8 Shocking Truths About Hair Stylists & Salon Owners: Realities Of The Industry Today

Do you ever wonder if you’re totally alone in the way you’re feeling about your career?  If any other stylists have the same concerns, struggles, goals and aspirations?

I did too so I thought “hey, why don’t I just ask” !?!?!

Just a few months ago I sent out a survey asking stylists to candidly tell me about their life, their personal income, their retirement savings, their mistakes as stylists, their major wins.  I wanted to know it all!  Lucky for me, you guys totally spilled and the result is this amazing list of the 8 shocking truths about our industry that every stylist should know.


Shocking Truth #1- Only 9% of stylists surveyed are on track to have the $1,000,000 we’ll all need in order to retire successfully

Now this one really broke my heart.  We spend our entire life working hard to support and build a beautiful life in hopes of one day being able to slow down and step away comfortably.  I know we all love this industry, but I don’t know about you, I don’t want to be working 30 hours a week to support myself when I’m 70.  

Us News reports that most Americans will need somewhere between $600,000-$2,000,000 based on your marital status, lifestyle, state taxes, etc to successfully retire.  Most of us dream of doing things like traveling, enjoying our kids and grand kids, maintaining a comfortable lifestyle and affording quality healthcare.  All of those things cost real money and the cost to have those things will only increase over time.

If you’re in Thrivers Society, we talk about financial management and saving for retirement through the course, but even if you aren’t enrolled yet I strongly encourage you to prioritize retirement savings starting now.  I started saving for retirement at 17 when it seemed like a distant time that there was plenty of time to plan for, but man am I happy now that I started early because the longer you wait, the harder it becomes.

One stylist surveyed said: “We are in a pattern where we save then spend to have a better future! First we saved to have our daughter and now we have saved to open a salon. Next a house! Then retirement”.

I’m so sorry to say this isn’t a working strategy.  Statistically, the longer you wait to start saving for retirement, the odds of you ever retiring decreases dramatically year over year.  Compound interest is a huge factor in retirement and without that interest building for decades, it becomes increasingly more challenging to ever get there.

Shocking Truth #2- 54% of stylists polled take advantage of free online education resources daily!

Yesssssssss, this made me so happy.  We are living in an age where there is no excuse for being uneducated.  Education is at our fingertips and available to watch 24 hours a day at home. 

Resources like Youtube, Facebook Live, private Facebook groups for hair stylist education, podcasts and more are everywhere. and you’ve got to get involved.

Here are a few of my favorite business building resources for stylists:

If you aren’t already following me, you can join me here at Britt Seva Social Media & Marketing Strategist on Facebook for live weekly business building strategy videos, breaking social media tips and the opportunity to get my eyes on your business through my weekly Q&A opportunities!

American Salon Stories Podcast- Presented by Gordon Miller and American Salon Magazine, this podcast features inspirational industry leaders sharing stories of both successes and failures on the rise to the top.

Michelle Hair Business Facebook Group- Presented by Orange County CA Salon Owner Michelle Stevenson, Michelle hops on Facebook Live weekly and shares her strategies for building as an educator and salon owner as well as successful social media marketing strategies.  

Free Salon Education Youtube Channel- I love this channel for it’s balance of business building and technical tutorials. With videos as short as 60 seconds and podcast episodes that are 45 minutes long, there is a great mix to review here if you’re looking to up your game. 

Shocking Truth #3- 67% of stylists polled spent over $1,000 on advanced education in 2016.

So awesome.  The best part is that many of those stylists reported spending $4,000, $7,000, even $10,000+ on education.

But wait, why bother spending all that cash if I just mentioned above that there is free education everywhere?

Because I don’t know a single educator who shares their best, most effective strategies for free.  I know I don’t!  The reason why so many of my followers join my Thrivers Society program is because they realize that while my free stuff is good, there’s got to be something more and, holy sh*t, what I share for free is only the tip of the iceberg.  The real, effective, strategic stuff is what my students pay for and it’s well worth the investment.  

When you see a good educator and really apply what you learn through the experience, the money you pay to educate yourself should pay for itself and then some.  Apply good education to your business should always come back to reward you.

This being said, I also saw many stylists say things like:

“I am a educator so I get free education from the company”

“My salon provides free education so I’m covered”

You’re sooooooo not covered.  When you rely on your company or your employer to provide all of your education you’re missing out on way too much and you’re selling yourself short.  The elite 5% of our industry always spends at least $500 a year on advanced education out of pocket and beyond what is provided.  Make a commitment to yourself that this year you’ll do the same.

Shocking Truth #4- Overall, 36% of stylists polled said they are at a place in their business where their priority is enjoying their free time, even if it means they’ll make less money.

This is a fascinating reality, not just in our industry, but in all industries trending right now.  For so many years we were all taught to believe that the goal in life was to work hard, support yourself and create financial stability at all costs.  Fast forward to today and we are all making a shift where we realize that life is too short to work it all away.  

The best part about our industry is that you can have a healthy work-life balance if you work strategically.  It doesn’t have to take decades to get to that place, it just takes a structured business building plan, but any stylist really can make that happen.

Shocking Truth #5- 72% of stylists polled stated that they are truly happy with the money they are making right now.

This shocked me for two reasons; reason number one is because I hear SO many stylists saying they really need to be making more money and reason number two is Shocking Truth #6…..

Shocking Truth #6- 62% of stylists polled stated that they are currently in debt

Wait, wait, wait.  How can you say you’re financially satisfied, but also in debt?  Those two things can’t go together but clearly many stylists who stated that they are financially happy are also in debt.  

If you aren’t able to live a debt free lifestyle, technically, you aren’t making enough money.  A mortgage on a home is a longterm investment and one of the only forms of debt that is healthy to carry, beyond that, if you can’t pay off all of your bills each month you really can’t financially doing well with the money you’re making. 

Shocking Truth #7- 17% of salon owners don’t know if, knowing what they know now, they’d choose salon ownership again.

This actually didn’t sock me that much, but I think it’s really important to share.  I think there is this idea that salon owners are raking in cash, living the good life and it’s really the golden ticket to success. This couldn’t be farther from the truth and it’s important that all stylists know that.

Now, brilliant and modern salon owners are pretty happy campers.  They are attracting great talent, happy working behind their chair and coaching their team.  You can 100% have that but it comes down to great leadership, staying current, offering incredible benefits (and I don’t mean health insurance benefits) and 

Salon owners who said they aren’t sure if salon ownership was the right choice also said:

“My biggest regret is not hiring a business coach sooner”

“I know now that as an owner you’ve got to get rid of the rotten apples as quickly as possible”

“I should ever have hired my friends.  It hurt the friendship and the business.”

Shocking Truth #8- 71% of stylists admitted that they got in to this industry to either make great money, become a salon owner or some variation of both.

THANK YOU!!! Seriously, thank you all for being so honest because, let’s be real, we love our clients, we get to be creative, but you do this because you want to make great money and that is okay!  Most people don’t choose a career in hopes it will make them broke.

So often when I ask why stylists got in to the industry I hear responses like:

"to make people look and feel beautiful" or "to be able to be creative at work"

I get that, but those are more fringe benefits of the work that we do.  They are the pieces that fulfill us and say "yes, I love my career and industry", but creativity and positive vibes don't pay the bills.

Wanting to make good money that provides a beautiful lifestyle is a great thing!  I personally don’t think money is everything, but I wouldn’t work if it didn’t bring me income and, come on, admit that you wouldn’t either.  We are very blessed that we do get to get paid to do what we love, but never forget that this is what you do to financially support your lifestyle.


Britt Seva