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From salon to startup: company formation in the mobile beauty business

Beauty is big business, and increasingly the mobile beauty business is becoming a significant part of this industry.

Not only does it cater to clients who simply prefer the convenience of having treatments in their own home over the experience of visiting a salon, but it can also reach people for whom visiting a salon could be difficult, such as older people or people with limited mobility. Another would be people with extensive family responsibilities, who find it hard enough to make time for themselves without having to make time to go to a salon. It also offers many advantages to beauty professionals. In particular, it allows hairdressers and beauticians to build a more direct relationship with their clients, instead of having to rely on a salon’s marketing, and allows more flexibility both in the hours they work and the prices they charge.

Making your business mobile

Assuming you are already a qualified hairdresser, beautician, or therapist, there are basically two ways you can approach the transition from salon-based work to mobile work. The first is to think about what treatments you wish to offer and what equipment you will require to provide these treatments.

The second is to look at what transport options are most practical for you, and tailor your offering around your transport.

As a rule of thumb, if you are planning to work outside of populated, urban areas, where parking is unlikely to be an issue, then you would probably benefit from being able to offer more treatments, and could look at offering treatment packages, so that your time and cost in making longer trips to clients is offset by the higher fees you can earn per visit.

By contrast, if you are planning to work in an urban area, where parking can be a problem, then you may wish to think about focusing on a select few treatments — and presenting yourself as a specialist in them — so that you can go to appointments either by public transport or in a very compact car.

You’re also going to need to think about the practicalities of transporting key pieces of equipment by any mode of transport, and thus, what will suit you best. Finally, you’re going to have to organise for equipment either to be appropriately disposed of or sterilised between clients, or carry a plentiful supply of reusable equipment so that you can keep sterilisation for when you get back to your base.

Lawful beauty

If you have been working on a ‘rent-a-chair/room’ basis in a salon, you should already be registered as self-employed. However, starting your own mobile business gives you further options. For example, you may wish to set yourself up as a limited company. You will also need relevant insurance, at a minimum  public liability, product liability, and professional indemnity insurance. Typically, this insurance will only be effective if you are appropriately qualified for the treatments you perform, so you need to be clear on what that means in practice and ensure that you stick to the rules.  

If you are going to use your car for work purposes, then you also need to let your car insurer know. Your local authority will probably require you to have a trading licence, even if you’re operating in private houses. If you live in a large metropolitan area, such as London, and plan to cover more than one borough, you may well need a licence per borough.  

You’ll also need to decide how you are going to manage your finances, for example are you going to use a business bank account or a personal one and, if the latter, will you keep a separate account just for your business? The factors above, such as insurance and equipment, are inevitable costs relating to going solo, but the overheads of working from people’s homes will invariably be lower than hiring a salon yourself, so as long as you factor them into your pricing, you’ll be good to go.

Ensure you’re easy to contact

The ability to take bookings quickly and easily is vital to the success of any mobile beauty business. At a minimum, you will need a telephone number you can give to clients. You therefore need to decide whether you are going to have a separate number for your business. It’s also very useful to have an e-mail address, as well as social media platforms, that potential clients can contact you through. If you want to really drive awareness of your brand through social media, it’s worth coming up with a social marketing strategy, to make sure you’re posting consistently and targeting the right customers with the right kind of content. Our blog on social media marketing is a good place to start if you want to delve into the world of online promotion.

If you are keeping client data of any description, from telephone numbers to case notes, then you absolutely must be aware of and adhere to the rules on data protection, and you may need to register as a data controller.

Practical payment

In addition to sorting out pricing, you will have to choose the mechanisms by which you will take payment. Cash is the obvious option, but it’s also a security risk. Because of this — and in order to make it as easy as possible for your customers to pay — you may wish to look at accepting card payments as well. If you go down this route, then you will also need to be aware of the relevant security requirements.

Make a move on marketing

Once everything is ready, it’s time to start getting the word out. Social media can be a big help here: as well as obvious channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, look for less obvious places your customers may visit, such as community websites or internet forums. Be ready to put effort into real-world marketing too, for example by donating a treatment as a prize for a charity raffle, or by going and giving a talk and demonstration to a possible client group, such as a mum-and-toddler group.

Encourage your customers to recommend you to their family and friends, too, because if they’re enjoying your professional treatments and great customer service, then surely the people they care about will too.

Offering excellent customer service is vital if you are to continue to grow your business. As well as providing beauty treatments that wow your clients, you must make them feel special and unique if you are to see repeat bookings. For tips on how to build long-lasting client relationships, check out our post on customer loyalty in the help centre. Remember, it is far easier to retain an existing client than it is to find and recruit new ones.

Ready to make the leap to mobile? Take a look around our help centre for more information on the next steps to success.

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