09/04/2012 04:05 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2012

Opportunities in Beauty

I have many friends in the beauty industry who freelance as makeup artists, hairstylists, and massage therapists. Depending on their lifestyles, some do it full-time, some part-time. The small investment I made in obtaining my esthetician license has opened many doors for me. You will succeed in the business if you stay professional, remember that you are providing a service, and put customers' needs first. Don't push products or services that won't benefit them -- you will lose your integrity and your clients' trust, and that is what selling beauty is based on. Maintain client's expectations. If the client brings in a picture of Gisele Bündchen and says she wants to look like her, ask if she ever has. Make clients understand you are helping to make them look the best they can, and not to look like someone else.

I get asked the question of how I got into the beauty industry daily. I am a clinic manager of a high volume medical spa located in Philadelphia. I have been with the company since 2006. I always wanted to be in skin care. As far back as I can remember, I was obsessed with products: how they felt, smelled, and the HOPE that they brought with them. Use this acne pad to banish acne, try this toner to clean out pores, this lotion will make your skin go from feeling like an alligator to baby smooth. I would watch Andi McDowell in commercials saying she was going to fight aging every step of the way and became hooked. I never even knew careers in beauty existed. I was working in PR for a financial company when I learned about a course in skin care at a local beauty school. It was my dream. You would learn waxing, facials, skin care and products (no hair or nails) -- I was super excited! I went on a tour of the school and my husband was supportive. I quit my day job and went to school on a part-time basis. It wasn't easy. I had two kids at home and leaving a steady income was a sacrifice financially. I did have promise that in 18 months I would be a Pennsylvania and New Jersey board-certified esthetician.

My first job was in a spa in the suburbs of Philly. It was OK but didn't pay at all. I learned from that job not to take a position at a start-up spa if you are just starting up yourself. I also learned to negotiate. After making a $19 paycheck for two weeks of work I found out that everyone else at the spa was making an hourly wage plus a commission. I had no idea I could have asked for an hourly rate while myself and the spa was building. I was working on a 35 percent commission basis. My gas and child-care alone put me in the red. So my next job was in a retail product store as Christmas help. This line has a cult-like following and I learned so much about ingredients, how to read labels and what things like surfactants and parabens do.
I also learned something huge: how to educate clients, not sell them. Customers need to know what they are buying, why and how the product is going to benefit them and this tool helps me out to this day. While in skin care school I did learn about an IPL laser that plumped collagen, diminished redness and pigmentation. It was the beginning of the laser craze and I was obsessed. A friend of mine started working in a med spa was doing laser hair removal. She mentioned they were hiring and it was a steady income, benefits, and the job offered upward mobility. You can become an assistant or clinic manager, make a salary and also get some performance bonuses. There is constant training and support. In the laser world, new technology is always on the horizon.

I worked my up within the company from a part-time technician to a clinic manager. I'm blessed every day to be doing what I love. The saying is true: do what you love and the money will follow. The best part of my job is when clients are finished with the treatments. Hearing about their results and how they've dreamt of this is priceless. Helping people feel good is what this business is all about and I am lucky that I get to do that every day. People ask what my number one beauty secret is and I always say it's a grateful attitude.

Careers paths in beauty:

  1. Esthetician in salon, spa, medi spa or dermatologist office.
  2. Salon: waxing and makeup artist
  3. Spa: facials, bacials, waxing
  4. Medi spa and dermatologist office: facials, performing laser based treatment such as a fotofacial, skin tightening, laser hair removal, cellulite reduction treatments such as Vela Shape and circumferential reduction such as Zerona. You can also be a sales manager and upward because of your knowledge of skin and procedures.
  5. Beauty Blogger: writer for magazines and newspapers
  6. Makeup artist: work for companies, on your own doing brides and special occasion, freelancing for agencies, TV shows, networks, salons, spas, and sometimes you do have to comp your services in order to build your portfolio
  7. Business owner of a waxing or makeup boutique, salon or spa
  8. Retail: work for a product line, there is upward mobility to be part of management
  9. Avon, Arbonne, Mary Kay sales representatives: work as little or as much as you like, it's all what you put into it.