Margie Billian knew she was a “hair lifer” when her guidance counselor told her hairdressing would be a boring career, but all she could think of was how horrible the counselor’s hair looked. Her start as a 16-year-old shampoo assistant taught her how to create such a great experience that she often got bigger tips than the stylists, she says. But after 13 years in a commission salon and a 2-year college degree, she had a son who has special needs, and realized that she needed a totally flexible schedule. A home salon would be ideal, but was it realistic?
“If you want a home salon, talk to a local attorney about regulations,” advises Billian. “Mine told me that in Maryland, I could not be in a community with a home owners’ association.”
After buying a home in an unincorporated part of Rockville, Maryland, she spent $3,000 to transform her basement into a salon. She can’t have a staff or see more than 18 clients a week, but it suits her fine. “Besides regular hours, I see women at 6 a.m. and at 9 p.m. when their kids are asleep,” she says. “They love it.”
The key to solo success, says Billian, is to make every visit a wonderful experience. Her brand is “personalized care in a nurturing environment,” and she will even dim the lights for those who crave her signature scalp-massage shampoo.
Naturally, she considered the safety of having her clients in her home; she works mostly with referrals from current clients and women who win gift certificates she donates to several local charity raffles. “My certificates are for ‘highlights for you and a friend,’ so two women come in together,” she adds. “It’s been my best business builder.”
State Board visits are something solo artists rarely consider, but Billian received one and passed with ease because the inspector was primarily concerned with making sure the salon was hygienic and that she cleaned and disinfected her tools properly.
Initially, Billian worked with job coaches, who shared advice for running a home-based business. One gem: People like to do business with likeminded others. This led her to get so involved in local charities that philanthropic-minded clients began coming to her. She avoids any negativity on social media; in addition to haircolor makeovers, she posts articles that are aimed at those who share her interests.
Today, Billian has a loyal base of 300 clients, and says her best advice to other solo artists is to always respond to clients’ messages immediately, and to continually market yourself and network in your community. Her client network has paid off well beyond referrals.
A woman who won one of her “two-for” gift certificates told her about a local women’s business club, which led to more clients and Billian being put on the Board. This in turn gave her the experience to be appointed to the Board of the charity that supports her son, for which she now fundraises.
“Every stepping stone leads to another when you network with kindred spirits,” she says.
MORE ABOUT BILLIAN:
Must-see Education: The CosmoProf Fashion Focus Show
Fave Online Training: Sam Villa videos
For Credit Cards: PayPal
Facebook or Instagram: Facebook. Most clients my age are not on Instagram; focus on platforms your target market favors.
Money-Saving Tip: Buy in bulk
Favorite Products/Tools: Aquage and color brushes in various different sizes
Best Places to Network: Health clubs, charities, women’s groups
Home-Salon Safety Tip: My job coach advised that if I see new clients to book them when others are home or to have my own phone call me at intervals via wake-up calls.
Biggest Challenge: Raising prices when you work solo. The first time I did it, clients were upset. Now I just tell them a month in advance and do a $3 increase.
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