Opening a beauty salon in the UK: how to get started

Hair and beauty salon

The UK’s 45,000 salon businesses turned over an estimated £8 billion in 2019, according to the National Hair & Beauty Federation. Meanwhile, the sector has been forecast to grow by 16 per cent between 2020 and 2023.

So, how can you get involved in this thriving industry? Read our top tips on how to start a beauty business.

Pick your path

As an aspiring salon owner, you’ve got two options. You can either buy into a franchise or go it alone.

Companies like Saks and Toni&Guy offer franchising opportunities, bringing an existing corporate structure and brand recognition to the table.

However, life as a franchisee is more constrained. So if you want to call the shots, then opening your own salon will suit you better.

Not sure which option fits your needs? Read our in-depth guides on franchising and going self-employed.

Opening a salon checklist

If you want to open your own beauty salon, there are lots of things to think about. Below is an overview of the steps you need to take.

Beauty salon business plan

One of the first things you’ll need to do is draw up a beauty business plan to clarify your ideas and formulate objectives.

A good business plan will include information on:

Read our guide to starting a business for more pointers and download our free business plan template.

Legal requirements for a beauty salon UK

As with opening any business, there are legal matters you’ll need to consider when opening a salon.

From equipping yourself with the right qualifications (see below) to choosing your legal structure, there are key decisions to make before you deliver your first beauty treatment.

It’s likely you’ll need a licence to operate your salon, so visit’s licence finder for more information.

As for finding the right legal structure for your salon business, you’ll have four options to choose from:

  • sole trader
  • partnership
  • limited liability partnership
  • limited company

Need help getting to grips with the differences? Our guides on the difference between a sole trader and limited company and setting up a business partnership explain the pros and cons of each approach.

You’ll also need to insure your salon business. Visit our hairdressing insurance page for information on the type of cover you may need, including employers’ liability insurance if you hire staff.

If you decide to offer a range of different treatments at your salon, you may need extra insurance covers such as:

Put time into finding your premises

The right premises are vital for your salon, so take your time finding the right location. Ask yourself:

  • is this location convenient for customers?
  • will this location give me access to the right staff?
  • is this location cost-effective?

It might take time but you’ll need to find a balance between these three criteria. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to buy property outright too, as there’s always the option of renting or leasing your premises.

Whatever you do here don’t rush, and take legal advice if you’re unsure.

Mobile beauty therapist

You don’t have to find a fixed premises if you don’t want to – you could become a mobile beauty therapist. Rather than having a salon where customers come to you, you’d drive to them and deliver treatments in their homes.

There’s a slight difference in what customers typically expect from a mobile beauty therapist. When a customer goes to a salon, they often go for the whole experience and view it as relaxation. Whereas customers who choose for a beauty therapist to come to them are generally looking for a more convenient service.

There are pros and cons to consider if you’re thinking about going mobile.

Pros include:

  • flexibility – you decide when you work and can plan your work life around your personal life
  • low business costs – you won’t have to worry about rent and you’re less likely to need other employees
  • personal relationships – you can build strong relationships and loyalty with your customers

Cons include:

  • stress and cost of driving – you’ll spend a lot of time driving between customers which can be stressful. And with the rising cost of fuel, It’s an extra expense to consider if you’ll have to regularly refill
  • variable workload – you can have busy days and some quiet days
  • lack of staff – this means that all of the workload is on you, from carrying out the treatments, to finding customers and marketing

How to open a beauty salon

Once you’ve decided if you want to have a fixed premises or offer a mobile service, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to run your business.

Here are some of the key things to consider:

  • do you want to hire staff? If so, you’ll need to nail the recruitment process and get to grips with things like National Insurance and PAYE
  • what services are you going to offer? Focusing on one discipline such as hairdressing could help you to build a reputation as a specialist, while offering a range of services opens your business to a wider customer base
  • how are you going to market your business? Getting your business out there is crucial if you want to be a success. Read our guide to marketing for small businesses for some top tips
  • what are the finer details? You’ll need to decide on things like opening hours and pricing

Beauty courses for salon owners

Having the right qualifications can help you to build trust with your customers and make sure you have the skills to run your salon professionally.

For starters, an NVQ at level 4 will equip you well for the realities of running your own salon.

Here are some other qualifications and online beauty courses that you may need if you’re starting your own salon:

  • NVQ Diploma in Beauty Techniques (Level 2)
  • NVQ Diploma in Beauty Therapy Services (Level 2)
  • NVQ Diploma in Hair and Beauty Services (Level 2)
  • NVQ Certificate in Beauty Salon Reception (Level 2)
  • NVQ Diploma in Beauty Therapy (Level 3)
  • NVQ Diploma in Advanced Beauty Therapy (Level 3)
  • Diploma in Beauty Therapy Treatments (Level 3)

Your local colleges will offer a range of hairdressing and beauty therapy courses, covering services such as:

  • eyebrows and lashes
  • cutting and colour
  • tanning
  • nails
  • make up
  • massage
  • ear piercing
  • waxing

Get your financials right

Once you’ve constructed a solid business plan, financing your business will follow.

Creating a budget for your business can help you to keep track of incomings and outgoings so you can plan for the future.

If you’re looking for funding to get your business up and running, you could get a small business grant – money that you don’t have to pay back.

Other ways to get funding for your business include:

When you set up as self-employed, you’ll need to file a Self Assessment tax return each year, taking into account your income and business expenses.

On the other hand, if you set up a limited company you’ll need to pay corporation tax each year.

Do you have any tips for opening a hair salon? Let us know in the comments below.

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Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a professional writer with over 10 years’ experience across the property, small business, and insurance sectors. A trained journalist, Conor’s previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor has worked at Simply Business as a Copywriter for three years, specialising in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

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