Success in material terms; flourishing financially.
If you’re like me, a self-employed business owner, beauty professional brow slayer, then you got into this business to be successful or what I like to think of.. to be prosperous. We can all agree that we want to make clients happy, to set our schedule, have a good work life balance, a better chance at making a living while being a mother (or father) all while making good money, and that’s what attracted some of us to this profession. So it may sound crazy to write about doing things for free, especially as I talk to so many women about coming into this industry to make a lot of money. How is doing things for free gonna make you more money and then some you ask… well allow me to start by telling you a story.
About 4 years ago I opened my own private PMU studio in Portland Oregon. I had no friends in the industry only in the tattoo industry. I had spent tons of money on education before I even opened my doors because I knew everything was riding on me alone in my studio. I had debt from opening costs and started the first few months discounting all of my services just to get people in my doors. We all have to start somewhere and that’s where I started.
About a year after being open I got an email. It was an early 20 something social media influencer and Vegan food blogger who had just moved to the area from the East Coast. She had a pretty good amount of followers, something I did not because I chose to never pay for Instagram followers and to be honest, I’m not the best at social media, and she asked if I would do her brows for free in exchange for her posting about it on her platform. At that point, I was doing well at my studio. I was getting pretty booked up and I was getting tons of referrals, so I guess I didn’t need to do anything for free so I thought.
But I also always remember the saying “you have to spend money to make money”. I thought “Well doing a set of brows for free to hopefully boost my exposure is just like that old saying. And what can it hurt? I'd just be out of supply cost.” So I went ahead and did her brows and her touch up. Both times she posted her journey on her website and Instagram. I got a handful of followers at first and then crickets.
Cut to 3 years later and guess what… it ended up being so beneficial to my studio. Since then she has become quite popular online, been on TV, and even has a book out, I’m in awe of how far she has come. As for me, I get daily hits on my website that came directly from her website, I have gotten countless clients that found me through her and my studio even comes up on google around the country when you google Microblading because I’m on her website and blog that is so well known. I would have gotten a total of $600 if I would have charged her for her brows but instead of money, I got invaluable exposure that hasn’t stopped after 3 years and a huge boost online that I would have paid a ton more money in SEO and marketing to get.
Some of you may read this and think doing an influencer’s brows for free isn’t a new idea and plenty of you may have a very similar story of doing them for free for exposure. Then allow me to share with you a more controversial decision I made in the first few years of my career.
When I started I was very self-conscious of my work and compared mine to every great artist I followed on Instagram. I knew I wasn’t perfect and as we all know neither are our clients. Their faces aren’t always symmetrical and their skin may at times be suboptimal. I’m afraid of the dreaded bad review, their skin not retaining well or in general just not getting them perfect. If you care about this profession then you will feel like this. It’s unavoidable.
I know my strengths and weaknesses. I understand that I can do a perfect job and their skin is still going to reject pigment. I know some days I can’t be perfect. I also understand I am altering a woman’s face for a good amount of money. $600 is a lot of money to everyone and I respect that. So what did I do in the beginning when I wasn’t perfect… I offered a free 2nd touchup to all my new clients to tweak anything I didn’t perfect at touchup. I told them to wait 30 days after their touchup and if there was anything that still needed tweaking they had 30 more days to come in and tweak anything for free. I didn’t care if it was their skin’s fault, or the client didn’t take my recommendation of ombre brows vs microblading, if it was my screw-up being a green technician or a client being just plain neurotic... I did it.
To be clear, I had boundaries with my clients. Yes, it was free however they needed to come in within 60 days of their last appointment. I wouldn’t go over the entire brow area I would only do the spots that needed it (to also ensure I didn’t create more unneeded trauma to the skin) and I would not take them from Microblading to Ombre for free at that time. It was my insurance policy to make sure every client was happy and loved their brows.
Almost everyone charges for a 2nd touchup and as do I now most of the time. But when I was new, as I stated earlier, I was scared and just wanted to be perfect. And yes it cost me time and money. By doing that for a while, however, I now have great reviews and was heavily referred to because my existing clients then knew I had their back, respected their money they just paid me and now they had perfect brows they wouldn’t have to worry about for over a year. It’s also important to know the majority of my clients didn’t come back for that free touchup, but they sure did like that I was willing to do something if need be.
I hope this helped you think differently about doing things for free and even do something that ended up costing you. At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done my studio grew from it immensely in the long run. I have more trust in my clients, am booked out over 5 weeks, can consolidate my schedule to work fewer days while making more money making it easier to spend time with loved ones (well pre-pandemic that is), have great reviews, and have a good reputation....prospering.