Beauty salon vs mobile beautician
You love beauty and you learned your stuff after completing a formal beautician qualification. You're ready to go self-employed, but should you put down roots with your very own beauty salon, or keep things flexible by setting yourself up as a mobile beauty therapist? Here's our guide to making the right choice for you.
Starting a salon
Setting up your very own nail salon, hair salon or other type of beautician salon puts your name on the high street and gives you instant, high-profile promotion, 24/7. You can also engage online ads, social media and local advertising of course, but having a physical location gives potential customers reassurance that you're an established business, and gives them the option of dropping in when it suits them, rather than having to commit to an appointment.
Having a prime position on the high street virtually guarantees passing trade and walk-ins, but it's also expensive. A compromise may be choosing somewhere a little more off the beaten track, but still accessible.
Build a culture for your business
Working in a salon gives you a chance to socialise with staff as well as clients. This can be a great way to create an atmosphere and culture that people will want to visit again and again – and tell their friends about.
Opportunities for growth
With customers choosing to visit you, often dropping in unannounced, you can serve more than one at a time and hire staff to help you. You can even take a holiday and get someone in to cover for you.
You'll have fixed working hours and your customers will expect to fit in around those. They may ask for special appointments, and you can either politely point out your standard opening hours… or charge extra.
High set-up costs
Buying or renting any space in a prime location is prohibitively expensive these days. You'll need to be sure that you can keep the business going while you're building your customer base. You'll also need to make sure the décor and the atmosphere befits the kind of place that customers will want to come back to. And don't forget local utility rates as well as insurance, including general beauty insurance or more specialist packages like hairdressing insurance or nail technician insurance.
Location is key
Before you invest, you'll need to be sure that the location you've chosen really is as good as you think it is. Check out your competition. The Hair and Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA) says there are 35,704 hair salons, 1,512 nail bars and 13,000 beauty salons in the UK – is your offering distinctive enough to thrive even if there are similar businesses nearby? And remember, just because another type of business was successful there it doesn't mean that the area is crying out for a new beauty salon – do your research.
Building trade takes time
Any bricks and mortar business takes a while to build up a clientele. While you're waiting for the word to get out you'll still have to pay overheads, which include rent, rates, insurance and perhaps wages. It will likely take substantial investment to get your new business to a place where it can support itself.
Opening hours in the area may be limited, which could affect your ability to reach the clientele that you want, particularly in the evenings or at weekends.
Starting a mobile business
As a mobile beauty therapist, you're your own boss and you can set your own hours. If you've already got your equipment and your skills, you're pretty much ready to go, and you can build your business as you go, with little risk.
Visiting clients in their home gives you the chance to build up a closer than usual relationship with them – closer than you'd be likely to build with your clients in a beauty salon. And once you have that relationship, clients get to trust you and are unlikely to look elsewhere, especially if you arrange your next visit on the same day as your last. Clients who like you are also likely to recommend you to their friends, who hopefully live nearby, and so your business grows.
You're working for yourself, with no employees, so all your profit goes to you. You can either reinvest back into your business, or spend it as you see fit.
Whether you're driving or even using public transport, you can probably deduct running costs from your overall tax bill. You can build up your range of equipment as and when you need to – you don't need to have everything at once, just what's required for each customer. You can also use social media and word of mouth to advertise your skills and availability for free. You'll need beauty insurance regardless if you start out as a mobile beautician or when your business becomes an established beauty salon.
No holidays or sick pay
Since you're your only employee, if you don't work, you don't earn. Getting someone in to cover for you can be risky unless they already know your clients and can be trusted to treat them every bit as well as you do.
The customer is always right
Being self-employed, you're in a bit of a vulnerable position, and totally dependent on the goodwill of your customers. If they want you to visit at short notice or at odd hours, you'll probably feel obliged to accommodate them, whether it's convenient for you or not.
Travel takes time
If you get busy, travelling time is likely to eat into your ability to earn. And if you have to travel long distances, the cost of petrol or public transport is likely to eat into your profits too.
Setting yourself up as a mobile beauty therapist comes with little expense and little upfront financial commitment. But as a self-employed, one-person operation, your options for growth and earning potential can be limited. If you're clear about your goals and have the support to get through that crucial, risky set-up period, a beauty salon offers more opportunity to grow and turn a small business into a bigger one.