How to set yourself up as an aesthetic practitioner
Is a career in aesthetics the right move for you?
For professionals such as doctors, dentists and nurses, a career in aesthetic medicine can open up a whole new world of opportunities, while tapping into existing clinical skills.
The sector continues to grow rapidly and can provide a considerable degree of both monetary rewards and flexibility.
A career in aesthetics can also be adapted to fit in around NHS commitments if required.
What are the opportunities and challenges of a career in aesthetics?
A career in aesthetics offers a range of potential opportunities to medical professionals:
- The freedom to choose when and where you work, making for a better work life balance
- The option to continue in medical practice using your transferrable clinical skills whilst performing treatments that involve a more personal touch
- The chance to develop a personal brand or set up an independent practice and grow your own client base
- The potential to generate an income that will not be subject to NHS caps
- The opportunity to be part of a rapidly growing sector that offers diverse and exciting career paths for existing medical professionals
It is important to be prepared for the potential challenges you may experience, particularly if you are looking to move into aesthetics on a full-time basis:
- Loss of professional identity – you may need to reconcile your initial reasons for entering the medical profession with your move into the aesthetics industry – can you still ‘make a difference’?
- Lack of business knowledge – while you may possess the transferable clinical skills to succeed in aesthetics, you will also need to develop your business knowledge in the fields of marketing and finance
- Feelings of isolation – if you have been part of a busy NHS team you may miss the camaraderie and teamwork
- Feeling inexperienced – you may have been employed at a senior level in your previous role and could be uncomfortable with your lack of experience in aesthetics to begin with
- Being on the receiving end of negative feedback – you are vulnerable to high levels of scrutiny as a private aesthetic practitioner. Maintaining your reputation and high levels of customer service in a sector highly influenced by social media is likely to be outside your previous remit of experience as a doctor, dentist or nurse
Having weighed up the potential pros and cons of a move into aesthetic medicine, if you think the timing is right and a career in aesthetics is for you, it is essential to get off on the right foot from the outset. But where do you begin?
How to get started in aesthetics
Getting started as an aesthetic practitioner can seem like a daunting prospect. Taking the following 10 steps will set you on the right path:
Maintain your registration with the relevant industry body
Nurses are required to have a valid Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) registration before attending any Botulinum Toxin and filler training. The BACN also advocate that nurses obtain at least three years of general adult nursing experience before entering into aesthetics. This is to ensure that they have a solid foundation of transferable knowledge and experience in general nursing. Likewise, dentists and doctors are also required to have a current, active registration with the General Dental Council (GDC) or the General Medical Council (GMC) in order to practice in aesthetics.Although not mandatory, you may also consider joining a body such as BCAM (for doctors and de ntists) or BACN (for nurses). Membership of such bodies offers a support network to aesthetic practitioners and also enables prospective patients to find registered medical professionals who have provided evidence of their insurance and training.
Research your market
It is important to research your market so that you can:
- Understand factors external to your business in the industry and market environment
- Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors
- Understand the interests and opinions of your customers to develop a customer profile
Your market research will also feed into your business plan, which you will need to secure funding for your business venture
Researching the industry and market environment
- Focus on any legal, economic, social and cultural issues or trends that might affect your business e.g. the role of the JCCP, increased regulation in the aesthetics industry, social attitudes towards cosmetic treatments
- Look out for new market trends and identify gaps or emerging opportunities
- Attend aesthetic industry events, listen to live talks and observe demonstrations
- Network with industry colleagues at events and on social media
- Identify your target customers and create buyer personas. These are profiles that represent your ideal customers. This will help you to tailor your marketing and research efforts and connect with your target audience to gain insights into their attitudes towards your proposed products and services
- Leverage your existing networks through social media (e.g. Linkedin for professional contacts), carry out focus groups/surveys and offer incentives such as discounts or free products to encourage feedback and engage with your target customers
- Invest time in building rapport with potential customers and remember that word of mouth is the most reliable way to build on your customer base
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Thorough research will help you to identify trends in demand for aesthetic treatments. Your training requirements will also depend on your existing skills and expertise and the treatments you would like to offer. However, since Botulinum Toxin and dermal fillers make up 85 per cent of the non-surgical market, they offer a solid access into the aesthetics industry.
Patients often seek a combination of both treatments and practitioners therefore need to be skilled in both.
Since Botulinum Toxin is a prescription-only medicine, if you are not a nurse prescriber you will need to undertake additional training if you intend to prescribe. You can either complete a V300 course in order to become a nurse prescriber or, prior to performing a Botulinum Toxin treatment on a client, you can arrange for a doctor, dentist, or nurse prescriber to do a consultation with them and they can then prescribe the Botulinum Toxin.
The V300 course would enable you to work more independently and would be the recommended route if you wish to become a full-time aesthetic nurse.
Choosing a training course in aesthetics:
The aesthetics industry is inundated with a wide range of courses to choose from. Follow our tips to make sure you choose wisely:
- Ensure that your chosen course delivers both theoretical and practical training and provides you with a nationally recognised qualification at the end of it
- Always make sure that the training is CPD certified and fully insured. You should also check that the course is fully compliant with the most up to date guidelines outlined by Health Education England (HEE) and the General Medical Council (GMC)
- Be aware that, while there are one-day courses available which sometimes promise a shortcut into the aesthetics industry, a one-day course will not equip you with the level of skill needed to successfully enter the aesthetics industry. The BACN cautions against these courses, pointing out that it is not possible to become proficient in one day. However, these courses might be useful to ‘top-up’ your skills
- Always make sure that the training is with live models rather than mannequins. This allows you to develop your consultation technique as well as your injectable skills
- Enquire about the trainer to delegate ratio and choose courses which offer small group tuition over large groups of delegates where you are unlikely to benefit from sufficient injecting experience and personal feedback
- Choose training run by trainers who are qualified medical practitioners with a minimum of one years’ experience within the field of cosmetic surgery where possible. It is vital that the trainer has an advanced understanding and is up to speed with the latest techniques
- Consider investing in training that also offers support in setting up your own business and provides guidance on areas such as marketing and finance
It is also important to be aware that both the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) and the HEE are encouraging practitioners and training providers to join the voluntary registers by asking them to demonstrate that they can meet the standards set originally by the HEE framework. Since the HEE signpost what level of training practitioners will be expected to meet in the future, it is quite likely that these higher expectations will become the minimum standards for accrediting bodies, as well as for cosmetic insurers, employers and the general public. The level 7 accreditation is not currently essential but is the most highly regarded certification.
Develop a business plan
A well-structured business plan will give you direction and provide a roadmap for your business’s future. It is also essential to attract the investment you will need to get your business started. Keep it short and targeted at your audience.
Your bank can provide you with a tool kit to help you put together your business plan. It should include an executive summary, a business overview, how you are going to execute your idea (operations, products and services, marketing and sales), a competitive analysis, financial plan and projections. Once you have compiled your business plan, make an appointment with your bank, take along your business plan and discuss your options. This will set you on the road to establishing a good business relationship.
Remember a business plan is a continuously evolving document. As you begin to trade elements might need to be changed and updated so keep it in a format that is easy to locate and simple to amend.
Decide upon your working practices
As an aesthetic practitioner there are a number of options available to you – would you prefer to work for yourself or an employer? Are you planning on working full time or part time in aesthetics? Speak to an accountant to decide whether you will be a sole trader, limited company or partnership (your accountant will be able to advise you on this).
What are your options once qualified?
Choose the option that best fits with other work / family commitments, the amount you have to invest and the level of risk you are prepared to take. All can be very profitable.
Partner with a complementary provider
Partnering with an established complementary provider such as a dental practice or a hair salon can work well if you don’t have your own premises. They may have a room you can use for consulting with patients. They also have potential clients that may be interested in your services and the arrangement can be mutually beneficial as they stand to gain revenue from the patients you treat in return. With this model, you have no overheads and it is in the complementary providers’ interests to promote your services.
Work as a mobile practitioner
Setting yourself up as a mobile practitioner is straightforward. You can either get patients to come to your home or you can travel to their home. Whilst you will need to find your own clients and source your own products, you have no overheads and you get to keep all the income you generate. Patients are also likely to be more loyal and you can arrange appointments at both your and their convenience. Hamilton Fraser’s guide to succeeding as a mobile practitioner will provide you with more information.
Open your own clinic
If you already have your own medical premises, then starting a clinic is a great opportunity to boost your current revenue – you will be able to command higher prices here than you would be able to charge as a mobile practitioner.
Work in a clinic
Working in a clinic full time or part time alongside your existing role as a salaried employee you will have immediate access to all the equipment and products you need. The clinic will generally market your services and book patients in. You then receive a percentage of the revenue (usually a 15-20 per cent cut).
A majority of your potential clients will be online, therefore it is important to create a virtual presence by:
- Creating a website – you will need to get your domain name and website registered and then have to pay a small yearly fee for it
- Interacting with your target audience to build trust and confidence in your brand. You can do this through content marketing that addresses the concerns you have identified when carrying out your personal research
- Writing blogs audience
- Developing a strong presence on social media using interactive marketing tools. Social media groups can also provide peer-to-peer support and help develop relationships with industry colleagues
- Hamilton Fraser Cosmetic Insurance’s guide, “Marketing for aesthetic practitioners” contains lots of useful information on how to market yourself
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Take out medical malpractice insurance
With medical malpractice claims becoming increasingly costly, malpractice insurance is essential. Malpractice cover will protect you against potential costs and damages you may become legally liable to pay arising out of any insured treatments you provide or advice you give to patients. Hamilton Fraser’s Cosmetic Insurance includes public liability cover, which is designed to protect your legal liability against costs and expenses following injury or damage to a third party or their property whilst you are working at a premises not owned by you.
Source products in line with your treatment menu
When it comes to treatments, keep it simple to begin with, perhaps focusing on building a repeat client base reflective of the needs of your identified target customer (treatments for ageing skin for example).
Once you have defined your treatment menu in line with your market research and training, you will need to plan where to source your products from. Online pharmacies are very convenient if you are going to be working independently. It is your responsibility to ensure that the products you use are sterile and in date. Be aware of grey market products and only source from a reputable supplier or you risk invalidating your insurance cover. Grey market products are legitimate products that have been manufactured by an approved company but have been sold outside authorised distribution methods. For example, in the case of Botulinum Toxin all injections must contain Botulinum Toxin from a listed supplier and carry the CE mark.
Once you have stocked up on supplies, are fully insured and trained to begin practicing, the fun begins. Here are a few tips to help get you started on the right foot:
- Stick to your core business and avoid getting distracted – start small and build on your successes
- Remember, if a patient is happy with your service and has a positive experience they are likely to recommend you to others
- Put systems in place to ensure that your patient has a positive experience at every stage of their journey; from the initial contact, through the consultation process and any pre-procedure instructions to the treatment itself and post-procedure care
- Take time to make a connection and build rapport with your patients and they could be patients for life and ambassadors for your brand
- Manage your patient’s expectations and learn when to say ‘no’ – an unhappy patient can pose a serious threat to your business
Grow your business
Grow your business and extend your knowledge and contact base through continued professional development and networking
- Ongoing networking both within the field of aesthetics and the business realm is vital to progress
- Attending industry masterclasses, seminars and workshops will earn you CPD points which evidence your continuing professional development within the field of aesthetics. Look out for Hamilton Fraser Cosmetic Insurance’s annual Aesthetic Business Conference (ABC), designed to equip aesthetic practitioners with the business expertise required to run a practice.
- Once you have mastered your basic training in Botulinum Toxin and fillers, you can take advanced courses, one-to-one training courses or even the Level 7 Certificate, that will allow you to practice more advanced techniques and offer a greater range of treatments to your clients
Most people setting themselves up in aesthetics come from a clinical background and few have the business knowledge or network necessary to run it successfully from the outset. Ensuring you give a positive impression to every customer is paramount. For more advice on getting started in aesthetics and for information on cosmetic insurance contact our team on 0800 63 43 881.
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