Are you ready to take the plunge from working in a salon, spa, or resort to launching your own business as an esthetician? First off, congratulations! That’s a huge milestone in any esthetician’s career, and you’ve worked hard to earn the certification and licensure necessary to get to this point.

You might be wondering what comes next—and you’re in luck. We’ve boiled this transition down to five key steps that you can take to hit the ground running in your first few months as a solo skincare practitioner.

1. Maintain existing professional relationships and grow your clientele.

You may already have the two most important assets you can bring to your new business: experience in the field and a loyal customer base. Seasoned estheticians with several years of experience can charge a premium for their services, while those with a dedicated clientele will be required to put in less initial groundwork to build a profitable business.

If you’re not quite where you’d like to be in terms of established relationships, take the opportunity to expand your network in the months before you launch your new business. And in the early days of your new venture, maintain a willingness to work around the schedules of your clients; this approach will also give you some flexibility in setting your own hours.

2. Start a portfolio.

As you prepare to launch your solo esthetician business, you can start working on your marketing materials. That includes your portfolio. Ask loyal clients if you can take pictures of the work you performed to share on your social media and website (we’ll get into your marketing in step 10). Depending on how you plan to use the photos, you may need to have the client sign a photo release form.

If you’re not comfortable doing that until your business has officially launched, that’s okay. You can use yourself as a model! Take photos of the kind of services you plan to offer. If possible, include before and after shots.

You can also take lifestyle photos to help future clients understand your vibe and get excited to book a service with you. For example, you might take photos of products and tools against a pretty background, or stack up some pillows with an eye mask, flower, and hand lotion on top.

3. Dust off your business management skills and consider your budget.

Think back to the coursework you completed to gain your esthetician certification—you probably remember all of the hands-on skills you acquired working with clients and the top-notch instruction from industry veterans. But do you remember the coursework you completed on basic business management and marketing? If your skills in this category are a bit rusty, give yourself a refresher course: this expertise will be vitally important to you during your new business’s first year.

Once you’ve freshened up on the basics, it’s time to get down to business—specifically, your startup business costs. Initial expenses for your esthetician practice will vary based on your location, but there are a few constants that you should factor into your calculations: the cost to lease a space (if you are not operating out of your home or clients’ homes), licensing fees in your state, business insurance, necessary supplies and equipment, and an allocated marketing budget.

4. Choose an approach to your service offerings: are you highly specialized or a jack-of-all-trades?

After you’ve brushed up on your business acumen and considered your budget, there’s one last philosophical question to consider: are you a generalist or a specialist? In other words, do you prefer to offer a full-service self-care experience to your clientele, or do you want to earn a reputation as the best of the best in one particular specialty?

If you prefer the first option, you can choose to pursue additional training or certification in a variety of areas, such as yoga instruction or meditation (or work alongside practitioners who can round out your service offerings). If you prefer a more laser-focused approach, consider carving out a niche in a particular type of facial or makeup application technique. You may soon gain a reputation as the most in-demand esthetician in town.

Whichever path you pick, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest products and techniques. Attending industry trade shows can be a great way to do that.

5. Deal with the logistics: choose your business location, get licensed, and know your regulations.

Where do you want to see clients within your new business model? If you are coming from a spa or salon, you might be interested in giving treatments in your home or at clients’ homes. If you’d prefer to stick with more familiar territory, consider renting booth space in an established spa or salon or leasing your own commercial space.

Private Salon

Have you spent the last few years pinning your personal salon decor ideas to a Pinterest board? Opening your own salon is exciting. Not only will you get to decide what services you offer, but you get to design every aspect of your brick-and-mortar business, from the lighting and music to the outdoor signage that attracts walk-ins. A private salon also sets you up with room to scale, as you can hire more estheticians as your business grows.

However, private salons require significant startup funding — and a lot of planning. You’ll want to feel confident in the design of your space before you start building.

Residential Space

Do you dream of working from home? Then setting up an esthetician business out of your house may be the perfect fit for you. Starting out with a residential space can be a more affordable option for many esthetician entrepreneurs than renting a commercial space for your private salon.

However, residential spaces come with significantly more restrictions, and may not even be allowed in your city or your HOA. Your first step here is to review local laws for any zoning regulations and check that you’re covered under your home insurance.

Shared Space in a Salon

A shared space or a salon suite can be a happy medium between the two previous options. With a salon suite, you still get to design your own space, and you also retain access to a peer network of other estheticians who you can rely on to build your network, expertise, and clientbase. Plus, salon suites typically have manageable rents. The potential sticking point with these is that you may not be legally allowed to perform certain services in the same space, so you may be limited in what services you offer.

With a shared space in a salon, you might go in on a salon with one or a few other estheticians. Sharing a salon makes it much easier to afford the rent of a commercial space, but you’ll want to make sure you trust the other estheticians and have known them for some time. It’s a good idea to consult an attorney to draft an agreement for how you plan to use shared spaces, uphold licensing requirements, abide by local laws, replenish products, repair equipment, and pay for rent.

Before you rush to open your doors to new business, there are several tedious but essential steps you must take to avoid getting into hot water with local regulatory bodies. Namely, you should ensure that you are complying with your state’s board of cosmetology and health department regulations. You may be required to maintain handwashing facilities, a functional ventilation system, and a minimum square footage per esthetician work station, for example. If you are a medical esthetician, you may need to consider additional regulations, such as HIPAA compliance and infection control and sanitation.

Lastly, you’re not a business until you get your business license! Visit your city hall or county administration building to fill out a business license application. At minimum, you will need to have a business name, address, and type (LLC or sole proprietorship).

6. Purchase your salon equipment.

Once you know what kind of space you’ll be using, you can start shopping for equipment. Many suppliers offer discounts for professional estheticians. Be willing to shop around for the best deal.

Things that you’ll use and replenish often, like linens, cleaning products, and other sanitary supplies, can be purchased wholesale or in specialty supply stores for a better deal than your local big box store. Finally, consider waiting for holiday sales to purchase any furniture, shelving, or more expensive decor items.

Keep receipts and warranties for any expensive furniture and professional equipment. Depending on the cost, you may want to consider protecting them with Business Equipment Protection insurance. Speaking of insurance…

7. Get business insurance.

We might be biased, but with the flexibility of on-demand General Liability insurance arranged by Thimble, it’s certainly the easiest step to check off your list!

Insurance is a necessary expense for any small business owner—but if you’re starting a new business as an esthetician, your budget may be tight. Rather than pay upfront for an expensive annual esthetician insurance plan, Thimble allows you to purchase insurance on-demand in the app, exactly when you need it, with instant access to policy documents like your Certificate of Insurance.

Please note that our General Liability policy excludes certain procedures, such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and eyebrow microblading. You can check out a sample policy to determine if the treatments you plan to offer are covered.

If you anticipate that business will be slow in the first few months, you can select insurance by the hour to cover individual client appointments. Or, sign up for a monthly policy for 24/7 coverage. As your business grows, you can adjust your General Liability coverage to match.

8. Price your esthetician services.

What will you charge for your services? If you’ve been working in a spa, salon, or resort, you already have some idea of how much people will pay for skin care services. But, it’s more important that you know what people expect to pay for services like yours. That means it’s time to do a little market research.

Research other estheticians in your area who have similar business to yours. Look for estheticians that have the same type of business location (e.g. residential space or private salon) as well as a similar service menu (e.g. full service menu, nail services only, facials and peels, waxing and sugaring).

Finally, think about what you want your pricing to communicate. If you’ve got years of experience and you know you’re offering something special, charge more. If you’re one of the few people in your area who offers a particular service, you can also charge more. If you want to appeal to more budget-conscious consumers, consider offering bundled services or loyalty discounts.

Bottom line: Know your worth, and charge accordingly!

9. Set up online booking.

Who has time to answer phone calls, respond to emails and texts, and pencil appointments? You’re a business owner now. You don’t! Free up your time, and make it easier for clients to book with you, by offering online booking. (Don’t worry. You can still accept appointments via text and phone, too, if you like.)

Online appointment scheduling software like Square, PocketSuite, Mindbody, and others make it easy for you to manage your schedule. Many of these programs allow you to save credit card information, as well, so you can charge for no-shows and send receipts.

10. Market your business.

Your current clients and referrals will give you a solid client base to start with. To grow and expand, however, you’ll need to do some marketing. Get started with these steps:

  • Design your brand. Your brand and logo are a visual representation of the beauty and wellness experience you provide your clients. Think about how you want your clients to feel after they leave your salon. Then, choose fonts, colors, and visuals that represent that feeling.
  • Build a website. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. A website with a few pages (Home, About, Services, Contact, and Book) is all you need. You can integrate your online booking software, share your background as an esthetician, and give an overview of your service menu.
  • Print business cards and brochures. Featuring your unique brand and logo, these should have your name, contact information, booking link, and a one-line description of your services. Your brochure can include a full service menu as well. You can share these with clients, and local businesses around the area.
  • Set up profiles for your business on Google, Yelp, and social media. Many people search for estheticians online. Create profiles for your business and include links to your website. Start gathering reviews to increase your visibility on these platforms.

Your 10-step solo esthetician business plan

To recap, follow these steps to start your successful career as a solo esthetician!

  1. Maintain existing professional relationships and grow your clientele.
  2. Start a portfolio.
  3. Consider your budget.
  4. Define your service offerings.
  5. Choose your business location, get licensed, and know your regulations.
  6. Purchase your salon equipment.
  7. Get business insurance.
  8. Price your esthetician services.
  9. Set up online booking.
  10. Market your business.