“I’m about to graduate beauty school and I think I want to rent, but I don’t know what the costs typically are. What is the average price of a salon suite or a booth? How much is too much? What should the rent include? I’m so confused. Please help.”

If you’re looking for an “average” cost, you’re going to have a hard time finding one. Like residential and commercial rental rates, booth and suite rent varies by region and from facility to facility, as do the inclusions and lease terms. Typically, booth rental costs less than suite rental, but even for that general rule there are exceptions.

Before you proceed, I want you to complete the following exercise:

Instead of asking yourself, “How much does it cost?” ask, “What can I afford?” If you’re a new graduate with no clientele to speak of, you’re unlikely to succeed unless you have:

  • self-discipline and the ability to manage yourself,
  • enough savings to carry your business and personal expenses through your first year, and
  • the money and expertise to successfully launch and maintain an aggressive marketing strategy.

Remember, you’re going to be establishing a brand-new business—likely as a completely unknown professional—within the immediate vicinity of your most direct competitors. As a self-employed microsalon owner, you aren’t entitled to walk-in business and it won’t be your landlord’s job to advertise on your behalf. (Their job will be to keep the lights on and collect your rent payments.)

If you aren’t financially, professionally, or personally prepared to handle that level of responsibility all by yourself, regardless of how affordable the rent may seem, you cannot afford it.

MSO ToolkitYour costs of doing business will impact your pricing. Rent will, without a doubt, be your largest overhead expense (aside from your wages and self-employment taxes). I recommend treating your business like a business and doing your math ahead of time, otherwise you may find yourself in a situation where your costs push your prices far outside the realm of what your target clientele can afford, hamstringing your new business and dooming it to failure before you’ve even started.

Instead of asking yourself, “What should the rent include?” ask, “What am I looking for? What do I need? Why?” This will help to determine your readiness. Laundry facilities and towels, for instance, tend to be pretty high on the list for most beauty professionals. (After all, nobody likes lugging home bags of laundry every day.) Are your other needs as practical and reasonable or do they indicate that you may have some unrealistic expectations?

Understand that self-employed means self-employed. As a renter, you’re a business owner in every way so you will be responsible not only for your rent and marketing but your products, equipment, tools, software costs, insurance, and every other business expense you incur. Landlords aren’t responsible for providing renters with backbar, laundry facilities, client amenities, or anything other than a space to work in, unless the lease states otherwise. Some landlords will provide additional amenities beyond four walls or a station, but often, those additional amenities will come at a premium price, either in the form of higher rent rates or optional added fees.

If you feel you need the landlord to provide you with continuing education, reception services, or any other perks or benefits that would normally only be appropriate in an employment-based salon, you’re likely not prepared to be on your own. Those needs and wants aren’t reasonable and are indicative of significant self-management deficits, so if they appear on your amenities wishlist, you need to reconsider going solo.

Evaluate your list. Assuming you’re one of the rare new graduates who has the savings, the drive, the discipline, and a solid understanding of what self-employment entails, you should be left with a pretty clear picture of your ideal rental arrangement. Finding a space should be as simple as comparing your needs to what the facility offers and attempting to negotiate until you reach a compromise that suits both you and the landlord, just be certain that the arrangement doesn’t violate your rights. Your rental rate should be a fixed dollar amount (not based on a percentage of your sales) and you should be paying the landlord the rent (not having it deducted from checks they write to you).

  • You should not be obligated to provide client contact information, sales data, or other performance metrics to your landlord, nor should you be required to use the landlord’s salon software.
  • At no point should your landlord be collecting money from your customers.
  • Your landlord should not be dictating which specific services you perform, how you perform your services, what you charge for your services, or which products you use.

To see every article I’ve published about self-employment and rental, click here.

Did you start your career in the industry as a renter? Were you prepared? Why or why not? How did it go and where are you now? Tell us in the comments!


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