A woman uses her smartphone to take a selfie of herself and her hair stylist. The woman sits in the styling chair and has slightly wavy brown hair. The stylist behind her wears a black t-shirt and has hair clips clipped to the pockets of his jeans. He has a beard and a small man bun. In the background are several shelves of hair products sorted by color.
Do you have a talent for makeup, a penchant for hair styling or a passion for skincare? It's time to show your gifts to the world. — Getty Images/Slavica

There is something inherently special about the beauty business that is attracting more independent entrepreneurs to the $98 billion retail industry than ever before. It’s a colorful and pretty space where people come to play with and create colors, formulas and fragrances, as well as perfect services, all with a mission to help consumers look, feel and smell their best.

If you have a professional background in beauty or have always dreamed of being part of this dynamic industry, there is a lot of opportunity that awaits—including these 10 businesses with built-in buzz.

Makeup artist

The explosion of makeup application tutorials across every social media platform has elevated the already magical quality of makeup to an artform. If you are creative, have a love of color and want to help others feel their best, becoming a freelance makeup artist can be a dream job. With exceptional skills, you can market yourself and develop a reputation as THE go-to for special occasions like weddings, proms and cheer or dance competitions. There are also opportunities for those interested in building a business in theatrical makeup, bringing the visions of stage, TV and movie directors to life. Lots and lots of practice, experience behind a makeup counter, a strong digital portfolio and enrollment in an accredited cosmetology program are key to establishing yourself as a professional, along with a supply of the makeup artist essentials needed for creating the looks that your clients want.

Beauty blogger

You have a way with words, rivaled only by your mad makeover skills and love of lipsticks, shadow palettes and illuminating masks. Those, along with the ability to generate a captivated audience of beauty-philes, are the making of a beauty blogger. Beauty bloggers are a category of influencers that consumers look to for advice and recommendations. They create regularly published written and/or video content around the subject of beauty and often focus on a specific niche or theme, like clean beauty, nail art or “no makeup makeup” looks, and they have become trusted authorities among the beauty obsessed. In 2020, more than one-third of all online beauty shoppers watched beauty-related videos on YouTube. About 67% of beauty shoppers report looking to social media influencers for product recommendations. To break through the crowded blogger universe and raise awareness of your brand of content, utilize SEO best practices and guest-blog on popular beauty sites. Once you gain popularity, beauty-related brands may look to your platform as a way to reach their desired customers through paid branded content or advertisements on your site. Affiliate marketing—linking directly to the products you think your audience would like and in turn getting a piece of every transaction you drive—is probably the greatest source of significant income for bloggers.

Laser technician

As the demand for noninvasive skin procedures soars, the need for aesthetic laser technicians—specialists trained and licensed to perform skin rejuvenating treatments and laser hair- and tattoo-removal procedures—has grown considerably as well. The pursuit to eliminate unwanted hair alone is big business. The $445 million laser hair removal category in the United States is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20.6% from 2021 to 2028 due to advances in technology and increased aesthetic appeal. Typically, multiple sessions are required for optimal results, with one session, depending on body part, costing between $125–$1,000. For beauty clinicians and entrepreneurs alike, starting a laser beauty studio is something to explore. Once trained and certified (requirements vary by state) you can operate an office from home or capitalize on the built-in traffic of a salon, med-spa or medical office, where renting space may be an option.

Small-batch skincare maker

For the eco-conscious indie beauty lover, there's never been a better time to enter the skin and body care industry. The pandemic-era rise in self-care has created a ritualist mentality among many who see the positive effects of body care on overall health. The heightened focus on sustainability means consumers are looking for beauty products that reduce waste and are healthier and cleaner for skin and the environment. As a small-batch manufacturer, you may be able to source skin-loving, naturally derived ingredients from your own garden or kitchen, provided you use good manufacturing processes, stable formulas and packaging and natural preservatives. There are several courses that provide the fundamentals and how-to’s that can get you started, and you can read up on essential FDA guidelines for production and marketing. Above all, make sure your product is original, with a unique and compelling selling proposition that makes good on its claims.

Brow/lash studio owner

Not only are eyes the focal point of the face, they are at the center of the cosmetics industry, with eye makeup the most profitable segment at nearly $2 billion. Even more significant is how the brow and lash categories have blown up, starting pre-pandemic and continuing now that masks have amplified attention to eyes. Men and women alike are in pursuit of fuller, well-shaped brows and longer lashes, and now could be a great time to capitalize on the niche. Brow and lash studios are popping up all over the world. For brows, microblading, tinting and lamination are the hottest techniques for achieving the looks that make social media users swoon. Certification as an aesthetician, permanent makeup artist or cosmetologist is a prerequisite for lamination; however, once trained and equipped in the artistry of brow grooming, you can expect to make an average of $70 for each service. Much more involved and requiring the use of tiny needles and permanent pigments, microblading falls under the same regulations as body or tattoo art and commands commensurate prices ranging anywhere from $500–$2,000. Lash perms and lash extensions both require a license in most states as well, but the investment is worth the rewards as the lash enhancement category is expected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2025.

For the eco-conscious indie beauty lover, there's never been a better time to enter the skin and body care industry.

Direct cosmetic & skincare seller

Four Avon lipsticks and one Avon mascara are sold every second. That statistic speaks volumes about the potential of direct beauty sales. Direct selling means you are representing a company and its products without the presence of a physical retail environment. You actively prospect and sell to the customers, making a commission on your sales. Most direct sales are multilevel marketing operations (not to be confused with pyramid models). This means that the more people you recruit to be on your sales team, the more earning potential you have by sharing in the sales they bring in as well. The most successful direct sales professionals rep a company and products they are truly passionate about. They learn everything there is to know about their products and respective benefits and what works best for different skin tones and skin types, and they are always a step ahead of their clients’ beauty concerns, wants and needs. They have samples to give, take pride in how they package orders and regularly follow up with customers. They are part personal shopper, part trusted friend. Direct selling is not for introverts. To be very successful, you have to put yourself out there and invest a significant amount of time building up a clientele by hosting parties, selling at local events, establishing and managing a social media presence and reaching out to anyone who is a viable prospect. The best place to start: Identify direct selling opportunities in the beauty market and read customer reviews to get a good sense of those with the greatest customer satisfaction.

Mobile salon owner

Mobile salons are great businesses to start if you are a highly skilled hair stylist with a solid client roster and dreams of going out on your own. Rather than renting space at a fixed salon location, you can invest in and customize a commercial van or truck with everything you need to operate a salon-on-the-go that reflects your vision. In addition to being licensed and insured, you will need a water source and power supply, chairs, mirrors and essential styling tools. Now more than ever, customers with demanding schedules appreciate services that offer quality, convenience and calm. You can set your hours based on what works for you and your clients, set your own prices and staff your business according to the services you provide and the number of clients you wish to accommodate at one time. Promote your services on your company social media accounts and local Facebook groups in your area and reach out to corporations who may be interested in having you pull up and pamper their employees as a special company perk.

E-commerce photographer

In today’s digital world, the most compelling way to generate interest in a brand or its products is through beautiful, quality imagery. It’s what makes a website stand out from the competition and it's what ignites purchase intent. Wow-factor photos are the first thing social media users see and those are what slow their scroll. In fact, the vast majority of online shoppers cite photographs as the main reason for making a purchase. If you have a passion for photography, a high quality camera, clean backdrops and a space for a studio setup that offers great natural and artificial lighting, you can develop the skills and aesthetic sense needed to build an e-commerce photography business focused on beauty. There are some key principles in capturing great beauty shots and tons of online classes available to get you started. If you’re good, the field can be very lucrative and you can structure your rates by charging by the hour, by the day or by the number of products shot.

Spray tan salon owner

The annual indoor sunless tanning industry is 10 million users strong in the United States and, by 2027, sunless tanners are expected to reach $1.1 billion. Although highly competitive, the spray tan segment of the industry presents an opportunity for businesses to capitalize on and cater to a growing demand for organic, gentle, safe, longer-lasting and eco-friendly products and processes. Those interested in starting a spray tan business have many paths to consider. You can open a mobile tanning salon and bring the glow while on-the-go. You can rent space at a salon or spa, which is a popular option as businesses seek to cater to every beauty wish under one roof. Research and invest in the right equipment that aligns with your company mission. With spray tanning hugely popular among those who frequently post on Instagram and want to look sun-kissed and radiant, knowing how to reach potential customers on the platform can be a huge factor for success. It's important to note that regulations vary by state. In New Jersey, for instance, minors under the age of 14 are prohibited from getting a spray tan and regulations are expected to only get tougher.

Beauty reseller

How many times have you impulsively purchased makeup or skincare products that you couldn’t resist, just for them to sit idle in your makeup bag or on your vanity? You’re not alone. In fact, converting gently used cosmetics into saleable goods is gaining in popularity thanks to the booming clothing resale market, which has made secondhand a cool and sustainable proposition. For sellers, it’s a means of making money while at the same time reducing waste in an effort to be more eco-minded. For buyers, it grants access to a brand they may otherwise be unable to afford. For both groups, it offers a built-in community. There is a multitude of dedicated sites that will trade your unopened or gently used products and refurbished beauty and styling tools for money, and then turn over the product to sell on their platform. Other beauty and fashion resale sites let you set up your own shop within their hub for a percentage of the profit. Cleaning out your makeup drawers is a good place to start and encouraging others to purge their unwanted items will help bolster your inventory. You need to be savvy about safety and hygiene standards that govern beauty resale. For instance, Poshmark prohibits resale of pre-opened makeup, while Glambot and Mercari have looser restrictions.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published June 14, 2021