Friday, July 31, 2015

“I’m Moving” postcard

For obvious reasons, it’s a good idea to send an announcement of an office move. It serves a few more purposes than you may think. First, of course, it puts in your client’s hands the new address of your new office location. Of course, youll have your business phone number on the card as well. Receiving this card may jog your client’s memory that it’s time to come in for a facial.
“Im moving PC front
“Im moving PC back
An added benefit of sending these cards is you will get a certain percentage back, “unable to forward” or saying it is the wrong address. This gives you an opportunity to call your client and get their information updated. They probably still want to come in, but have moved and forgotten to let you know. Now you can get their updated information and can reconnect with this client, possibly booking an appointment while you have them on the phone.

These  postcards were printed at vistaprint.com.

Of course, I also recommend sending an email to all of your clients about your move. Getting this important information out in as many ways as possible is recommended. Here is an email I sent out several years ago for my last office move:

Here is an old (1995 or '96) snail mail announcement I sent out when I moved across the street (to a much better office). Announcements like these were created before computers and the Internet were readily used and certainly years before a company like vistaprint! I also was letting my clients know I would now be able to take credit cards, somethingback thenI had to wait a bit before the merchant companies would give a new business. Now anyone can get credit card availability.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A word about food as products

Here is another blog post published on ageless beauty, timeless skin. You may disagree with me about using real food as products for your face, but I gladly stay on this side of the fence.

As you will read, I believe eating food is much more beneficial to the overall health of the body vs. mixing something up for your face. You may encounter clients who either ask questions about doing this or who may use homemade products themselves. I recommend concocting some treatments to do at home, do them, and see if you notice any appreciable difference in your skin. Experience, sometimes achieved through experimentation, will always be your greatest teacher. CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Raising your prices

Price increases are not welcomed news to most people, and your clients are people too. I have a strategy to try and help ease the pain of an increase that you might also want to implement.

If you have private-label skin care products you have more control over any increases than if your products come from a company other than your own. When you retail someone elses products you are at the mercy of any price increases they give you, and you must eventually pass those on to your clients. Sometimes you have very little lead time to let your clients know there is an increase. Some practitioners dont make an announcement to their clients, they simply start charging the higher prices. Some clients notice the increase, other dont. With these types of price changes, clients generally dont put up a fight knowing you are not in control of the increase.

When it comes to raising the prices of your services, this is where some people will get a bit rattled. Here is where I implement a strategy to help inform clients of the increase while at the same time honoring them as patrons.
Although temporary
Lets say I am planning to raise the price of my facials by $10 on January 1st. For any and all clients new to my business after the 1st, they will be charged the higher price. For any clients who are under my care before the January date, they will enjoy no increase for another 3-6 months (or whatever timeframe you choose)—and I make sure to let them know this news.

I simply approach it by saying I will be raising my prices at the beginning of the year. However, for all existing clients your prices wont change until March 1st or June 1st or whenever you decide to implement the increase. This way your clients feel specialand they areand it shows that you are honoring them as existing clients who are serving to keep you in business. You may decide to do an across-the-board increase for everyone, but I have found that the delayed approach has long-lasting effects.

Price increases are inevitable and they are necessary. Raising the price of your facial is essentially giving yourself a pay raise, and I am all in favor of giving myself raises at appropriate intervals, depending. Back in 2008, when the economy took a nosedive, many of my clients simply couldnt afford their regular facials. This would not be a good time to increase your prices! In fact it might be a opportunity to reach out to certain clients and offer them some sort of discount, even if only for a certain period of time.

My first “pay raise happened 2 years after I had opened my first business. Initially I had set my facial price to be just below the going rate to help drive clients into my office. After a few years my pricing was actually offtoo low for the service I was providing, so I gave myself a raise and raised my rates. I dont think anyone balked at that price increase.

My recommendation is dont raise your prices too frequently. You are trying to maintain client relationships and too many increases will turn off (and turn away) many clients who you will never be able to get back. However when you do decide to raise your prices, do so with confidence. You will probably always get one or two people who question the increase; I know I have. Have a concrete answer as to to why you are raising your rates, yet do not make any apologies. Raising prices is what businesses do to stay in business, and increases in price have occurred since the dawn of time. Dont feel bad about the increase, feel good that you are able to give yourself a little more money while continuing to service your clients with the excellence they expect.

Here is a postcard I sent out regarding an across-the-board increase vs. giving a 3-6 month grace period. As you can see, although I was raising my prices, I was offering a discount as well. The ten dollars off brought the price down to what it was, $105at least for that initial visit after the increase.

Once you have implemented your own prices increases, you will have a lot more sympathy when you encounter increases at a business you frequent. If not sympathy, hopefully you will have a more open mind.

Dont beprice increases are part of the cost of doing business.

Friday, July 24, 2015

#2 of 6 Important Questions: What?

If you haven’t already, please read the opener to this series, 6 Important Questions to ask yourself before opening a business, as well as #1 of 6 Important Questions: Who? The next question in this 6-part series is: What?
  • What type of business will you open?
  • What products will you use?
  • What kind of product training is available or required?
  • What is the product’s opening order requirement?
  • What will you charge for your treatments?
  • What forms of payment will your accept?
  • What is your business plan?

What type of business will you open? Will it be a boutique salon with just you running the whole show? Will it be skin care only? What about other services? These are important questions to ask because this will determine what type of office space you will need and what your basic business model looks like.

I have always preferred to have a private, by appointment only, type of business. This is what I prefer when getting treatments, and it is what I offer to my clients. I have had facials in larger salons and spas where there is a locker room, a robe and slippers waiting for me, and perhaps even a steam or sauna room available to use while I’m there. I simply don’t enjoy this environment as much as being the only person in the office besides the aesthetician or massage therapist or acupuncturist. This is my preference, it might not be yours. No matter what you prefer, you still may go the opposite way and open a large salon when you prefer private appointments yourself, or vise versa. I touch on this in both Where to look for a great facial and What to expect in a facial treatment, which posted on my layperson’s blog, ageless beauty, timeless skin.

As far as what services to provide, I hope you already know what you want to do in this area. If not, you need to really think on this and come up with your initial plan. When I worked at a spa, I was required to provide waxing services; services I didn’t like performing and was totally uninterested in. Naturally when I opened my own business, waxing was never a part of it. Don’t get me wrong, waxing can be and is a lucrative service that I don’t recommend you leave out of your business plan necessarily. Unless of course you hate waxing! And that was the case with me. I not only didn’t like doing the actually service, I have always wanted to hone my skills in one area.

When I first started out as an aesthetician in 1985, I wanted to go to massage school, which I did. After I got my massage license I practiced both vocations for a few years. Then I decided I didn’t want to be jack-of-all-trades, master of none. And I wanted to master skin care. So I stopped massaging clients, put 100% of my effort into becoming the best aesthetician I could be, and now 30 years later I do believe I have achieved my goal. You can perform many different services, this was just not the course I chose to take.

I will say, going through massage school gave me skills I didn’t have after I graduated from skin care school. I have a much better understanding of the body, anatomy and physiology, and my hands are more sensitive to touch along with being strong in the facial department. Ask any of my clients and I’m sure they’ll tell you—I give a great facial massage. Along with massage school, I studied (back in the 80s) polarity therapy, acupressure, and took special courses that focused on facial massage in particular.

What products will you use? This goes back to who are you as an aesthetician? Do you know? You will have to do research if you aren’t set on a product line yet. And if you have to research, how will you do it and where will you go for it? Without knowing what product line you want to carry, you are basically walking on only one leg.

The product an aesthetician uses is something that is completely tied in with who the aesthetician is. That is the case for me, at least. Without Yonka products, I would basically have to find a product as identical to it as possible. Aromatherapy is what I have studied most of my career and Yonka, an aromatherapy skin care line, has always tied into my philosophy on how to treat skin. Take that away and I am still a skilled aesthetician, but I wouldn’t be able to recommend products if I don’t believe in them.

When you work for someone else, especially at the beginning of your career, you may have to settle for using a product you don’t love for the security of a paying job. Once you open your own business, that all changes and you can chart the course that you want. (See future post: My life at the Spa at the Crescent—start to finish.)

What kind of product training is available or required? That, of course, will be up to the product line you select, unless you decide to go the private label route. Get all the available training the company offers. Some companies require you to come to their headquarters to train for a few days so they are sure you will be a good representative for their product line. Sometimes a rep will come to your salon and train you there. If both situations are available, I would again recommend doing both; getting all the training on the product line you will be married to is imperative.

What is the product’s opening order requirement? The answer to this question can be the biggest deterrent to opening your business. Or at least for using a particular skin care product. Some companies have low dollar amount opening order requirements. I’m sure there are companies that don’t make you meet a certain order amount. However, most lines do. Knowing this information before you get your heart set on a particular product may be important for you.

I will say this, if cost is what is your determining factor for what skin care line you decide to use, I would have to question that. I think it should be the absolute love and devotion to a product that will determine which one you use. You might have to stretch yourself if the opening order requirement is high for the line you love, but without the product you believe in, your treatments simply won’t be as effective. It is the marriage of the aesthetician and the product she uses that are the main ingredients for a great facial.

What will you charge for your treatments? When I first opened my business I set my facial price just below the going rate that my clients had been paying at my former job. I didn’t undercut myself, but charged maybe $5-$10 less for the same facial. I could have opened and charged the same price—or more, but I wanted to do everything in my power to encourage people to visit me at my new office. Once I was established, I did raise my rates to reflect what I felt was right for the service I was providing. See Raising your prices for more details.

For almost my entire career, I had one facial at one price. As you can read in Website ideas: Services explained, after the economy tanked I began to offer a one hour facial at a reduced rate. Prior to that, however, it was always one facial for one price. My facial is all-inclusive, using all the products and procedures a client needs whenever she sees me. I am not a big believer in service menus, but I also am unique in how I run my business. And I don’t necessarily recommend you follow my lead.

As an aesthetician and a business owner I have always had a very clear vision for my work. Throughout the more than 21 years I’ve been in business, I have not really wavered. Some people might not be so clear or simply have a different vision for their business. Having a menu for the services you provide is the norm, and it is something that I actually recommend. But don’t make your offerings so complicated that a perspective client doesn’t have a clue as to what she wants.

This is where I veer away from what is normal in this business. I think that I should be deciding what facial procedure a client needs. I know skin, she knows her symptoms. I always roll my eyes when I go to a salon with a long list of services. If I was just a layperson, how am I supposed to know what is best for my skin? I’m coming to you the professional—aren’t you the best person to decide what my skin needs?  

The bottom line is you will want a list of your services, and you will need to do some research before you set a price for treatments. Call or look online at what other salons in your area are charging for similar services. I highly recommend getting facials around town to see what is being offered and at what price. If you keep getting bad facials at places that charge what you are thinking of charging, you might reconsider (now or later once you’ve opened) how much you will charge for your facials.

What forms of payment will your accept? Cash only? Cash and personal checks only? Credit cards? If so, which ones? As you can read in Forms of taking payment, Im not a big believer in not accepting credit cards. In this world as it is today, most people prefer using plastic. Don’t make it hard for people to pay you—it may be a few dollars less you’ll earn due to merchant services charges, but in the long run it might pay off.

What is your business plan? Perhaps this question needs a separate article all to itself, but if you dont have a business plan, you are not ready to open a business. A written plan, whether it is a “regulation” business plan or simply a plan you have on paper, is not only essential to moving forward, it is imperative.

Wikipedia describes a business plan as “a formal statement of business goals, reasons they are attainable, and plans for reaching them. It may also contain background information about the organization or team attempting to reach those goals.” Without a plan (written down), you are going to lose your way. It’s as simple as that. Start now if you don’t have a plan in place and use that as another step forward on your way to becoming a legitimate business.

The next installment in this 6-part series is #3 of 6 Important Questions: Where?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Furniture you’ll need to get started

Here are some of the essentials you’ll want to have for your facial and for your clients as well. Some may be more obvious than others, but I have had facials where the details weren’t taken into consideration. This always makes a difference in your client’s experience, which you always want to be a great one.

This article involves the basic furniture you will need in order to give a facial. The next two installments involve equipment (some you are required to have) and various odds and ends youll want to be sure to purchase. See links below to all the articles youll want to read.

The Facial Bed.  Your first and in many ways the most important piece of “furniture” you will need to buy is a facial bed. I will discuss some of the types in detail here. I recommendwith almost everythingwhen you are first starting out to not necessarily get the gold standard, most expensive facial bed or any other piece of furniture or equipment. Keeping your costs down when you're first starting out is paramount to your eventual success. I am not saying you should skimp on something as important as the bed your clients will be lying on in treatment. I am recommending not getting a gold-plated one for your first day in business. Be conservative, knowing that if you start bringing in a good income, some things can be upgraded if need bein time.
I want to get a facial on this bed!
My very first job as an aesthetician was for Lydia Sarfati’s Repechage skin care company in 1985. The salon space was inside Bloomingdale’s in Dallas, Texas. I learned a lot with this job; probably the best thing I learned was regarding the facial bed. Here I came in contact with the PML Chair. Imported from Italy, I truly believe this is the best bed/chair to get a facial in. Sadly, I have not been able to find this chair for the past many years. The last time I had one was in my Dallas salon. Once I moved to Chicago, then Boulder, I could not locate anyone who knew this item, let alone carried it.

The PML chair has about 7" of padding throughout and reclines your client so her head is slightly lower than her feet, increasing blood circulation to her face. The back is very well supported for most people. I have found the petite sized body isn’t as comfortable with the lower back support, but overall, this chair is far superior to any on the market. I mention it here because in case you happen to run across one, I’d think twice before passing it by.

For me, next best facial bed is a massage table. I prefer one that has a folding headrest. The client is sitting up when I walk into the treatment room, then I recline the back of the table for the facial. After the facial, I can set the client up by lifting the back of the table. I find this works best for me; find what works for you.

The one pictured here is the exact table I have used for the past 8 years. It has a good thick cushion and the headrest raises and lowers. Along with a bolster and really comfy sheets, I think this makes a really comfortable bed for your clients. I ordered this on Amazon and paid just over $300, including shipping. I just checked, and it is currently not available there, but that could change. (For reference, this is the Master Massage Salon Professional Oversize Portable Massage Table, 29 Inch.)
There are many beds made specifically for facials. Some have hydraulics to lift or lower the bed by using a petal. These tables are also very expensive with the added feature of possibly losing the hydraulicssomething that is pricey to have repaired. Use what you like. If you are new to your business, I’d start with a massage tableone that has a lot of padding for good client comfort.

If you go a less expensive route with a less cushiony table, you will need to get some kind of egg crate-type foam topper (twin size) or something that adds some comfort, otherwise the thinner tables are like lying on a board—not a good idea if you’re trying to build a business. I said earlier to not necessarily go all out when you buy a bed, but I also said dont skimp, either. Try to find a sweet spot somewhere in between.

I highly recommend having a bolster or oversized wedge to place under a clients knees to relieve pressure off her lower back. Without having this type of cushion, you run the risk of any or all of your clients feeling uncomfortable during their facials. Since lying flat puts strain on the lower back, you are keeping your clients safe as well as comfortable during the course of your treatment. I do have one client (one!) who prefers to have the bolster removed, but she is an exception. If for some reason you don’t have a bolster of some sort, you can always roll up large towels or a blanket to substitute.

I purchased my bolster at a local massage supply store. I wanted to try out all the different kinds and sizes until I found the one I thought would be best for my clients. You are wanting to elevate their knees enough to help the lower back lye down and relax. Not enough height could put strain on the back; too much cushion might feel uncomfortable and awkward.

Mine is similar to the one pictured. It is round, although bolsters come in many shapes and sizes. The one I use also has some give to it. Its not super soft, but it isnt unmoving like a log under your legs.    

Aesthetician Chair. We have covered the comfort of your client, now you will need to find a chair that is comfortable for you. Your comfort is equally as important as your clients. If you are not relaxed, this will translate to the people lying in your facial bed. I prefer a swivel chair. This way I can move around freely without stressing my lower backthe chair swivels, not my body. These are easy to find at an office supply store. They are simple to put together and are usually fully adjustable.

For most of the facial, I have the chair in the highest position; when Im doing extractions, I put the chair down lower so Im closer to my clients face. Without the ability to adjust it up and down, your chair isnt really going to serve the purpose it needs to. (You can see the lever in this photo on the side of the chair. This is what gives you the ability to put the seat higher or lower, depending.)

Be sure to purchase an armless chair. Arms will hinder your mobilitythey simply get in the way. I would also look for a chair in a color that somewhat matches your decor or is at least more neutral vs. bright blue, as in this photo. 

The Trolley. The last piece of furniture is a trolley to put your professional products (sometimes called back bar) among other things youll need during each treatment. I prefer to have my equipment to be movable, so having wheels on my trolley is a must. I also require a multiple shelf trolley so I can have all the products and other items within arm’s reach.

I put small towels on the shelves that will have product lying on them. This way you can keep things neat and clean in case you have any drips or liquid accidents with any of your products. Towels also keep everything quiet while you're putting things back down after use. Hearing clinking and clankingfor your clientis not very relaxing. Towels buffer the noise.

The contents of the trolley and lots of odds and ends youll want to get for it are discussed in an upcoming post written exclusively for the trolly itself. This is such an important component to my facial, I am dedicating the whole post to The Trolley—Part 1.

So your essential pieces of furniture just to be able to give a treatment are:
  • the facial bed
  • a bolster for the bed
  • the aestheticians chair
  • a trolley for products and such
The next article will focus on more essentials for your treatment room. As you will see in all of the posts on what youll need, you may learn you need more than you expected when you were thinking about opening a salon. See:

Friday, July 10, 2015

#1 of 6 Important Questions: Who?

I will assume you have read the opening article in this blog series, 6 Important Questions to ask yourself before opening a business, so you are familiar with the 6 questions even though you may not have any idea what I’m talking about! 

Because this is going to be a 6-part series, I have a lot of room to get into the most important questions you’ll need to ask yourself before you start your own skin care business. The first question is: Who?
  • Who is your client?
  • Who are you as an aesthetician?
  • Who are you as a business owner?
  • Who are your vendors?
  • Who will do your taxes?
  • Who will be there if you get sick or incapacitated? 
  • Who can you turn to for help and/or advice?

Who is your client? What is her income level? Where does she live? What services is she looking for? Does she work at an office? Does she stay home with children? Is she busy or bored? Is your typical client female—only? Or perhaps you are going after a mostly male clientele? Do they want a private boutique experience or a hustle and bustle salon? And the most important question: have you asked yourself these questions yet? Knowing the answers will help you in several areas of your business.

The question of income (your clients) is an important aspect of knowing who your ideal client is. If she is not made of money, you don’t want to charge exorbitant prices for your services. Not everyone is catering to the well-off, so kudos to you. If you are looking for clients who live in the nicest part of town, that will be a determining factor when it comes to finding a location as well as pricing your services. You’d better know your stuff, however, because many times affluence means a client is used to upscale service providers.

Who are you as an aesthetician? Do you prefer giving private, highly personalized services or are you the get’em in, get’em out type? (Both do exist!) Are you the type who wants an individual practice or do you want to work in a busy salon environment? How long have you been working? What is your area of expertise—do you know? Are you good at what you do? There are many aestheticians who may not be the world’s greatest facialists but still run successful businesses. They can do this because they excel in some other facet of their business, be it sales, amazing customer service; there is something that creates trust with their clients and keeps the clients coming back.

Know who you are as an aesthetician so you can put emphasis on your strengths. We all have weaknesses, but when you’re opening and running a business you don’t want these lesser qualities to shine for all to see.

Who are you as a business owner? Are you organized or on the sloppy side? Do you have a clear vision for your venture? Who do you want to be as a business owner? And do you even want to be a business owner? That might sound like a ridiculous question, but perhaps in your heart of hearts you really don’t want to open a business on your own. Know this now so you don’t have to clean up a mess later on. Some people make better employees than they do business owners. Its not easy having the responsibilities (all the responsibilities) of running a business. As an employee, you may not have a lot of freedom, but you have very little on the responsibility side. Be sure owning a business is truly want you want to do. Once youre sure this is for you, think about the qualities you want to possess as a business owner then take those attributes and become them.

Who are your vendors? Figure out what supplies you’ll needthere will be many. Some of those will be listed in What you’ll need before you get started—Part III: odds & ends. Source out vendors for the supplies, and establish positive relationships with their customer service departments. In many cases you can buy supplies at Target or another big box store or even Sally Beauty Supply, but in some cases you’ll need to find vendors for certain items.

Who will do your taxes? This is the part of my business that I have never liked. Even so, when I first started out I used to do a lot of my taxes (not federal) myself. On the days I did this work, I was a frenzied emotional mess.

Eventually I incorporated, hired a payroll service (even though sometimes I was the only employee in my corporation), and I always have a CPA do my end-of-year state and federal income taxes. This is not my forte, and I gladly employ someone else to do this work for me, someone who is an expert in their field.

If you sell products, you will have sales tax (you need a license for this) and sales tax forms to fill out that are required by your state; then there are the quarterly reports (depending on how you are filing your taxes); and of course, end-of-year state and federal taxes. I highly recommend getting help with these—taxes are an area you don’t want to screw up!

Who will be there if you get sick or incapacitated? The answer to this question may be “no one.” Even if the answer is “I have someone in place to take over if something happens to me,” you need to plan and budget for unforeseen occurrences.

If you’ve read this blog, you have seen more than one mention of my dislike for a client who comes in sick to get her facial, something that happens a lot more than you would imagine. (See When a client comes in sick and Letting go of clients.) Perhaps now you can better understand why. If you are sick and can’t work and you own your business, there is no income on the days you are home recuperating. Zero. Ouch. Planning, by having savings put aside, is essential to running your business.

Have you thought about what would happen if you sliced your hand open while making dinner one night? I have! I’m not paranoid, but thoughts do cross my mind when I’m doing something that could have a potentially devastating effect on my business. If I break a leg or sprain an ankle, I can still work, but my hands are my money-makers. These may be areas of thinking you haven’t ventured into, but maybe they should be. Injuries are something you want to avoid at all costs, including getting sick. 

Who can you turn to for help and/or advice? Family members? Fellow business owners? Organizations? Start now to create a broad-spectrum support system. If your family isnt in favor of your business venture (not all families are supportive), find people who are supportive and keep them in your corner. Ask fellow business owners if you can take them out for coffee or lunch and ask them questions about their businesses and how they run them. You don’t have to ask other salon owners per se; running any business has certain commonalities, and you can glean information from just about anyone.

There are organizations that help potential business owners iron out the details. Research groups in your area and go for an interview or attend a class or two or three. Here you may find people you can add to your core support system.

Dont go it alone. You will need help, even if it’s just a sympathetic ear, all along your way to opening your business. Gather your support system. At some point you will need it!

The next question you want to ask yourself before opening a business that has its own series of questions is: #2 of 6 Important Questions: What?