Guide to being a self employed beauty therapist

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You’ve been thinking about this for a while and you are sure you’re now ready to become self employed. The benefits are infinite - choose your hours, choose your clients, your products and freeeeeedom when you want but do you know everything that’s involved? Before your sign up for a room or stick those vinyls on your car, read on for our easy to follow guide on what you need to be aware of before you make the jump!


You must have the necessary qualifications for the types of beauty treatment you want to offer. Your insurance will not cover you for treatments you are not qualified to carry out. Remember that training offered by a product supplier will not result in a recognised qualification.


You’ll need to work out the cost of running your self-employed business and make sure you’ll end up with a profit and enough to live on. In addition, you’ll need to consider:

• Your target market and the prices they might expect to pay or can afford.

• How much local competitors are charging – but don’t let this dictate how much you charge. For example, you may not want to be seen as the ‘cheapest’ option if you are aiming for a more upmarket client base.


You will have to register with HMRC as self-employed and make sure you pay the right amount of tax and National Insurance. You must do a Self Assessment tax return every year and pay your tax on time. You must keep accurate records as you go along of all your income and outgoings. You can use this information to fill in your own Self Assessment tax form each year, or you can pay an accountant to do this for you.

Don’t forget that if your turnover goes over the VAT registration threshold, currently £85,000 per year (2018/19), you will have to register for and pay VAT at 20%. VAT is normally payable every three months. You should consider using the Flat Rate VAT scheme where you only pay HMRC 13% instead of 20% as long as your turnover stays below £150,000. See the HMRC web site for more info on this.


You’ll need insurance to cover your own goods, equipment and belongings. You’ll also need public liability insurance to cover injury or damage to a client or their property. Check with your provider to make sure you are covered for all the treatments and services you provide for your clients. If you employ anyone, the law says you must have employers’ liability insurance. As a member of the NBF, we get great advice and discounts from their partner ‘Coversure’. More info can be found at


Your business will have to comply with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). GDPR means you must protect the data you hold about your clients. You will also need your clients’ specific permission to send them marketing information and to collect and keep health-related info. We cover this in more detail in our salon owners welcome pack, but you can find info here to keep you covered.


If you plan to ask someone to stand in for you (a ‘locum’) when you are ill or on holiday, this must be included in the contract with your salon owner or landlord. The contract should state if the salon owner will have the right to vet your proposed locum and if there is a time limit.


Whether you plan to go mobile or rent a space or chair in somebody else’s salon, this will have an effect on which treatments you can offer. If you are driving from house to house, how much product do you (can you?) fit in your car? If you are renting a room in a salon, what will work in the space? How much money do you have to put up front with new brands - ask reps about their minimum orders and find the companies that do not have a minimum in place (for example, some companies ask for a minimum of £4,000 plus training) which is unrealistic when you are starting up!

When selecting products, also consider the retail option of it as this can be a great supplemental income for you. If you are working in a salon under somebody else’s name, the likelihood is that they will choose the brands and any retail opportunity for you is limited.


When you are ready to get going you need to think about how your clients are going to book appointments and make payments. There are so many great services for online scheduling and payments available which are very competitive in terms of features and pricing and it’s an entirely personal decision. In our welcome pack for salon owners we go into the details of our preferred options but in a nutshell we advise you to take advantage of the great introductory rates available and ensure that you are not committed to long term contracts.

For scheduling software, as a minimum we would recommend you choose a partner that offers:

  • calendar integration

  • text reminders (this will help reduce your no-shows significantly)

  • review facility

For payment software, look for a partner that offers

  • quick and easy access to money - they may have the lowest commission rate but is it any use if you have to wait 5-7 days for your money?

  • Easy to use software

  • slimline and stylish models (really - you don’t want something huge that looks like a calculator in your treatment room, do you?!)


Getting the right relationships in place is going to be crucial for your long term success. In his best selling book ‘Good to Great’ business author Jim Collins talks about getting the right people in place from the beginning. He advises ‘if you have the wrong people (leaders, partners, etc) on the right bus, it won’t go anywhere but if you have the right people they will make every effort to ensure you get your bus moving in the right direction’. Choose partners wisely.

We suggest you take time to find the right partners that work for you - at Salon Studios we provide a space and have no restriction on the products you choose, the treatments you do (as long as they are legal) and the hours you work. If you are looking to rent a chair in Edinburgh, why not visit us and see how much more we can offer you!


Once you have these basics in place it’s on to the next exciting step of getting the word out there about your salon and the fact that you are now IN BUSINESS! That’s not small topic and will be covered in a future blog!

All info is accurate at date of publishing. We have extracted this information from sources including the UK Government web site & the NHBF guide being a self employed beauty therapist’. For more information on the great benefits that the NHF NBF (National Hairdressers Beauticians Federation) can offer you, visit them at

Helpful stuff on #hashtags!

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will be very familiar with #hashtags and the importance of them in our marketing campaigns. In a nutshell, hashtags are used as a way of identifying a post, picture, comment, place, person and importantly, your business. It’s a great way to search for something online - just pop in #edinburghhairdresser for example and you will immediately see that this hashtag has been used on posts over 15,000 times. Although 15,000 mentions may seem a lot, it is not so much in the world of hashtags so to use this would quite likely be a sure sign that people will see you. Type in #hair and you will find more than 180 million mentions. Chances of visibility in this hashtag? Pretty much zero. The more mentions a hashtag has, the harder it is to get noticed with that hashtag. In a nutshell, in the world of hashtags, if you are trying to build visibility through hashtags more is not always more.

According to Plann (the super cool tool that we use to plan our instagram feed), if you are looking for visibility with hashtags their advice is as follows:-

  • Over a million hashtag mentions - don’t even bother trying to get noticed (unless of course you are a huge brand with an incredible digital marketing team and a limitless budget AND a high engagement rate)

  • Over 500,000 hashtag mentions - well this is still a huge stage to find your place on, BUT if you have great content and strong engagement then you can find some success at this level

  • Over 250,000 hashtag mentions - this is the sweet spot. Plann highly recommend this range - with good quality content, this is the area where you can really target and enjoy high levels of engagement.

  • Less than 250,000 - don’t despair and think this area is not worth venturing in to. On the contrary; this is a great area, even hashtags with mentions as low as 50k, to use for specific, targeted posts that can gather attention over several days, instead of a few hours.

One of the benefits of Plann is that they colour code each hashtag you type in and give you a traffic light coding system to indicate whether or not you should use it. They also save sets of hashtags to make it easy for you to target different audiences with different posts. If you don’t have a tool like Plann, then you can keep note of your hashtags on lists (however, we love what Plann helps us with and makes our life so much easier!).

Hashtag selection

So how do you select which hashtags are right for you and then, how do you organise them?

Hashtag selection is critical if you are planning on long term relationships with your followers. Yes, you can select a random amount (maximum 30) hashtags and hope for the best but, in the long term this is not going to be successful for you. Here are a few steps we recommend you follow to get your hashtag game up to scratch:

  1. Think about the content you have created and who is going to find this of interest - how will those people discover it? You are looking to use hashtags that will create a level of engagement but not so popular that you will get lost in the sea of similar posts.

  2. One easy way to see how popular a hashtag is: type your hashtag into the search bar and you will immediately see how many mentions that hashtag has which will help you decide if it is worth competing in this market or not (see image below). It may be worth going for a similar hashtag that does not have such a high number of mentions. You can figure this out by testing different hashtags to see which ones work better for you.

  3. Look at other people in your field, including your instagram-star competitors to see which hashtags they use and what level of engagement they are generating.

  4. Once you have decided on the hashtags that you will be focusing on, create lists (this can be in any software - ‘notes’ on your phone, excel, etc). There are many options online for planning your insta strategy and they can store your hashtag lists for easy access when you need them (that’s for another post!). Take advantage of hashtag trends and social media days which attract a huge amount of traffic and can increase your exposure significantly. For a fun social media calendar which will give you some fun reasons to post, visit Hopper.

  5. It’s important to use different hashtags for different posts - throwing mud at a wall generally does not stick and instagrams spam filter will block you if they feel that you are repeating the same hashtag list over and over and over again. Also, your followers will tire of this and you will see your engagement levels dropping so it’s important to be aware of this.

  6. Hashtag generators - there are so many of them out there and it’s worth a free trial to see what they can do for you. We like and the Influencer marketing hub generator (upload a photo and they will generate relevant hashtags - very cool!) but it is a personal preference!

  7. 30 hashtag rule. Instagram only allow a maximum of 30 hashtags per post. This means if you have 15 in your caption, then add 15 in one of your comments you have reached the limit.

Finally, you can use one hashtag in your bio… it’s worth it - select it carefully!

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The engagement rate (ER) for instagram is a simple equation as outlined above. Engagement = likes + comments + shares/followers. Or in laymans terms, it’s the number of user likes, shares or comments on your posts divided by the number of followers you have. If you want to get really technical you can separate your ER into likes and comments Engagement rates, but generally any interaction with your post is considered ‘engagement’.

Finally, what is considered a good engagement rate?

Well, according to Influencer Marketing Hub , the average Instagram account has an engagement rate of 3%. Any engagement rate above that, combined with a high number of followers, suggests that you are an influencer amongst your peers. Don’t get too excited just yet! It’s easier to have a 3% rate when you have a small number of followers - the success is in maintaining this rate as your followers grow. Something we are working on too!

The helpful hair & beauty marketing calendar template

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Do you ever feel like you have so much going on, so much that you want to share that you don’t know where to start. Instagram and Facebook are always the easy answer and you seem to get good results so do you really need anything else?

Maybe you are a planner and you already have your business plan, your marketing plan, your target audience and have clients lined up at the door (kudos to you if you do!). If you feel like you need a little direction and structure with planning your marketing activities throughout the year then our marketing calendar template is just for you (we’ve put a few local ‘Edinburgh’ events in here), if you would like a blank one to start from scratch, use this one instead!.

You’ll see we have included other options than just social media. Why? Simply because different people read (and do) different things. If you have a variety of the ‘marketing mix’ you will find that you attract (through targetting) different audiences and in turn this will help your business grow. If you measure your response this (something else we will go into in future) you can then establish where the best place to spend your valuable marketing funds.

The marketing calendar is really simple - choose:

  1. what you want to promote (book now for Valentines Day, early bird booking offer, 20% off etc),

  2. how you want to promote it

  3. when you want to promote it

  4. where you want to promote it.

  5. (we are assuming the ‘why you want to promote it’ is to drive business!)

A word of caution here - try not to over commit yourself! Chances are that if you do this you end up weary and don’t do any of it and become demotivated! Select a few areas that are important and do them well. If you don’t get the results you were hoping for, mix it up and try something else. Small tweaks can pay off.

We suggest you print this calendar off and put it somewhere that you see regularly as a good reminder!

Don’t forget if you have last minute cancellations, your clients like to know this - have a template ready to post this if you can!

If you have any suggestions or comments, we would love to hear what works (and what doesn’t!) for you!