You’ve got the creds, you’ve done your fair share of shampoo jobs and your client book isn’t too shabby. It’s time to strike out on your own! Where do you start and what are some steps you need to take into consideration? Read our handy checklist of what you need to become an independent hairstylist.
Before you take the plunge and go solo, check if your creds are up to scratch. Ensure your beauty school program's credentials are state-approved or you won’t be able to practice. You can find a list on the AACS website.
You may not be able to niche down right from the start but as you build your experience, you might find you’re exceptionally skilled at a certain aspect of hairstyling. This could be coloring, highlights, cutting, balayage, or even dealing with certain hair types. Pay attention to your client book and start building your areas of specialty with the view of making it your “calling card” in the future.
Becoming an independent hairstylist also means becoming your own boss, marketing department, social media producer, and sales rep all at the same time. And on top of that your chairside manner will be crucial to the success of your business. The best hairstylists know soft skills like active listening, customer service, and strong interpersonal skills all help to maintain a healthy book of returning regulars.
First up, where will you be working from? Do you want to open your own space, work out of your home, or rent a chair in a salon, and is there someone you can partner with to split the cost of your chair rental? Having a business plan and business license in place is crucial. You’ll need to detail what type of customers you’re after (a hairstylist specializing in children’s cuts is very different from one who works on relaxing hair), the type of acquisition channels (social media, client database conversion), who will supply your haircare goods, and also the insurance (general liability is a must) and equipment required. Getting clarity on all of the above will help you become successful faster and sidestep any hiccups.
You can start by talking to other independent hairstylists to get a feel for what going solo entails but it’s also important to do proper due diligence. Contact your state’s Department of Labor and Industry and the Board of Cosmetology to find out what regulations and laws to take heed of. You’ll also need to decide on a legal structure (Sole proprietorship, Limited liability company (LLC)) so you can receive a federal tax ID number. Also, do look into what sort of retail license you’ll need and the type of business operation license and certificate of occupancy required.
Every business needs a budget and yours is no different. It doesn’t have to be too complicated, and getting help from a financial advisor will take on some of the heavy lifting, especially when it comes to your taxes. You’ll need to knuckle down on your price structure and rate card for services, as well as to detail out start-up costs, sales forecast, monthly operating costs, and projected cash flow. While your budget will be unique to your specific needs and expenses, a financial plan helps keep everything in focus.
Choosing the right place to set up isn’t just about customers coming to you or where you prefer to work out of. While your space or salon vibe is important, so are other details like ensuring there’s ample parking, even better if it’s free, accessibility, and what sort of foot traffic you can expect. While advertising to your existing client base or using marketing channels like YouTube or Instagram will bring some new customers, never underestimate the power of walk-bys who will pass your salon/chair space every day.
Depending on the type of services you’re going to offer, you may need specific equipment to support your process. Equipment can be expensive, so start looking around (FB Marketplace, Craigslist) for the essential tools (powerful hairdryer, hot styling tools, coloring accessories, comb and clip set) you’ll need and what you need to kit out your space. Be proactive about looking for upgraded tools as and when it’s needed and don’t feel you need to start off immediately with top-of-the-line equipment.
With your business plan in place, permits and insurance obtained and location secured, it’s time to market your services. If you’ve got an existing client book, that’s the perfect place to start but also do some local market research so you know more about the customers in the area. Are they generally more millennials looking for cool, new cuts or mums looking for regular blowouts? Having an online presence is going to be key, so start looking into ways to promote your business for free via Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok etc… Identify potential collaborative partners, craft engaging social media posts (or engage someone to help) and start crafting exclusive deals for your followers and those essential before and after pictures.
If you are interested in striking out on your own, contact ArtistonGo and find out how you can rent a salon space according to your needs, by the hour, or by the month. We can offer your business a fully furnished salon with full backbar access starting from $790/mo and hourly plans from $20/hr. Contact us today to find out more.