Cirocco Stout, LE, shares her perspective of what it’s really like for an esthetician to go solo
Rise and shine! It's time to grab a cup of coffee and dive into the truth of being a solo technician.
My journey started after 10 years of being a W-2 employee for a large salon in my hometown. I was working a ridiculous schedule, had hardly any free time (especially during holiday season!), and I struggled to be a mom. If I tried to take just one day off to relax, I was told my insurance would be affected if I did not make up those missed hours.
I was booked out with a 2-year waitlist of new clients. Don’t get me wrong—I LOVED my job and I LOVED my clients. But I was drowning in the lack of living life and inability to afford more than my monthly bills.
I needed a change. I had many friends venturing into new solo lives as technicians, but for years I was simply too scared to pursue it.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t daydreaming about working for myself while I was working for someone else. But I knew owning my own small business would be no small task.
Then one day, a good friend opened her own studio with room for about 12 other technicians to rent space out of. I watched the spaces start to fill up . . . 12 spaces available, then 8, then 3, then down to the very last room.
I remember when she excitedly called me, letting me know someone was showing interest in her last room. This was huge. Either I was going to sit on the other end of the phone and hear about this other person fill this room, or I would let this last room change my life forever.
I called my employer to discuss an alternative opportunity that had crossed my path. I wasn’t asked any questions about what it would take for me to stay or what they could do. Instead, I was instructed to sign a noncompete agreement. I was viewed as replaceable.
At that moment I knew what I needed to do. I called my girlfriend and told her the space was taken because I was taking it! That was on a Thursday, and I had until Tuesday to figure out how to start and run my own business.
I was not prepared. I did not have money saved up. I did not have supplies or furniture to fill my space. I was not granted time to inform my clients I was leaving. While I knew I was vastly unprepared, I was also excited in a scary kind of way! For the next five days, I worked day and night on every detail I could think of. The list seemed endless. I realized that over the past several years I had been working for someone else, all I had to do was show up, clock in, work, clock out, head home, then repeat. I never thought about how many sheets, towels, gauze, cotton rounds, lash extensions, eye pads, jars of wax, or moisteners I was using on clients in the course of a day, let alone in my own room for the rest of eternity!
I started reaching out to friends who started as solo technicians to ask for advice. What was I missing? What did I need to do that I wasn’t thinking about? My list was growing and I felt like everyone was speaking a foreign language to me.
Business accounts, business licenses, LLCs, vendor relations, marketing, accountants, insurance (ASCP of course!), merchant credit card machines, booking apps, and on and on. I scheduled an appointment with my business accountant the day before I was opening for business. He asked me how any clients I thought would follow me. I was puzzled. In my head, I was hoping for 30 percent. If 30 percent of my clients followed me, I’d make around the same amount as I did at my former place of employment.
I was overwhelmed to say the least. It was not a smooth transition. I started my first week with bloodshot eyes and a bare bones room, but also with my talent and the knowledge that I had built strong relationships with my clients over the last 10 years.
During just my first month solo, I was able to financially make what normally took me three months to achieve in my former role. This was shocking to me. I realized then how much I had been doubting myself—not my ability to do my job well, but everything else. Booking my clients myself, finding furniture and décor that represented who I am, learning how to start a business . . . all of these things were super easy!
However, there was a shift in responsibilities. I wasn’t able to just simply clock out of work and head home to start dinner like I used to. After an amazing day with clients, I was rushing home to make dinner for the kids, throw in a load of work laundry, send out upcoming appointment reminders to clients (and hope they didn’t need to change anything), review my schedule, double check to make sure I had plenty of supplies to avoid running out in the middle of the day, and then get some sleep.
I had to learn to be organized, show up for myself, and never procrastinate. Procrastination was my worst enemy.
In the end, all the behind-the-scenes work was worth it. I now enjoy financial freedom and the ability to completely control my schedule so I can be a better person and enjoy life.
But one last word of advice: an overlooked and important topic that was not really discussed among the technicians I had reached out to was how lonely being a solo technician can be. Everyone is so busy trying to keep their own small businesses in good standing that it feels like there can be a lack of camaraderie. There are many missed moments of playful banter between esty friends while in between clients, or before or after work.
Working solo is not for everybody. You must be organized, proactive, and passionately consistent. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to keep a strong, POSITIVE, and connected group of technicians by your side. Join online forums for communication.
When you challenge yourself and prove to yourself that you can do more than you ever dreamed, it can be a beautiful thing.
About the Author: Cirocco Stout, LE
Cirocco Stout is a licensed esthetician providing professional skin, wax, and lash services in and around the Tempe, Arizona, area. Originally a Tucson native, Cirocco trained and became a licensed esthetician in 2004. Cirocco is devoted to making her clients look and feel beautiful. Her experience, expertise, and personality make her a highly sought-after esthetician.
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Your story is definitely one to share. I appreciate your honesty. I have some of the same concerns. I've been licensed for one year and working for myself. I feel that procrastination is my biggest enemy, and at times I'm overwhelmed. However, I keep pushing myself to continue the work that I enjoy. Thank you for sharing.