How to start a beauty salon
From writing a business plan to sourcing equipment to hiring beauty therapists and more, find out how to open and run your own beauty salon or day spa with our detailed step-by-step guide
The most important steps to take when opening a beauty salon are:
If you have a passion for beauty and relaxation, a beauty room, salon or day spa could be the business for you.
With demand for beauty therapy treatments and services remaining high in the UK, this market is a lucrative one to get started in. But what’s key to a salon or spa’s success is that, alongside giving flawless treatments, you also provide a relaxing and enjoyable experience.
So, you’ll need to be personable, with the ability to make your customers feel comfortable. You should also have a good deal of stamina; you’ll likely work long hours, performing multiple treatments each day.
Just be wary that, while the possibility of making a great profit is there, starting a salon will require a hefty injection of capital for leasing premises, getting equipment and paying staff. So if you’re to find success you should be committed, and truly love what you do.
Ready to get started? Read on to find out everything you need to know about opening a beauty salon, and how to run a successful salon business…
1. Beauty salon or day spa ideas
When starting a beauty business, you’ll need to consider a key question – which beauty therapy services will you be offering to clients?
Salons and spas can offer a range of treatments, but here are just a few examples to get you thinking:
- Manicures and pedicures
- Eyebrow microblading, threading or shaping
- Hair treatments such as bleaching, waxing, electrolysis or laser hair removal
- Massages, from hot stone to deep tissue to facial
- Tanning services such as spray-on fake tans or tanning beds
- Specialist hair treatments such as hair extensions, chemical straightening, perms or Brazilian blow drys
- Specialist beauty treatments such as botox or cellulite reduction
- Professional make-up and makeovers
Remember, in this industry staying ahead of current trends is key. If you specialise in nail art but don’t offer the new style everyone wants to try, for example, you’ll lose out to the competition – so be prepared to revise your treatment lists every now and then.
Rachel Fox, founder of The Beauty & Blow Dry Studio, says she started small and grew as she went:
“It’s all about growth and improvement. Our clients trust us, so if we introduce a new treatment or product, it’s because we know they’ll love it.”
Some additional questions you’ll want to ask yourself include:
- An increasing number of men are now seeking specialist health and beauty treatments – do you want your salon to attract men, women or both? You’ll need to tailor your treatments, branding and marketing accordingly.
- How much money would you like to spend? The equipment needed for basic treatments like manicures and pedicures costs a few hundred pounds, whereas laser machines could cost thousands.
- Would you like to branch into retail? Selling beauty products at your reception will add another revenue stream, but you’ll have to invest in getting the stock.
Conducting market research
Once you have a salon concept in mind, it’s crucial that you evaluate its viability and chances of success before committing to it.
To do this, you’ll first need to work out who your target audience is. You can then use this to conduct thorough market research and gain feedback on your idea from your target customers.
Only when you’re satisfied with, and ready to learn from, the results of your market research should you proceed with your salon or spa idea.
Choosing a salon name
Naming is equal parts fun and difficult. Of course, you should love your business’ name, but it’s just as important that it works as an accurate representation of your brand image.
Beauty salon name ideas:
- List the words that come to mind when you think about your salon and the experiences you’re offering. Don’t limit yourself; get everything down! Then try combining them in interesting ways, exploring their synonyms, et cetera.
- Try incorporating your own name or nickname into the salon’s name.
- Try incorporating the name of the town or city you’ll be based in into your salon’s name.
- List puns or plays on words relating to your treatments – do any make a good name? (Don’t do this if your brand image is more high-end luxury than laid-back fun.)
Mica Nicole, founder of Mica Nicole Hair Salon, suggests enlisting a little professional help:
“It's helpful to contact a marketing specialist to help you with ideas for your particular branding that will have appeal, and to help you with where to push this new found creative merchandise.”
Remember, your name should be:
- Unique (you don’t want clients to confuse you with another business)
- Easy to read, spell and pronounce
- Appealing to your target audience
- Available to use as a company name (check using the Companies House register)
- Available to use as a website domain name
Leah Durrant, founder of Beauty Re:Treat, says: “The name needs to be easily remembered and show off your brand in one name.
Once you’ve chosen the perfect name, you’ll need to officially register it – learn how with our guide to registering a company name.
2. Your beauty salon business plan
Writing a hair and beauty salon business plan will help you to plot out each aspect of running your salon, from your marketing strategy and plans to hire therapists right down to the nitty gritty of your financials.
Durrant says “your business plan is the most important thing you will have, and it needs to be detailed.
“If an outsider doesn’t know your salon, they should know exactly what you offer, how you offer it and where you are going with your business just by reading your plan.”
Fox agrees: “I used a really detailed template, which covered everything. It does take time to do but it’s totally worth it.
“As you complete it you come to understand your business more. Your profit margins, what treatments have the best profit margin, how many clients you’ll need to get through the door to make it work, et cetera. It makes it all very real.”
Funding your beauty salon or spa
Of course, paying the cost to start a beauty salon with your own money isn’t always a possible option; so there are a range of other ways beauty entrepreneurs can gain funding to open a salon.
You can use our guide to compare several popular sources of business finance, and find out whether any of them are suited to your business.
How much might you earn as a beauty salon owner?
The money you take home will depend on the amount you charge for your services, versus the overheads and expenses you pay out. So, the prices you pick for your treatments are very important – they must enable the potential to make a profit, while remaining attractive to your target customer.
Kalpana Gurung, founder of the Himalayan Day Spa in Chiswick, supplied us with some sample prices from her business:
When it comes to earnings, Nicole says “Really busy salons can earn anywhere from a minimum of £3,000 a month for a busy stylist, so depending on the size of your salon, you can work out your personal salon’s earning potential”.Durrant adds: “If you run your salon well you can earn £50,000 to £100,000 or more.”However, you shouldn’t expect to turn a profit straight away. It’s likely that months – even years – will pass before you start taking in more money than you are paying out or investing in running your salon.But don’t be disheartened – you’ve every chance of making a fantastic profit once you’re established; you just need to be patient and work hard.Fox says that “you don’t open up a beauty salon to become a millionaire”:
“The most important thing is to keep fresh and exciting and bring treatments in that your clients want. This means reinvesting any money you may potentially earn yourself, back into your business. At least for the first few years.
– Rachel Fox, The Beauty & Blow Dry Company
3. Beauty industry regulations
Adhering to legal legislation and beauty industry regulations is of paramount importance if you want your beauty salon or day spa to be run safely and legally.Take a look at our guide to beauty salon legislation and regulations to:
- Learn about the qualifications and training you’ll need to complete to become a salon or spa owner.
- View our regulations checklist, which will take you through the beauty salon insurance and licenses you’ll need, plus financial considerations.
- Learn how to ensure your beauty salon or spa complies with crucial health and safety regulations.
When starting a beauty salon, the location you open in is absolutely crucial to your success. If you’re not near the right customers and miles away from relevant shops and facilities, you’ll struggle to get people through the door.To find the best possible location for you, evaluate your shortlist of place by considering the following:
- Footfall. Count how many people pass through your potential location during business hours. Generally, the busier the better, however Nicole warns of a potential danger here: “Bear in mind that women are in an all-time vulnerable state when they're having their hair washed, et cetera, and not many like to be stuck on a high street with people at a bus stop gazing in at them.”
- Population. You’ll want the people who live in, or otherwise frequent, your chosen area to fit your target market. Consider factors like the age, gender and estimated income bracket of the people there. Fox says prior knowledge of an area and its people can make all the difference: “For me it was important to look in my local area because I’ve lived there for over 15 years and you obviously get to know it and the people around, so personally I think that is the best place to start.”
- Competition. Get to grips with the salons and spas that already operate in the area, work out what they offer and how successful they are. You’ll want to open where other salons and relevant businesses have gathered as you’ll benefit from the fact that customers are already being attracted to the area.
- Transport links. Make sure your salon is accessible in terms of public transport and driving. It’s worth checking out nearby parking allowances, too – customers may be leaving your salon without makeup, or with skin reddening from treatments, and so on. The self-conscious among them will want to know they can quickly duck into their car. Durrant reiterates this: “A must is having a salon where it’s easy to park, near a bus stop and train station. It’s also useful to be near a zebra crossing or main road so you have lots of passers by who look in.”
- Availability. Seek out the available properties in each area and work out whether they’d be a good fit for you in terms of size, layout, architectural design and rental/leasing costs.
Remember – there’s a maelstrom of property licensing regulations involved with opening a salon, and in some cases your local authority might not allow you to use a certain property as a beauty salon or spa – so you’ll need to confirm it with them before agreeing to rent a place.
5. Sourcing equipment and getting software
When it comes to opening a beauty salon or day spa, getting the right equipment, good quality furniture, top notch products and streamlined salon software will be a costly but crucial stage of the process.Read our guide to salon equipment and software to learn:
- How to find suppliers who'll provide you with beauty treatment equipment and products.
- Which equipment and software you need to accept customer payments at reception.
- Why installing beauty salon software will benefit you.
According to Nicole: “Looking for stylists or beauticians is one of the hardest things in business as trying to find somebody that has the personality, as well as the ability to carry out the work, can be a tall order at times.”
Indeed, your beauty salon or spa is only as good as the staff who work in it, so it’s important that you find competent beauty therapists to man your business. To find candidates, Leah Durrant’s salon uses “a number of methods”:
“This includes posters inside and in the window of the salon, word of mouth, social media, Indeed and other recruitment websites.”
– Leah Durrant, Beauty Re:Treat
Nicole adds: “Try your local colleges for people studying hair and beauty; they always need a placement.”
At the very least, all of your therapists should have a qualification from a recognised government body. In fact, most insurance providers won’t cover your salon unless your therapists have a Level 2 or 3 NVQ, or exam equivalent.
“I always look for NVQ Level 3 minimum in beauty,” Fox says, “along with good presentation, an excellent telephone manner and great customer service skills.”Durrant adds: “The main criteria I look for when recruiting a beauty therapist is a positive attitude and passion, and that they’re honest, friendly and professional.”
“It is an essential requirement that any candidate joining the hair and beauty industry needs to be friendly first and foremost, even before having the skill, because people in this industry come back time and time again for the atmosphere and ambience.”
– Mica Nicole, Mica Nicole Hair Salon
Different candidates will have different levels of experience – some may be freshly qualified while others could have worked in salons for years. The level of experience you’d like your therapists to have is up to you.
Highly-experienced therapists might bring skills that you don’t have to the table, while inexperienced therapists can be trained to perform your treatments exactly how you’d prefer them to be done.
Fox explains that she looks for “a minimum of three years in-salon experience” as she is not a trained therapist herself.
“However, no matter what difficult position I’ve been in, I would much rather be down a staff member than have a bad staff member. They can do much more harm to your business than not having as many appointments available for your clients, so I would always say keep your standards high.”
Paying your therapists
When managing shifts and salaries, it’s important to meet beauty industry standards and expectations so as not to get a reputation as an unfair employer.
Therapists usually work a five-day week of 37 to 40 hours (typically including Saturdays), but some salons operate on six and seven days.
Salaries for beauty therapists average at £15,000 to £20,000 a year dependent on experience, while highly experienced therapists and salon managers can earn over £20,000. Use these figures as a guideline for what you pay your staff, but remember therapists working in central London will expect London weighting too.
If your therapists are going to earn commission for the treatments they book and perform – and any products they sell – this will typically sit at 10%.
Hiring an apprentice
Alternatively, you might choose to take on an apprentice and train them at your salon while they study for a qualification.
The simplest way to get an apprentice is to register with an apprenticeship training agency (ATA). These recruit apprentices on behalf of the employer (you), and arrange the candidate’s training with you.
If you’d rather find an apprentice yourself, however, you’ll need to choose which course – and from which training body – you’d like your apprentice to be studying for, and request to take on a student from the course.
Once you have someone, work with them to put together an apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement. These will set out the amount of time you’ll employ them for, the training you’ll provide them, and what both you and they will do to ensure the apprenticeship goes well.
Government funding is available to businesses who take on apprentices, so get in touch with the National Apprenticeship Service to find out whether you’re eligible for any.
With so many salons and day spas open today, each needs to prove its value in innovative ways.
As Nicole says, you should try to “push your business everywhere! You need to stay in people's minds so they remember you're there when they choose to use a service like the one you're offering.”
Use the following techniques to spread the word:
Build a website
If nothing else, you absolutely must have a sleek, professional website – customers who hear of you will seek it out to take a look at your treatments, check out your prices and find your contact details.
To get a website up and running, you can either hire a freelance web developer to work with, or use a website building platform. Cost-effective and simple to use, these platforms are ideal for beginners.
Compare website builders and their prices directly and for free here!
Use social media
On social media, you can share images and details of your treatments, your salon’s environment and your therapists, giving potential customers a sense of familiarity with your salon.
Maximise the power of social media by:
- Using a tone of voice and communication style that’s consistent with your brand image
- Using professional, high-quality images
- Sharing popular hashtags that are relevant to your salon and treatments
- Staying engaged with your followers by responding to their comments and instant messages
- Experimenting with competitions and giveaways
Email your customers
Keeping in regular contact with your clients via email, sharing special offers and updates on what the business is up to, is an excellent way to keep them engaged and thinking of your salon or spa.
Durrant advises to “Market your salon from your software; send out newsletters, texts and recommend a friend cards to clients to keep them coming back to the salon and to gain new clients too”.A CRM (customer relationship management) system will help to streamline this process, personalising emails and newsletters with each customer’s name, automating sends, collating customer data and more.
Check out our guide to the best CRM tools for small businesses, and compare CRM systems quotes for free.
Offer packages and tailored experiences
When people visit a salon or spa, they like to feel special. While you should always aim to give your clients a great experience, you can capitalise on this even further by crafting special packages.
For example, you could include a glass of champagne with a treatment, or throw in free hand massages with your manicures. You could also get in on the party and events market, offering special packages for groups – for instance, providing drinks of their choice and giving them free samples of products.
Introduce a rewards scheme
Salon customers tend to be loyal – if they’ve had a good experience with you they’ll probably come back again.You can really drive this loyalty further by offering a rewards scheme – for example, after getting four treatments the customer can have their fifth for free, or at a reduced price.
Opening a beauty salon is a huge undertaking, but if you’re passionate about providing fantastic treatments to clients, there’s every chance that you will find success.
With the right qualifications and training, plus some stellar customer service skills, a warm personality and a lot of patience, you can use this guide to make your beauty salon the best it can be.