business advice

The following are the tools that I use to be an independent studio based hair stylist.  Also below is plenty of advice when considering a transition from commission to booth or studio rental.


Transitioning from commission to booth or studio rental

Hairdressers considering transitioning their business from commission and/or employee based to a independent contractor non-employee compensation based business have many things to consider.  

  • How will I book my clients?
  • How will people find me?
  • How do I do my taxes?
  • How do I accept payment for my products and services?
  • How do I offer hair products to my clients?
  • How do I retain clients?
  • How do I pay my rent?
  • How do I know when it is time to switch from assistant to stylist? Commission to Rent? Rent to Studio?

I will make an attempt below to answer these challenges in the way that I have found to solve them.

How will I book my clients

I personally use Square Appointments. I have found that it is extremely easy to set up and it has all of the features I need without any extra features to confuse me.  No one cares about your books more than you do and no one can run them as well as you can.  You will know your waitlist, which clients have priority on the list, and you will do the best job of fitting them in.

  • It will text confirmations to clients
  • automatically managed cancellation policy (CC required to book)
  • ability to require approval for new clients before an appointment can be booked
  • Easy online booking, can be connected to your website, or Square will host a website for booking for you
  • works on iphone
  • processes payments with iPhone using square card reader

How will clients find me?

While Instagram is a great marketing tool for clients to find you it is also beneficial to have your own website where prospective clients can see your services, pricing, and location.  I watched several videos when deciding on a tool to use to create my website.  I settled on using Square space after watching this video.  This father and son team made it look so easy to set up.  I just followed along and two hours later the first version of my website went live.

How do I do my taxes?

This has been a source of much stress for me.  At first in my career as a business owner back in 2004 I would keep receipts from my business expenses in a bag and then at the end of the year I would throw them at the tax professional and say "you figure it out".  Then when I married my husband he would record my expenses at year end when he did our taxes.  My husband wanted me to be knowledgeable about all aspects of my business so he eventually convinced me to do my business expense totaling myself. He eventually made me a spreadsheet that I used to record expenses, which felt very tedious. Then in 2018 we kept seeing advertisements about QuickBooks self employed app.  It seems like a great idea so this is what we are using now.  It connects to turbo tax at year end to facilitate tax preparation. The key is to have a business checking account for hand written checks and credit card for electronic charges that are separate from your personal that connect directly to QuickBooks so that expenses simply show up in the app.  I then swipe left for business and right for personal.  Just like on Tinder! If you pay for anything in cash you can add it manually. You can also set up the app to track miles as you drive to supply houses or educational trips. Then the app even shows what your next tax payment is going to be, that way you can 'pay yourself' from your business account into your personal and be sure to leave enough back for your quarterly payments! A safe assumption is that at least 50% of your gross income is going to expenses and taxes and the other half is actual profit. So if your haircut is $65, plan on taking home about $32.50.   

I also included a video to the right from Dave Ramsey that discusses how to pay bills with irregular income.  Here is a link on how to budget also.  Dave Ramsey is an amazing resource for small business owners, I can't recommend him highly enough.

How do I accept payment for my products and services?

When I set up my Squarespace website it came with Stripe which is an online credit card processing company.  I use Stripe to sell online education, in person tickets to classes, and my hair color tools.  I have also used PayPal.  When I moved to my studio I needed the ability to process credit cards in person and that is something Stripe does not seem to do.  So I went with Square Credit card processing.  This is the one that is available in Best Buy.  So far it has worked really well!  It is fulling integrated with Square Appointments mentioned above and very intuitive to use.  Just make sure to keep the chip reader in its own bag so that it does not get a gum wrapper stuck in it from the bottom of your purse...

How do I offer products to my clients?

I currently do not sell products to my clients.  It would be easy enough to get products from CosmoProf or Salon Centeric to retail. You can also sign up for a professional account on Loxa Beauty and sell products to clients through the app and receive a commission. But I am not behind the chair often enough to make it worth my time to stock retail inventory. Maybe once I am not travelling so much to teach I will focus more on this aspect of my business. For now I recommend products that clients can find at Sephora or on Amazon.  

How do I retain clients?

There is so much to be said on this topic, it is hard to communicate in a short paragraph. There are so many reasons clients choose to stay with their stylist. The best way you can think about this is to put yourself in the clients shoes. Think of the service providers you are loyal to and why you continue to come back to them. I think about my Esthetician, Nail Tech, and Pilates Instructor. First thing I love is the actual service they provide, which means you, as a service provider, actually have to consistently do good work. To do this you must continue your education to first learn the craft and then stay current in it. You also have to do proper consultations to make sure you communicate. I only take new clients on consultation basis before I let them book an appointment. Then you have to have the integrity to fix your work if you didn't get it right the first time. 

The next thing I love about my service providers is the relationship - how I feel after I have had a visit with them. This is hard to quantify because it has more to do with the feeling that they actually care about my satisfaction and take pride in the quality of their work. They bring their full presence to the task (aren't distracted thinking about something else), are clearly passionate about their work, genuinely care about people, and experience joy while working and therefore have gratitude for their job.

Another large component is the environment - is it clean, organized, fashionable, friendly, and professional? Don't let a dirty salon, rude front-desk, or lack of professional dress distract your clients from your service. Other tips are to pre-book your clients one or two appointments out.  6-8 weeks for roots.  3-6 months for retouch on a Foilayage/Balayage.  Make sure you educate the client on how to style their hair and recommend products for them to use. 

Be your authentic self and the clients who like and value you will stay.

How do I pay my rent?

I have worked as an extern, assistant, commission stylist, rental stylist, and now studio stylist.  The setup I have now is by far the easiest.  The rent is simply withdrawn from my business bank account every week.  I don't have to worry about forgetting it or being late. I pay $450 weekly for 120 sq ft Sola Salon Studio that is technically a one station but it has an extra corner that I squeezed in a second station to double book.  I always keep at least $5,000 in my account so that I never have to worry about my account being overdrawn.

How do I know when it is time to switch from assistant to stylist? Commission to Rent? Rent to Studio?

The transition from assistant to stylist is sometimes outside of your control.  The salon may determine when you are ready.  If it is in your control here is what I would recommend for this transition.  It typically takes about 2 years to complete your assistantship after beauty school.  Find a great salon that has a program like the one I started at the salon where I rented or find a master stylist that will guide your through this time.  Make yourself a list of all of the things you see that other stylists are able to do and check them off as you become proficient.  Review this list with a mentor or master stylist and make sure that they agree when you check something off.

The transition from commission to rent is another difficult decision some hairdressers need to make.  My advice is that when your income is consistently above the rent equivalent for about a year you might be ready.  For example, say your commission is 25% and rent is $250 per week.  If you are consistently making $1400 per week then you are paying $350 per week in commission vs. $250 in rent.  Some salons tie certain perks to being on commission so all of that should be considered as well.  Perks can be only commission stylists receiving walk ins, free color, use of the front desk for booking clients, etc...

The transition from rental stylist to studio stylist is a difficult decision.  One of the hardest I have ever made.  Many things have to be considered.  I'll let you know when I figure out advice for this transition.  For now, all I can say, is that you need to weigh the pros and cons of each option and once you decide you should commit to the choice fully.