You chose a beautiful career. No matter where you are in your journey—newly licensed cosmetologist, veteran stylist or returning pro (from whatever break, reset or life adventure was required)—your training as a beauty professional means you always have options. Are you sure you’ve explored all of yours?
Nobody Has to Do It All
The struggle to juggle is real. It’s tempting to want to be an expert in every salon service, or to dabble in a full-service menu. After all, you probably chose beauty because you are a true enthusiast. You love exploring and experiencing.
But at some point, most stylists yearn for balance, freedom, and flexibility. For many, specializing in a single service is the answer. For others, the desire to diversify into leadership, business or advanced educator roles meets personal or professional development goals. The option to stay hands-on behind the chair on a select service ensures your earning power—and industry relevance—stay strong.
Specializing at the Salon: Check Out Your Options
Let’s be clear: there are no limits. You can stay busy and make a lot of money specializing in any service you are licensed to deliver. Some of the most popular services to specialize in are:
- hair color services
- waxing/hair removal
- special occasion hair
- blow-drying or blowouts
- nail care services
The Power to Choose is Yours
Already working and feel like you’ve set your path? You can still change it up! You can switch workplaces and learn new skills. Seek variety in your career or specialize long-term. Figure out what’s going to be most fulfilling and know that opportunities exist for however you define happiness and success. Follow your passion! You don’t have to be in a full-service salon if that’s not right for you.
If you choose the specialization route, you still have many options. You can join a salon team that specifically offers the service you choose to specialize in, or one that offers a wide range of services and empowers you to be the expert in the salon.
Customers Want You at Your Specialized Best
If you don’t find the right salon right away, don’t quit, quietly or otherwise. You can find the right salon and path for you. One that focuses on what you already do best—or are motivated to learn and excel at—could be your perfect fit. Commit to your passion and customers will want what you have to offer. Case in point? These are just a few of the benefits customers say they get and expect from specialty service providers and retailers:
- Service: Customers choose a specialty service provider because they expect to receive a higher-quality service—which you can provide!
- Convenience: Depending on the salon you choose, it may be more convenient for customers to visit, with shorter, one-service visits.
- Savings: Customers seek out specialty providers because of service cost benefits.
Pro Tips: Real Life Experiences and Options
Before you start your next beauty career chapter, check out tips and advice from three stylists who have faced what you face, and discovered the right salon match to their personal needs and lifestyles. Meet Amy, Astoria and Emily:
- One chose management,
- another pursued creativity and education,
- and the third became a salon owner as a franchisee.
All three sought—and found—balance, focus and a rewarding, sustainable career. All three wish the same for you—to find your best, specialized, flexible salon home, and that you are inspired to explore all your beautiful options.
Amy’s Beautiful Option: Pursue Management, Keep Your Hands in Hair:
Licensed for 16 years, Amy Darrah evolved her career into becoming a General Manager of seven locally owned Great Clips® salons in Pennsylvania. A mom of three who enjoys traveling, she prioritized daily flexibility and maintaining a great income as she shifted her role into leadership while still working select hours behind the chair. “It’s all about balance,” Amy shares.
- Pro tip: “Interview the company you're interested in, have a service done and explore the atmosphere before you apply,” Darrah says. “Ask what the company has to offer, including continued education and advancement opportunities.”
- Specialize, diversify or combo? “As a stylist we all love keeping things fresh, but I do believe having a specialty has perks. And our skills go beyond technical service skills. We need to offer top-notch customer service, product knowledge and social skills. Confidence is always a great look for beauty professionals!”
- My specialty: “I am a franchise employee, and I specialize in hair cutting. We offer styles and beard trims too. I have worked full service in the past, performing services including, hair color, reparative treatments, chemical texturize services and waxing. I really do prefer where I am now, as it fits my lifestyle and income needs very well.”
- The right fit: “Hybrid roles allow professionals like me to continue our passion behind the chair, but also allows for professional growth. This opens many doors, like having time to help build new stylists and set them up for success.”
- Education makes all the difference. “As beauty professionals, we are never done learning. I take advantage of educational resources as often as I can. I have access to technical training, specialized and general sessions with recruiting professionals.”
- Life goals for a lucrative career: “Find your place, a salon where you can be and do you, with confidence and comfort. This goes back to ‘interviewing’ your next potential salon. Know your worth. Don't exhaust yourself. If you don't genuinely love what you are doing and are falling out of love with your career, you are likely in the wrong environment. I truly believe we give our best when we feel our best.”
Astoria’s Beautiful Option: Stay Creative and Share Your Passion
Licensed in high school 17 years ago, Astoria Stubbs’ career interest goes all the way back to middle school and braiding the hair of kids in her neighborhood. “The best part of being a stylist is being able to use your hands to create new looks and seeing how great the customers feel and look after a transformation.”
Astoria fuels her passion by balancing time behind the chair at her locally owned Great Clips® salon in Houston, Texas, with doing creative work, photo shoots and educating as part of the National Design Team.
“The salon is open seven days a week. I can work high-traffic times that allow me the flexibility I need. It’s allowed me to be not to get burned out and continue to love what I do every day.”
Astoria’s advice for those starting or seeking to change up their beauty career path:
- Pro tip: “Try everything, even the services and trends you think you don’t like until you find what you love. Stay a student. The industry is always evolving and growing.”
- Specialize, diversify or combo? “I feel like you can do a combination of both. It all depends on you. As a very creative person, I like to challenge myself. It pushes me to keep going for greatness.”
- My specialty: “I love working with natural hair. It’s something that I have always enjoyed, so I do braids, natural styles, color and sometimes work with models to create unique looks for photoshoots outside of the salon. Over my career I have worked in full-service salons and select-service salons, even working in a salon that did hair replacement.”
- Finding your hybrid role: “I started teaching and giving back to the industry. It started with just doing demos in school and has turned into full-on educator mode. Working with schools allows me to share my knowledge in the industry and learn from the students. It’s interesting to see them come up with easier or more creative ways to get the same result. Education fuels your success, so accessing it is critical whether you specialize or diversify your career.”
- What matters most to beauty pros today? “Having the flexibility to work smarter not harder and longevity in our career that allows financial freedom along with retirement when the time comes. To not stress out trying to provide a good life for our families.”
- Life goals for a lucrative career: “Take a break when you need to, don’t overwork yourself, and continue to take care of your body as you move through this career. Create goals, have fun. When you love what you do you never really work a day in your life.”
Emily’s Beautiful Option: Owning Salons as a Franchisee
Emily Wilcox loves connecting with people—customers and her teammates alike. She began her career journey as a stylist 28 years ago, at a salon that offered waxing and hair services, including haircuts, color, and texture services. Today, she is a Great Clips® franchisee, with locations in North Dakota and Minnesota, all specializing in haircutting.
Emily attributes her success and satisfaction to the flexibility a cosmetology license and a career in the professional beauty industry have to offer.
“Flexibility has been so important for me,” she says. “I’ve been able to learn new skills, develop and train stylists, work with cosmetology schools and students, open multiple salons, and learn about real estate, marketing, and financing. It keeps me motivated. Growth is critical to making this a lifelong career path.” Emily’s advice to fellow stylists:
- See the big picture: “Since I entered the industry, we have seen tremendous growth in services and career paths. This includes working in a full-service salon or a salon specializing in one specific service. There are a wide range of opportunities, from individual salon ownership, owning a haircare franchise, operating as a platform artist, to managing multi-unit salons.”
- Stay open-minded: “We sometimes have our hearts set on what we expect ourselves to do or become. We often give up when it doesn't work out exactly as planned. Being open to a different path or environment might be the option that keeps you in the industry and furthers your success.”
- Be patient and invest in yourself: “Expect that success takes time, commitment, and hard work. You get out of this industry what you put into it. Realize that school is teaching you the basics. It's up to you to pave your path beyond the basics. Visit multiple types of salons to assess how comfortable each one feels to you. Explore their websites and social media pages. Have a list of what's important to you to determine if a salon meets your needs.”
- Access all the education you can: “I was terrified when I left school and started my first job. I'm not sure I would have stayed if I didn't have access to additional training and a supportive team. Beyond education, access to peers and mentors has been vital to my personal development. I have aligned myself with people willing to share ideas, challenge, and guide me throughout my career.”
- Find good mentors: “Before moving from behind the chair to salon owner, I was blessed to work with someone who appreciated my commitment, understood my desire for growth, and was willing to add me as a business partner. This relationship is what allowed me the space and freedom to grow.”
- What matters most to beauty pros today? “We want to be recognized as professionals whose work matters. Over the years, there has been a stigma that you go to cosmetology school if you aren't smart enough and will never make great money. These stigmas need to go away. People in the cosmetology industry are intelligent, talented people who do what they do because they love it. They love the creativity, the people, and making an impact on who they serve. There aren't too many life milestones that someone from our industry didn't touch. I would say that's a pretty big deal!”
- Life goals and a lucrative career: “We tend to talk a lot about work/life balance. Instead, we need to set boundaries that align with our values. Sometimes that may mean we have to work a little more in one week to have more freedom to do something fun another week. Job satisfaction, fun, having a lucrative career – all of these are possible. The critical element to all these is finding the right career and environment, showing up with a positive, growth mindset, and putting in the time and effort. Show up as your best self, work hard, and make it fun. You are the decision-maker of your day and your life's journey.”
Is Haircutting Your Specialty? Find Your Salon
Great Clips® is committed to supporting the future of the cosmetology industry as a leader in specializing in haircuts, a growing trend in the space of specialty service retailers. Customer demand makes working at a Great Clips® salon one of the many great career options for a licensed cosmetologist today. Independently owned Great Clips® salons offer:
- A steady flow of customers – no current clientele required
- Guaranteed hourly wages and tips
- Flexible scheduling that fits your needs (full-time and part-time shifts may be available)
- Opportunities to sharpen your skills, with award-winning technical training and ongoing education
- Potential career advancement opportunities to help stylists achieve unique career goals. Want to be a salon manager, trainer, or be part of an artistic design team? You can make that happen.
- The opportunity to make an impact in your community
- Recognition you deserve for a job well done
*Each Great Clips® salon is independently owned and operated by local salon owners – rate of pay, rewards and benefits may vary by location. Additional benefits (such as Medical, Dental and PTO) may be included and vary by salon location.
So Many Options!
At first you may only think about being behind the chair. But you can become an educator, a recruiting specialist, even work on professional photoshoots one day. You can manage a team or salon, or even open your own salon. The growth opportunities are endless, find out more here.
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