Whenever I consult with new professionals, I find that they’ve been told at least one of the following lies. At best, believing these falsehoods will stunt your professional growth. At worst, they’ll end your career.

1.) “Building a book is all about waiting. You have to do your time like everyone else.” Building a book is actually not all about waiting and you by no means have to “do your time.” Sitting on your ass in a salon, hoping for walk-ins is not going to pay off in a solid clientele at any point. (Well, it might pay off in several years, but unless you’re a lotto winner or the spouse of an oil tycoon, I’m assuming you have bills and will actually want to make enough money to pay them.) 

If you want to build a book, you have to be proactive.

Take initiative and build your name in your downtime. That means building a solid portfolio by participating in photoshoots at least twice a month, establishing a nice website for yourself (not the salon you work at…for YOU and YOUR work only), and writing a blog. Use that precious downtime in the early years to take classes and gain more certifications. Don’t spend it sitting around and hoping clients will somehow miraculously drop into your chair. 

Don’t take this to mean that you shouldn’t be in the salon ever. Building a book is also about reliability. Set your hours and stick to them. Be there when you’re scheduled, but spend the time that you are not with a client being proactive about your career. Learn from your peers, interact with clients, learn new techniques on Youtube. 

Do. 
Something.

In a perfect world, all salon employers would be investing in some kind of advertising every month and the only thing a salon professional would have to worry about is performing her services and making sure the clients are happy enough with them to return regularly, but that is seldom ever the case. You can not rely on a salon owner to build your reputation or fill your book for you.

2.) “You have to apprentice for a few years or you won’t be successful.” You don’t have to apprentice. Should you? If you can afford it, hell yes. 

Unfortunately, not all of us have the means to work for minimum wage (or free) in exchange for experience and training. Don’t get discouraged about your future if you can’t afford to work through an apprenticeship.

Failure to complete an apprenticeship won’t guarantee failure any more than it can guarantee success.

If you can’t afford to work as an apprentice, invest in some training materials as you can afford them and practice during your downtime. Nail techs, buy some cheap acrylic and a practice hand. Stylists, get yourself a mannequin or find some people willing to serve as hair models. Watch videos, read books, practice always, and be responsible for your own education.

3.) “You’re fresh out of school. You don’t deserve higher compensation until you’ve gained more experience.” You earned your license. Just because you’re fresh out of school does not mean that you deserve to make substandard wages.

Your pay should be based on your individual skill level, regardless of how much experience you have. 

I have known professionals right out of school that were just naturally gifted (or worked damn hard while in school to become fantastic). These recent graduates put out better work than licensed pros that have 20+ years experience.

Experience does not always equate to expertise. 

4.) “Owning a salon is easy.” You’ll always hear this from people who don’t own a salon and have never previously owned a salon. Basically, you’ll hear it from people who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. Owning a salon is extremely difficult. Your salon owner probably wishes periodically that she had picked an easier business to operate, like a retail store or a dog food manufacturing plant.

There are a lot of reasons the professional beauty service industry can be a difficult one. For one, the services provided combine artistic, technical, and people skills. If you don’t perform well in all three areas, you fail overall. Quality employees can be extremely hard to find.

“Creative types” (I’m looking at you, stylists) often have a hard time working together under the same roof. What we do is art and art is very subjective. The vision a stylist has and the vision their client has may not mesh all the time. It becomes the owner’s responsibility to keep the peace between the stylists, ensure the clients are happy, and make sure the business is successful. On top of that, she has to order product, manage payroll, advertise, provide continuing education (if she chooses to), keep on top of new products and new trends, keep the building in good repair, and make sure the salon is in compliance with all federal employment laws and cosmetology regulations.

Salon ownership can be a real bitch. Give your boss some credit. If your salon is successful and the owner makes it look effortless, it’s because she’s good at what she does. Don’t assume you can do it better just because it seems like a no-brainer.

It isn’t as easy as it looks. If it was, all those coworkers of yours would be doing it too.

5.) “I have my license. I’ve learned all there is to learn.” Some recent graduates come out of school thinking they know everything. You went to school for anywhere from four months to two years (depending on your license and your state’s requirements) and you’re suddenly a master of the profession? I don’t think so. Good professionals know that it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been in for four months or forty years, there is always room for growth and improvement. Always.

Graduating is certainly a great achievement, but you are far from done learning.

No matter how great the school you graduated from is, what you’ve learned is the bare minimum. When you graduate, all you’ve seen is the tip of the iceberg. You will never be done. Be humble and keep your mind, ears, and eyes open throughout your career. You’ll be better for it.

The second you think you’ve learned all there is to know, you need to shred your license and walk away for good because you either weren’t cut out for this business or your time in it is up.


What lies were you told when you entered the industry? Let us know in the comments!

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