I’ve written different posts about being an esthetician before, but frankly I never posted anything downright negative about the realities of being an esthetician. I don’t want this post to be negative; I want this post to be real. I got thinking about this post since a few weeks ago when a friend of mine asked me via Facebook why I became an esthetician and if I thought it would be a good profession for her to perhaps consider. The last week I received the following blog update from celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau about being an esthetician, and then today I read this.
The “about” section of my blog already explains why I became an esthetician so I won’t go over all of that again here. Instead I want to focus on the realities of being an esthetician – both the good and the bad. Let’s start with the not so great things about being an esthetician. You finish esthetics school excited to start working. You can’t wait to help people feel great about themselves by improving their skin or teaching them how to properly apply make-up or make them feel good by removing unwanted body hair and then reality hits. It can be very hard to find a job after finishing esthetics school since you have no experience and everyone wants to hire someone with experience. Additionally, finding the right job for you as an esthetician well that is something that sometimes feels impossible. Simply put – this isn’t an easy profession to break into and it isn’t an easy profession to succeed in. Estheticians have to be ready to work nights and weekends, to put up with jobs that only pay you per service and have no benefits, to feel pressure to sell products to clients even if you don’t think they need products or they can’t afford them because if you don’t sell what is considered enough product you get harassed by your manager, and to even, in some cases, have the cost of the products you use during treatments deducted from the pay you receive for the service you just performed. These are all standard employment practices for estheticians. So instead you think it would be better to work for yourself – great, right? Where are your clients going to come from? Are you good at marketing? Do you have the budget to properly market yourself and to buy all the products and equipment you need to work independently? And you are still working nights and weekends even when you are self-employed. And did I mention that you won’t be getting rich being an esthetician? This isn’t a very high paying profession for the most part (the celebrity esthetician you see quoted in magazines are few in number). And are you ready for no-show clients? Late clients? Rude clients? Let’s be frank – being an esthetician means being part of an industry that requires hard work, long hours, and paying your dues. There really isn’t any overnight success to becoming a successful esthetician. If you want to succeed in this profession you have to love it and put up with a lot in the process.
I had a number of teachers at esthetics school and each of them was very different from the other. Despite their differences one of the things I appreciated about each of my teachers was their honesty about what it was really like to work as an esthetician since all my teachers worked and taught. One teacher in particularly was a bit of a “Debbie Downer” when it came to the realities of working at a day spa, but in retrospect her honesty, though brutal at times, was helpful. For instance I still haven’t forgotten how she told us how much she hated doing facials for pregnant women (when an esthetician has a pregnant client we always lift the head of the bed up so the client is pretty much sitting instead of lying and then you end up doing most of the facial while standing) because of how tiring it was for her stand during an entire facial. Because of my teachers’ honesty I finished esthetics school knowing that working as an esthetician wasn’t going to be a bed of roses and believe me that is what I found out. As a matter of fact the worst job I ever had, hands down, was one esthetician job that I had not so long after finishing esthetics school. I’m about to turn 39 and I’ve been working since I was 16, and have held a lot of jobs in many work environments in two different countries, so believe me when I say that if that job was the worst one I’ve ever had it really was.
I mentioned Renee Rouleau’s blog post, My Tips For Having a Successful Career As An Esthetician on the mark, others irked me greatly. Some of the good things from her post include the following:
What tips do you have for a new esthetician right out of school?
It is a fact that a large percentage of people who go through the effort and investment of attending and graduating from esthetics school will never end up practicing esthetics or will do so for a short time. I believe this is because they could not find a job or if they did, the job was not the right fit for them. My advice is to explore every option for employment, but be sure to only apply for a position that best suits your style and personality.
This is very true. Also a lot of esthetics students give up on an esthetics career after school because full-time, well-paying employment as an esthetician is very hard to come by, and they simply cannot support themselves and/or their families working only as an esthetician.
Some of things I don’t entirely agree with from the post:
What jobs are out there for estheticians?
What I love about being an esthetician is that there are many options for places of employment. There are day spas, hair salons that have a skin treatment room (this is where I got my start), skin care spas (like the two I have in Dallas), hotel spas, cruise line spas, medical spas, department store spas associated with a skin care line and resort spas. If you prefer not to be a service provider, there are still many options. You can become a representative for a skin care line that is sold to department stores, medical offices, or spas so you would provide education and training classes to your various accounts, as well as work at trade shows. You can work in a retail environment selling a line at the department store counter (they LOVE hiring estheticians) or other beauty retailers. You can also become an independent contractor and be on-call to work at various spas or even be a freelance esthetician. It is also possible to become an educator and work as a teacher at your local esthetics school. Another option is to become an entrepreneur and develop your own skin care line.
All of the above are valid career paths for estheticians but take the time to think about those jobs. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, easy job options. Being an independent contractor or a freelance esthetician usually means uncertain hours which means uncertain pay and of course no benefits or job security. How many people can live like that? If you have a family there is just no way you can support your children with a job like that. Becoming a skincare line rep is good for someone who is great at sales and doesn’t want to spend their days in the same place, but once again this is a difficult job were you are usually met by a lot of rejection and your salary is mostly (or entirely) paid by commissions. Lastly, how fabulous to be able to develop your own skincare line, right? But realistically who has the money for that?
And now for the part of the post that really got me steamed:
I love that a career as an esthetician offers a very flexible schedule. Many places offer both part and full-time schedules so if you have another career or have children, this is ideal. I have employed many estheticians who were once full-time and now work part-time after having children.
Has Rouleau ever had a part-time job? Does she realize how little a part-time esthetics job actually pays? And even if you work part-time as an esthetician I can guarantee that you will be asked to work nights and weekends. Now if you’re a parent – what do you do about childcare? Finding and then paying for the right babysitter or daycare is one of the hardest things any parent faces. And of course if you are working part-time forget about getting any benefits with your job.
And now for the great part of the post:
How can an esthetician build a clientele?
It truly takes a long, long time to really build up a good, repeat clientele. The reason is because you will not connect with every client, and not every client will connect with you. Being an esthetician is a relationship-based profession. My best tip for this is to mimic their personality. If they are not much of a talker, then don’t talk their ear off. You have to be a chameleon with every client.
Try paying close attention to body language. Asking specific questions on your client intake form that gives you insight into their expectations will go a long way. One of my favorite questions is “What are you goals for today’s visit?” I then provide various options they can check off on the form ranging from “stress relief” to “I want to learn how to care for my skin.” Depending on all that they select, I will make sure to create an experience that gives them exactly what they ask for. I will also discuss their goals during our consultation to make sure I have complete clarity. Having a client leave getting exactly what they wanted will help build the relationship and ensure they will come back to see you again.
In my opinion this advice is spot-on. It isn’t always easy to meet clients needs and expectations. Every esthetician eventually has the experience of thinking that they just bonded with a client and gave them a great facial only to hear back something negative from the client in the end. It always helps to remember that even if you did give a client the greatest facial of her life she just might not be happy and a lot of time it has nothing at all to do with you. Not everyone is going to like you. Period.
Rouleau’s advice continues:
Another way to build a clientele is to give out free skin treatments. When you have an empty schedule, your goal is to fill it with clients. And waiting around for them to shell out money for a skin treatment that is often considered a luxury will leave you with an empty room and time on your hands. Make some really nice gift certificates and gift it to your friends, family, and anyone you come in contact with that you feel would be a good fit for you. Let them experience the services you provide at no charge because the more faces you can get your hands on, the more they can spread the word for you. Many of them may love the results and want to come back as a paying client. At the end of the appointment, give them a few of those free gift certificates and ask them to give it to their friends who they think would be a good client for you. Who would not love giving the gift of beautiful skin? Hands down, word of mouth with a referral will trump any other advertising or marketing opportunity. If you work this strategy long enough, and you give a treatment focused on managing expectations, you will no longer have an empty schedule. I promise.
I do agree that the best possible way to get clients is through word of mouth but giving away services isn’t always the answer to getting more clients, in my opinion. In my experience once people receive a service for free they do not want to pay for it ever and they rarely refer their friends. If you give away too many services you are simply losing a lot of money; esthetics products are expensive even with your esthetician discount. I would recommend instead to give certain services at a discount and to sell products at a discounted rate to a select group of people who hopefully will spread the word about what a great esthetician you are. Be careful who is in that group. Unfortunately a lot of people will be more than happy to take advantage of your generosity.
Rouleau’s blog post continues with some more solid advice for the aspiring or struggling esthetician. It is definitely worth reading even if, like me, you don’t agree with everything she has to say.
So I will readily admit that up until now this post hasn’t been entirely positive. Of course there are lots of things that I love about being an esthetician- for instance, meeting new and interesting people, getting to know my clients on a personal level (I’ve met some amazing people through my work as an esthetician), and feeling that I have had a positive impact on people’s lives through helping them care for their skin. I always wanted to be part of a profession that would allow me to continue to learn and being an esthetician certainly is such a profession – there is always something new and interesting to learn as an esthetician in a variety of related fields from cosmetic science, to dermatology, and make-up innovations. A lot of the ways I educate myself is through blogs and online magazines (on the right hand side of my blog you’ll find links to my favorite publications, blogs, etc.) and there are numerous courses that estheticians can take. The problem is that these course usually cost money, a lot of money sometimes, but if you feel that you can eventually make that money back by providing a different or new service to your clients than investing in a course is important.
Another thing I like about being an esthetician are my fellow estheticians. In my experience nasty estheticians are the exception not the rule. Most estheticians are more than happy to share tips, ideas, and expertise with their fellow estheticians. Estheticians truly help one another and to boot we are generally just a nice bunch of people. There are also numerous groups on Linked In where estheticians help one another so even if you work solo you can be part of a network of estheticians.
I’ve been fortunate to have found a few mentors since becoming an esthetician. The doctor I worked for in Chicago encouraged me and supported me immensely while I worked for her; she also took a leap of faith with me since I didn’t have much actual esthetics job experience when I applied to work for her. She gave me a chance which was priceless. Lately I’ve been encouraged by the advice I am receiving via email from estheticians in the oncology esthetics field in the US about how to market this important branch of esthetics in Israel.
If you are considering becoming an esthetician I encourage you to spend a day shadowing an esthetician to see what she really does during her work day. In my opinion you really need to have a very strong passion for skincare and beauty in order to last in this profession. Lastly, look before you leap. As I already explained this isn’t an easy profession to break into and succeed in so be well aware of the challenges before you sign-up for esthetics school.
I wrote a part 2 to this post: The Realities of Being An Esthetician: Part II
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