How to become an aesthetic practitioner - Hamilton Fraser


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Is a career in aesthetics the right move for you? For medical professionals such as doctors, dentists and nurses, working in aesthetic medicine, perhaps even setting up your own aesthetic business, can open up a whole new world of opportunities, while tapping into existing clinical skills.

The cosmetic sector continues to grow rapidly and aesthetic work can be both lucrative and flexible. A career in aesthetics can also be adapted to fit in around NHS commitments.

What opportunities does a career in aesthetics offer?

Working as an aesthetic practitioner offers a wide range of potential opportunities to medical professionals:

  • The freedom to choose when and where you work, making for a better work life balance
  • The option to continue in medical practice using your transferrable clinical skills while carrying out treatments that involve a more personal touch
  • The chance to develop a personal brand or set up an independent practice and grow your own client base
  • The potential to generate an income that will not be subject to NHS caps
  • The opportunity to be part of a rapidly growing sector that offers diverse and exciting career paths for existing medical professionals

What challenges might an aesthetic practitioner face?

It is important to also be prepared for challenges you may experience, particularly if you’re looking to move out of medical practice and into aesthetics full-time.

  • Loss of professional identity

You may need to reconcile your initial reasons for entering the medical profession with your move into the aesthetics industry – can you still ‘make a difference’?

  • Lack of business knowledge

You may have the transferable clinical skills to succeed in aesthetics, but you will also need to develop your business knowledge in areas like marketing and finance

  • Feelings of isolation

If you have been part of a busy NHS team you may miss the camaraderie and teamwork

  • Feeling inexperienced

You may have been employed at a senior level in your previous role and could feel uncomfortable with your relative lack of experience in aesthetics to begin with

  • Receiving negative feedback

You are vulnerable to scrutiny as a private aesthetic practitioner and may receive negative feedback such as negative reviews. Maintaining your reputation and high levels of customer service in a sector highly influenced by social media is likely to be outside your previous experience as a doctor, dentist or nurse

Once you’ve weighed up the potential pros and cons of a move into aesthetic medicine, if you think the timing is right and a career as an aesthetic practitioner is for you, it’s essential to get off on the right foot. But where do you begin?

Close-up Of Woman Receiving Ultrasound Cavitation Facial Peeling. Ultrasonic Skin Cleansing Procedure. Beauty Treatment. Cosmetology. Beauty Spa Salon.

How to get started as an aesthetic practitioner  

Starting a career as an aesthetic practitioner can seem like a daunting prospect. Taking the following 10 steps will set you on the right path:

  1. Keep your registration with the relevant industry body

At Hamilton Fraser, we require practitioners to be registered with the relevant industry body before we can offer insurance cover. We therefore strongly advise that nurses have a valid Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) registration before attending any botulinum toxin and filler training courses. The British Association of Cosmetic Nurses (BACN) also advocate that nurses obtain at least three years of general adult nursing experience before moving into aesthetic work. This is to make sure that they have a solid foundation of transferable knowledge and experience in general nursing. Dentists and doctors are also required to have a current, active registration with the General Dental Council (GDC) or the General Medical Council (GMC)  to practise in aesthetics.

Top tip: Although not mandatory, you may also consider joining a trade body such as the British College of Aesthetic Medicine (BCAM) for doctors and dentists, or the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses (BACN), for nurses. Membership of these bodies offers access to a support network for aesthetic practitioners and enables prospective patients to find registered medical professionals who have provided evidence of their insurance and training.

  1. Research your market

If you are looking to set up your own aesthetic business, it is important to research your market so that you can understand:

  • External factors to your planned business in the industry and market environment
  • Your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Your customers’ interests and opinions

Your market research will also feed into your aesthetic business plan, which you will need to secure funding for your business venture.

The industry and market environment

  • Focus on any legal, economic, social and cultural issues or trends that might affect your business, for example the role of the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP), increased regulation in the aesthetics industry and changing social attitudes towards cosmetic treatments
  • Identify any new trends and discover gaps or emerging opportunities in the market
  • Attend aesthetics events where you can listen to live talks and observe demonstrations
  • Network with experts in the aesthetics sector both at events and on social media

Your target audience

  • Identify your target customers and create ‘buyer personas’ – a profile that represents your ideal customers. This will help you to tailor your aesthetic marketing and research efforts and connect with your target audience to gain insights into their attitudes towards your proposed products and services
  • Tap into your existing networks through social media, carry out focus groups or surveys and offer incentives such as discounts or free products to encourage feedback and engagement with your target customers
  • Invest time in building a relationship with potential customers and remember that word of mouth is the most reliable way to build on your customer base

  1. Attend recognised aesthetic training courses

To specialise in most aesthetic treatments, you must complete a recognised training course. The level of training and experience you will need varies depending on whether the procedures you will be carrying out are non-invasive or invasive. You can find out more about out Hamilton Fraser’s training requirements for specific treatments on the ‘what treatments we cover’ page of our website, or you can speak to a member of the team on 0800 634 3881 to discuss your bespoke requirements.

Did you know, botulinum toxin and dermal fillers make up 85% of the non-surgical market, offering solid access into the aesthetics industry? Patients often seek a combination of both treatments so practitioners need to be skilled in both.

It is important to be aware that since botulinum toxin is a prescription-only medicine, you will need to undertake additional training if you intend to prescribe and are not a nurse prescriber. You can either complete a V300 course in order to become a nurse prescriber or, before carrying out a botulinum toxin treatment on a client, you can arrange for a registered doctor, dentist, or nurse prescriber to do a face to face consultation and, as long as the patient is assessed as suitable for the treatment, they will then be able to prescribe the botulinum toxin.

Top tip: Completing the V300 course enables you to work more independently and is the recommended route if you’re aiming to become a full-time aesthetic nurse. Organisations such as Aesthetic Associates can help nurses who don’t hold the V300 certification to find a prescriber who is local to them.

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How do you choose the right training course for you?

The aesthetics industry offers a wide range of courses to choose from - check out our tips to choosing the right course for you. 

  • Make sure that your chosen course delivers both theoretical and practical training and provides you with a nationally recognised qualification at the end of it
  • Always make sure that the training is CPD certified and fully insured. You should also check that the course is fully compliant with the most up to date guidelines outlined by Health Education England (HEE) and the General Medical Council (GMC)
  • Be aware that, while there are one-day courses available which sometimes promise a shortcut into the aesthetics industry, a one-day course will not equip you with the level of skill needed to successfully enter the aesthetics industry. However, these courses might be useful to ‘top-up’ your skills when you are already established as an aesthetic practitioner
  • Always make sure that the training is with live models rather than mannequins as this allows you to develop your consultation technique as well as your injectable skills
  • Enquire about the trainer to delegate ratio and opt for courses which offer small group tuition over large groups of delegates where you are unlikely to benefit from sufficient injecting experience and personal feedback
  • Choose training courses that are run by trainers who are qualified medical practitioners. It is vital that the trainer has an advanced understanding and is up to speed with the latest techniques. At Hamilton Fraser we are increasingly having to turn down medically qualified practitioners who have taken injectables training which has not been taught by a medical professional and does not therefore meet our eligibility criteria for aesthetic insurance. Read our guide to make sure your aesthetics training meets our standards
  • Consider investing in training that also offers support in setting up your own business and provides guidance on areas such as marketing and finance

It is also important to be aware that both the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) and Health Education England (HEE) are encouraging practitioners and training providers to join the voluntary registers by asking them to demonstrate that they can meet the standards set originally by the HEE framework.

Since the HEE signpost what level of training practitioners will be expected to meet in the future, it is quite likely that these higher expectations will become the minimum standards for accrediting bodies, as well as for cosmetic insurers, employers and the general public. The level 7 accreditation is not currently essential but is the most highly regarded certification.

The aesthetic sector is evolving rapidly, and you will need to update your skills regularly to keep up and remain competitive.

  1. Develop a detailed aesthetic business plan

Having a well-structured business plan will give you direction and provide a roadmap for your business’s future. It is also essential to attract the investment you will need to get your aesthetics business started.

Did you know, your bank can provide you with a tool kit to help you put together your business plan? It should include an executive summary, a business overview, how you are going to execute your idea (operations, products and services, marketing and sales), a competitive analysis, financial plan and projections. Once you have completed your business plan, make an appointment with your bank, take along your business plan and discuss your options.

Top tip: Remember, a business plan is a continuously evolving document and as you begin to trade, elements might need to be updated so it is important to keep it in a format that is easy to amend.

  1. Decide what your working pattern and practices will be

As an aesthetic practitioner there are several options – would you prefer to work for yourself or an employer? Are you planning on working full time or part time in aesthetics? Speak to an accountant to decide whether you will be a sole trader, limited company or partnership (your accountant will be able to advise you on this).

The cosmetologist uses the Wood Lamp for detailed diagnosis of the skin condition. The device detects the presence of skin diseases or inflamed areas. Cosmetology and professional care.

What are your options once qualified?

Choose the option that best fits with other work and family commitments, the amount you have to invest and the level of risk you are prepared to take.

  • Partner with a complementary provider

Partnering with an established complementary provider such as a dental practice or a hair salon can work well if you don’t have your own premises. They may have a room you can use for consulting with patients. They also have clients that may be interested in your services, and the arrangement can be mutually beneficial as they stand to gain revenue from the patients you treat in return. With this model, you have no overheads, and it is in the complementary provider’s interests to promote your services.

  • Work as a mobile practitioner

Setting yourself up as a mobile practitioner is straightforward. Our policy will extend to cover practitioners to carry out treatments at the practitioner’s or patient’s home, but it is widely recommended to administer treatments in a clinical setting/environment. The flexibility offered by operating as a mobile practitioner is geared towards enabling practitioners to administer treatments at various clinic/salon locations. 

As a mobile practitioner, you will need to find your own clients and source your own products, but you have no overheads, and you get to keep all the income you generate. Patients are also likely to be more loyal and you can arrange mutually convenient appointments.

  • Open your own clinic

If you already have your own medical premises, then starting a clinic is a great opportunity to boost your current revenue – you will be able to charge higher prices here than you would be able to as a mobile practitioner.

  • Work in a clinic

By working in a clinic full time, or part time alongside your existing role as a salaried employee, you will have immediate access to all the equipment and products you need. The clinic will generally market your services and book patients in. You then receive a percentage of the revenue (this is usually a 15-20 per cent cut).

  1. Market yourself as an aesthetic practitioner

Aesthetic marketing is largely online and a majority of your potential clients will be online, therefore it is important to create a virtual presence by:

  • creating a website – you will need to get your domain name and website registered and then pay a small yearly fee
  • interacting with your target audience to build trust and confidence in your brand. You can do this through content marketing that addresses the concerns you have identified when carrying out your persona research
  • developing a strong presence on social media using interactive marketing tools. Social media groups can also provide peer-to-peer support and help develop relationships with other aesthetic practitioners in the industry

Hamilton Fraser’s guide, Digital marketing for aesthetic practitioners contains lots of useful information and advice on how to develop your aesthetic marketing strategy.

  1. Take out medical malpractice insurance

Medical malpractice insurance is designed to protect you against allegations of malpractice and negligence. Without adequate cover, you will be left to defend yourself against any allegations personally, which could incur significant legal costs. With medical malpractice claims becoming increasingly costly, malpractice insurance is essential.

Malpractice cover will protect you against potential costs and damages you may become legally liable to pay arising out of any insured treatments you provide or advice you give to patients. Hamilton Fraser’s policy includes public liability cover, which is designed to protect your legal liability against costs and expenses following injury or damage to a third party or their property while you are working at a premises not owned by you.

Find out more about aesthetic insurance in our article, 7 reasons why you need cosmetic insurance.

  1. Source products in line with your aesthetic treatments

When it comes to treatments, keep it simple to begin with, perhaps focusing on building a repeat client base reflective of the needs of your identified target customer (treatments for ageing skin for example).

Once you have defined your treatment offering in line with your market research and training, you will need to plan where to source your products from. Online pharmacies are very convenient if you are going to be working independently.

Remember, it is your responsibility to make sure that the products you use are sterile and in date. Be aware of grey market products and only source from a reputable supplier or you risk invalidating your insurance cover. Grey market products are legitimate products that have been manufactured by an approved company but have been sold outside authorised distribution methods. For example, in the case of botulinum toxin all injections must contain botulinum toxin from a listed supplier and carry the CE mark. Grey market products are a growing problem in the aesthetic sector so, although it may be tempting to buy cheaper ‘branded' products online from a retailer that is not based in the UK or is not a registered pharmacy, they could potentially be unsafe, and if they are not from a reputable supplier, you risk invalidating your insurance.

  1. Begin practising in aesthetic medicine

Once you have stocked up on supplies, are fully insured as an aesthetic practitioner, and trained to begin practising, the fun begins. Here are a few tips to help get you started:

  • Stick to your core business and avoid getting distracted – start small and build on your successes
  • Remember, if a patient is happy with your service and has a positive experience, they are likely to recommend you to others
  • Put systems in place to make sure that your patient has a positive experience at every stage of their journey; from the initial contact, through the consultation process and any pre-procedure instructions to the treatment itself and post-procedure care
  • Take time to make a connection and build a rapport with your patients as they could be patients for life and ambassadors for your brand
  • Manage your patient’s expectations and learn when to say ‘no’ – an unhappy patient can pose a serious threat to your business


  1. Grow your aesthetic business

Expand your business and extend your aesthetic knowledge and contact base through continued professional development and networking. This can be achieved by:

  • ongoing networking both within the field of aesthetics and the business realm
  • attending aesthetic industry masterclasses, seminars and workshops that will earn you CPD points, which evidence your continuing professional development within the field of aesthetics
  • taking advanced training courses, one-to-one training courses or even the Level 7 Certificate, that will allow you to practise more advanced techniques and offer a greater range of treatments to your clients

Most people setting themselves up to work in aesthetics come from a clinical background and few have the business knowledge or network necessary to run it successfully from the outset. At Hamilton Fraser, we offer more than just insurance. For more advice on getting started in aesthetics and for information on cosmetic insurance, contact Hamilton Fraser on 0800 63 43 881.

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