Madz Tans is a custom airbrush spray tan business in Orem, Utah. Working two part-time jobs as a nanny and receptionist, Madz Tans owner Maddie Swenson hoped this new gig would add a little extra income each month to support her and her husband.

She began her small business last September, soon after getting certified as a spray tan artist. Since then, she has created a website and amassed more than 4,400 followers on Instagram who are loyal in keeping Swenson as part of their beauty routine. The demand her product has created allowed the entrepreneur to turn her side hustle into a full-scale business.

The beauty industry did not become the dynasty we know it as today until Hollywood’s influence powdered the United States with blush and lipstick in the 1920s.

As women were put in the media spotlight, their appearance became an asset. Some women figured out a way to profit off their knowledge and to drive demand for these products.

Because beauty enhancements have become a social expectation for women, the beauty industry rakes in more than $100 billion in revenue annually. Because people can make so much money, it’s also been a go-to industry for entrepreneurs. It’s now a key element of hustle culture.

And in the age of social media, business ownership has opened up for small business owners, including women like Swenson.

Madison Swenson, owner of Madz Tans in Orem, applies a spray tan to Sydney Glenn on Friday, April 28, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Hustle culture a full-time job

In 2022, Utah Public Radio declared Salt Lake City “the best city to start a side hustle in 2023.” This has to do with factors like low unemployment, livable cities and fast internet speeds.

Asked by the Deseret News why she chose the beauty industry — and specifically tanning — Swenson said, “I noticed there was a huge market for spray tanning in Utah.” She took advantage of an unsaturated market and used social media to reach influencers in the area to promote her brand.

“To be transparent, I made about $20K in the first four months,” she said. However, she emphasized that her profits were low because she had to put money back into her business for it to grow. “My first couple weeks of tans I was doing them for $10 and only keeping a couple dollars for myself because I had to pay for more solution costs, disposable costs and things like hair nets and sticky feet.”

When she started, clients would come to her house as late as 2 a.m. Swenson now has her own business location and has turned her home-based gig into a successful full-time job. Many of her clients pay up to $65 on a regular basis to have her apply a tan. And demand keeps growing.

Because she wants to remain somewhat exclusive, she doesn’t intend to share her business location with Google.

“If you look at Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist, can you find him on Google? No. And I was like, I’m not the Google girl. It’s almost like an unattainable factor. Obviously, I want clients to be able to book with me. And I want to have enough availability, but it’s like you want to be unattainable in your business, because that requires a demand and that demand makes you more clients.”

Madison Swenson, owner of Madz Tans in Orem, applies a spray tan to Sydney Glenn on Friday, April 28, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Beauty side hustles

More and more people are investing in extra-income opportunities to combat the stress of inflation and layoffs. And the beauty industry is a popular category for people looking to be part of the hustle culture.

Those side jobs often start out as hobbies for people to create extra income. According to Side Hustle Nation, 27% of full-time employees are earning income from a hobby, with 55% saying they’d like to start their own business based on their hobbies.

Millennials and Gen Zers are more likely than other generations to begin a side hustle, with 70% of Gen Z and 57% of millennials who say they’d like to pursue this option within the year, according to Millennial Money.

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“Leveraging your current skill set is one of the best ways to start a side hustle,” said LendingTree’s chief credit analyst, Matt Schulz. “We all have skills and talents — using yours to help bring in some extra income can be a great way to help yourself and your family’s financial situation.”

For some, a side gig could have the potential to become a full-time job, but for many, it is a secondary endeavor and nothing more.

Rather than pursue a college education, some high school graduates choose trade school.

Those looking for a job-specific skill, such as becoming a skin care specialist or hairstylist, can receive their education quickly and at a lower cost than most general college educations. Because of this, the number of people pursuing education in beauty-centered trade schools is growing rapidly.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that jobs for skin care specialists is expected to increase 17% from 2019-31, while the growth outlook for hairstylist and cosmetologist jobs is 11%.

Lindsey King is a certified esthetician at Elase Medical Spa in American Fork. After graduating from esthetician school in 2020, she struggled to find job openings in her field due to the pandemic.

To make ends meet and keep up with her education, she started taking clients at her house, performing lash lifts and tints as well as body waxing. She was able to take advantage of a hustle culture that didn’t seem to slow during the pandemic.

“I wasn’t really ever planning on doing it as a side hustle. I always thought that I would just go straight into a med spa and work as an esthetician there, but then I graduated during COVID so I didn’t have a choice,” she told the Deseret News.

“During that time, people were kind of desperate because their typical places were closed. So I started off by just doing friends and family because the places that they used to go were closed or weren’t taking new clients during the pandemic,” she said.

King benefited from the demand the pandemic created.

Now she has a full-time job at the med spa that helps her keep up with education on the latest treatments and she still has her small business on the side.

She said she enjoys the flexibility that being her own boss provides and notes that she can add more clients if she wants a little extra spending money that month.

“I definitely live off of what I make at the med spa, and then anything that I do at home is kind of just fun spending money. Honestly, that influences how many hours I open up per month or whatever, like if I have more things I want to do or something I want to buy I’ll open a couple spots for more clients.”

Money issues

Using your talents to make extra income on your own time seems like a no-brainer. A 2023 statistic by European Language Jobs found that “only 51% of people claim to love their full-time job; 76% say they love their side hustle.”

Those who start a side gig have to be careful, though, in making sure their small business is legitimate in the eyes of the law.

The Internal Revenue Service recently announced a one-year delay on its reporting rule for third-party peer-to-peer payments.

“As part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the rule required people who earned more than $600 on peer-to-peer payment apps to report the figure as income to the IRS. It also required the payment apps to report to the IRS all those who earned more than the allotted threshold. The previous reporting threshold was 200 transactions or $20,000,” according to the Deseret News.

Many on both sides of the political spectrum expressed concern that the law would create unnecessary pressures on taxpayers, especially those who fall under the category of small business owners.

Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., questioned the IRS rule in an opinion piece published on The Hill: “Does getting rid of old exercise equipment collecting dust in the garage online now qualify you as a salesman of workout equipment? Is a teenager babysitting the neighbors’ kids now in the childcare business? Are roommates who split rent now property managers?”

Companies that support personalized products from a wide range of creators, like Etsy, asked Congress to delay the bill. “They formed the Coalition for 1099-K Fairness to protect Americans who have had little time to prepare for the change,” the Deseret News reported.

The Utah influencer

“Salt Lake City has more plastic surgeons per capita than Los Angeles,” per Allure.

According to a Forbes article on the vainest cities in America, Salt Lake City residents took the cake for taking the most pride in their looks.

Along with that, influencers are constantly trying to promote natural beauty, clean eating and high-fitness lifestyles.

These lifestyles are often depicted by influencers in Utah who historically have a high success rate when starting a side gig in blogging and social media influencing.

“Utah women and families have been at the forefront of sharing their personal lives online. In the 2000s, bloggers rose to prominence sharing personal, of-the-minute updates about their own lives. ... A noticeable chunk of them were Utahns and/or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so much so that the term ‘Mormon mommy blogger’ became a frequently-used catchall,” per Salt Lake Magazine.

A recent story on the “Momfluencers” of Utah by a Deseret News contributor, L.R. Encinas, delves into the entrepreneurial drive that these women have in using their talents to create successful businesses from their homes.

“These highlighted, filtered influencers are not so different from the business leaders and tech founders who have come to define the state’s economy. They secure lucrative brand deals, grow successful companies and promote their own products in extremely competitive markets,” Encinas said.

Getting a following that trusts you in whatever you are promoting is key is creating a successful business.

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Alistair Dodds, marketing director and co-founder of London-based Digital Marketing Agency EIC Marketing, told Financial Post, “People follow real, genuine people who know their stuff. They don’t want flaky wannabes who are clearly just in it for attention and the money.”

Whether it’s lifestyle blogging like Kenna Bangerter, or sharing clean eating habits like Lillie Biesinger or maybe photography like Summer Rae, these women and many others have used social media as a tool to invest in themselves to promote their brand and create a successful business at home.

Stanford University’s monthly study of people who work remotely discovered that “27% of paid full-time days were worked from home in early 2023. ... Last month, the survey found that 12% of workers were fully remote, roughly 60% fully in person and 28% hybrid,” according to The New York Times.

Social media has made it more convenient for people to start side hustles in the comfort of their own homes. This gives content creators more time to invest their hobbies into profit to create a sustainable business.

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