The Worst, Career Crushing Mistakes That Any Hairstylist Could Make (You've Probably Made Every Single One)

Let's go back in time to the beginning of your career when you were just trying to figure out what the hell to do behind the chair.  You know the feeling you had when you are blowdrying a client and the color is just not right at all and she knows it and you know it and you'd rather crawl into a hole than have to even speak to this client anymore?  That felt like the worst mistake we could ever make as hairstylists.  Guess what, that is nothing compared to the mistakes that the majority of hairstylists make over and over throughout their career.

I always refer to the beauty industry as a unicorn because it is so unique and beautiful, but almost unbelievable at the same time.  This is an industry that most of the world will never fully understand and we are almost living in our own bubble.  In most other jobs you get a degree or certification, go to your job and do the same things over and over, possibly re-certify on the same skills you learned 20 years ago and wash, rinse, repeat.  It's groundhogs day.  We don't have that which is a blessing and a curse.

For us, the day never comes when we know all there is to know and our business is stable and perfect.  Our industry is ever evolving and it's a challenge to keep up.   We are also in an incredibly emotionally driven environment where the connections we build with our clients extend far beyond the styling chair.  Our clients walk in the door ready to spill their deepest darkest secrets to us as their confidant and we can't help but become emotionally invested.  

Many of us hit a point in our career where we just kind of "settle in".  You've been doing hair for a while, you get pretty comfy cozy and hit the cruise control button.  For some stylists it's 20 years in, for some it's 2 months in and either way it is a career crusher.  What happens is you are able to cruise for a short time and then it all starts to slip.  You lose money, you lose clients, you lose the financial freedom you'd once dreamed of and you lose your chance to successfully retire.

Want a roadmap for yourself to make sure that doesn't happen for you?   Here are 6 career crushing habits and how you can avoid them.

Talking crap in the break room- If you say you haven't been sucked into this, I'm going to say you're a liar.  It is so difficult to avoid that soul sucking, drama filled back lab or break room sometimes and we all know that misery loves company so it sucks us right in.  Have you ever been having a great day, walk in and somebody is talking about the terrible client they had, it makes you think about the crappy client you had the other day and then you get caught up complaining too? This pattern takes a toll over time and you'll find yourself dreading the drive to work every morning.  

I challenge you to have a mindset shift.  It's hard to avoid those conversations sometimes, but instead of joining the pitty party, simply listen and in your mind think about the clients you absolutely love and how blessed you are to have a job that lets you be creative and make GREAT money every single day.  There is no job on the planet where every single task or client is perfect, so laugh, let it go and don't get sucked in to the misery unless you are interested in becoming miserable yourself.

Discounting clients- This is like the kiss of death and we all do this.  There are two reasons why we discount; you feel like your client can't afford you or your feel like you just aren't worth it.  Both are completely wrong and this is the fastest way to end your career.

Most hairstylists are incredibly emotional in nature and we can't help but become emotionally invested in our clients too.  When somebody mentions their husband lost their job, suddenly their haircut becomes free.  WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?  There is no other industry on the planet where our personal hardships become the burden of another business.  If your client came to see you for a haircut, she pays full price for the haircut.  She made that commitment and choice to see, she decided she can afford it and she pays full price.  Period.

Another trap is the slippery slope where you put a price increase in place but some of your favorite, longtime clients continue to pay the old price.  That is a complete mess and is also incredibly unprofessional.  Have you thought about what that will do to your referral business?  If Sally only pays $60 for her haircuts but your new clients pay $80, she'll never ever send you a referral because in her mind that is too much.  It's also a mess to keep straight and will cost you tens of thousands of dollars over time. 

Not taking enough classes-The beauty industry changes faster than any other industry I know of.  We are comparable to the tech industries where as soon as you buy a new phone, they are already releasing another model.  As soon as we mastered hi-lights it became all about balayge and hair painting and then as soon as we got that down, we had to learn how to make 20 years olds silver and grey.  If you are thinking, well, my clients are in their 40's so they don't do that stuff, I want you to think about what will happen in 20 years.  Generally, women in their late 50's do scale back on beauty services unfortunately so your clients in their 40's will start to reduce the frequency of their visits and you'll need some fresh blood to fill those spots.  I hear from stylists in their 50's ALL THE TIME who say that their clientele has dwindled, they can't afford to retire but they don't know how to do modern techniques.  This is a career crusher.

I suggest spending a minimum of $500 a year on advanced education.  At this point I'm spending 4 times that on education and I'm not in the minority.  The best of the best are spending more than they can really afford on education because they know it's what it takes to move their business forward.  If you've been in the industry 25 years or 25 minutes, you need to educate yourself every single year.

Not Selling Retail-I know that selling retail is hard for most stylists at the beginning of their career, but you need to master the art of selling in your first 6 months.  Stylists who sell retail retain more clients, get more referrals and often increase their income by 7%-10% annually.

Selling retail has become much more difficult in the last two years.  We as consumers want what we want and we want it now and the internet allows us to get whatever we need with the touch of a button.  If a client likes a certain shampoo that you don't carry or have in stock, they don't need to wait any longer and can instead just have it shipped directly to their home.  How do we combat this?  You offer retail online!  Next week I'll be sharing more tools that will help to make this quick and painless, but if your clients like ordering retail online, then you need to offer your products online.

Every single woman I know uses shampoo, conditioner and at least one styling aid.  If they aren't getting it from you then they are getting it somewhere else.  You'll never sell retail to all of your clients, but our goal is to have at least 30% of your clients making a retail purchase.  We'll let 70% of your clients use Pantene Pro-V if they truly insist that it works for them, but you need to capture a minimum of 30% and you'll see a huge impact on your business.  

Forgetting that you need to be constantly growing- This is the biggest killer of all.  In any career we settle into a comfort zone at some point and often we forget to keep growing.  Most hairstylists lose about 10% of their clientele each year as clients move, decide to try a new stylist or want to see somebody at a different price point.  I know many of you read that and thought "I don't lose 10% a year", but I ask salon owners and stylists I coach to analyze their clientele all the time and it's rarely less and often much more. 

If you see 100 clients a month I'm going to assume you have a clientele of about 250 regular clients.  If you lose 10% each year that means you need to have 25 new clients each and every year.  This means you need to retain 2-3 new clients a month just to maintain your business and retain 3-5 new clients a month to grow.  Generally, stylists RETAIN about 20%-30% of their new clients longterm so you'd need at least 8 new requests a month just to maintain your business longterm!! That is a lot! If you aren't getting 8 new clients a month, don't sweat it, but know that you'll need to be attracting at least 50 new clients throughout the year just to maintain your business and there is no point in your career where you don't have to worry about this any more.

Stay tuned for more business building tips in the upcoming weeks loves!


Britt Seva