Guide to setting up a spray tan business
My name’s Caroline, and I have done over 26,000 spray tans in the five years of my beauty career; I am excited to share my advice for you about setting up your mobile, at-home or salon-based spray tan company.
I started my mobile spray tanning business and rented a small salon space to set up a salon business in my city centre, focusing on being the only spray tan dedicated studio in my city.
So why a spray tanning business, and how Profitable is it?
- Spray Tanning is tricky, but once you know how, it will take about 8 minutes to achieve a flawless finish.
- Depending on your location, you can fit in 3 people per hour with a profit of £20-£35 per person.
- Being beautifully bronzed never goes out of fashion, so it’s always a profitable business.
- It’s fun, enjoyable and socially satisfying
How To Become a Spray Tanner
To become a spray tanner, you must be certified by a training centre recognised by insurers. If you are unsure which insurer to join, BABTAC, ‘The Guild of Beauty Therapists’ or Salon Gold are highly recommended insurance companies for beauty therapists and cosmetologists.
Spray Tan Business Names
When choosing a spray tan business name, consider who your customers are. What age are they? Are they city workers looking for convenience and style, or are they local people in a town seeking a professional and reliable salon?
You don’t need a tan-related name, so once you’ve guessed, look at the following spray tan business name ideas: Click here.
Choosing a Spray Tan Brand for your business
We stock three spray tans in our salon, and we love them all, but they all have different advantages and flaws that need to be considered before proceeding with our client’s application.
For example, all our tans come in varying shades, but we have a particular brand that we would never put on someone who likes a deep colour, and we have another brand that we wouldn’t dream of putting on a tan-shy customer.
It’s important to;
Pick quality over price – Quality spray tan solutions usually don’t have preservatives or synthetic dyes and are generally organic and non-fragranced with no alcohol. So why is this important? Synthetic dyes are cancerogenic and permanently stain clothing. Fragrance (which requires alcohol to make it) and alcohol are drying to your client’s skin, which means TIGER BREAD scaley skin!
Consider branding that suits your business and area – There are a lot of opinions about certain brands generated since spray tanning was invented. You’ll often hear people say ‘Fake Bake’ looks dirty on me, or ‘St. Tropez’ makes me green, which is complete NONSENSE.
It may have happened to that particular individual, but it’s usually down to lousy spray tan storage or insufficient training. I’m sure St. Tropez being one, if not ‘the’ most well-known tanning brand business in the world, wouldn’t be so popular if they turned customers green!
You can read why spray tans turn green in this article: Why Your Spray Tan Turned Green.
What’s your clientele
Before setting up your business, figure out what kind of people your clients are. Have clients seeking a TOWIE transformation or ladies and gents who want a light, natural glow? I stock tan shades for both of those types of clients and one in between.
Age – Ladies and gents of all ages ask for anything from a light glow to ‘as dark as you’ve got, please’.
Preference – Does your clientele enjoy an organic-only spray tan business, or are they looking for bridal spray tans?
Rapid Spray Tans (Express/1hour tans)
How are we to know what someone’s version of dark, light or medium is – we can’t until they try it. That’s where rapid tans come in to save the day!
Let me explain how to explain this to your client.
1) In spray tan, the liquid that turns you brown is clear
2) They add in the brown for the therapist’s benefit so we don’t miss bits
3) When you are finished, you will not be that colour
4) We will look in the mirror and judge together as client and therapist what you think of the shade you are
5) When you make that decision, will use our knowledge of the brand to determine when you should wash it off
Here are my best tips for finding the right spray tan solution for your business:
- Don’t buy for cheapness – buy for quality – it’s good business
- Get samples and try them out on yourself, friends and family
- Big brand names attract clients to your spray tanning business but also consider that one of my best tans is not well known.
- If you can’t afford loads of bottles, buy express or mix them (easier with tanning brands that use percentages). For example, 50ml of 8% mixed with 50ml of 12% will make 10% or 50ml light shade with 50ml dark shade will make medium.
- If cheap, it will be filled with chemicals and preservatives that do not give a good tan.
- If you are still unsure, pick a well-known brand for your business. The brand promotes itself and comes along with pre-made images and posters for easy marketing.
What’s The Best Spray Tanning Machine of 2019
At the Tropicoco Spray Tan Studio, we spray around 15 people daily; my Maxi Mist machine has never let me down. It’s got a very powerful motor allowing 25+ applications a day.
That’s the thing about spray tan machines if you buy a cheap device, the motor will burn out and leave you in the lurch with a week of angry pale customers! Not great for business or bank balance either!
TOP-RATED & MY FAVORITE: The MAXI Mist Evolution TNT
Why do I love it? It’s so powerful it can do a spray tan in 8 minutes, and your control over each spray is unbeatable.
Your clients are dry when you finish because the mist is so fine! It can also do up to 25+ clients daily, which other cheaper machines couldn’t achieve.
Best Value Maxi Mist Machine & Tent @ £209.99
Machine Only @ £179.99
Here are the specs:
Powerful 570-Watt Variable Speed 2-Stage Turbine
Rated for 25+ applications a day
3 TNT Spray Heads with 6.75oz/200ml Cups
On-Board Spray Gun Storage
Spare Spray Gun Cup Gasket and Pickup Tube
Spare Spray Gun Nozzle Gasket
Spare Turbine Filter
Detailed Instruction Manual
This is important: Clean your filters daily with lukewarm water (too hot will melt the plastic and ruin the airflow) & put a sign on the machine to not cover it as this will block airflow and overheat the spray tan machine.
Set up a Spray Tanning Business From Home
What you’ll need:
- A dedicated, quiet spot
- A large spray tan tent
- Extractor fan – this has the best extraction, in my opinion:
- Waiting chairs
- Well lit area
Set up a Mobile Spray Tanning Business
I set up a mobile spray tanning business at first, and to be honest, it was the easiest part of my career, but you are limited in what you earn, but it is good money all the same.
I usually started at 4 pm and worked till 9.30 pm, so roughly five clients per night @ £20, equaling £100 per evening. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were the most popular days, so you could easily earn at least £1200 a month once you get busy.
In hindsight, I charged too little for mobile spray tanning. You have to put your business head-on and consider the time taken to travel, petrol, wear and tear on your vehicle and providing a professional service plus the cost of solution and disposables! I suggest £30 minimum for mobile spray tanning or £25 for two people at the exact location.
Quick business tips for mobile spray tanners
- Organise your clients by region to save petrol and keep your petrol receipts.
- Don’t buy a tent in any other colour apart from black – it will look filthy after each person if you don’t
- Buy an extra-large black sheet to go under and around the tent in case of spillage.
- Get your client to step out of the tent to dry with your machine so you can start packing away to leave for your next client (“Can I give you this drier while I take down my tent” always drops that hint that you are in a hurry!”)
- Try to set up while chatting, as you can lose track of time and be late for your next client.
- Don’t go to anyone’s house you are uncomfortable with; don’t be afraid to leave and drive off.
- Encourage spray tan parties but take deposits for these
- NEVER do the spray tan on a poorly lit or carpeted floor (been there, splattered a cream carpet – oh, the cringe)
- Wash your tent with a hose or wipe
- Text people the day before or the morning of their appointment to check if they still want the position.
Set up a Spray Tan Salon Business
After setting up a mobile spray tanning business for one year, I opened in the city centre and rented for two years until moving to a more prominent location. This ensured I had enough clientele to sustain the business at each step of the way.
Here’s some advice to consider before renting:
Is it near where people work? Does it have easy access to subways, car parks or train stations? People do not like to walk far in their baggy tan outfits, especially when they look so brown, or it’s raining.
Does it have space to expand for yourself or staff? I had four rooms installed in my spray tan business to fit two people in per half hour, and two staff members could work in the other rooms. While one person dries, I start the other.
If you’re renting on a busy street, you will pay extra, but it’s worth it because of the footfall. If you don’t have existing clients, an online presence, or aren’t renting a section in a bustling hair salon, for example, don’t tie yourself into a contract before achieving any of those things.
I don’t deal with them anymore, apart from one referral booking website I see as a fair company.
Groupon – in my experience, Groupon did not work for me. They try to get as much money as possible from you that I was earning £5 per tan for a month after their discount and fees! Let’s say it wasn’t long before I ended my contract with them and never returned!
Treatwell, however, is a fair company. Ok, they take 35% on first bookings but only a 2% fee once the client has been already. They are paying for Adwords, so it’s only to be expected that they would charge so high because AdWords can cost around £1-5 per click!
Spray Tan Customer Service Tips
Whenever someone joins our team, I tell them that most of their job is telling people exactly what to do and warning them what not to do!
We laminate the aftercare advice for clients to read while drying and place warnings in the spray tan booth (e.g., don’t touch the walls or go on the floor with your bare feet).
Our job is to ensure our clients know EXACTLY what to do every time they come into the salon.
If someone has a problem with how the tan turned out, offer to fix it for free and don’t make a fuss about it. It’s just good business to be kind and helpful.
Feedback can surprisingly be a good thing to improve your service, but bear in mind that sometimes spray tan doesn’t work out on certain skin types – either way; it happens to all of us, so it’s best to be light-hearted and do your best to fix it for them.
Spray Tan Storage
So what’s so essential about storing your spray tan bottles correctly:
- Tanning fluid loses its strength if exposed to oxygen for too long – so it’s best to keep your bottles closed.
- Hot conditions can also cause the fake tan to go off
- In and out of hot and cold conditions can also alter the potency
- Each spray tan has different use-by dates
Advice for Mobile Spray Tan businesses: When I did mobile spray tanning, I always used a cool bag or box, and I placed my bottles in a cool room in my house
Advice for Salon businesses: Our salon uses a dark cupboard in a room that doesn’t change temperature.
Spray Tan Business Website Set up
Websites are great for storing information for your clients to read, and if you do well on search engines, you get free advertisements. If you come up as one of the top businesses on Google for the term ‘spray tanning’, you have free advertising.
Go Daddy or Heart Internet are easy-to-use providers for hosting and setting up a WordPress account.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Salon Booking Systems
You might be told that booking systems are the Bees Knee’s, and they are in some ways, but BE WARNED, they have a few flaws in my experience.
When I first purchased my salon booking system for my spray tanning business, I thought it was fantastic. No more replying to clients at 9 pm or messing up a booking; they just did all the work for me! It saved me loads of time, meant I got paid upfront, and some people enjoy how easy it is.
So why don’t you rely on booking systems for your business?
- Because most people have questions about your service and will not book and pay if they’re unsure about anything, on the phone or by email, you give a more personalised booking experience by putting your clients at ease.
- Clients will be looking for your name on the booking system, and if you are booked and have staff, they will not pick them up and go elsewhere unless you persuade them on the phone (YES, REALLY!)
- It takes away the urgency to book. If your clients can see you have an empty diary in a month, most people will think, ‘Oh, I’ll book later in case I don’t need it nearer the time’ or ‘I’ll book when I get paid again as she doesn’t look that busy’ This is BAD for BUSINESS! By the time they get around to booking a space, it will have gone to a new client that statistically costs them three times more to obtain than retaining that existing client, and this cycle will repeat itself over and over again for years.
- Some people can’t work with technology.
- You’ll never know how much in demand you are. If I have a full diary and six people go on to book for that evening but can’t find a space, they aren’t going to phone and tell me that. So I should hire another staff member instead of sitting in the dark about my salon’s demands.
What I do now:
I incorporate both in my business but only advertise the booking app to those that will only book online. I announce that we take phone calls and emails, and I’m very efficient at answering emails (Twice daily).
Spray Tan Hygiene Advice
Clean your spray tan rooms after every person. This is one of the most common complaints of why they left another salon because the floors and walls were sticky, and not only that, you risk tan-to-skin transfer. Cleaning the walls only takes a couple of minutes,; your client will be more comfortable doing this.
Spray Tan Guns
At the night’s end, remove your gun (it should have around 5-6 parts) and wash them out with water until transparent. Put lukewarm water in the gun and flush out your weapon to stop the needle from eroding or getting clogged with tan. Spray tan crystallises (hardens) in the hand if left for long periods, so flushing it with water stops it from clogging up.
Spray Tan Marketing Advice
It took me a long time to realise that it’s your job to make sure your clients remember to book their spray tans. Frequent social media posts and email campaigns ensure you retain your existing clients.
We tried various promotional ideas in our salon. Some marketing campaigns were successful, yet a few were a flop.
- The “2 tans for £30” promotion was our most successful. Our spray tans were £20 each, but if you brought a friend, you could get £5 off. This worked well for a few reasons. It encouraged our clients to bring new customers to the salon, and they had a fun experience with their friends whilst enjoying a bit of money. We could make both appointments in 30-40 mins as both clients arrived simultaneously and didn’t mind waiting for each other to dry off. However, our salon has four spray tan booths, so the logistics might not be as easy if you only have one room.
- Gift your clients vouchers for joining your mailing list and liking your Instagram or Facebook.
- Recommend a friend to get a half-price tan. This successful campaign brought us many lovely new customers on their friend’s recommendation. You will need to note who recommended them and send them an e-voucher or physical voucher to thank them for their recommendation.
- Give your client a physical voucher or e-voucher for their promotions. Your clients most likely feel awkward about saying they want to use their discount, so presenting a coupon to you at the end of the treatment is preferable.
- Don’t make offers permanent unless you have trialled them for a few weeks; some promotions don’t work out logistically.
Spray Tan Business Money-Saving Tips
You can check out the best value products I have suggested at the top of this page. I will share one of the best money-saving and environmentally friendly salon tips that save my business over £5000 a year.
So let’s do the calculation.
Say we do 1000 spray tans a month in our salon; we will need 1000 sticky feet, roughly 50 pence each, costing the salon £500 a month. If we make our own sticky feet, it will cost us 7 pence and 30 seconds to make them individually, saving us £437 a month and therefore £5244 a year, and if you’re doing a portion of those 1000 spray tans in a month, that’s you sorted for a well deserved holiday!
Here’s how I make them:
Step 1: Fold two cardboard sheets in half (must be a thick card such as 220gsm and above)
Step 2: cut the corners off
Step 3: Open the card up again and cut the inner corners and down the centre
Step 4: Put two 2-3 inch tabs of double-sided sticky tape on each foot
Retailing tips for salons
The power of three – statistically, people like products to be displayed in three’s
Music – Research shows that playing spa or classical music increases sales
Display – Display products near the till and in waiting areas
Sales – Give the team commission on sales or do competitions, and make sure to mention products during the treatment
Retail psychology – Display low-price items in bulk, with no organisation method, in a stylish box, bowl or basket. High-price items should be displayed with the way in rows of three. The higher the price, the higher it should go on the shelf.
Here’s our display, a two-tiered breakfast bar I found on eBay! Most retail units for salons are about £1000, but I got this stylish unit for £100.