How one nurse turned 2020 into her business's best year yet
The pandemic has been traumatic for millions of people, as we’re all aware. The permanent closure of high street shops and other business that didn’t have a back-up plan to earn money without physically seeing people has been shocking. I was determined that my small business was not going to be a statistic.
Just 12 weeks before lockdown, (nearly two years following my Foundation Course in Botulinum Toxin Type A and Dermal Filler Materials) I gave notice to my “safe” NHS job. My venture was not going to fail and so my business plan had to change.
As I had been in HDU following sepsis from pneumonia within 12 months of the outbreak, I knew that I was unable to return to my local hospital to help with the pandemic, so I decided ultimately I would continue working from home, but how, when 100% of my income involved handto-patient contact with zero possibility of social distancing? I had to think outside the box, continue moving forward and come up with ways to generate revenue.
Like many relatively new aesthetic businesses I was in the fortunate position of working from a room in my house. In fact, my double garage was in the process of being converted into a two-room clinic with reception area, toilet and office. I had grown the numbers on my books while working part time in the NHS and I didn’t have the same overheads or stress of having a large clinic with the need to furlough staff, or the worry about a landlord making me pay rent while not physically able to earn money, becoming part of the wheel of destruction to survive that so many others faced. My partner and I had our three-month mortgage holiday, I had a nice few days off with our children, assessed the situation and came to the conclusion that while this was definitely a long-term problem, I didn’t want a long-term holiday, as I had worked hard to get my business this point.
Just before lockdown I visited Aesthetic Medicine Live in London. Events like this are great to find out what’s new to the market, decide what my next investment could possibly be and chat to likeminded people. Working in aesthetics as a lone practitioner can be rather isolating because even though you see a lot of people, you can’t talk about business ideas with patients as you can with clinic employees and peers. At AML I met Richard Crawford-Small of aesthetic-business coaching company Aesthetic Entrepreneurs. I decided to sign up for his Launchpad programme to help develop my “business” head, and to ultimately make the transition from nurse to aesthetic entrepreneur. Since starting up, it was not uncommon for me to treat a patient and for them to leave, often having had a counselling session to boot, without me having remembered to ask for payment! As a nurse with nearly 20 years in the NHS, asking for money after providing a treatment was so alien. Obviously, this needed to change.
After the first week of lockdown I started to see my business in a new light. I used my time wisely, discovering who my main customer was and beginning to put together treatment packages ready for re-opening. I also attended a Zoom webinar with Rick O’Neill of Aesthetic Entrepreneurs Digital where I learned how to take my business into the digital realm and how to go about building my previously non-existent website. I learned what a blog was, what “reach” and SEO meant, as well as how to automate bookings with Calendly. I had the time to do things that if I had been seeing patients, would have had to wait until I had the funds to outsource them. I read inspirational business-management books, wrote my vision statement and company values, and sent out newsletters to my current patients, utilising the fact I had their email addresses.
I was learning to be a businesswoman and understanding the importance of outsourcing certain elements to give you the time to do what you are good at. For example, while I’m in no way a natural website designer, I’m proud of what I achieved with it during lockdown. However, the remainder of the build, including an online shop, I passed on to an expert, and the site is now finished.
During the first month of lockdown I engaged in enticing and promoting to potential clients. I finally met (albeit virtually) and built bonds with likeminded people and was able to bounce around ideas with them in WhatsApp chats, Zoom meetings and Facebook groups. Our cumulative “brain bank” helped with the writing of risk assessments, policies and procedures for re-opening, and we helped each other keep active and stay positive while our businesses were closed.
I felt encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and started doing Facebook Lives. As I engaged with my followers and shared content like my skincare regime and information on how and why they should order products through my site, sales increased. I also started a Physiology Friday series as a way of sharing my knowledge with potential clients and I even called upon another contact I made at AML back in February – inventor and chief executive of Celluma Patrick Johnson – to let me interview him live on Instagram. My algorithms were on the up. I re-worked this content into blogs for the website and, with the help of my 12-year-old son, set up a YouTube channel. My confidence was growing as well as my mindset.
However, at this point I had not seen a patient for two months, so I decided to do a re-engagement campaign and spoke to all of my patients. Before each call I totalled their spending over the previous 12 months and asked if they wanted to start up monthly payment plans to cover their regular treatments, which proved to be very popular. They also had the option to pay upfront for the next 12 months of treatments with a 10% discount. I looked at their photographs and discussed their skincare needs and suggested products I could have delivered directly to their door.
Taking this even further, numerous conversations with clients led to me hiring out my Celluma LED device to them for the day, with product samples and instructions of use included for a professional-grade yet safe at-home treatment. These samples led to further sales and I was really starting to realise my value – patients looked forward to investing their money into my time and skills.
Through my interaction on social media I had new patients booked into clinic that had paid a deposit for a video consultation and were on my growing waiting list post lockdown. It now seems crazy that I had not valued my time enough to take deposits previously. I decided that given the current financial climate, my consultation fee would be refundable against their future booking, as my diary time would be at a premium following lockdown, and this was a way to generate immediate income along with true growth, rather than giving my time away for free to those not truly committed to starting an aesthetic journey.
Working hard on the social media aspect of the business paid off in other ways, too. Just before lockdown, I was approached by Cosmetic Courses to become a trainer. At my final interview in August after lockdown had ended, director and clinical lead Dr Olha commented on my social media presence during the 12-week confinement and how my passion for aesthetics had shone through.
One of the most exciting developments to come out of lockdown for me is that I am now collaborating with a local laser clinic. Sally Wagstaff, owner of Sally Wagstaff Aesthetics, is an aesthetic nurse who doesn’t inject botulinum toxin or dermal fillers but is passionate about skincare and laser treatments. We are aesthetic opposites in terms of our skillsets, strengths and perspectives; Sally does laser hair removal, AlumierMD homecare, Skinpen and other treatments I don’t offer. We knew each other virtually before we met and built a bond of trust during lockdown for a business collaboration.
My biggest learnings from this year that I’d like to pass on are that time is your greatest asset, so learn how to use it wisely; your knowledge and skills are valuable, but you must learn to adapt with change; and that sometimes, you need someone to help. I hope my experience helps you find a renewed passion for your business and envision our uncertain future as an opportunity to grow and evolve, not become a statistic of closure. “Focus, consistency and discipline with a burning desire for as long as it takes” is my new motto.
Michelle Worthington qualified as a nurse in 2004 with diploma and obtained her specialist degree in Peri-operative Practice in 2010. Three years ago, she decided to follow her passion and pursue a career in aesthetics, opening Michelle Worthington Aesthetic Health (mwaesthetics.com) in Sutton Coldfield in 2018. She is a trainer for Cosmetic Courses and is on the advisory board of new dermal filler Kysense, set to launch in the UK in January 2021.