Posts in Cosmetology Student
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

The Great Debate:Rental Vs. Commission
Photo courtesy of salon Nine Zero One at

Photo courtesy of salon Nine Zero One at

There are two main options when you are working has a hairstylist.  You can choose to join a salon as an employee paid on commission or choose to rent a chair in a salon.  When I was in cosmetology school I thought I would absolutely rent a chair.  In school I learned about the value of completing an assisting program and continuing my education which is the path I ultimately chose. Having been in the industry for nearly ten years now, I can see the pros and cons to both working rental and commission so let's clear up the great debate a little bit.  

Rental Salon Pros

  • You can make your own schedule.  This is probably the biggest pull for most people especially if you have kids or a busy social calendar.  
  • You can offer whatever services you want at whatever price point makes sense to you.  
  • You are essentially a business owner so you can design your website, business cards and other marketing materials however you'd like.
  • All of your income is yours to keep and do with what you want.  You don't need to tell the owner of your salon how much money you make nor do you owe the owner a percentage of your sales.  
  • Business owner tax perks.  You can write off the cost of purchasing haircolor, retail products, marketing materials, rent, education, education travel expenses to name just a few.  

Rental Salon Cons

  • You need to generate your own business.  Since you are just renting a chair, the owner won't generally do much to help you get clients so you'll need to work hard to market yourself.
  • You need to create a system for ordering and organizing your stock of color and other backbar products.  If you aren't organized or don't create a system for yourself you could potentially run out of colors or over purchase and end up wasting money on products you don't use.
  • You'll need to plan for a trip or two to the beauty supply store each week to stock up on haircolor and other products.
  • You need to pay taxes quarterly.  You'll have to keep very detailed records of your expenses and income and estimate your annual income in order to pay taxes annually.  If you don't pay enough quarterly, you'll have a huge bill to pay at the end of the year.
  • You won't receive any benefits like insurance coverage, vacation days, free education, a retirement account so you'll need to set aside money and pay for these things yourself.
  • If you should get pregnant and have a baby, you won't be able to file for maternity leave benefits from your state because you don't pay into the state disability account. You will also most likely still need to pay your rent even if you are out on a maternity leave.
  •  You'll be responsible for paying rent regardless of how many clients you have.  If your rent is $300 per week and you have a slow week and only generate $400 in services, you'll be left with only $100 in your pocket to pay for your haircolor, groceries and any other personal expenses you have.

Benefits of working on commission

  • You'll receive a weekly or bi-weekly paycheck from your employer with taxes already deducted and accounted for.
  • Your hair color, backbar and retail products will most likely all be purchased by the salon owner for you so you won't need to be making any trips to the store to stock up.
  • You can potentially receive benefits like vacation pay, medical or dental insurance, contributions towards your retirement account, free education, free station products.
  • You'll be a part of a team all working towards the common goal and believing in the culture of the salon.  Often this leads to less drama and a more peaceful working environment.
  • You may have the potential of having an assistant.  Working with an assistant potentially doubles your income because they can be applying you haircolor and doing blow-dry styling while you focus on foiling and haircutting.
  • You don't have to pay rent and often times your commission is supplemented with hourly pay if you have a slow day.
  • You'll be contributing towards the state and federal benefits systems which means that you can file for short term disability benefits if you want to take a maternity leave or if you injure yourself on the job.
  • All of the marketing materials will be provided including a professional website, business cards, brochures, gift certificates, etc.  The salon should run monthly specials and promotions to help you increase sales and build clientele as well.

Cons of working on commission

  • You'll most likely need to work a structured scheduled based on whatever hours your employer requires.
  • You will have to use whatever hair color and retail lines the salon has selected to bring into the salons.  It is very rare that a salon would make an exception to this rule.
  • A portion of the proceeds from each service will automatically be kept by the salon owner.  The portion that is kept is used to cover all of your benefits and the cost of having you working in the salon and a small portion is profit to the salon owner as well.
  • Your service pricing is determined by the salon owner and generally can only be raised and lowered on the discretion of the salon owner.
  • You must request and be granted time off if you wish to take a vacation or an extra day off.
  • Your salon owner can determine how you dress, what your marketing materials will look like and the decor of the salon and you won't have much say about it. 

Whichever arrangement you choose, make sure that you sign an employment contract that details exactly what you will and won't be responsible for upfront.  If it's not in writing, it's meaningless so get organized from the start and be clear about what you're signing up for. xoxo

Put your best foot forward:Preparing for your spa or salon job interview

You've double checked your resume, created your presentation folder, researched your dream salon and finally landed an interview.  Awesome!  This is the final step before your start your career.   I used to be so nervous going into interviews and a few years ago I figured out the secret to letting the nerves go.  Spend the days leading up to your interview doing all of your research and preparing and by the time your interview comes around you'll be calm and collected.

  1. Choose your outfit wisely-When doing salon research I recommended visiting your dream employers in person.  Hopefully you took the time to do your in person research and you should dress to the standards of your potential employer for the interview.  If the team wears all black, you should wear all black to the interview.  If the team wears jeans and a t-shirt, I wouldn't go that casual, but I wouldn't wear all black either.  Maybe a nice colored dress for a woman or dress slacks with a colored dress shirt and no tie for a man. If you are applying for a position and the team wears uniforms which is common in a spa and some salons too, be conservative with your attire and keep accessories to a minimum.   The goal here is to look like you already fit in.
  2. Do your research-Take the time to research your potential employers website, social media and Yelp page.  These outlets will have valuable information about the salon or spas structure, clientele, retail lines, reputation, etc and your employer will be impressed if you've spent the time to research their business.  It makes you appear more serious, mature and prepared.
  3. Interview yourself ahead of time-Spend the days leading up to your interview running through interview questions and practicing what your response would be.  Focus on the tough questions such as "What are three things you feel like you should improve upon" or "How do you handle disagreements with your coworkers or the management team". Don't be afraid to say your responses out loud too.  By doing this exercise the responses to tough questions will already be sitting right on the tip of your tongue waiting to come out in the interview.  This will help melt the nerves away and make you feel more prepared. 
  4. Come prepared-By this point you should have already created your presentation folder.  Grab your folder and make sure that you've customized your cover letter to be addressed to the hiring manager.  It is a good idea to add in some details about the salon you are interviewing at to personalize your cover letter even more.  Even if you've already mailed a copy of your application package, bring a brand new folder filled with the documents anyway.  You never know if the person you are interviewing with is different than the person who initially saw your information so you want to have a copy just in case.  
  5. Portfolio presentation- In my previous post Put your best foot forward: Beyond the resume I discuss the portfolio options.  If you decided to use any option other than a physical book, you should bring an iPad or laptop to your interview if possible to show off your portfolio.  From your device you could login to your Instagram, Facebook, website or a folder of saved photos.  If bringing a device isn't an option, that is okay.  Instead come prepared with a nice portfolio of 7-20 printed images of your work.  
  6. Prepare a few questions-It has always bothered me when I ask an applicant if they have questions and they can't think of a single one.  It has always made me feel like they are disconnected or aren't taking the job seriously.
  7. Pack a thank-you note-This is one of my best tips and can make or break your interview.  Stash a blank note in your car and when you finish your interview jot down a nice, personalized note to the person who interviewed you.  Drop the card at the local post office so that the interviewer receives your card within the first 48 hours.  Less than 25% of applicants do this little extra step and it makes all the difference.  
  8. Practice makes perfect-If the spa or salon you are interviewing with requires a live model demonstration, be sure to line up a model and practice what you plan to execute ahead of time.  If you'll be demonstrating something temporary like a blow-dry or massage, practice on your model at least twice so that you are both as comfortable as possible.  If you need to showcase something permanent like a haircut or eyebrow wax, use a doll head or ask another friend to be your model ahead of time just so that you can work all of the nerves out before you are in front of your applicant.  It is important that when you are practicing to pretend you are in the interview.  Don't be casual just because it is you and a friend practicing in the living room.  Explain to your friend the importance of the exercise and you should both stay very professional.
  9. Above all, relax-I realized that an interview goes both ways meaning that it is a chance for me to interview my potential employer just as much as it is a chance for them to meet me.  You really only want to work at a place that feels comfortable and meets all of your criteria so take a breath and tell yourself "I'm just going to be me and hope that this works out".  Be polite and professional but it is also important to be honest and true to yourself.  If you have to put on an act and become somebody you aren't, you are allowing the employer to fall in love with the character you create and long term employment might not work out when they discover the true you.  

The interviewer is looking for a new member for their employee family.  The less nervous and more prepared you can be, the better the experience will be for both of you.  I always advise new graduates who are about to start the interview process to select the salon that feels like home.  Don't just choose the coolest salon with the edgiest reputation or the spa that is flooded with walk-ins.  Both of those things are great, but if you didn't get along with the interviewer or the team seemed unhappy or cold, go with your gut and keep looking.  Above all else, it is important to find the place that will make you happy for 40+ hours a week for the next several years. xoxo