Hair by Mary Ott,

Hair by Mary Ott,

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Hair by Mary Ott,

Hair by Mary Ott,

By the hour, by the level, by the bowl. Those are just some of the ways stylists are setting their rates for specialty hair color. Truly, there are as many ways to charge for your bright, pastel and fashion color designs as there are hues in the rainbow. But no matter how you go about it, several basic rules apply. First, the base rates will be dictated by what your market will accommodate. Plain and simple, prices in Beverly Hills, where the cost of living is steep, will be higher than those in a more affordable market like Kansas City. Second, no matter what rates are charged in your town, be sure you factor in your time, cost of materials and expertise to set your prices high enough to make a profit! Specialty color is hard work so don’t sell yourself short. Specialty color is also creative, and here are some creative ways stylists are charging for their artistry!

On the Menu
In Draper, UT, Madison Hill, @hairbymadisonhill starts with an item on the service menu. “Our service menu includes ‘Custom Color’ which covers balayage, ombré and fashion colors,” she explains. “It’s a base price for three bowls of color plus time. Then we add bowls to the price as needed. Custom color starts at $150 and every additional bowl is $25. Normally we need three or four additional bowls, depending on the desired look and length of the hair.”

Consult, Assess, Budget, Focus
At her salon in Allentown, PA, Mary Ott, requires every specialty color guest to come in for a mandatory, complimentary consultation. “During these consultations my team members and I assess the situation, discuss realistic color options and budgeting and address any questions or concerns the client or stylist may have,” she explains. “We also perform strand tests, which are extremely helpful in revealing the client’s color history. Only then do we book the service. We price these services hourly at $85 to $100 an hour. I am very clear with my team that once the clock starts, we focus solely on that client. We do not book any other clients that day because services like this can take anywhere from four to eight hours. We dedicate the whole day to making sure we take all the steps needed to achieve the desired results while preserving the integrity of the hair. That is the number one goal!”

Level System
George Johnson, @georgejohnsonhair of  Middlesbrough in England bases his pricing on the base level of the hair. “If my client is already a Level 8 or above and just needs to be lifted slightly,” he explains, “Or they are already light enough to apply the toner, my prices range from £60 to £90 ($78 to $117.)

If I am lifting dark natural hair requiring a full-head lightener or balayage with a vibrant or pastel toner I quote £120 to £140 ($155 to $180) and I allocate three to four hours with my client. If my client has previously-colored hair or banding and needs color correction, the price can only be defined while carrying out the service and seeing how well the hair lifts, how much color needs to be applied and the condition of the hair. During the consultation, I try to use the best of my knowledge to quote an accurate price range. All services, by the way, include a cut and style and a bond additive. Higher priced services include after care products to keep hair in its best condition.”

By the Hour
“I normally charge $75 an hour for my unicorn fashion colors,” says Portland, OR-based Chelsea Sinks, @thehairsphinx. “The total usually comes to $400. That’s because I take my time. I use the platinum card technique to lift the hair to a Level 10, I add a bonder to my formulas, and I do not process with heat in order to keep the hair looking and feeling its best. I also try to convince my clients to start with darker or more vivid tones, so once the color starts to fade, they can get more for their investment by enjoying lighter, pastel shades.”

Service Segments
In Syracuse, NY, Erin Holmes,, breaks each service down into segments. “It’s $60 an hour for the pre-lightening,” she says, “and $20 for each color used. I also charge $30 for a post-color protein treatment and $35 to $45 for a cut. I just did a service like this today. The client was in my chair for three and a half hours and paid $300.”

Keep in mind there is no “right” or “wrong” way to charge for specialty color, and in most instances, stylists insist on doing whatever it takes to preserve the integrity of the hair. Short cuts end up costing you money in the long run, so it’s always best to take your time and do things right!

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