“Hey! What should I charge for my services?”
“Do my prices seem fair to you?”
“What should my prices be for something like this?”
Every day, this question (or some version of it) haunts me. It shows up in my message inbox at least four times a week. I see it in Facebook groups daily.
Today, I’m writing this to tell you why Facebook, industry forums, and other public venues are not the place to ask for crucial business advice. If you’re seeing this because I’ve posted it in response to your own question, please read this carefully. It’s important and may save your business from ruin.
“Why shouldn’t I seek pricing advice on Facebook?”
1.) Because the people you’re asking do not know your business. When you ask someone on Facebook for pricing advice, you are asking someone who doesn’t have the information they need to form a meaningful response.
As a salon management consultant, my area of specialty is financial structuring (balancing expenses and compensation to determine service pricing that will ensure a salon’s longevity). The information I require to perform those calculations is as follows:
- the salon’s fixed overhead expenses (rent, insurance, annual licensing fees, loan payments, etc.)
- the salon’s variable overhead expenses (marketing budget, average monthly product costs, utility bills, etc.)
- the salon’s weekly operating hours
- the salon’s annual operating days
- the salon owner’s desired annual salary
- total number of income-generating workspaces (stations)
- the prevailing minimum wage
- the number of current or necessary P/T and F/T employees
- the cost of any benefit programs the owner wishes to implement (health insurance, PTO, etc.)
- the services the salon offers
- the time required to complete each service
- performance metrics indicating what the top selling services are in that particular salon
- performance metrics for at least one year, detailing salon traffic and sales
- the CPS for each service
Additionally, I have to perform a local market analysis. That means evaluating the town/city’s local economy, the salon’s competition, the salon’s location, and any other local factors that may impact the salon’s perceived value or performance.
Once that’s done, I also have to evaluate the salon itself. I have to know what it looks like on the inside, whether the employees dress and behave professionally, what their level of experience is, what the quality of their work is, what products they’re using, what their clients are saying, whether their branding is an accurate reflection of their business…
Seriously, it’s a lot.
With all of that information, I can begin to formulate a compensation structure and set pricing to cover all of those expenses. How can you expect a random person on the internet who lacks that information to provide you with meaningful advice?
2.) Because the people you’re asking are strangers. Next to your compensation system, your pricing decisions are the most critical you will make for your business. And you are willing to entrust them to a complete stranger or–even worse somehow–an entire group of complete strangers?
What are their qualifications? What is their level of experience? Do they even own a salon? If so, how is it performing?
Would you trust this person to manage your business?
If you wouldn’t dream of handing over your salon to a stranger, why the hell would you trust them with literally the most important decisions you’ll ever have to make for your salon? You have made a tremendous investment in your business. Don’t be careless with it.
3.) Because the people you’re asking likely haven’t set their own prices correctly. Remember that bullet list I provided in my first point? Anyone who attempts to provide an answer for you without that information is a fool who clearly doesn’t have a clue how to set prices, or they wouldn’t have attempted answering to begin with.
This shit matters. A lot.
This isn’t like putting up a poll to determine which business card design is the cutest. Your prices aren’t up for public debate or poetic interpretation. It’s math.
4.) Because the people you’re asking may not understand the question. “How much do you charge for gel?” This is a perfect example of a question I see far too often in nail tech networking groups.
What do you consider a gel service? Gel polish or gel enhancements? What do you include with the service? What product lines are you using and how much are you using? Are you talking about a simple salon set, a fill and rebalance, or a fashion set? Are you talking about a gel manicure or a simple application? Are you including removal and repairs or not?
What, exactly, are you asking?
Stylists rarely ever make this mistake because they tend to understand that every client is varied. If you were to ask me how much I charge for a root retouch, I’d respond with about fifty questions. (How long is the hair? How dense is the hair? How long is the outgrowth? Are they looking for just a retouch, or a cut and style too? If that’s the case, I have a whole other set of questions…)
So, you rarely see this idiocy on hair forums and groups, but nail techs, for some reason, think every service and every client is the same. Sure, nail services don’t vary as much as hair services do, but they certainly aren’t all equal. My full-set process may not look anything like yours. My interpretation of the word “gel” may not match yours whatsoever.
Even our services and definitions did match up, without knowing all of the things I listed in the first point, I cannot give you a meaningful answer that you can apply to your business, and you know what? Neither can anyone else.
5.) Because it’s your responsibility as a business owner to understand your costs and how to set your prices appropriately to offset them and generate a profit.
Nobody expects you to hold an MBA or to be some kind of business mastermind, but there’s an expectation that you, as a salon owner, will accept responsibility for your business and educate yourself accordingly. Facebook and online forums aren’t the best place for that (unless you’re asking people how they calculated their service prices and comparing those responses to what you read in small business books or glean from a SCORE mentor who has actual experience in the service industry).
You can’t outsource your most important responsibility as a salon owner to random strangers on the internet.
“So how do I set my prices, then?”
Now you’re asking the right question. Check out The Salon Service Pricing Toolkit, a premium downloadable that includes:
- a 28-page Salon Service Pricing Guide that will walk you through my step-by-step process for calculating service prices,
- a 6-sheet Salon Service Pricing Spreadsheet (Excel) that will do all the complex math so you don’t have to, enabled with protections to make it impossible for you to “break” the formulas,
- a 9-page Employer Obligations Information Sheet to keep you from making very common life-destroying mistakes,
a Glossary to serve as a handy reference so you’ll never be confused about what a particular term means, and
- a comprehensive, 11-page Salon Assessment Checklist that will help you determine once and for all whether your salon is truly “upscale.” (Spoiler Alert: it very likely isn’t, and that’s okay.)
How do you feel about soliciting critical business advice on Facebook? Have you ever done it? Did you consider the feedback you received to be valuable and useful, or not so much? Let us know in the comments!
I hope you’ve found whatever answer you’re searching for in this post. If you’re interested, you can buy my book, The Beauty Industry Survival Guide here. Feel free to join me on Facebook here. If you never want to miss another post, subscribe to The Newsletter to have articles sent directly to your inbox.