28-year-old mom is on track to make $180,000 without a bachelor’s degree: ‘Sometimes, I work 3 hours a day’

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It didn’t take Miracle Workman long to realize that college wasn’t for her. 

By the end of her first semester at Mat-Su College, a small school in Palmer, Alaska, Workman decided she couldn’t stomach the time, or loans, it would take to get her associate’s degree. 

So, in December 2013, as Workman, then 18, waited for a sign from the universe to help her choose a career, she returned to her high school job as a hostess at a pizzeria in her hometown of Wasilla.

Inspiration struck just a few months later in an unlikely place: a plastic surgeon’s office 3,000 miles from home. Workman and her now-husband, Tim Workman, were visiting his mom in Scottsdale, Arizona and his mom surprised him with a laser treatment to help with his acne. 

“This esthetician walked into the room, and she was so calm and confident explaining the procedure, and then handling the equipment, I just remember thinking, ‘Whatever this is, I love it, I want to do this,'” Workman, now 28, tells CNBC Make It. 

Fast-forward almost a decade later, and Workman has spun her interest in skin care into a six-figure career: She owns Studio Sol, a hair salon and esthetic studio in Wasilla, and is on track to earn $180,000 this year from her work as an esthetician. Here’s how she did it: 

Becoming an esthetician 

As soon as she returned home, Workman googled esthetician schools near Palmer and Wasilla.

The requirements to become an esthetician are rigorous: In Alaska, you have to complete at least 350 hours in a government-approved course of study and pass two exams to obtain an esthetician license. Other states, like New York, require upwards of 600 hours. 

In March 2015, Workman started taking classes at the MetrOasis Training Center in Anchorage, about an hour’s drive from her apartment. For 10 weeks, she went to classes Monday through Friday and worked weekends at the pizzeria. 

“It was gritty, but I loved all of my classes, so it never felt like work,” she says.

Workman took courses in makeup, hair removal, brow artistry, chemical peels and more. She estimates that she spent about $7,000 on tuition, supplies, exams and license fees. 

Workman graduated from esthetics school in May 2015. Though she eventually wanted to establish her own esthetician business, she prioritized building her clientele and experience first. She worked at a waxing salon, then a med spa — a hybrid of the traditional day spa and a medical clinic — and in 2018 started a job at a day spa.

Then, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and Alaska issued a statewide lockdown in March 2020. Workman saw the pandemic as an interruption to her career at first, when the day spa she worked at temporarily shut down, then decided it was another sign from the universe — she could use her newfound free time to draft her business plan.

Building a six-figure business 

Workman quit her job at the day spa once they re-opened in May 2020 and rented the back room of a hair salon in Wasilla for $500 per month. 

“I wanted to start working with clients right away, so I decided I was just going to hustle and do whatever I needed to do to open shop,” she recalls. She got a business credit card to help cover her startup costs, including a website domain, wax, brushes and other supplies, which totaled about $10,000 — a bill Workman says she was able to pay off within two months of opening. 

At that point, Instagram was her greatest marketing tool. “Many of my clients follow my page and will message me directly for appointments, so as soon as I opened my business, I shared daily behind-the-scenes photos and videos of the space as well as the types of services I had, just to get on people’s radars,” she says. 

Some of Workman’s most popular services are brow shaping, mild chemical peels and Hydrafacial, which combines a hydradermabrasion treatment with an infusion of serums. Prices range from $25 to $329, depending on how many products are used and how long the treatment takes. 

Within 12 months of opening, Workman earned a net profit of $115,000, according to tax and financial documents reviewed by CNBC Make It. Much of her clientele, she says, has come from repeat customers at her old job, who will also recommend her to their friends. Other customers are walk-ins or find Workman from her Instagram.

2022 was a big year for Workman: In January, she bought the hair salon in the front of the building, Studio Sol, and in August, she hired her first commission-only employee, another esthetician. Two months later, she went on maternity leave — she and Tim (who she married in 2019) welcomed their first daughter, Navy, in November. She returned to work in January 2023. 

‘Sometimes, I only work 3 hours a day’

One of the benefits of working as an esthetician, according to Workman, is the flexible schedule. Even before she opened her own practice, she was able to work less than 40 hours a week and adjust her hours around clients’ availabilities.

After opening her business, Workman quickly realized that she could double her income and reduce her workload by offering specialized skin-care services, like lymphatic facials and scalp treatments. She takes hands-on training courses from skin-care product representatives to learn how to perform these services, like Hydrafacial’s Keravive scalp treatment.

“I typically work 15-20 hours a week, but sometimes, I only work 3 hours a day,” she says. “I have a lot of clients who will pop in during their lunch break, or have more flexibility because they work from home on certain days, so I’ve been able to preserve my weekends.”

“That’s the beauty of working in this industry. I can make my job whatever it needs to be to fit my lifestyle. It’s given me the freedom and flexibility to run my days exactly how I envision them … it’s been such a blessing.” 

But the most rewarding part of her job, Workman adds, is helping her clients feel more confident and offering them a “safe space” to vent or relax. 

“I get to be a part of some of the most intimate times of people’s lives, which is such a crazy, humbling feeling,” she says. “Having that kind of meaningful human connection, while you’re at a fun job that you love, too, is hard to top.”

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