How to start a hair and beauty salon

Research shows that the hair and beauty sector is growing, so here’s our guide to getting set up and grabbing a slice of the market.

This writer isn’t afraid to admit he once took a trip to a salon. Spurred on by David Beckham and one of his distinctive haircuts, he booked an expensive appointment at one of Brighton’s flashiest chains.

Now, a tad out of his comfort zone he didn’t cope with the experience too well, a bright and vibrant salon a million miles away from his moody old barber. Nonetheless, there’s thousands of other men (including his own friends…) embracing the salon environment, with research from industry suppliers Salon Services indicating an increase in male customers.

The growing beat of metrosexuality is creating a buoyant beauty market, and there’s clearly plenty of money and opportunity in this industry. So, without further ado, here’s our guide to starting your own salon, built for both the beauty experts and curious career switchers…

Pick your path

As an aspiring salon owner you’ve essentially got two options – buy into a franchise or go it alone.

Big companies like Saks and Toni&Guy offer franchising opportunities, bringing an existing corporate structure and brand recognition to the table. As such, life as a franchise is made easier but then again, you’ll still be slightly constrained. If you want to completely call the shots then your own salon will suit you better.

Not sure which option fits your needs? Read more about franchising here and learn the realities of a more independent career here 

Build a business plan

Regardless of whether you go it alone or down the franchising route, you’ll need to draw up a business plan to win the confidence of investors. Elsewhere, it’ll help you clarify your ideas and formulate objectives.

The website can help you get started, their dedicated page providing links to business plan templates, examples and how to guides. Check out our run-through of common small business mistakes while you’re at it and try to avoid them when building your plan.

Put time into finding your premises

The right premises are vital for your salon, so take your time finding the right location. Ask yourself:

  • Is this location convenient for customers?
  • Will this location give me access to the right staff?
  • Is this location cost-effective?

It might take time but you’ll need to find a balance between these three criteria. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to buy property outright too, as there’s always the option of renting or leasing your premises. Whatever you do here don’t rush, and take legal advice if you’re unsure.

Find your financial feet

Once you’ve constructed a solid business plan, financing your business will follow.

Don’t be drawn into thinking the high street banks are your only option. There’s other ways you can raise cash as we looked at last year, with government grants available for the right businesses. Start with the business finance support finder to see what you’re eligible for - you’ll be surprised at the depth of options you can find with a little digging.

Learn the legalities

As with opening any business starting a salon brings reams of red tape. From equipping yourself with the right qualifications to choosing your legal structure, there’s a lot of groundwork that needs to be done before your first beauty treatment.

Qualification-wise you’ll ideally need to equip yourself with an NVQ at level 4, as this will equip you well for the realities of running your own salon. If you’re lacking this speak to your local college and see what tutoring they can provide. Even with qualifications you’ll need to equip yourself with the right licenses though, so check out the license finder to learn what you need.

As far as finding the right legal structure for your salon business, you’ll have four options to choose from – Sole Trader, Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership and Limited Company. Need help getting to grips with the differences? Our in-depth explanation can tell you more and help you make up your mind.

Elsewhere, you’re legally obliged to insure yourself as a salon. Check out our hairdressing insurance page for more info and bear in mind you’ll need employers’ liability too if you take on staff, hiring employees bringing legal responsibility.

…and study your health and safety responsibilities

Running your own salon brings with it a fair amount of health and safety responsibility, and you’ll need to be aware of yours to stay on the right side of the law.

At the most basic level you’ll need to abide by the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974). We’ve put together a brief guide around this explaining how you can comply, but realise that as a salon you’re likely to carry more risks than most businesses. The Health and Safety Executive provides a brief guide to some of the risks of hairdressing here and offers an example of a salon risk assessment here.

Master your marketing

Behind any successful salon is some savvy selling, so get a marketing plan in place to give your salon the best shot possible.

Aside from old-school salon marketing like flyering and cut-price deals, you’ll want to build an online presence to capture customers searching there. We’ve built several guides to help you get started here, offering tips on using Wordpress, social media and SEO.

For a day to day stash of ideas, keep an eye on our marketing section to pick up fresh insights. All of this put together should help you get happy customers throught he door and on your books in no time.

Ready to set up your cover?

As the UK’s biggest business insurance provider, we specialise in public liability insurance and protect more trades than anybody else. Why not take a look now and build a quick, tailored quote?

Start your quote