Bridging the Gap: Are College Courses Preparing Beauty Therapists for the Freelance Revolution?

The beauty industry is changing fast, with more and more professionals choosing to work as freelancers. In fact, 62% of those in the beauty sector are now taking this route, enjoying the freedom it offers.

Stephanie Barnard

2/25/20248 min read

people throwing hats on air
people throwing hats on air


The beauty industry is changing fast, with more and more professionals choosing to work as freelancers. In fact, 62% of those in the beauty sector are now taking this route, enjoying the freedom it offers. This big shift towards freelancing makes us wonder: Are the college courses for beauty therapists keeping up? Are they teaching the skills that freelancers really need?

When you're a freelancer, you're not just doing beauty treatments; you're running your own business. This means you need to know about marketing, managing your money, dealing with clients, and making yourself stand out online.

In this blog, we're going to look closely at whether the current education for beauty therapists covers all these bases. We'll explore what's missing, what's working, and how education can evolve to better prepare therapists for a freelance future. As the beauty world moves forward, it's crucial that the training does too.

The Freelance Beauty Business Landscape

The beauty industry is buzzing with freelancers—people who work for themselves instead of a salon or company. This trend is growing because it lets beauty therapists choose their hours, pick their clients, and often earn more money. But, freelancing isn't always easy. It comes with its own set of challenges, like finding enough clients, handling all the business stuff on your own, and keeping up with industry trends without the support of a salon.

Why More People Are Going Freelance

A lot of beauty therapists are choosing to go freelance for the freedom it offers. They want to be their own boss, work flexible hours, and focus on the services they love providing the most. This shift is changing the traditional beauty job scene, where most therapists used to work in salons or spas. Now, these places have to think about how they can keep their staff or adapt to this new trend.

What Makes a Successful Freelance Beauty Therapist?

To do well as a freelance beauty therapist, you need more than just good beauty skills. You have to be great at managing your time, marketing yourself, and making your clients happy so they come back or tell their friends about you. Being organized is key—you're in charge of booking appointments, keeping track of your finances, and buying your own supplies. Also, being good at talking to people and understanding what they want can really set you apart.

What Beauty Courses Teach

Most college courses for beauty therapists focus on teaching the hands-on skills needed to perform beauty treatments. These include things like skincare, makeup application, hair removal, and nail services. Students learn through classes and practice, getting ready to provide these services professionally.

Looking Beyond Traditional Skills

While knowing how to do beauty treatments is important, being a successful freelancer requires more. However, not all courses cover these extra skills well. Let's take a closer look:

  • Marketing: Getting the word out about your services is key to finding clients. Yet, many courses don't spend much time teaching how to market yourself effectively, especially in the digital world where social media plays a big role.

  • Client Relations: Building strong relationships with clients ensures they come back and recommend you to others. This includes communication skills and customer service, areas that are often overlooked in traditional beauty education.

  • Financial Management: Managing your money is crucial when you work for yourself. You need to know about budgeting, setting prices, and keeping track of income and expenses. These topics are rarely covered in depth in beauty courses.

  • Digital Presence: In today's world, having an online presence is non-negotiable. Whether it's managing a website or being active on social media, these are skills that freelancers need but don't always learn in school.

The Gap in Education

It's clear there's a gap between what beauty courses teach and the skills needed to thrive as a freelancer. While technical skills are essential, the lack of training in business, marketing, and digital literacy can leave new freelancers feeling unprepared for the challenges of running their own business.

Employer Expectations vs. Freelance Realities

When working in a salon or spa, beauty therapists are often expected to follow a set schedule, perform a wide range of services as dictated by the employer, and focus on delivering treatments according to the establishment's standards. Employers may also look for therapists who are good team players, able to contribute to a positive work environment, and consistently deliver high-quality services to maintain the business's reputation.

Freelance Beauty Therapists' Needs

Freelancers, on the other hand, need a different set of skills to thrive. They must be self-motivated, excellent at managing their own time, and capable of building a personal brand. Freelancers decide which services to offer, set their own schedules, and directly manage client relationships. They also need to be adept at marketing themselves, handling their finances, and navigating the digital world to attract and retain clients.

Where Education May Fall Short

The education system for beauty therapists traditionally focuses on developing technical skills and knowledge related to beauty treatments, often underestimating the importance of business skills needed for freelancing. Here's where the gap becomes evident:

  • Business and Marketing Skills: Many courses do not provide sufficient training on how to effectively market oneself or manage a business, including essential aspects like online marketing, client retention strategies, and financial planning.

  • Digital Literacy: In a world where a strong online presence can make or break a freelance career, the lack of emphasis on building and maintaining a digital identity is a significant shortfall. This includes understanding social media marketing, website development, and online booking systems.

  • Adaptability and Networking: Freelancers need to be adaptable, able to network effectively, and continuously seek new opportunities for growth. Traditional education often misses teaching how to build a professional network and adapt to market changes, which are crucial for freelance success.

Bridging the Gap

The difference between employer expectations and the realities of freelance work highlights a need for educational institutions to adapt their curricula. By integrating business, marketing, and digital skills into beauty therapy courses, future therapists can be better prepared to meet the challenges of freelancing. This adjustment would not only benefit those looking to work independently but also enhance the skill set of therapists in traditional roles, making them more versatile and adaptable in a rapidly changing industry.

The Skills Gap: Identifying Deficiencies

When beauty therapists step into the freelance world, they often find there's more to learn beyond what they were taught in college. Let's break down the main areas where there's a gap between education and the needs of the freelance market.

Key Areas Lacking in Traditional Education

  • Business Management: Knowing how to run your own business is crucial for freelancers. This includes understanding how to set up and manage a business, from registering as a freelancer to managing taxes and insurance. Many therapists are left to figure this out on their own.

  • Marketing and Branding: Attracting clients is about more than just doing great work; it's about making sure people know about you. Effective marketing strategies, building a brand, and using social media are often underexplored in college courses.

  • Client Communication: Building strong relationships with clients goes beyond just providing beauty services. Freelancers need to be adept at communicating effectively, managing expectations, and handling feedback—skills not always covered in depth.

  • Digital Tools and Online Presence: In today’s digital age, a freelancer's online presence is their storefront. Skills in managing a professional website, utilizing social media, and leveraging online booking systems are increasingly important but not always included in traditional curricula.

Insights from Experts and Successful Freelancers

Industry experts and successful freelance beauty therapists often point out that real-world experience taught them more about these areas than formal education did. They highlight the importance of:

  • Continual Learning: Staying up-to-date with the latest business practices, marketing trends, and beauty technologies is key.

  • Networking: Building a network with other professionals can provide support, advice, and referrals.

  • Personal Branding: Understanding how to differentiate oneself in a crowded market is crucial for attracting and retaining clients.

  • Flexibility: Being able to adapt to changing market conditions and client needs is a valuable skill that often comes with experience.

Bridging the Skills Gap

To prepare for a successful freelance career, beauty therapists may need to seek additional education and resources outside of traditional college courses. Workshops, online courses, and mentorship programs can fill in the gaps, equipping freelancers with the comprehensive skill set they need to thrive.

Adapting Education to Meet Freelance Needs

As the beauty industry leans more towards freelancing, it's clear that education needs to catch up. Here's how educational programs can evolve to better prepare beauty therapists for freelance success.

Integrating Freelance-Oriented Training

  • Business Skills: Courses should include training on how to start and run a freelance business, covering topics like finance management, tax basics, and legal requirements.

  • Marketing: Adding modules on marketing strategies, personal branding, and social media use can help therapists attract and retain clients.

  • Digital Savvy: Teaching how to effectively use online tools, from creating a professional website to leveraging booking platforms, is essential.

  • Communication Skills: Enhancing courses with communication and customer service training can improve client relations and retention.

The Importance of Continuing Education

The beauty industry is fast-changing, and staying updated is key. Continuing education and professional development play a crucial role in bridging the skills gap. Here's how:

  • Ongoing Workshops and Seminars: Regularly attending workshops on the latest beauty trends, business strategies, and technology tools can keep freelancers ahead of the curve.

  • Online Learning Platforms: Utilising online platforms offers flexibility to learn new skills or update existing ones, fitting around freelance schedules.

  • Networking Events: Participating in industry events allows for learning from peers, sharing experiences, and building a support network.

Moving Forward

By adapting educational offerings to include these essential skills, beauty therapy courses can better prepare students for the realities of freelancing. This not only benefits those looking to work independently but also strengthens the overall professionalism and versatility of therapists in the beauty industry.


As the beauty industry continues to evolve towards a freelance-dominated landscape, the gap between traditional educational offerings and the real-world demands of freelance work becomes increasingly apparent. This shift underscores the urgent need for beauty therapy courses to adapt, ensuring that aspiring beauty therapists are equipped not only with technical skills but also with the business acumen, digital literacy, and marketing savvy required for success in today's competitive market.

The journey from traditional employment to freelancing in the beauty industry is filled with opportunities for growth, innovation, and personal fulfillment. However, for this transition to be truly successful, a collaborative effort is required. Educational institutions must take the lead in revising their curricula to include comprehensive training in business management, digital marketing, and client relations. Industry bodies can support this evolution by offering updated guidelines, resources, and continuing education opportunities that reflect the current trends and demands of the freelance market.

This is a call to action for all stakeholders—educational institutions, industry bodies, and freelancers—to collaborate in enhancing the preparedness of future beauty therapists. Together, we can ensure that the next generation of beauty professionals is ready to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the freelance world head-on.

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