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How to Start a Spray Tanning Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Spray Tanning Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$2,550 - $9,100

Revenue potential

$50,000 - $125,000 p.a.

Time to build

0 – 3 months

Profit potential

$40,000 - $100,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

Most people would love to relax on a warm beach every day and turn golden brown from the sun’s rays. But the vast majority of us need to work, besides the fact that too much time in the sun could damage your skin, even cause skin cancer. So instead a lot of people turn to spray tanning to get that sun-kissed look. 

The tanning salon market, which includes spray tanning and tanning under UVA lights, has seen rapid growth in the last decade and continues to expand in 2022. The hot new trend in the last few years is mobile spray tanning, which brings the salon to client’s homes and offices. You can start your own spray tanning business, either mobile or traditional, and help people look good while making good money. 

But before you buy your equipment, you need to know the process of starting a business. Fortunately, all the information you need to launch a successful spray tanning business is detailed in this handy step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting a spray tanning business has pros and cons to consider before deciding it it’s right for you. 

Pros

  • Growing Market – Spray tanning is seeing rapid growth
  • Flexibility – Set your own hours with a mobile tanning business
  • Good Money – Make $40 per tan with great profit margins

Cons

  • Training Necessary – Learning spray tanning techniques is a must
  • Demanding Customers – You’ll need to deliver high-quality results

Spray tanning industry trends

Industry size and growth

spray tanning industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

spray tanning industry Trends and Challenges

Trends in the tanning salon industry include:

  • Demand is growing for organic and gentle spray tanning products that don’t contain additives, fragrances, and preservatives.
  • New products that do not leave a sticky residue and last longer have entered the market and are becoming very popular.

Challenges in the spray tanning industry include:

  • Some research has shown that the inhalation of spray tan products can have negative health effects. 
  • The demand for spray tanning can be somewhat seasonal, slowing in the winter months. 

How much does it cost to start a spray tanning business?

Startup costs for a mobile spray tanning business range from $2,500 to $9,000. The largest expense is for a complete mobile tanning kit, the cost for which can be anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your spray tanning business, including: 

  • Spray tanning guns
  • Tent
  • Sunless tanning products
  • Protective eye gear
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Mobile spray tanning starter kit$1,000 - $5,000$3,000
Total$2,550 - $9,100$5,825

How much can you earn from a spray tanning business?

spray tanning business earnings forecast

The average price for a single spray tan is $40. Your profit margin for a mobile spray tan business should be about 80%. 

In your first year or two, you could do four spray tans a day six days a week, bringing in $50,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $40,000 in profit, assuming that 80% margin. As you begin to get repeat business and referrals, you might do 10 spray tans a day. With annual revenue of $125,000, you’d make an outstanding profit of $100,000.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a spray tanning business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Learning spray tanning techniques
  • Competition from large tanning salons

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Step by Step Business values real-life experience above all. Through our Entrepreneur Spotlight Series, we interview business leaders from diverse industries, providing readers with firsthand insights.

Discover the secrets of successful entrepreneurship in custom airbrush tanning with Emily Turner’s insightful journey at Golden Hour.

Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a spray tanning business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research spray tanning businesses in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a mobile tanning business or an airbrush tanning business.

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as mobile spray tanning or organic sunless tanning.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your services

As a mobile tanning service, you can do traditional spray tanning or airbrush tanning. If you open a salon, you can also offer tanning beds. 

How much should you charge for spray tanning?

The average price of a spray tan is $40. Your costs as a mobile business will be limited to fuel and tanning solutions, so you should aim for a profit margin of 80%.

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will be broad, although it may tend to be younger. You can find those people on TikTok and Instagram. 

Where? Choose a location for your salon

At some point, you may want to switch from a mobile business to a physical salon. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

spray tanning business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Spray Tanning Salon Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “tanning” or “golden spray tan”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Sun Kissed Beauty” over “Fitness Tan Business”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Spray Tanning Salon Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: Outline your spray tanning salon’s vision to provide clients with a safe, high-quality alternative to traditional tanning methods.
  • Business Overview: Describe your salon’s focus on offering professional spray tanning services, featuring a range of shades and organic options.
  • Product and Services: Detail the various spray tanning services offered, including different shades, express tans, and package deals.
  • Market Analysis: Assess the demand for spray tanning services in your area, considering factors like local demographics and beauty trends.
  • Competitive Analysis: Compare your salon to local tanning options, highlighting your advantages in product quality, technique, or salon experience.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategy for attracting clients, using methods like social media marketing, promotional offers, or partnerships with local businesses.
  • Management Team: Highlight the experience and qualifications of your team, particularly in beauty services and customer care.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the operational aspects of running the salon, including appointment scheduling, customer service, and maintaining equipment.
  • Financial Plan: Provide an overview of financials, including startup costs, pricing strategy, and revenue projections.
  • Appendix: Include supplementary documents like product brochures, customer testimonials, or detailed market research to support your business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to spray tanning businesses. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your spray tanning business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a spray tanning business. 

Step 8: Apply for Spray Tanning Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a spray tanning business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your spray tanning business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as vagaro, Phorest, or appointy, to manage your appointments, client database, and payments. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Develop your website

Developing a website for your spray tanning business is a crucial step in expanding your customer base and enhancing your brand’s online presence. You have two primary options: using a website builder, which is cost-effective and user-friendly, or hiring a professional web developer for a more customized solution. A well-designed website should be optimized for search engines (SEO) to increase visibility, utilizing keywords relevant to spray tanning and your local area.

It’s important to include engaging content, such as services offered, pricing, testimonials, and high-quality images of your work. Additionally, ensure your website has clear call-to-action (CTA) buttons, like ‘Book Now’ or ‘Contact Us’, making it easy for potential clients to engage with your business.

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Local SEO Optimization: Ensure your business is listed on Google My Business and other local directories. Use location-specific keywords in your website’s content, titles, and meta descriptions to improve local search visibility.
  • Social Media Marketing: Utilize platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Post before-and-after photos, client testimonials, and special offers. Engaging with local community groups on these platforms can also increase visibility.
  • Referral Programs: Encourage word-of-mouth marketing by offering incentives to clients who refer new customers. This can be in the form of discounts or free services.
  • Collaborate with Local Businesses: Partner with local gyms, beauty salons, and clothing stores. You can offer their customers exclusive deals and vice versa, creating a mutual referral system.
  • Email Marketing: Collect email addresses from clients and send out newsletters with special offers, new services, or helpful tips about skin care and tanning.
  • Promotions and Discounts: Offer introductory prices, seasonal discounts, or package deals to attract new clients and retain existing ones.
  • Attend Local Events: Participate in local fairs, beauty expos, and community events to showcase your services and offer mini-sessions or demonstrations.
  • Customer Reviews: Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews online, particularly on Google and Yelp, to enhance your business’s credibility and attract more clients.
  • Educational Content: Create blog posts or videos about spray tanning, skin care, and related topics. This positions you as an expert in the field and improves your website’s SEO.
  • Online Booking System: Implement an easy-to-use online booking system on your website, making it convenient for clients to schedule appointments.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your spray tanning business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your spray tanning business could be: 

  • Organic sunless tanning in just 10 minutes
  • Fast, convenient tanning at your home or office
  • Avoid the dangers of UV with a golden spray tan 

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a spray tanning business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in spray tanning for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in spray tanning. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a spray tanning business include:

  • Tan Technicians – perform spray tanning services
  • General Manager – scheduling, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Spray Tanning Business – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

The tanning industry is booming and spray tanning is becoming a bigger part of that market as people look for non-UV methods. Demand for mobile spray tanning is also on the rise, making it easier and less expensive to get in on the action. Whether you decide to go into mobile spray tanning or open a salon, you can make a comfortable living.

You’ve got the business aspects down, now it’s time to launch your successful spray tanning business!

Spray Tanning Business FAQs

Is a spray tanning business profitable?

Yes, particularly a mobile spray tanning business. You can charge about $40 per spray tan, and your expenses will be very low. The key is to provide great customer service so you get repeat business and referrals.

How can I learn to be a tan technician?

You can take online tanning courses from the National Tanning Training Institute. They also provide certification. Courses are self-study and exams are required.

How can I differentiate my spray tanning business from competitors in the market?

Differentiate your spray tanning business by offering personalized consultations and custom spray tan solutions tailored to each client’s skin tone and preferences, providing exceptional customer service, ensuring a comfortable and clean environment, using high-quality tanning products, staying updated with the latest techniques and trends, and offering competitive pricing or package deals.

Are spray tans risky?

Spray tans, when done properly, are generally considered safe. However, there are some risks associated with spray tanning. These include allergic reactions or skin irritations caused by the ingredients in the tanning solution, inhalation of the spray mist, or improper application leading to uneven or streaky results.

What is used for a spray tan?

Spray tans typically use a tanning solution that contains an active ingredient called DHA (dihydroxyacetone). DHA reacts with the amino acids in the top layer of the skin to produce a temporary tan. The solution may also include other ingredients such as moisturizers, bronzers, or skin-nourishing substances to enhance the tanning effect and provide a smooth application.

How can I ensure the safety and quality of the spray tanning services I provide?

Firstly, make sure to use high-quality and reputable tanning solutions from trusted suppliers. Educate yourself and your staff on proper application techniques, including the use of protective measures such as goggles, nose plugs, and mouth covers for clients. Maintain strict hygiene standards by cleaning and sanitizing the tanning booth or area between each client. Additionally, provide clear instructions on pre-tan and post-tan care, including exfoliation, moisturizing, and avoiding contact with water immediately after the session. 

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How to Start a Spray Tanning Business