When I began my salon career in the '70s, it was all about working in a commission salon earning 50% commission. Clients came to get their hair done every week, so in reality, all you needed was a week’s worth of clients—say 30 or 40 and you were set. Beauty schools delivered education that connected with current job entry skills, we were basically learning to shampoo, set and comb-out hair which was exactly what clients wanted at the moment.
Each day, our industry becomes more of an individual endeavor with lease chair salons proliferating and commission salons dwindling. It’s all about the individual stylist’s perspective on how he/she wants to practice cosmetology. Our beauty services have diversified to serve the needs of a wider population—extensions, retexturizing, amazing color techniques and shades making it practically impossible for today’s beauty school to touch upon, let alone provide expertise, in each technique.
The success of anyone entering our salon industry now requires a dedicated and alert new professional because there is little support offered in a typical lease chair salon, there will be few to no walk-ins to a booth rental chair. You will be required to market and brand yourself through your expertise in social media. Although, old-fashion networking and handing out cards is still effective.
When asked if I recommend beauty school for someone I will say yes, if you love the idea of doing hair—I mean really love it because you will have to do it over and over. If you have stamina to sustain your energy and enthusiasm during the first two years of building a clientele and making little money—hopefully you live at home or have a wonderful benefactor. Beauty work is an artistic career—so why shouldn’t the learning curve be any different from being an actor, movie star, painter or photographer. Visit New York or LA and you will be waited in restaurants by the hottest men and women who are waiting for their big break. Which reminds me—I and many others took a part time job while waiting to build our clientele. Yes, many of us have worked two jobs in order to build our salon career.
Is it worth it? If I was born again, I would be a hairdresser all over again. Yes, it’s worth it. If you love it, it totally loves you back. If you see it only as a cash cow—you will be unhappy scrubbing heads over a shampoo bowl. You see, when I scrub a head of hair, I am not thinking about the soiled scalp. I don’t even think about what I am going to charge or make on this service. I am thinking about what I am going to do to this head of hair and how wonderful it’s going to all be.
If you love it, it will love you back.
Carlos Valenzuela is a hairdresser/educator, ex-salon & school owner, author and corporate spokesperson with forty-five years of beauty experience. His focus today is raising wellness awareness and assisting salon professionals in developing a fulfilling career via his podcast “Tiny Steps for Salon Pros” www.anchor.fm/carlos-valenzuela and at industry events, seminars and in-salon workshops.