A comedian on a late-night show claimed he dated someone so many times he married them just because they knew too much. It made me think of salon people who spill the beans on something that might come back to haunt them with their coworkers or clients. It’s easy to slip up because our artistry is an intimate service.
What is it about a salon professional’s touch that is so disarming? After a few visits, clients begin to feel familiar, don’t they? And like all relationships, the conversations evolve, become meaningful and more intimate. You both might have children and share the challenge of homeschooling and working. Perhaps you are both single with similar lifestyles and living situations. There are also those clients for whom we feel great empathy due to their situation or even difficult personality traits they exhibit. Multiple conditions invite us to let our guard down with salon clients.
The connection we develop eventually blurs professional boundaries. It’s easy to forget that the real reason a client is in your chair is to get their hair, nails, or skin done. And remember, clients like to be on your good side. They want to create an ambient for your best performance. So, they are polite, listen, and sympathize with your banter.
You might have guessed that I am a super advocate of keeping work relationships as professional as possible. Why? I’ve experienced the fallout from conflict, disagreements, and even betrayals from sharing too much with clients.
Every hairdresser, nail tech, and skincare professional has a gut feeling about each client. You think you know who you can let your guard down with and not. Okay, but there are three items I would never share with someone I see every-six weeks for a paid service—no matter how cool they are:
ONE: Your Money Situation You don’t let your clients know you are behind on your bills, so don’t let them know you are flush with cash either. There is always judgment attached to any financial situation. Here’s how: if you’re struggling with your finances, there must be something wrong with you. If you are doing well, you don’t deserve a break or a tip. I know you won’t share how much money you have in the bank, but your partner’s income comes into play, as does your client load, and your financial goals like purchasing a new car or a home, and vacation plans. Mum’s the word, folks.
You don’t need to boast nor complain about your money. People sense someone’s financial struggle. Beginning salon professionals can feel ashamed of their poor financial situation. Don’t spend any energy on that. Let that go. Everyone is poor when they start. Be proud of where you are today and keep your eye on where you will be tomorrow.
TWO: Your Love Life I think you know not to go on about this one, yet we all do it. Why? Because a relationship is never neutral. It’s either going well or not, and each provides lots of chatter to whisper into a willing ear. We need or would like support. Take this conversation to your inner circle—to your primary line of defense friends and loved ones. Why? Because people love to gossip and judge you on your ability to attract and maintain healthy relationships. Too many, too few, too often—that’s your business. Keep it to yourself. And your love life is not only about romantic love. It includes your loved ones. Sharing ups and downs about your partner, parents, and best friends is just as dangerous.
THREE: Your Next Move What you are going to do next is about you. No matter how excited you feel, there is a thin line between sharing your next move and your dreams. Sharing your dreams with your clients is ultracool. Your next career move, ideas, or goal is not on that dream list. It’s in your heart. From a centered place in your being, you realize you will need plenty of motivation and support. Sadly, not every client is a well-wisher, and their attitude robs you of needed confidence and motivation. And for your next move, you need all the good energy you can get.
Clients come to trade a service for money because you are an excellent professional. Keep that cycle healthy with a zillion other topics that can’t cause harm to you or your career. A silent love life, discretion around your money, and never disclosing your plans until they’re ready is my formula for happy salon career.
Carlos Valenzuela is a hairdresser, writer, success coach, ex-salon & beauty school owner. Author of The Thrifty Cosmetologist, a video-based approach to money smarts tailored to salon pros, and Letters to Young Carlos, a novella about a gay boy growing up along the border in the 1960s.
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