Solo Artist

The Perfect Partners

Victoria Wurdinger | November 15, 2015 | 11:56 AM
Julie Yokoyama says staying motivated means remaining focused on goals. “After almost 30 years, I still eat sleep and drink this industry.”
Photo 1 of 6
At her station in Highlights Hair Studio in Santa Rosa, CA, Yokoyama subtly displays jewelry she has designed.
Photo 2 of 6
As a color specialist, Yokoyama loves Balayage and baby lights.
Photo 3 of 6
For fantastic color, don’t forget the lowlights or a new base.
Photo 4 of 6
Natural color and fashion shades should be part of every colorist’s skill set, says Yokoyama.
Photo 5 of 6
Julie Yokoyama adds shine and gloss to every color, which really boosts naturally dark hair.
Photo 6 of 6

Julie Yokoyama has thrived working solo for nearly 30 years and put two daughters through college on her earnings, all by choosing the right clients for her.

Growing-up working her family’s restaurant business taught Julie Yokoyama to work hard, and stay optimistic and positive, she says. After graduating from beauty school in 1986, she continued to work there as she built a clientele at a commission salon. Her focus on cheerful, superior service soon led to the stylist in the next chair to recommend overflow and allow Yokoyama to do her blow-dries. She was happy to help her build business, and three years later, Yokoyama left for a rental salon and quit working at the restaurant, with good feelings among all parties.

Working for eight years at the large rental salon, she discovered that the real key to success was to get the right person in her chair. “I never felt it worked to give a client a referral cards to hand out,” says Yokoyama. “I’d talk to my clients, tell them I wished I could clone them, and detail all the reasons why I loved doing their hair. I’d ask them to send me others like them. Soon, I was doing several women who all worked together. Getting the right person for you in your chair is the way to retain clients.”

When the owner decided to downsize, Yokoyama found the landlord of her dreams and has been renting a small building and subletting her second chair for the last 20 years. When looking for a subletter, she says, she looked for a like-minded person, who was as happy to work every day as she was. “Otherwise, the entire vibe changes, especially in a small space,” she notes.

Named for Yokoyama’s hair color specialty, Highlights Hair Studio in Santa Rosa, CA, has a comfortable, Zen-like feeling. “I’m known for being able to connect with clients fast and make them comfortable,” says Yokoyama. “I never rush a consultation, even if a client has been with me for 20 years.”

The Power of Suggestion

Two of the reasons Yokoyama is so successful are that she always thinks of something new for her clients, and she isn’t afraid to double book them. “Anytime I see a cut or color in a magazine photo that might look good on a client, I make note of it,” explains Yokoyama. “I check my books every morning and am ready to suggest something new to each person. Even if a client is not ready to change that day, she knows I am thinking of her and that she’s special.”

Yokoyama also says she pre-books every client and that clients will double book, when you suggest it “correctly and gracefully.” Don’t be afraid it will ruin the customer experience, clients don’t usually care, as long as they still leave in the expected time period, she adds.

“When I pre-book, especially when clients want coveted evening time and I have bookings with color-processing time, I just say, ‘You remember Tara, right? Is it ok to book you with her?’ The client always says yes.”

A social media addict, Yokoyama stresses that if you want to use it to gain clients, stay organized. Use settings that automatically put Facebook postings on Twitter. Know who you are targeting—it costs very little to boost a post just in the area near your salon. Tag your clients in before-and-after photos, post product specials and private message your clients reminders to buy retail. Have a social media plan—especially for holidays.

With a strong base of about 215 clients who book every 4-6 weeks, Yokoyama’s marketing efforts are now focused on retailing. “I encourage client to buy locally and save, or I post tips, like the best product for getting volume and how to use it,” she says. “Suggesting anything is about confidence, and that comes with experience and education. When you start out, you do have to fake it until you make it, but don’t be afraid, and never assume a client can’t pay a certain amount.”

Having a menu, which some renters don’t, goes a long way to moving suggestions along, she adds. At minimum, they should list starting prices for basic services, like color retouches, cuts and partial highlights. “After the consultation, I go over the suggestions, such as two colors and highlights, give the price and get the client’s consent,” says Yokoyama. “If you have nothing in writing, a new client might think she can’t afford you.”

And, by going over everything, you maintain the ability to keep on suggesting, so that your clients don’t get stuck in a rut. “Don’t treat them like family, because often, family doesn’t expect to pay,” says Yokoyama. In other words, you can learn great values from your family, but later in life, make sure everyone knows your value.

On Lifelong Financial Success: Pay yourself first. Renters should avoid spending cash tips and not even realizing how much they make. I use Mind Body software to track everything weekly, including service without tips, service with tips and retail. Pay yourself a salary and set aside fixed expenses.

Starting Price for a Cut with Partial Highlights: $125

Fav Color Brands: Goldwell and Wella demi-permanent

Work Schedule: 5 days a week/ about 35 hours. Three nights I work until 8 p.m. and Saturdays I only work for special occasions. 

Must See Hair Show: The CosmoProf West Coast Show in San Jose

Fav Online Education: Milady. On YouTube, Guy Tang and Tabatha Coffey.

Best Money Saver: Measure, measure, measure! Over-using haircolor, developer or back bar is a huge waste of money, but an easy fix.

Best Add-ons: Deep conditioning, split-end treatments, glazes and glosses

Favorite Products Love Right Now: #25 Kenra Volume Hairspray and Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium Flat Iron with side hotplates, so I can curl with it, too.

More from Solo Artist

Solo Artist Sponsored by Salon Centric

Don’t Be Afraid to Charge What You’re Worth

December 7, 2018

When it comes to discussing her hair, your techniques, the newest trends and even the best place to get gluten-free food, you can talk to your client confidently and endlessly. But when it’s time for her to pay the bill, your poise plummets, you avoid eye contact and you try to wrap up the transaction as quickly as possible.

Solo Artist
Solo Artist

Balancing Work and Life as a Solo Artist

Lauren Salapatek | April 11, 2018

After working in many salons as an employee, manager, wedding coordinator and as a self-employed stylist, Gioia Gomez, currently based at Akasu Hair Studio & Spa, in Portland, Oregon, found the perfect balance. “There are many different ways to be a productive, profitable hairdresser. No one way is the right way for everyone,” she says. “I’ve found being a solo artist is a perfect fit for me.”

Solo Artist
Solo Artist

Taking the Leap to Independence as a Solo Artist

Lauren Salapatek | February 13, 2018

After working in many different salons as an employee, manager, wedding coordinator and as a self-employed stylist, Gioia Gomez, currently based at Akasu Hair Studio & Spa, found the perfect balance. “There are many different ways to be a productive, profitable hairdresser. No one way is the right way for everyone,” she says. “I’ve found being a solo artist is a perfect fit for me.”

Load More