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Salon owner, educator, colorist, photographer, manicurist, eyelash extensionist—Ann Marie Walts’ resume is jam-packed. But of all of the areas of the beauty business that she has had a hand in, Walts says her career really began when she started doing hair extensions.

“Seven years ago I wanted something more out of my career. I wanted to be able to offer something different that would increase my income,” she says. “Once I completed an extensions class by Great Lengths, I became a fanatic.”

Many stylists, no matter how many areas of beauty they feel they have mastered, often find themselves in a similar rut, artistically or financially, with their current business and begin seeking out the next big niche to pursue in their work. Adding extension services to your menu can increase your daily business of $30-$80 cuts to $1,000, even $1,500 a day working on just one client.

One of the crucial first steps in learning how to successfully create extensions, Walts says, is to develop a careful eye for the type of hair—and client—that are right for the job. Is the hair overprocessed? Has the client used clip-in extensions excessively? All things to consider and evaluate during an extensions consultation, she says.

“We have a huge obligation to the public to provide a safe service for them, and a young stylist needs to know when to decline a service,” says Walts. “I had a mother and daughter come into my salon, and I had to decline service to both of them. The mother had severely overprocessed hair and the daughter used clip-in extensions so much that it created a bald spot on her head.”

In these situations, instead of turning away clients whose hair isn’t in an ideal condition for extensions, Walts will prescribe repair and reconstruction products to set them on the right path to a healthy hair care regimen—which could line up the clients for extensions work down the road without burning any bridges.

“If you come across a situation like this, always say the words ‘In my professional opinion...’ You will sound more diplomatic,” she says.

Walts says when she has a client who wants new hair extensions, the client will first fill out a consultation packet, which has a questionnaire of 20 to 30 questions. She shows the client several before-and-after photos and asks questions like:

• “What do you not like about your hair?”
• “How long does it take you to get ready?”
• “How long do you style your hair?”
• “If you have natural or wavy hair have you ever had a straightening treatment?”

Questions about the client’s history with color are important, as well, and can even convert a different client seeking highlights or lowlights into a client who comes back for extensions.

“The beauty about colored hair extensions is they don’t fade and they don’t chemically damage the hair like hair color,” she says. “This is appealing to many of my clients, and not only do they come to me for their extensions, they get their ‘color’ done with me, as well.

In the case of a converted client—in for another service who eventually comes back for extension work—a simple question about length can get the ball rolling for an extension consultation.

But be prepared to reassure clients who might be scared off by the price of extensions of their options, says Dianna Ettari, a SHE by So.Cap USA certified stylist.

“Find out what your client’s concerns are and talk to them about their dream length. Conversation will lead into a consultation,” she says. “Make sure you let them know you can always start them with 20 or 30 bonds, and typically after they get that service done, it will lead to 80 to 100, and then the amount progressively goes up.”

Ettari recommends telling the client to come in 24 hours after the consultation to avoid a client contemplating over the price—and then changing her mind. “Try and get them in the chair really quickly, and once they are in, they are in,” she says.

Speaking of getting a client to stay put in your chair: the extensions process is a long one. Sometimes a very long one, especially when you’re starting out and just getting the hang of the process. But the more you practice, the faster you and your hands will adapt.

Stylists are already accustomed to fidgety clients, but with a process that can last hours longer than a cut or a color, it’s important to keep the person in your chair comfortable, extensionists agree. Be very specific beforehand in clarifying how long the appointment will take and encourage clients to bring whatever they’d like to feel at ease. Offer magazines, engage with them or get creative with gadgets, as Walts suggests.

When a stylist feels ready to begin taking on more clients for these new services, it’s crucial to market outside of the salon—not just in the chair with current clients.

“Whether you’re at the bar, the grocery store or taking a walk, have business cards on you!” she says. “After you have your skills down, it becomes about selling yourself. You could meet a random person who wants your services and if you don’t have a card on you, you’re going to walk away feeling kind of embarrassed.” But the best way to market your extension services? Wear them yourself, of course.

Do some highlighting extensions on your friends, your receptionist at your salon or a co-worker. Consider these free or discounted services a walking advertisement—the more exposure you have, the better your business will be.

As your client list—and your pocketbook, ideally—grows with these new services on the menu, Walts encourages young stylists to stay grounded, continue to learn new skills and remember their work is enriching the lives of their clients.

“My hope for extension students is that whatever spark they have today, they will have as a blazing inferno in 20 years from now,” she says. “So what are you waiting for? Go get those clients!”

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