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You finished school, and are now licensed, congratulations!


So let's start at the beginning.

You have attended esthetician class training, you probably paid a lot for it. You are feeling pretty confident at doing facials. Waxing has you a bit worried. You’re doing ok but is a paying client going to want her leg waxing to take an hour, maybe an hour and a half? You've done a few bikini waxes on fellow students. You did pretty well, but you were not officially trained in Brazilians. You've heard Brazilian waxes can be a big money maker, what are you going to do?

You are going to get some education!

Advanced education is not just helpful, it’s a necessity. By joining The Waxing Mentor's Facebook Group, you have taken the first step! However, nothing beats hands-on education and you'll need to practice, practice, and then practice some more. The downside of in-person education is that if you are not in a major city, it can be hard to find, or expensive to travel to. Here at Relax & Wax, we do everything from one on one training in our treatment rooms, to trade show classes, and we can even come to you. Online training is also a great alternative if in-person training isn't available. 

Where Are You Going To Work?

Are you going to apply at local day spas and salons and work on commission? Work for part commission plus hourly salary? Independent Contractor? Are you going to work for a waxing chain and do nothing but waxing? Or are you going to take the leap and go out on your own? They all have positives and negatives attached to them.

The first thing you need to decide, are you going to be self-employed or are you going to be an employee? Let's break it down and explain the differences.

Option 1: Employee

You are on the salon's payroll. You have a boss. You follow their directions. You will be given a schedule and will be expected to stay in the salon your entire shift, except for your lunch hour. Your employer supplies your equipment and products. You get a paycheck. You are paid hourly, commission, or in some cases a combination of both. You do not have free will, you will be able to make suggestions, but it is the owner's business and they have the final word as they should, after all, they are paying the bills and taking the most risk. You will likely be required to participate in promotions, coupons, special events, etc. Your commission may be based on the discount price. If you are required to participate, then you get paid.


You will know the minimum amount of money you will bring in each week. You will have a set schedule and be able to have a life outside the salon, scheduling activities around your work schedule.


You are an employee. You do not get to control your services or the products you use. You are subject to termination.


When you are self-employed you are the business owner. You rent a room in a salon or office space. You pay rent. You do not work for anyone, you are now self-employed. If you rent within a salon or spa, you do not work for them. They have no control over you, except that you pay your rent on time. Most leases have a late fee, don’t be late. You are responsible for your room only. You have the right to lock your door. You do not have to share your room unless you agree to or if you are only renting a few days of the week. If you sublease your room on certain days, your landlord may increase your rent. You are not responsible for the upkeep of the salon or spa. Depending on your landlord you may be able to paint and decorate to your heart's desire, but be prepared to return the room to the condition you rented it in once your lease is over. Make sure you get a written lease agreement and everything that is expected of you and the salon owner is clearly explained in writing. When leasing from a salon owner or other place of business, they can not give you a schedule or require you to work certain hours, days, events, etc. If you choose to participate in an event, it is your choice. You handle your own money. You do not have to use their point of sale, or credit card machine, or allow them to have your clients pay them in any way. They can not tell you to follow their protocols regarding treatments and how to do them. You choose and use your own products. You also make the decisions on what you charge for your services. You may have a salon owner that wants you to stay at the same price per service that the others do in the salon, as to not undercut others. If you agree to this, it should be in your written lease agreement for a stated length of time. Even though they can not force you to follow their dress code or their salon house rules, you can agree with them. Again, this should all be in your lease agreement and agreed upon by both parties in writing. They also can not require you to promote or to use their salon logo in any of your marketing, social media, etc. When I rented a room in a salon, I put my business name, the business address, and added `located inside: “Salon Name." You can not be fired.


You rent the room and your time is yours. You set your own hours. You work your schedule and you keep the money you earn. You have no one to answer to, except yourself. If your state allows, you can also work from home, you can even be mobile. But check with your state board before you invest any time or money into this. Your state may not allow it and if it does, there will be restrictions. In some states, you have to have a separate entrance, and restroom, you also have to be zoned for it. Your clients are your clients and not considered the salon's clients. You can freely tell them you are leaving and where you're going if you and when you decide to move locations. 


You now have expenses. You pay rent, you purchase all your own equipment, product, and supplies. No one is required to send you clients. You are responsible for all your own marketing and building your own brand. If you go on vacation, or you are sick, you still pay your rent. You do not get vacation pay or sick leave. You do not get worker's compensation. You do not get maternity leave. You pay your own income taxes, sales, and use tax, self-employment tax, health insurance, social security/medicare, etc, as well as property tax on your furniture, equipment, and decor. You now have many licenses. City and State licenses, esthetics license, and an establishment license. You also must carry liability insurance. If you sign a lease for a year, your landlord does not have to let you out of it, if your business is unsuccessful or if you change your mind.

Side note: you will soon learn to appreciate and understand the salon owner, their requirements, and the big percentage they take for the services you bring in and perform

What's the difference between a worker being identified as an independent contractor versus an employee?

The IRS distinguishes between an independent contractor and an employee for the purpose of payroll taxes and withholding taxes. Basically, an independent contractor is an independent business person who runs his or her own business but who does work for another business. An employee is hired by a company to perform specific work at the direction of the employer.

Why is it important?

The distinction between employees and independent contractors is important because an employer must withhold federal and state income taxes from employees, but not from independent contractors. Employers also must withhold Social Security/Medicare taxes from employees and must pay an equivalent amount to the Social Security Administration. If an individual is working as an independent contractor, the “employer” does not make Social Security/Medicare deductions, and the independent contractor must pay his or her own “self-employment taxes” along with income tax on earnings.

Option 3: Hourly Plus Commission

If you are brand new out of school, this might be your best option. You are usually not paid much over minimum wage and will receive a lower commission percentage on services you perform vs a commission-only employee. As an employee, you have employee rights, as in worker's compensation, and unemployment insurance. You pay into social security etc. You get a paycheck.


You are guaranteed to make minimum wage each paycheck, even if you don’t have a single client. Minimum wage is not much for all your schooling, but a straight commission without any clients for your pay period equals $0.00. When first starting out this is not a bad way to go. You have none of the worries of expenses and you are guaranteed to bring home something each pay period. Your employer is also responsible for deducting your taxes.


You will be required to be in the salon your entire shift, clients or no clients. Unless your employer agrees to send you home, then you are off the clock. You are an employee. You will be expected to spend your entire time working. When not with clients you will be cleaning, working the front desk, doing laundry, folding laundry, and cleaning the restrooms. You are being paid to be there, you will be expected to work the entire time.

Option 4: Working Commission Only

 This is a pretty good option if you have additional income to hold you over until you start to make some money. This is how I began my career. I spent the first 2 weeks following the owner around observing her doing services, this was my training, watching her do services and watching videos of facials. My hours were Monday - Friday 9:00-6:00 and Saturday 9:00-4:00. I had an hour for lunch. There were 3 other estheticians in the salon. We rotated new client walk-ins. If a walk-in came in while I was at lunch I would lose my place in line for that walk-in client.

Since I did not have any clients, I waited patiently and every 4th new client was mine. I was paid every two weeks. My gross for the first two weeks was $30.00. Which meant I did one brow wax and two lip waxes. In the rotation, I did not get a facial client. Slowly, every payday my income went up. I remember vividly it was the third paycheck I broke $100.00. Then I started to get repeat clients. But I could not live on that commission. I went out and hustled the area handing out menus and business cards. I made an agreement with the owner that these new clients were my new clients, they did not go into the rotation. She was just happy I was bringing new clients into her salon.

Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, if you don't, no one will. I was not going to spend hours every day pounding the pavement and giving 3/4 of the clients I brought into the salon to 3 other girls. It took some convincing but the owner went with it. About 4 months after I started working there, Brazilian bikini waxing hit the masses. I found a class in California and went, at my own expense to take the class. When I got back, the owner wanted me to teach Brazilians to the other estheticians. I said no. I had taken 3 days off without pay, paid for my flight, my hotel, and the class on my own. If she or they wanted me to teach the class I was going to have to be reimbursed for my expenses and lost wages, as well as the time it took to teach them. That was not going to happen and I was glad because that is how I built my book. There were 4 well-known salons in the area and I was the only esthetician doing Brazilians. The other salons in the area sent all their Brazilian wax clients to me. In a few months, I was fully booked with Brazilians.

I started in April and by November, I had brought in $86,000 to the salon. My W-2 that year was for $26,000. I was working 6 full days a week and could not support myself. The owner was unwilling to give me a higher commission, even though at the time, I brought in the most money to the salon. So it was time for me to go out on my own.

I give credit to the owner of that salon for giving me my first job and for the skills I learned while working there. But if you can not support yourself on your bring-home pay, then you have to go. To this day, whenever I run into her she always makes a comment that I left her after all she did for me. Actually, she didn’t do much for me except give me a place to work and to flourish on my own. If she had been willing to pay me my worth, then I may have never left.


You have no expenses except for your clothing. The manager should provide you with training and if the salon is busy you will have clients directed to you. Watch and learn. You can learn how to run a spa/salon. You make a higher commission than an hourly plus commission employee. Your employer deducts your taxes.


You are required to be available and in the salon for your entire shift if you are booked or not. They want you there for a walk-in. You will be asked to work when you do not have clients, similar to an employee. The owner should market you to help bring in clients for you but you may need to do this on your own. Some employers try to push the line a bit and have you pay for the products you use or charge you a percentage of the commission for each type of service you do. Say you get 50% commission. Your employer wants to charge you 15% of that commission for each facial and 10% for each waxing service. So instead of making 50%, you are really making 35% or 40%. I’ve even heard of employers trying to charge you for your sheets and supplies. Pretty soon you owe them to work there. You are not guaranteed to bring home a dime.

Recommendation: Try and work a contract with your employer that you have the option of going full commission or Independent Contractor in a given time. Maybe 6 months to a year from your hire date. This gives you the option to stay but still make more income and your employer is able to keep you.

Option 5: Waxing Chain

I want to start this by declaring that I have never worked for a waxing chain. From what I have heard you either love it or you hate it. It all depends on your owners/managers. But doesn’t it always come down to that? So everything I am going to add here comes from what I have heard.


You get some of the best training available. You make both an hourly wage and commission. You can move up to higher levels as your speed increases. You also get a commission on the sale of products you make. Your employer deducts your taxes.


You are booked by your level. The highest level gets the most clients. You are constantly pressured to increase your speed. Speed equals a higher level. If you fall behind at one level you can be put back down to a lower level for not keeping up. If you do not meet the speed requirements you are let go. There is a lot of pressure for you to sell retail. If you do not make your sales quota, you can be moved down as well. You have to see many clients in a day, pretty much non-stop to make a decent living. They tend to work you non-stop. Tips are a major part of your income. Not that you receive more tips here, but meaning you will depend on them as your income. Your value to your employer is how fast you are and how many clients you can see in a day or even an hour. Plus how many retail sales you can generate. In my personal opinion, being rushed for speed and having your waxing speed equate to your value and how much money you earn does not equal much in the way of customer service. One chain will actually start flashing lights in the treatment room giving you a 2-minute warning. This to me seems like so much stress. I know many who work for chains and love it, many who have been let go because their speed was not fast enough, and many who felt they were on an assembly line, hated it, and left.

What happens to your clients when you move on?

This is a tricky one. You may be asked to sign a non-compete agreement. It usually states you can not work within so many miles of the salon you left for a certain amount of years. Before you sign anything, know how many miles that actually is. It could mean you can’t work in the town you live in. I also highly recommend you call your local labor board before signing anything and see if a non-compete agreement is something that your state allows. If not then it’s used as more of a deterrent of you leaving and taking your clients with you. If it’s something your state allows, then think very carefully before you sign it. You may want to consult an attorney beforehand. If the legal fee is not in your budget try searching for legal aid. Many are available at a minimal charge.Non-competes can be tricky since the salon does not own a client and clients have free will to choose their provider. But, employers have been known to file suit against estheticians who took clients with them upon leaving. Salon owners can sue an ex-employee for enticing or luring clients from their salon. If you are an employee and you leave your job, your clients are technically the salon's clients, not yours. The salon owner did the marketing to get them in and booked them with you. Do not actively try and persuade your clients to follow you. You will be starting over. If you are a renter/independent contractor then feel free to tell them where you are going and when. They are technically your clients.In these situations, it is best to just move on, trust me if your clients want to find you they will. There is nothing wrong with saying goodbye and telling them how much you enjoyed your time with them. Chances are they are going to ask where you are moving to.


These are your basic options for employment. What I would strongly recommend is that whichever way you choose to go, get everything in writing between you and the salon owner or you and your landlord. Have each party's responsibilities laid out in black and white, so you are very clear on what is expected of you and what is not. Do not rely solely on having a "good feeling" about this. If it is not in writing you have no recourse. 

The only exception to this rule is being hired as a traditional employee.