November 2010

Lisa Kind - Editor

Esthetic Endeavors | by Judith Culp


Estheticians in Transition

Estheticians have a tendency to remake themselves several times during their career.

I have been an employee, employer, independent contractor, manufacturer’s representative, educator, writer, instructor and more.

Some changes are made from choice, some of necessity, but, as the old saying goes, “when one door closes, another opens.”

The choices are there, we just have to make them. But, how do we know if it is the right choice for us?

When asked for help with this article from those working in the field the response was many stories of transitions. Some were from school to first job, intermediate jobs or dream jobs, some involved changes in dreams and finding the right fit for them. There was excitement, frustration and determination in these stories.

Getting Started in Esthetics

Everyone had different thoughts regarding getting started in that first job. Jeani Wright of Portland, OR shared, “When I got out of school, I rented an office space thinking I could build my business that way. Not so smart!” She discovered that the traffic just was not there and it was time consuming and expensive to reprogram people’s habits.

It is far easier to locate where people expect to find you as Jeani went on to share, “If I were just getting out of school, I would probably work in a salon, either on commission or an hourly wage... build the business and then lease. Also, if you move to different salons, make sure you stay in the same area. Don’t move that far away.” This is sound advice, as people generally do not travel long distances (miles or time) to see a special technician. There are exceptions to this, but for the most part, it is best to locate yourself where your desired client base is.

Other important getting started tips included doing a self-evaluation. What sort of working situation will really be the best for you, being an employee or independent contractor? If you need total control of your hours, working as an independent contractor may be the right direction for you. If you do not want to worry about the overhead, purchasing, inventory, marketing or other business management aspects, then you may want to focus on being hired as an employee.

If you want to be hired as an employee, you need to impress your potential employer. A former graduate, Ashley Summers shared this, “It is most important to emphasize the fact that you do have experience. Depending on where you elected to gain your education, most esthetic graduates have been ‘working’ on clients throughout the duration. Do not hesitate to offer to demonstrate your skills and come prepared to do so. Who wants to say no to a fabulous free facial? Having confidence in yourself is the key to success.”

When you do find that initial position, make sure you are evaluating it in the proper perspective. Are you making this employment decision based on sound business acumen or on something else? One esthetician shared this thought, “Don’t always go with your gut feeling of trust, go with your business instinct and always get every detail of your business agreement in writing.”

Changes During your Career

At some point, we may realize things have reached a dead end and then it is time to change. Carmen Popa of Luminosity Acne Skin Care shares, “Recognize when it is time to move on. If you are in a career that you absolutely love and have passion for but begin to notice that your zest is diminishing, then it could be time to re-evaluate your current situation and see if your environment is to blame. From personal experience, my love of skincare greatly reignited once I went into business for myself and started treating skin my way.”

There are business considerations for entering into your own practice. The first would be creating a sound business plan as Mary of Mary Turner Skin Care and Day Spa of New Castle, Pennsylvania told me. She stated, “I found the most helpful thing when transitioning from being an employee to being a self-employed esthetician was to have guidelines and a plan. I planned out my purchases, what I wanted to accomplish in a certain timeline, what I was looking for in rental space, and what I could afford.”

There is no substitute for a sound business plan. This should include how you envision your practice, what your niche market is, and how you are going to reach them and get them into your clinic. You also need to consider how you will bring clients back, where you are going to locate, which products you are going to use, what equipment are you will be using, and the list goes on. If this training was not included in your esthetics program, enroll in a class at your community college. There is also help available through the Small Business Administration.

Take your time, gather your information and implement according to a plan, not on a whim or as an emotional response. Whether it is buying that “fabulous” product, equipment or concept, make sure you are following sound business practices.

Judith Culp, a CIDESCO Diplomat has been in the esthetics industry since 1980. A CPCP permanent makeup technician for over 18 years she served a 4-year term as a Director for the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, two years as their president. She is president of Culp Enterprises Inc. and CEO of NW Institute of Esthetics. Judy Culp is available for consulting. For more information visit