July 2013

Lisa Kind - Editor

Esthetic Endeavors | by Judith Culp


Is it Time to Transition?

Estheticians Share Their Stories of Career Transitioning

Estheticians have a tendency to remake themselves several times during their career. I know, I have been an employee, employer, independent contractor, manufacturer's representative and educator, writer, instructor and more.

Some changes are out of choice, some of necessity but, as the saying goes, "when one door closes another opens."

I asked those working in the field to help me with this article and they responded with all different types of transitioning whether it be from school to first job, intermediate jobs, dream jobs, changes in dreams and then finding the fit. I heard excitement, frustration and determination. The choices are there, we just have to make them.

While this article won't reach many who are still trying to decide if this career is good for them I really want to include this quote from an esthetician who is comfortable and happy with her career choice. It is good solid business advice and really brings things into a reality:

"I made my transition at age 40 following a short-lived marriage. The best advice I'd give anyone who is transitioning is to take a serious self-assessment of what they REALLY want in their life because "having it all" is misunderstood. It is defined by you and you alone and you are the only one who can make it a reality.

I dreamed of being a fashion designer or freelance artist or writer-- I liked the idea of freelance because I expected I'd marry and have kids and would want to be contributing to my household. I did college, lived in the city, traveled internationally, it was fun and grueling at the same time; I had the energy then.

But there was no time to settle in a relationship. In those days they didn't have match.com and it was like a famine taking place in the men crops. When I finally did meet someone I was at the edge of baby-making and felt it was now or never and when that didn't work I felt left in the dust.

BUT, I believed what I really wanted still had possibility and when I found myself pushing 40 I decided to switch gears and go to technical trade school. This was a real switch for me that seemed a backwards step however it propelled me into a direction I will never regret. Don't get me wrong, I mourned not having the ability to be shop designer but I grew to love cheap chic and debt free.

In my business there are many opportunities for me to express myself creatively. Ultimately I feel I do have it all and what I don't have, I realize perhaps now is not the time or I will never need it. Knowing these things takes some quiet times with yourself because with media in your face all the time, it's easy to get yanked in with consensus thinking. The result is I'm 12 years older, the past six years with my dear husband and my babies age 7 and 9 are two chihuahua mixes. It works for me."

Everyone had different thoughts regarding getting started in that first job. Jeani Wright of Portland, Ore. shared her experience: "When I got out of school I rented an office space thinking I could build my business that way. Not so smart!" She discovered the traffic just wasn't there and it is time consuming and expensive to reprogram people's habits. It is far easier to locate where people expect to find you.

"If I were just getting out of school," Wright advised, "I would probably work in a salon either 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 don't travel long distances (miles or time) to see a special technician. There are exceptions to this but for the most part – 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, employee or independent contractor? If you need total control of your hours then independent contractor may be the direction for you. If you don't want to worry about the overhead, purchasing, inventory, marketing or other business management aspects then you may want to focus on the employee positions. Do you need fun and upbeat or quiet, prefer to work with just a few colleagues or are you comfortable fitting in a larger group?

If you want to be an employee, you need to impress your potential employer. A former graduate, Ashley Summers tells us: "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 free facial, and likely a fabulous one at that? 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 said: "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."

It is great to be friends with the facility owners whether they are a salon, spa or medical facility, but the dynamics change when you enter into a business relationship. In a business relationship everyone has good intentions. But intentions and business smarts and operations don't always mesh.

If you have every aspect of the relationship in writing you protect the friendship or previously existing relationship and both parties are equally ensured regarding finances, operations and expectations. We can have a fabulous personal relationship with someone but have entirely different approaches to business expectations. The differences can turn into a Grand Canyon of discrepancies that can ruin the relationship.

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 said, "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."

But there are business considerations for entering into your own practice. The first would be a sound business plan as MaryTurner of Mary Turner Skin Care and Day Spa of New Castle, Penn. told me: "I found the most helpful thing when transitioning from 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 time line, what I was looking for in rental space, 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, how you are going to reach them and get them into your clinic, how you will bring them back, where you are going to locate, what products you are going to use, what equipment you are going to use, and the list goes on. If this training wasn't included in your esthetic program, take it at your community college. There is a lot of help available through the Small Business Administration.

Turner also said, "I put these things on paper, so I wouldn't obsess about it. And I asked a lot of questions from other professionals, and researched as much as I could about going solo. This way I could feel more confident about my decisions."

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

Judith Culp, has been in the esthetics industry since 1980. She is the owner of NW Institute of Esthetics, Inc. and contributing editor for Miladys Standard Esthetics: Advanced and lead author of Esthetician's Guide to Client Safety & Wellness. If you have questions about this or other Esthetic Endeavor columns please contact judy@estheticsnw.com. For more information visit www.estheticsnw.com.