Setting yourself apart as a new stylist

The career of the hairdresser is one of the only job paths on the planet that allows you to work 32 hours a week, the schedule you desire and still make a solid six-figure income.  The nice big paycheck and clutch schedule is the end goal, but it doesn't start out that way.  I always tell new stylists that they need to prepare for 3 years of blood, sweat and tears.  It takes a good 3 years of struggle, hard work and lots of Top Ramen for dinner before you really start making a good living.

The sad reality is that 90% of licensed Cosmetologists won't continue working as a stylist beyond their first 5 years in the industry.  This statistic used to blow my mind, but in my career as a salon manager it became so apparent why some people make it and some people don't.  The secret is the desire to work hard and make it happen.  Most new stylists think they have what it takes to make it happen, but if you aren't willing to spend 3 years sacrificing time away from your loved ones, long hours and working nights and weekends, then you don't have what it takes.  Ask yourself if 3 years of sacrifice for a lucrative career in an industry you love is worth it.  If the answer is "yes", read on.

The key to being in the 10% that will make it in this industry is setting yourself apart from the pack.  Here are just a few ways you can start growing your business:

  1. Work Sundays and Mondays.  Yep, I know this sucks a little bit, but we all know that most stylists take Sundays and Mondays off so if you choose to work those days you have just filled a need in the industry.  Very few stylists are willing to make this sacrifice so be the one who is willing to be flexible even if it's just for one or two years.  We actually did a survey in the salon about a year ago and we had many clients requesting we open on Sundays and Mondays.
  2. Hand out your card EVERYWHERE.  It always makes me cry inside when a new stylist doesn't hand out at least 50 business cards a month.  When I was building my clientele I handed out cards to the checker at the grocery store, the adorable girl at Nordstroms, in the billfold after a nice meal, my daughters swim class teacher.  Literally everywhere.  You never know who is looking for a new stylist.  For every 50 cards you may only get 2 new clients, but that is two more than you would have gotten if you didn't hand cards out at all. It's scary to hand out your cards to strangers for the first 3-5 times but you'll get used to it and I promise it won't be awkward for long.
  3. Be a "yes" stylist.  It always amazes me when stylists who are making less than $40,000 a year start to get picky about which clients they do and don't want to take.  If you aren't making enough money to pay a mortgage, put 10% of your income into a retirement account and still have fun money leftover after your bills, you shouldn't be saying no to a single opportunity.  If the front desk gets a call for a blow-dry at the very end of your day, you take it.  Sometimes that random blow-dry client will turn into your best regular guest who comes in for a tint every 6-weeks.
  4. Use social media to promote yourself.  Every new stylist needs to be very active on Facebook and Instagram at the very least.  The new trend is to have your own website to feature your works as well if you can.  You should also create a Yelp page for yourself and ask friends, family and then your best clients if they wouldn't mind leaving a review.  
  5. Sell retail! This is so important and often new stylists are too scared to even discuss retail with their client.  If you don't sell retail you are killing your business.  Statistics show that you are 40% more likely to retain a client if they purchase just one piece of retail from you.  Plus a good stylist who sells retail with confidence can increase their annual income by 10%-20% just by selling 2-3 pieces of retail per day.
  6. Use special offers to incentivize new guests.  You can offer 20% off a haircut with any color service or a complimentary in-salon conditioning treatment.  Even a gift certificate for $20 off a client's first visit with you works great.  Today's consumer loves a deal and sometimes just a little bit of a savings will push a client who is on the fence into your chair.
  7. Your family and friends should be a part of your marketing team.  Make sure all of your loved ones have a nice stack of your business cards and incentive offers if you have them and stress to them how important it is to you that they help build your business.  I advise new stylists to charge friends and family full price unless they are sending in at least one new client a month for you.
  8. Don't be a discount stylist! This is where a lot of new stylists fail.  They don't have the confidence in themselves to charge full price or are so scared to loose a client or two that they start discounting left and right.  I also hear a lot that they "feel bad" asking somebody they know personally to pay full price.  This is a huge mistake.  This tells your friends, family and clients that you aren't a true professional but more of a hobby hairdresser and you'll never build a lucrative career this way.
  9. Dress to impress.  Even if some of the other stylists in your salon have gotten a little lazy with their attire you need to be the stylist who always looks your best.  Seasoned stylists could probably wear a garbage bag and a lot of their clients would still come see them but you don't have that advantage yet.  I am a firm believer in the idea of dressing to the level of success you want to achieve.  If you want to be able to buy a $1000 handbag, you shouldn't be working in jeans, flip flops and a tee-shirt.  

If you haven't checked it out already, read my article about finding your hustle and building a clientele here.  Above all else, remember it takes three years to really build so stay confident and push through.  Trust me, you'll be happy you did. xoxo