How to start a hair stylist business

Many hairdressers realise quite early in their career that owning their own business might be better than working for someone else.

Don’t think of opening up your own salon without several years – and hundreds of heads-worth – of experience. This is not a career path where you should be experimenting; the on-the-job training should take place at college or when working at a salon. There are multiple considerations to take into account before you launch into your own business, and here are a few:

What type of hairdresser will I be?

Salon: The starting point for the hairdresser’s career, and the place to build experience and skills.

Salon owner: Running your own salon is the next, exciting, step up. You’ll have your own employees, you can open whenever you like, and you can concentrate on certain clients and customers.

TV/film/celebrity: If you start to gain success and have the right connections, this is an exciting career choice. It will be easier if you’re based in the ‘right’ city and you’ll need to do some networking; Modern Salon suggests joining professional networking groups and attending celebrity or charity events.

Hotel/cruise ship: Not only do you get a steady job doing what you love, but you also get to travel the world. Holidaymakers always like to look their best for cruise ship gala nights and events.

Fashion: Building your brand and name is crucial when entering the ultra-competitive fashion world.

Freelance: Other models for setting up your own business may be to set up as a freelancer and work in any of the spheres above as and when required, and add more skills by training in makeup or health etc.

Opening up a hair salon: home or studio?

If you’re planning to open a salon at home you’ll need permission from your landlord if renting – some might not be comfortable with the thought of clients passing in and out of their property all day. If you own the property, you’ll also need to ensure that you have the correct insurance (see below).

If you can’t afford to set up your own salon initially, another option is to visit clients in their homes. This might be a good way to start off your career as you will not have the pressure of having to obtain the correct equipment and layout quickly, and instead can work towards it as you gain experience running your own business.

There are many property rental opportunities on the market, for as little as £100pw in some parts of the UK. In London the cost could be £1,000 a month or more. You’ll need to decide whether you take over a space that is currently being used for hair and beauty, or whether you start again from scratch. Remember to factor business rates and start-up/legal costs into the reckoning, and be aware that rental costs can increase.

As well as the building itself, dedicated research should be paid to the location. Is there a high footfall, and is it visible to passing traffic? Is parking available nearby? Where are the nearest competitors? If you have a particular niche, is it likely to be successful in the area?

Interestingly, a huge number of hairdressers are self-employed but working in salons. Many salon owners are happy to rent out chairs to self-employed stylists, which benefits all parties; the salon looks busy and is bringing in money to pay for itself, while the self-employed stylist has a base to work from but saves on start-up costs and retains flexibility.

What qualifications do I need when starting a hairdresser business?

You do not need any specific qualifications to work as a hairdresser, but you clearly won’t be a success without some form of training course, such as an NVQ, Higher National Certificate or Higher National Diploma. You may wish to register with the Hair Council, the official website for state-registered hairdressers and barbers, although this is not mandatory.

Costs and taxes

Charging is one of the toughest decisions you’ll have to take. One of the simplest ways is to visit competitors and take note of their prices, or perhaps take advice from previous salon owners if you’re taking over a business.

You’ll also have to deal with your own tax issues, of course. Remember that many of your costs, including hair dryers, scissors, colours and other equipment, can be deducted from your tax. This also includes repairs and upgrades. Make sure you keep receipts and invoices.

Insurance

A number of different business insurance policies will apply, such as:

  • Public Liability Insurance: This covers legal costs and compensation payments claimed by a third party such as a member of the public for an injury they suffer or for damage to their property – for example, if you were paying a home visit.
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance: This protects you if you were to make a mistake that might cost a client money. In this case, if a client lost a film role or failed in a job interview and held your styling responsible, the insurance might offer protection.
  • Employer’s Liability: Cover for any staff who injure themselves in a way caused by work or the workplace – for example, tripping over a cable.
  • Buildings/contents insurance: If you own your own premises this can be covered through buildings insurance. Your equipment can be insured through contents insurance – check that it is covered if you take it out for home visits.

Employees

A salon will require employees, and it is ultimately up to you as a boss to find the perfect blend. Salon relations advisor Lee Anna Sciutto describes four types of stylists here: the new graduate who’s eager to impress and learn; the ‘know-it-all’ who can be difficult to work with; the person just there to make money; and the talented veteran. A successful salon will probably want a blend of all four types, working with their strengths and weaknesses to weave a good balance. Training, reviews and attendance at industry events should be kept regular and enjoyable. Neither you nor your employees should ever stop learning!

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