Should Estheticians Rent a Booth, Work on Commission, or Buy a Salon?

When looking for your first job as an esthetician (also spelled "aesthetician"), there will be many factors to consider. You may be wondering whether to work at a salon as a commission-based employee or rent salon booth space as an independent contractor. Perhaps you're even weighing the benefits of salon ownership. Depending on your level of experience, your comfort with the unknown, and the breadth of your community and clientele, any of those three options could be right for you. Below, we've compared the pros and cons of each possibility.

What are the Differences Between Renting a Space and Working on Commission?

A salon employee usually works full-time, books a wide variety of clients, and earns a commission on each service they provide. By contrast, an independent contractor isn't an employee but instead rents a space in a salon (also called a room, a booth, or a chair) for a monthly fee. Estheticians must consider their financial needs, social comfort levels, and desires for structure when making their choice.

Fast Facts about Esthetics Booth Rental vs. Commission

Renting Commission
You can set your hours and rates. The store manager sets your rates and hours.
You choose your products and services to offer. Your store manager selects the products and services offered.
All supplies and materials need to be purchased upfront. The salon provides supplies and materials.
You find your own clients. The salon provides your clientele.
It may take time to build up your clientele, but you will have personal relationships with them. Your clientele will be consistent, but possibly less personal.
Your schedule and income may fluctuate with holidays and other factors. Your schedule and income are usually steady.

What Happens When You Rent a Space in a Salon as an Esthetician?

As an esthetician who rents a room or booth space in a salon, you are your own boss. You work as an independent contractor and set your hours, pay rate, and schedule. You select the products and services you offer, and you get to choose which clients you work with. You are also responsible for paying yourself—which means determining a fee for your services that is both reasonable for your clients and leaves enough after your other expenses to pay yourself a livable wage.

When you rent space in a salon, you are responsible for monitoring your tools and equipment for wear and tear, keeping track of your product inventory and re-ordering it before it runs out, budgeting to make sure you can afford to replace items as they wear out, and balancing your schedule with enough clients to cover your costs—but not so many that you're rushing to fit them in. Since you aren't a salon employee, you are solely responsible for finding and maintaining your client base. This means you can't just pick up a client from a coworker if one of yours cancels at the last minute. Lost clients and missed work mean lost income for independent contractors.

The owner of that salon will often behave more like your landlord than your boss. They are responsible for the physical space you work in, its upkeep, the legal details of local building operation codes, and so on. Although you are responsible for scheduling your own clients, sometimes renting a space in a salon means part of your rent pays for an administrative employee to greet your clients at the door and answer their basic questions so you can focus on your current tasks.

You might want to become an independent contractor and rent booth or chair space in a salon if you are a self-starter, can see the big picture of owning a business as well as the day-to-day needs of working with clients, can tolerate fluctuations in your income, and if challenge and uncertainty excite you. You may also want to rent a room or booth at a salon if you prefer to work at independent salons over chains, as they are more likely to hire contractors instead of employees.

What Happens When Estheticians Work on Commission?

As a salon employee who works on commission, you don't have the autonomy or independence of an independent contractor, but you also don't have to worry about the details of the business. The owner of the salon is your boss, and they set your hours, pay rate, and schedule. The products and services offered are also chosen by the salon owner, and you will see a range of clients. Many corporate or brand-name salons hire employees to work on commission.

When you work on commission for a salon, your workload won't vary significantly from week to week—you will see approximately the same number of clients for the same range of services. You won't have to worry about your supplies wearing out or running out, as the salon owner is responsible for proactively keeping track of those details. Your paychecks will be about the same from week to week, and you will generally know what to expect each day.

Working for commission might be best if you excel when given a task and a timeline to finish it, if income fluctuations don't fit your needs, or if consistency and predictability are important to you.

Should I Own a Salon as an Esthetician?

If you're ready to take your skills and business acumen to the next level, you might consider owning, operating, or managing a salon. Salons need skilled owners who can oversee all aspects of the business, including financial and logistical tasks. You might be interested in owning a salon if you enjoy managing day-to-day business needs, provide stellar customer service, are a problem-solver, like helping others develop their skills, and are comfortable in the role of a leader. You will also need to decide which sort of salon you prefer to manage—one with employees who earn a commission, or one with independent contractors who rent a booth or chair space.

Is it Better to Rent or Work on Commission if You Want to Own a Salon?

If you foresee yourself owning a salon one day, you would do well to gain as much experience in the esthetics industry as possible. Working in multiple aspects of the field can help you navigate unforeseen or complicated business matters and allow you to be a good leader to your employees or renters. Although you may personally prefer to work for commission versus renting or vice versa, you might consider starting your career as a commissioned employee, then moving to booth rental, and finally looking into salon ownership.

What New Skills Do I Need for Salon Ownership?

Even the most experienced esthetician may need additional training in order to be a good salon owner. According to ZipRecruiter, you should have substantial business and accounting skills, excellent managerial and leadership qualities, and several years of experience providing customer service. In addition, you may need to earn an associate or bachelor's degree in a related area, such as business. Even if you do not need a degree, you could consider taking business or management classes at a local college or investigate whether a school near you offers a training program specifically aimed at running a salon.

Esthetics/Skin Care