive to the public, takes its own sweet time to generate positive results, which is why business owners often shy away from this type of expense. Still, there is much more that you, the individual aesthetician, can do at very little cost and inconvenience to help bring new business your way, faster.

  • Ask anyone you know who uses cosmetics to bring them into the spa sometime (make an appointment for this) so that you can evaluate their products and give them suggestions about how to get more benefit from them. They'll end up buying your products and scheduling a facial if you handle your prospect with enthusiasm and genuine concern.
  • Make a deal with a hairdresser to allow you to put your brochures and cards at their station, then provide your sponsor with a facial that teaches them how to promote what you do. Offer a percentage for each referral or a service as a reward. Remember, they're looking for new customers too!
  • Nothing wins new customers quicker than an exciting and informational presentation talk before professional or church groups, clubs, and gatherings of friends. My partner and I used to give makeup home parties in local neighborhoods, selling products and handing out our spa brochures. It was literally advertising we were paid to do, and it built a very loyal clientele for our business.
  • Offer your services as certificates (slightly discounted) for real estate agents as gifts to give to their clients. They're always looking for something unique to use as referral rewards and thank-you presents, and they'll appreciate your referrals as well.

8. Be open and accepting to new methods, products, routines, and rules.
Everything changes, especially in our profession. New products and procedures are flooding the market and competition is everywhere now. Dig in your heels against change and the parade will pass you by. There are many, many ways to get great skin care results but almost no way to stop time and evolution. Remain open and flexible, avoid routines and habits, stay out of ruts, and challenge yourself! Faced with a new product line or service menu? Embrace it with enthusiasm, and dive into learning about what you'll be offering. Resist the temptation to make comparisons to what you worked with in the past. The last thing an employer wants to hear is "this doesn't work the same way as what we used to offer..."  What's past is past, and new methods or products have merits all their own. Anything can change without notice—from ownership to product line. New is GOOD, routine is history.

9. Invest in your own career advancement!
I hear this all too often: "Do I get paid for coming to this training class?" Or, in other words, why should I learn anything if I'm not being paid to learn it? Now just imagine if your doctor or dentist had that attitude—would you trust your care to someone like that? Why is it then that so many aestheticians refuse to learn how to improve their skills unless someone gives them a check first? The truth is, we are paid for our education—paid by those who buy the services our education makes valuable to them. Did we have to be paid to go to aesthetics school? So, why is continuing education any different? True professionals, the ones who are passionate about and dedicated to their career, are also willing to invest in their own professional development, to move ahead without being pushed by someone else. It's one thing to be trained by an employer to learn the basics of working in their company—methods and practices specific to their spa or salon. It's quite another matter when we're talking about an advanced acne or exfoliation class, sales training, or customer service knowledge. This is education that you can take with you should you decide to change jobs, skills that remain valuable in your work regardless of where you're working. It costs an employer a lot of money to provide training for you—at least be willing to contribute a little time for this wonderful gift!

10. Be patient!
Ask anyone who has succeeded in building a strong clientele and they'll tell you that the number #1 ingredient to that success was patience, Most aestheticians have no idea how long it can take to fill their appointment schedule, especially one that's made up of the highest-value facial clients, and not just a mixed bag of services. In the beginning it can seem as though success will never come, and our minds are haunted with thoughts of failure. There is the story of a man who, upon the celebration of his 105th birthday, was asked to what he attributed his long life. "To the fact that I haven't died yet!" was his logical answer. Good things do come to those who wait, especially if they wait wisely.

By mastering these 10 career fundamentals, you'll be equipped to excel well beyond others who want both your job and your customers. The money we make and the satisfaction we find in our work is mostly a result of our own values and commitment—things far more crucial to your success than technical skills. Talk to those who you regard as genuinely successful aestheticians, and ask them what they feel has been most important in their professional growth and achievement. Compare their answers to the points on my list and see if you hear a number of them—you will. Now, do your homework and have a wonderful career!

For more tips on building your career and advancing in esthetics, check out Career Enhancing Connections, Results Oriented Training, and more spa business articles.

About Preston, Inc. Preston Private Label offers over 100 outstanding, results-oriented skin and body care products for both retail and professional use. We offer an excellent—-and free—-regional technical and career-building education program, affordable minimums, and fully custom labels, pre-applied. Choose from two packaging options and get the look that best suits your branding strategy. Generous margins that allow for markup from 150-700%  mean you gain maximum benefit from retailing.  From cleansers and toners to cosmeceutical serums, pro enzyme, glycolic and lactic peels to body contouring wraps, gift kits to aromatherapy oil blends and more, we have everything you need to create a highy effective, full range product line. Visit our website at www.prestoninc.net for more information.