What follows is a list of common lies told by professionals to recent graduates that I’ve compiled from the emails I’ve received since I started this blog. I’ll try to update it as I hear more. If you’ve heard some yourself, please add it in the comments or email it to me! I’ll add it and credit you for your contribution!
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.
You can not rely on an owner to fill your book for you. In a perfect world, all owners 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.
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 to, 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 50% commission 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 less money than the standard. Your services should be priced according to your skill level, regardless of how much experience you have.
I have known girls 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.
How does it make any sense for an owner to take a bigger cut of your percentage if they’re charging the same price for your services as they are the “experienced” professionals working next to you? It doesn’t make sense. The prices need adjustment, not your rate of commission. Unless the owner is providing you with a client to work on and standing at your side working with you on a daily basis, there’s no reason for them to take a bigger cut. If your technical skills aren’t quite where they need to be for you to play ball with the big girls, then you need to be started as a level 1 stylist and have your service prices set accordingly. It isn’t fair for the client to be paying the same rate for an inexperienced professional as they would be an experienced one. This is one of those “only benefits the owner” situations.
Service prices need to be set according to the skill level of the professional performing them and commission rates need to be set according to overall job performance.
4.) “Owning a salon is easy.”
This is a lie you’ll hear from your coworkers. You’ll always hear this from people that 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. You 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 salon industry is a difficult one. For one, the services provided combine artistic skill, technical skill, and people skills. If you don’t perform well in all three areas, you fail overall. Good staff is 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 your stylist has and the vision the 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 board of cosmetology regulations. It is NOT an easy job.
Salon ownership is a bitch. Give your owner some credit. If your salon is successful and the owner is making it look easy, 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.”
One issue I have with recent graduates is that they 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 suddenly are a master of the profession? I don’t think so. Good technicians 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.
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. Graduating is certainly a great achievement, but you are far from done learning. 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.