Is Running your own Beauty Business Right for you?

A passion for the industry

Firstly, are you passionate about the beauty industry? If you are starting a business then hopefully you are going to be in it for the long haul so make sure you actually enjoy it! Passion will give you the motivation to drive your business forward. It will help you be creative when thinking of new ideas for the salon and give you hunger to learn treatments and develop the business.

Market research

Market research is a must.You need to have a clear idea of who your target market is, what kinds of treatments they have and how much they will spend.

Consider the area you are setting up in carefully as this will affect what treatments are called for and what you can charge. Check out the other salons in the area. Is there a gap for you? How will you make people want to come over to your salon over the others in your area? What is going to be different? Perhaps you will be a themed salon or specialise in a certain treatment. You might want to be cheap and cheerful or exclusive and expensive. Whatever you choose make sure it is right for your target market.

My own salon for example is mid priced and relies heavily on our loyal regulars. When I bought the salon two years ago it had already been running for 18 years and had a large client base that had been coming for many years. I wanted to attract new customers to the business but keeping the existing clients happy is the priority so any changes that I make must be small and gradual. If I decided to change the whole treatment menu and put the prices up I might lose these customers and end up with no client base to replace them with. This is why knowing your market and catering for them is so important.

So decide what type of clients you want to attract and find out if they are in the area. It is all very well having a really trendy high tech salon offering spray tans and lashes aimed at 20 something party girls but if you're based in a sleepy village where most of the population is over 50 it is unlikely that it will work!

Funding

One of the biggest obstacles to starting a business is money. You could be starting from scratch or buying an existing business, either way there will be costs involved.

Unless you have savings your best option will probably be a business loan. This could involve doing a business plan. A business plan is a great way to get you thinking about what kind of business you will be and how you will run it, start up costs, cash flow, profit and loss projections, your targets and aims for the business, where you will be in 5 years time.

There are some courses run by government schemes and HMRC to help you with some of these things which I would definitely recommend. There are also templates  to help you with all of the things you will need to include in your business plan.

Remember that the costs don't stop once the business is up and running, they just keep coming! Bills, rent, stock, advertising, tax, wages and so the list goes on. There are always things that you forget to budget for and unforeseen costs so have a contingency fund.
Business set up

There are different ways to run your business. For example you could be a limited company, sole trader or limited partnership. Each one has its own benefits and there are courses to explain what these are or you could get some professional advice from an accountant or solicitor to help you decide.
Staffing

You'll also need to decide about management and staff. Will you manage the salon yourself and take a step back from treatments or employ a manager OR like I do, participate in both.

Fortunately I own my salon with my sister who is also a therapist so there are two of us to share the workload plus we employ two therapists as well.  I think continuing to work as a therapist is a great way to know your clients better and have empathy with other therapists. There is a tempatation however to book more and more clients with yourself because you feel a certain protection to your business and it becomes very difficult to say no to people as you really want to keep everyone happy.

However it is important to take a step back, trust in your staff that they care about the clients as much as you do and allow yourself time to deal with the paperwork. Getting behind and letting it pile up is never a good idea and trying to deal with it on your days off will  wear you down after a while, so blocking out one day a week for it is a good idea.

If you are employing staff, it is a big responsibility but having staff you can trust is a massive help. Finding the right staff members is important and you will probably have you needing to advertise and do interviews. Then there will be different laws you will need to follow such as registering with HMRC PAYE and generally managing your staff, dealing with any problems, training, holidays and other HR admin.
A wearer of many hats

When you take on a business you are taking on many roles with it. You are becoming the HR, the IT department, accountant, marketing manager to name a few! Some of these things you may have little or no experience of.

When I first took over the business I han't so much as looked at a spreadsheet for about 10 years and had to familiarise myself with Excel very quickly. Of course you can choose to outsource these roles to a professional, however this will take a big chunk of your profit. The benefits however of outsourcing can warrant these costs as these people are experts in their field and can probably do a better job than you can so giving you peace of mind that it's being done properly. This take the weight off your shoulders and frees up your time to do what you're best at; being in the salon doing treatments and bringing in the money to pay for these services.

Freedom can come at a cost

One of the most popular reasons for wanting to work for yourself is having no one to answer to and having more freedom. Running your own business certainly gives you that however maybe not as much as you might think; there are a few downsides. Having no one to answer to can make you doubt yourself, there is no one to tell you if you are right or wrong and sometimes this can make you agonise over decisions, over think things and be really hard on yourself if you think you've made the wrong choice.

Making your own decisions can be great though. There will be no one to tell you what hours to do, what days to have off or how to work. You can decide what treatments to do, the decor of your salon and even small decisions like what drinks to serve or what music to play can be fun to make. It is a big responsibility though and ultimately you have to do what is right for the business and not necessarily what is the most fun or what you want to do.

Having a business is a tie and whilst you think you will have more freedom and time off, in reality you will probably work more! You really want your business to succeed and sometimes feel like you need to be there for every minute of every day to make that happen. There are times when I feel a huge sense of guilt for taking time off. Often I'd love to take an afternoon off or come in late but I think 'Oh I'd better not' because I worry that the business will suffer for it. However the difference is that the option is there, if I really wanted to I could and it is my choice to be at work rather than somebody telling me to be so that sense of freedom is still there.

So in conclusion there is a lot of hard work, it can be stressful at times (even on your days off it will be at the back of your mind somewhere, you will never fully switch off!) and may not involve as much time off as you think. But the challenges and different roles are what I love and it can be really rewarding when a new idea, maybe a promotion or new treatment is really successful and you are the one reaping the benefits of those rewards! If you love what you do, have a great idea and are confident that you can make it work then go for it!

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