How to Start a Henna Business | 5 Tips
- I have been doing henna professionally for 7 years and let me tell you, there is so much room to grow within this industry! Henna wasn’t something that I thought would become a full time source of income, but it definitely has. Therefore, I want to give you some tips on how you can grow your brand recognition and do things professionally! This will set yourself apart from your competition. I wish there was more info on how to start a henna business when I first started, thus I hope you find this blog helpful!
Get a Business License and File your FBN
I work in San Diego, CA and in order to conduct business, it is a legal requirement to have a business license. Additionally, unless your full legal name is included in your business name, you will need to file your FBN (Fictitious Business Name). In my case, it is Gopi Henna.
Of course, I am speaking from my experience living in the USA. However, I am sure most countries have similar laws. Please go online and find out what your country and city require to conduct business.
What are the consequences of not having a business license? In the USA if you are caught doing business without one you can be forced to stop operating and may be put on probation before being able to obtain a business license.
Now I will admit, when I first started doing henna I had no idea about business licenses or FBNs and I never got “caught” or anything like that. When I first started, I was young and naive about the world of business. Heck, I didn’t even file taxes the first couple years (I know, I know…but they never teach you this stuff in school) and ended up getting fined later. That can be the subject of a whole blog post in its self! Therefore, I am here to have you learn from my mistakes and start your business the proper way!
How do I Get One and Does it Cost $?
It is really quite simple to file for both online. You can also do it in person by visiting your city or county office.
To file a FBN in San Diego it costs $20 per 5 years. For your business license it is $38 per year. So as you can see it’s a very small but necessary investment and you will be able to deduct the amount on your tax return.
Do you need insurance?
This is something I get asked a lot! Unlike business licenses, insurance is not a legal necessity in the same sense. If someone were to get hurt at your henna booth, or get an allergic reaction (yes, this can still sometimes happen even with natural henna, though it’s much more rare than with the chemically made cones), having insurance will help out immensely!
In the 7 years I have worked as a henna artist I have only had ONE event that required I have insurance. So I opt to save on this expense personally. I know some can be more fanatical about it, but I want to be transparent about what I do and don’t do. Instead of buying insurance I know some henna artists that will have clients sign a waiver form so as to not be held responsible if an allergic reaction happens. I think this is a little over the top. If you’re considering going that route, I would suggest just getting the insurance, it’s much less of a hassle in the long run in my opinion!
What Insurance Do I Get?
For that one event I did that needed insurance, I got it from ACT and it was fairly inexpensive. You can Check them out HERE and see what you think.
One reason you may want to get insurance when you are first starting out is that it can help you stand apart from your competitors.
Having insurance can be something you can present to potential clients which will give them reassurance. It will show that you are indeed a professional and therefore more capable of providing superior service compared to another artist. They may be corresponding with several at the same time. Thus, you want as much credibility as you can!
Suffice it to say, if you have the funds to get annual insurance then by all means! It will definitely help your new business. If you don’t have the funds right now, then it can wait. However, a business license and FBN are ESSENTIAL and cannot wait.
Take advantage of ALL the free platforms available!
We live in the digital age which is a huge blessing for all of us creatives! There are so many free platform we can use to promote our brand and our business to potential clients and customers.
We all know about social media platforms such as instagram and facebook. If you’re reading this and you *don’t* have either of these for your business, then get on there IMMEDIATELY! There are even features now where you can directly upload to both at the same time. For myself, every time I post on instagram theres a button where I can choose to upload the same post to facebook as well. This works great and makes posting to multiple platforms super easy!
Another platform I think every person with a creative business should be on right now is TikTok! It may seem like a trivial platform for mindless entertainment, and not a place for business, but this is what people first thought about instagram. Therefore, mark my words I think tiktok will become just as vital for online business as facebook first was, and then how instagram is today!
All of these platforms are totally free and allow you to link your website and other social media platforms so you can continue to grow on them all day by day.
Yelp & Google Business
These are both free to create profiles on and are ways I get customers every month! Yelp will rely more heavily on having reviews so that will be something you will want to work on building. You can get started by doing henna for a few friends and have them take photos and write a thoughtful review on their experience. From there though you will want to encourage your actual (non-friend) customers to leave reviews to authenticate your yelp page even more!
Having a google business page is also free and though having reviews is beneficial, I find it’s not needed as much as on yelp. Your google page will come up when someone is on their phone on google maps and searching for henna in their area. Generally customers are looking for someone close to them therefore the amount of reviews isn’t as important. However, having reviews will make your page more relevant of course. And it gives more credibility to your business, so definitely try getting people to review you there too!
These platforms are free to create profiles on and allow users to search for various services and get matched to service providers in their area. Of course I have experience with these platforms being in the USA. However, I am sure there are equivalents in other countries as well.
For gigsalad there is a service fee for booking through their secure deposit system. But it’s a small percentage and it’s worth booking on there especially in the beginning when you’re starting to develop a customer base. Once you do one event your name will get passed around and over time you will need these sites less and less.
Now it may not be recommended but I have booked offsite many times. You can choose to message the client who is inquiring about your services and you can send them to your website or your social media page. You can tell them to contact you through either of those in order to bypass the service fee. Usually clients are happy to do this. Additionally by visiting your other social media pages they will get to know a bit more about you and what you offer and therefore be more likely to book with you.
Thumbtack on the other hand will cost you around $7 to connect with your potential customers. However, if they don’t respond back to you within 24 hours you will not be charged. There are options to get text alerts when you get new leads. This is important because if you’re the first one to respond they will generally book with you, and thus the $7 is well worth it. However, if you see that 2 others have already responded with their quote you may want to pass on reaching out for $7 and wait for the next one where you can be first or second to respond.
Build a Website ASAP
Since we’ve discussed social media and all the various free platforms it’s good to note that they all include distinct areas where you can put a link to your website. This is important because having an official website makes your business look 100 times more professional than someone who doesn’t have one.
Having a virtual landing place for potential customers to visit when they are looking at your various platforms or listings will be key in building their trust in your business. Additionally it will help them know more about you, your story, what you bring to the table, and why they should book with you.
People want to feel a personal connection to you before they book. That is one reason why social media has become so vital for having a creative business today. It gives clients a look into you, the artist, the actual person behind the art that they love and potentially want to get for themselves!
Having a website will help you establish your brand, and will be where you can personally craft your story.
What are the options?
If you’re looking for a totally free platform you can use WIX. They make is super easy to build a website, but in the long run it’s not the best. It’s less customizable and in the world of SEO (search engine optimization) it ranks pretty low. In other words, your website will be hard to rank on that first page of google. SEO can be a whole other blog post as well, so suffice it to say that wix can be good to start if you want a quick and free way to just get something up and running. Keep in mind you can always create another website later down the road once you have more income to invest.
Another easy to use option is squarespace and it’s fairly affordable as well. If you opt for the annual payment you can get a pretty nice discount as well. There are a variety of plans to choose from. For example if you just need a landing page to display your services, about me, and portfolio then it will be cheaper than if you wanted to sell physical products as well.
A third option is wordpress. It’s less user friendly in my opinion but it’s what my husband initially used to build my old site years ago. Therefore, over time i’ve learned how to use it and there are lot of cool customizations you can accomplish with this option. And which is why many web developers use it. There are a lot of classes on how to use wordpress on youtube (free) and skillshare (monthly subscription). After you use wordpress for awhile it will become more intuitive.
WordPress itself is free, however you will need purchase a domain name (i.e. mine is www.gopi-henna.com). Additionally you will need to pay to host your website on a server. I use bluehost, which has a variety of different plans and pricing so you can read more about it on their website.
What I use:
The website you're currently reading this on is shopify which is what I ended up changing to from wordpress. It is great if you have an online shop which is what I wanted to transition more into this year so I decided to make the switch finally! Their themes are super easy to customize and the themes you can buy make nice customizations simple and way less expensive than hiring a developer. They have customer support included as well in case you do run into any issues.
Determine who your customers are:
This is something you should start to think about early on since it will change the angle of your social media campaigns. Additionally it will help guide what you will write about on your website.
Think about your region, who your potential demographics will be, etc. Also, think about what you personally enjoy doing the most. For example, some artists don’t like the marathon aspect of bridal henna. They would rather do smaller, quick designs. Doing a festival booth may be more suited for such a person. Or maybe you would rather be able to stay at home with your kids during the day while your husband is at work. Therefore, private appointment and evening parties may be your preferred jam.
If you’re like me, you like to do it all, and that’s ok too! Just know it’s not entirely necessary and you can carve out a specific niche for yourself. And even though I like to experiment and try many different things, there are still styles that I prefer. Thus, on my social media I will tend to post the designs, sizes, and styles I would like to do more of. This way I will get more requests for that and will be able to do more of what I love!
What to avoid
On the same note, know who your customers AREN’T! What I mean by this is if someone is trying to haggle you incessantly it’s ok to say NO to these types of customers. These are not people you want to work with anyway. You will save yourself unnecessary amounts of stress and worry in the future. Trust me! If you give in to such customers regularly you will develop a reputation of being the “cheap artist.” And you don’t want that.
Also, by saying no to such customers in the beginning, you will help set a precedent. This will help other henna artists start getting paid what they’re worth in the future, which is good for us all! I know it can be tempting to give in, especially in the beginning. We can make all the excuses: if we don’t take them then we’re putting our business at risk. And therefore, we wont make our financial goals. However, I think it has the opposite effect though.
I tell my henna students all the time to stand their ground! I find if you’re firm with your pricing you will gain a respect and customers will have no choice but to book with you.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Established Businesses in Your Area
Remember, building any business is a “marathon, not a sprint”.
This can be hard, I know, but just remember that we all have to start somewhere! If someone has been in business for years, of course they will have a large portfolio already. They will likely have a nice website, and many reviews on various platforms.
However, don’t let this intimidate you or make you feel like you’ll never make it! You just have to take small steps everyday. Little by little you can start to implement all the things i’ve shared with you today. Then before you know it you will grow your business beyond your wildest imagination!
Another thing I want to mention in this section is NEVER, I repeat NEVER work for FREE! I mention this here because I know from experience that in the beginning it’s hard to have the confidence to charge for your work. Especially if you are comparing yourself to others. Or you may feel like you’ll miss an opportunity if you don’t work for “exposure” (i.e. FREE).
Many people know this about new artists, and will use this tactic try and get things for free. But again, like I mentioned in tip 4 you do not want to set a precedent for this type of work. Just because you’re a new business doesn’t mean you should devalue your work. Most of those “work for exposure” deals are absolutely FRUITLESS!
Just know it takes time to build up and like with any new endeavor you will have to be consistent. Show up for yourself every day, you will be happy you did in 1, 2, 3 years from now when you look back where you started and see how far you’ve come!
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