If you are blessed with the gift of creating beautiful and creative up-dos, you are one up on me! I have the knack for creating the organic and soft playful up-dos but if a bride were to show me a picture of her dream wedding style I'd break out in a cold sweat and run the other direction. I truly believe that any stylist can learn to cut or color hair, but most stylists either have a natural affinity for bridal styling or they just don't. Special occasion styling to me is a completely different art form and for those stylists who have the patience to work with stressed out brides on their wedding day, I applaud you!
Becoming a bridal stylist can be an incredibly lucrative career. The average rate for a bridal style in the United states is $225. This means that half of stylists charge less and half charge more. In my research I saw listed prices of over $1,000 for bridal hair services. Not a bad paycheck for about 2 hours of work. Not to mention that priceless feeling you get when a bride looks in the mirror and tears up because she's never felt more beautiful.
I get emails every week from naturally gifted stylists who so desperately want to build their bridal business but don't know how to get the ball rolling. Let me tell you, once you get that ball rolling it just doesn't stop. Most stylists would say "if I can just get 5 or 6 weddings under my belt, I know I can do this". So how do you get those first 5 or 6? It's not as hard as you think.
Find a mentor-The very first thing I want you to do is humble yourself and find a mentor. If you know a truly successful bridal stylist you admire I want you to partner up with her. If you don't yet know somebody with a career you'd like to have then use the power of social media to do a little research. Reach out and make your intentions known. Say that you admire everything they've accomplished and would love the opportunity to assist and shadow them for a wedding or two or eight. You basically want as much experience as possible. If they offer to pay you, great, but I strongly suggest you offer to do it for free as a volunteer. This is a true gift and you can't put a price on the knowledge you'll receive.
Become a sponge-I want you to be as involved as possible. Find out from your mentor how she does her initial consultations, what does her contract look like, how much is the deposit, when is the final payment due, in addition to the bride how many other styles can she handle in a day, how much time does she give for each client. Can you see how you'd learn a ton if you were willing to shadow and soak it all in? If you're lucky she might even have you help her set some curls or place some pins. Be a sponge and absorb as much as you possibly can.
Create your brand and marketing-The first thing you need to do is set yourself up for success by developing your brand. You'll need to have a website, business cards and contracts in place. If you don't have all three pieces, you aren't ready to start. Brides these days are savvy and they'll expect you to have everything organized. You'll want to have at least 6 great photos of your work to build your site around, so ask friends or family to be your models and take amazing photos with simple backdrops and great lighting.
Build your social media-Over 70% of brides utilize social media when looking for bridal vendors. You want to be a part of that search! As you begin to build your Instagram and Facebook pages, it is okay to start by using reposted images that you love. As long as you give the proper credit and all of the images are in line with your brand, this is very okay. Instagram in particular is meant to be an online brochure so just be sure that the photos you feature represent your brand well.
Network for shared success-This is kind of the dirty little secret of some of the most successful bridal stylists and one of the most overlooked opportunities. Most bridal stylists struggle because even the prettiest website and the best business cards won't get you anywhere if nobody is looking at them, right? Here is the secret. Find an amazing wedding photographer or better yet a makeup artist. Maybe you met them while working with your mentor or perhaps you really connected with somebody on social media. The important thing is that you have some sort of relationship or connection. Don't try and cold call somebody and try to create a bond if there isn't an existing foundation. You can cross promote on social media, create pre-wedding bridal packages together, offer value added services to each others clients to build each other up. Imagine if a bride signs up for an engagement shoot with a photographer and that photographer says that included is a free pre-shoot blowout from you. Yes, you'll have to volunteer your time for the blowout, but it'll be incredible exposure and a great chance to make a connection.
Become a preferred vendor-As you may or may not know, before I got my cosmetology license I was selling wedding packages for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. We were approached all the time by vendors interested in being featured on our preferred vendor list. We were given incredible opportunities to meet wedding planners, hair and makeup artists, cake designers (yes, I ate tons of amazing cake!), musicians, etc and each year we'd re-evaluate who would be featured on our lists. Many of our brides just went right down the list and contracted with everybody we suggested. Reach out to local hotels and venues in your area and ask how to be featured.
Pay to be featured-Once you have at least a dozen truly professional images of your work (another great reason to partner with a photographer) I strongly suggested joining The Knot. It is an online vendor list for brides that will have a huge impact on your business. To be featured you'll have to pay several hundred dollars annually, but you will absolutely receive referrals and it will start to build your business. I know a bridal stylist who went from brand new and very green her first year to 100% filling her weekends during peak season within 2 years thanks to The Knot and her amazing skill set. Trust me, it works.
Above all else stay humble, positive and don't lose your hustle. The bridal business can be tough to break into, but the best of the best enjoy working seasonal weekends and taking much of the year off or work part-time behind the chair. Stay true to your passion and you'll achieve all of your goals and more.