This article was originally published in the September issue of The Stylist Newspapers.
When the economic crash happened in 2008, were you one of the beauty professionals who lost hope and left the industry, in search of a “real job”—as if what we do isn’t a valid or legitimate profession, but some kind of fun hobby we get paid to perform? Or did you dig your heels in and do your best to ride it out?
When our financially stressed clients started stretching out appointments and dropping off our books, we knew we had to adapt to survive but we made a mistake. We overcompensated the way people who dedicate their lives to pampering others are sometimes prone to do.
We offered more to our clients, charged them less, worked harder and faster for longer hours, and took abuse from the penny-pinching, ungrateful masses with a defeated smile and a weary, “Thank you for your business, ma’am,” through our gritted teeth.
Salon owners learned hard lessons. Many were taken advantage of by a growing population of opportunistic clients that made scamming free services an art form. A considerable number of owners fell into group coupon disasters that threatened to sink their businesses entirely.
Because the country began to devalue our industry, a good deal of salon professionals began to devalue themselves and the services they performed.
We were told our professional services were considered “non-essential,” and over time we believed it.
When professionals talk about how technology has revolutionized our industry, they often refer to things like online booking, social media marketing, text message appointment reminders, or the various advancements in beauty products. All of those things are fantastic leaps forward for our respective businesses, but nobody seems to have considered how technology has connected professionals and broadened their support network, or how that support network has influenced our industry overall for the better since the recession.
After the recession, many professionals compromised their policies and pricing to remain competitive in our spiraling economy, effectively allowing themselves to become doormats for clients to walk on.
Many salons changed their focus from providing luxurious, appropriately-priced services to a business model that favored low prices and high client turnover. For nail technicians, the proliferation of discount salons had already instigated this destructive, competitive undercutting and consumer devaluation a few years before the recession, so we were already writhing on the floor in pain, trying to catch our breath when the economy kicked us in our collective rib cages.
However, the prevalence of online forums and social media groups has changed that. Professionals now stand together and encourage each other to be their own advocates. They have a way to interact with and support one another instantly. With the click of a button, they can send out a question and receive dozens of responses from other professionals around the country within minutes.
They encourage each other to stand firm to their policies and never compromise their pricing. They share tips on how to cut excess overhead without sacrificing quality. They strengthen each other’s resolve when it comes time to fire a bad client, raise prices, or enforce a cancellation policy.
Professionals are helping professionals realize their value. Because of that, the industry is changing for the better.
Thanks to the proliferation of social media and websites dedicated to salon professionals, industry professionals are learning how to command respect once again from their clients, their employers, and their peers. We’re coming back to the realization that what we do for a living actually matters.
Our careers deserve to be taken seriously. We are not powerless pawns or victims of a stingy market that doesn’t appreciate our talents. We’re in control of our industry and our professional destinies.
We are no longer willing to negotiate with consumer terrorists who can’t respect our education, experience, or talent.
Argumentative discount shoppers are being told to take their haggling elsewhere. Late clients and no-shows are being charged for compromising our schedules. We are putting more policies into place and enforcing them, sending clear messages to clients that they are finally going to be held accountable.
Online professional networking groups have given us far more than the ability to market our businesses to a wider audience; they have given us our pride back and allowed us to take back our industry in a way that would otherwise not be possible.
The economy may falter again, but we’ve learned that we can pull through, coming out stronger and better. The next time things get tough, we’ll adapt, but in a way that won’t compromise our professional worth. Together, we’re standing strong—and we’re not apologizing for it anymore.