Solo Artist

How One Solo Artist Barber Made the $12 Men’s Cut a Thing of the Past

Victoria Wurdinger | August 3, 2017 | 7:55 AM
Berman Rodriguez, who took his cuts from $12 to $35, encourages professional conversations by keeping his facial steamer and retail products right where clients can see them.
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Today’s men want a sharp line up and a tailored blend to their beards.
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When the profession is hot but the haircut prices are not, it’s time to up your game. At Roc’s Barber Shop within iStudio Salons in Orlando, Florida, Wahl Ambassador Berman Rodriguez (@Rocdizz) got out of the $12 men’s cut zone with key six steps that anyone can use.

  1. Build your male clientele. Seeing five guys won’t make you a men’s hair expert. Stylists’ business should be at least 25% male, while barbers should focus on building a unique reputation. After working in barbershops for a decade and managing one for a non-barber owner for a year, Rodriguez had technical and business skills. But he was still in the $12 cut zone, due to the Mom and Pop nature of the shop and the lack of power to change it.

Wherever you work, master techniques from both the barber and salon worlds—the newest mash-up driving business. If you have a wide variety of male clients, you’ll know what’s current among all demographics.

“Right now, traditional skin fades and ones with comb overs are popular,” says Rodriguez. “For curly hair, undercuts with longer curls or tapered looks are big. Braids are coming back, too.” (For somewhat curly to straight hair, longer hair is the biggest breaking trend.)

  1. Be in your Business. Rodriguez says he could come and go from a barbershop but that renting a suite meant, “You have to be there all the time to succeed.” That may sound like the opposite of why pros go rental but men aren’t used to booking in advance. As you train them to pre-book, ask for and reward referrals. Even though he was locally established, Rodriguez lost 15% of his clients when he moved to go solo. When you aren’t in-house, skill swap with barbers/stylists or at a local school and you’ll extend your client base. Rodriguez even taught at a school for a while to boost his income—a great option for solo artists.
  2. Man-focus your social media. In addition to encouraging Yelp reviews, Rodriguez bought narrowly targeted (men/zip code) Facebook ads and employed old-school tactics by placing flyers door-to-door. “ I spend more on marketing than I spent to fix-up the suite,” he says.

Take photos of all your men’s cuts to support social efforts. While women love to see before and afters, few barbers or male stylists show anything but what men care about most: a precise finished look. That means no more worrying you forgot to take the before photo. Even better, guys are less likely to care if their face shows, and photos that show faces get more notice than back-of-the-head shots.   

  1. Add new services. This step is crucial and should be done in tandem with increasing your education and skill set. It’s also what gives solo artists, who don’t need permission to upgrade services, an individual edge.

 “In a barbershop, there is an ‘in and out’ mentality and you can’t make others offer men’s hair washing,” says Rodriguez. “In a private suite, it’s easy to add facials, hot towel shaves, skin care and even hair color. “For hair washing, I like JPMS Tea Tree shampoo from CosmoProf; guys love it. I put a steam machine right were men can see it, explain the benefits of a facial and book it then and there for a week later. My clients now see my suite as a ‘destination’ and are accepting of more services.”

  1. Up your education and professionalism. There still may be sports talk in Roc’s Barber Shop, but now he educates clients about what he is using as he styles their hair. He also shares his travels and certificates for new classes he’s taken—for instance, posting his experiences at Barbercon NYC on social media.

Notes Rodriguez, “The business itself is evolving, barbering is no longer at the bottom, and there are men who want more and will pay for more. Educate yourself and your guests. Once mine saw that I knew what I was talking about and recognized the evolution of my career, they responded.”

Part of  his “new vibe,” he says included more stylish dress (no more basketball shorts at work) and giving back to the community.

  1. Raise your prices. “Clients have to see the changes in you first but once they do, they will support you,” stresses Rodriguez, who raised cut prices to $35 within a year of opening his suite. “I emailed and messaged regular clients about the increase and included a small one-time discount. I didn’t get a single negative response or lose one client. They were proud I was evolving and were happy for me. I changed myself in how I walked, talked and dressed, and they saw it.”

Solo artists often fret about how to announce price increases on Facebook. Rodriguez reiterated his suite location, announced he was taking new clients and added: “I also would like to take a moment to mention that I will be providing new services to my menu and prices have changed. My goal is to elevate my services for my guests to have better experience. I can't wait to see everyone soon. Thank you all again!!”

The response? Nothing but congratulations.

“I’m not killing myself anymore, doing three or four cuts an hour for $80,” says Rodriguez. “And I have no more anxiety attacks about paying the bills.”

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