It’s true – if you become a hairdresser, you'll be entering into one of the country's happiest professions.
Over the years, hairdressing has placed highly in surveys and indexes of the country’s happiest careers. What’s more, people will always need a haircut, which means hairdressers can withstand the ups and downs of the economy.
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It might be that you’re currently working in a salon for somebody else, or you could be wondering about becoming a self-employed hairdresser from scratch. Either way, this comprehensive guide will help you on your way to becoming a self-employed hairdresser.
If you’re approaching hairdressing from scratch, you might be wondering about the difference between becoming a mobile hairdresser as opposed to opening a salon. And if you currently work for somebody else but dream of going self-employed, you might be wondering which route to go down, too.
The first thing to understand is that they both actually offer different types of services, and appeal to different kinds of clients. This means that there isn’t necessarily direct competition between the two.
People who go to salons often enjoy getting away from it all and being pampered, whereas those who use the services of a freelance hairdresser do so for the convenience. As freelance hairdresser Grant Moray told the Guardian in 2013, “the competition between hair salons and freelance hairdressers is actually not as tough as people might think.”
It's a choice only you can make, but we outline some of the pros and cons of each below.
If you'd like to learn more, check out our article on how to start your own salon.
If you’re not ready to take the leap and start your own salon, but you don’t want to go mobile, you could consider renting a chair in an existing hair salon.
By renting a chair in a salon, you get a permanent place to work from. You may also benefit from the salon’s own passing trade – it can be a great way for self-employed hairdressers to become more established.
In addition, you’ll be able to set your own hours and work flexibly if you wish. This is particularly attractive for self-employed hairdressers who have other commitments, like childcare.
Compared to setting up your own salon, the start-up costs are dramatically lower. In addition, you won’t have to deal with many of the logistical issues involved in finding premises and signing leases – although you should make sure you understand the contract you have with the salon, as we’ll explain below.
So how much does it cost to rent a chair in a salon? There’s a few different ways this might work.
Under this arrangement, you pay a proportion of your earnings to the salon. This is normally around 40 per cent, but some salons may charge more, especially if they're very established or in a desirable location with lots of passing trade.
This is the simplest arrangement – you simply pay a fixed amount each month to rent the chair. You know exactly how much you need to make every month to break even. However, remember you will still need to pay the same amount even if you go through a quiet patch.
Alternatively, you might make an arrangement somewhere between the two options above: you pay a small fixed fee, and the salon also takes a percentage of your sales. This way, you can be sure of how much work you need in order to pay your rent every month, but it can be more expensive during busy periods.
It’s important you have a contract with the salon you’re renting the chair from. This should set out both parties’ rights and responsibilities, as well as the amount that you’re paying.
You should remember, however, that this isn’t an employment contract. You won't get any of the benefits enjoyed by employees, but at the same time you will also be able to control your own work patterns. Crucially, you'll be able to keep what you earn, less any percentage fee for rent agreed with the salon.
In addition, remember you’ll still have to abide by all of the same tax and legal obligations as any other self-employed hairdresser.
Hairdressing can be a competitive marketplace, so you will need all the qualifications necessary to stand out from the crowd. If you don’t have them already this might be a catch-22, as training in a salon is often a great route to achieving your qualifications.
This could be a stepping stone on your way to becoming a self-employed hairdresser. Salons might offer an apprenticeship scheme, or offer training that isn’t part of an apprenticeship.
You can also gain qualifications by attending colleges. If you’re working currently, you might be able to do this in the evenings or at weekends. You can choose to take National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) in hairdressing. City and Guilds diplomas are another route, which cover a wide range of skills.
If you're opening a salon, you need to do your research to make sure you're setting up shop in the right location. When scouting for premises, consider things like footfall and visibility.
Your salon needs to be big enough for salon stations, chairs and, possibly, a reception desk.
A self-employed hairdresser needs the right tools to do an effective job. Your equipment needs to be professional salon quality. Whether you want to be a mobile hairdresser or want to open a salon, you will likely need, among other things:
Investing in the right tools from the start should help you feel comfortable with them quickly. You’ll be putting a lot of trust in your tools to get the job done.
And if you want to offer services like bleaching, dying and permanent waves, you’ll have to find a trusted supplier of these chemicals. Keep track of brands you’ve used before and work out which ones you are comfortable with.
Some clients might have unusual requests for their hair, so you’ll want a stock of products that you can mix with fast.
If you want to open your own salon, you also need to think about these for your premises:
This is variable and depends on experience, how well established you are and where you are in the country. What is true, though, is that you shouldn’t set too low of a price, even if initially your clients include just family and friends. Be aware of how much you're worth and take all of your experience into account.
It’s best to do your research and find out what other self-employed hairdressers are charging in the area, whether you're opening a salon or becoming a mobile hairdresser. To win clients, you could charge the same or slightly less.
Outside of London, you could charge around £20 to £25 for a basic cut and style. As you gain experience working on your own and you build a loyal client base, you could increase your prices. If you’re working in London, the prices people expect to pay will be higher.
You may want to offer discounts if a client is using multiple services, such as a haircut and colour. Being clear on your prices is an absolute must, so include these on your website or promotional leaflets.
Not only will you be cutting hair, but you’ll also be dealing with extra administration. You’ll need to keep accurate records of your income and expenditure, and note down any mileage you do if you're mobile.
You should register as self-employed with HMRC and have your detailed records to hand when you complete your Self Assessment tax return.
Keeping detailed records of your earnings and expenditure can also inform the sort of prices you should be charging. Knowing what your income needs to cover will help you set realistic rates that make you money.
You should also check with your local council that you have all the right licenses and registrations in place. For instance, your local council may need you to register your hairdressing or barbering business to ensure you're following health and safety regulations.
And on health and safety regulations, you should be vigilant and make sure that you're complying with everything you need to.
If you are looking to become a self-employed hairdresser, you should also consider the business insurance you might need. Insurance gives you the peace of mind that you are covered, should something go wrong. Some of the covers to consider include:
Winning and building a loyal client base is key to becoming a successful self-employed hairdresser. You’ll need to be very good at communicating, networking, and building a personal brand. Have an answer to this question – why should people choose you over anyone else?
The first place to look for clients is your family and friends. You can then ask them to give personal recommendations to their family and friends, too. But many will find that this isn’t enough to keep their business afloat, so what else can you do?
Are you looking to become a self-employed hairdresser? Let us know how you get on in the comments.
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