When you begin your journey to becoming a successful hairdresser, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. Once you've passed the state exam and landed behind the chair, a few simple actions, plus a few not-so-simple that require focus and study, will have you well on your way to a profitable career.
- Hone your skills: sign up for advanced technical education at least twice a year. One of the biggest mistakes stylists make is limiting themselves. While beauty school teaches the fundamentals, only attending advanced training seminars will sharpen your technique while inspiring your creativity. When you graduate, you may not be confident about a particular skill or service. Eliminate that by taking the time to practice and seeking out advanced education opportunities that will boost your skills. Otherwise, you'll be afraid to recommend the service. You may even find yourself turning away potential clients or sending existing clients to other stylists to handle requests that are out of the narrow comfort zone you've boxed yourself into. Continuing education will make sure that you stay motivated, passionate and current while your clients stay loyal.
- Become business-savvy: take business courses. Schools like ours now recognize that business education is a critical piece of the pie. For example, we exclusively incorporate the Salon Training Business Fundamental program into our curriculum to save students the investment post-graduation. According to Suzy Fields-Carder, a former stylist and current owner of Salon Training International, only 15 percent of your success results from your technical skills, with the other 85 percent resting on your business and marketing abilities. The 12-week Business Fundamentals program helps stylists grow from $30 to $100 a ticket, with many subsequently earning a six-figure income. It teaches how to be financially astute and defines a strategic marketing plan that covers everything from promotions and client relationships to retail and home care. I encourage you to take this skill very seriously and seek out this course or a similar one. It's a lot easier than figuring it all out on your own!
- Maximize downtime: do hair constantly. I once worked with a stylist who built up his clientele in record time. His philosophy was that when the salon was slow, it was better to be doing hair for free than to stand around idle. He wasn't afraid to approach people on the street (in your case, it may be in the mall) and bring them in for complimentary cuts. At times, entire families filled the waiting area! Upon finishing, he made sure the new clients left with plenty of business cards and asked that they refer family and friends. It was those referrals that made him one of the highest performing stylists in the salon.
- Get involved: donate your skills to charity. Participating in high-profile events such as charity fashion shows will reward you with great (and free) publicity. In addition to showcasing your work, most likely you'll receive credit in the program handed out to attendees, and that can help draw new clients to your chair. Another great idea is to join a women's group that is involved in the local community and offer to give free consultations.
- Seek out a mentor: you'll both benefit. One thing we've learned from our extern program, where students work in a salon performing professional services, is that connecting with seasoned veterans of the salon industry is a perfect way to shorten the learning curve. Don't hesitate to ask other stylists for input; you'll be surprised at how willing they are to share. Our students begin that process the minute they start school through Your Beauty Network (YBN), where they are connected to a professional organization and a network of more than 23,000 professionals who can provide insight and share experiences. Or, join an organization such as PBA or NCA, and don't forget that your peers right here at firstchair.com's message boards are happy to give you advice so you don't have to reinvent every wheel.
- Develop a good attitude: it's everything. It's important to have the mindset that now is the time to pay your dues; the full reward will come later. Another part of having the right attitude is exuding passion and professionalism in everything you do. When you speak with anyone about your profession, approach the conversation very passionately, because people gravitate to that excitement. What you're conveying is a big part of attracting a clientele, so make lots of suggestions, share your vision and get in the habit of recommending products and proper hair care. People recognize a committed and knowledgeable professional; you'll be amazed at how quickly you'll build up your clientele.
You have unlimited potential if you refine your skills and dedicate yourself to this process. You'll likely experience some "growing pains," but it's an investment in your future that will help you create a meaningful, prosperous profession sooner rather than later.
Diego Raviglione is the artistic director for San Diego Beauty Academies: Je Boutique, Bay Vista and Poway Academy. Previously corporate artistic director for Graham Webb International, Raviglione has also been a hairdresser and educator for Redken, Joico and other leading product companies.