What does it take to become an award-winning hair and beauty professional?

The hair and beauty industry is notoriously competitive. Striking out on your own can be hard enough, let alone getting to the point where you’re bringing home awards and working on national television shows.

That’s why we sat down with Ashleigh Hodges, a freelance hairdresser currently based in London, to find out just how she did it.

Who is Ashleigh Hodges?

Ashleigh has spent the past few years working partly freelance and partly in a salon, but decided to go completely freelance this January.

A highly sought-after artist, Ashleigh works globally, and has been published in American, Australian, South African and many British editorials. Formerly a regular backstage at London Fashion Week, she’s now focusing on two exciting business ventures for 2019, and currently works on The Voice UK.

Of all the awards she’s won, Ashleigh has two standout moments. The first was getting into the fellowship for British Hairdressing FAME Team 2012: “I was one of the youngest to get onto this team and it really helped shape my career. Then winning Creative Heads IT Girl 2014 was epic, I was crowned the most up and coming female in the industry and the award was given out by the one and only Jack Whitehall!”

Here’s her advice to hair and beauty professionals looking to grow their business and expand their influence.

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1. Consider your options – then go for it

Despite having many years’ experience working all over the world, Ashleigh only became freelance full time at the start of 2018. If you’re not already a freelancer but are looking to make the leap, she suggests you weigh up your options carefully first. You should make sure you’re in the right position financially.

However, once you’re ready to go, Ashleigh says you should throw yourself into it: “Give it your all. You deserve to be a success, so put all your effort and investment into yourself.”

2. Attend events and enter awards

As well as putting in lots of hard work, it doesn’t hurt to get your name out there. Ashleigh entered awards before she was ready to go it alone: “I started entering awards while I was still training, mainly to start getting people seeing my name, and every time I entered I’d learn something new.

“The more things you enter or attend, the more people you meet, who therefore know who you are and can offer you awesome jobs. I assisted a lot for free to get myself out there – it’s all about investing in yourself from the beginning and reaping your own rewards.”

3. Know who you are

It’s important to have your own personal style, even in a world where there seem to be new hair and beauty trends on Instagram every five minutes: “Clients (whether it’s a person or brand) book you for you. They want you on that job because they like how you do things.

“We all have to follow or keep an eye on the trends so that things are current or forward thinking, but you need to do it with your own personal flair. Otherwise everything ends up mass produced with no creative elegance.”

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4. Never stop learning

Ashleigh’s motto is ‘knowledge is power’, and she even runs courses of her own to help fellow stylists improve. In a world where anything can be Googled, she believes it’s fundamentally important to understand your own craft.

“Knowledge and understanding gives us confidence to face situations rather than shy away from them, in any aspect of life. When it comes to creative industries, like hair and make up, it’s so important to feel confident and understand exactly what you’re doing, because clients nowadays feel like they know so much due to Google and social media.

“It’s our job to be the professional so we can guide and advise them in the best way possible.”

5. Take time for yourself

Working in a creative industry, particularly one where your focus is on other people, can make it easy to forget about yourself. While you have to remember to take regular breaks and not just run on caffeine, making sure you look after your mental health can be harder.

Ashleigh says that while she learnt how best to look after her body quite quickly, she’s still learning about taking care of her mind. This is what she’s picked up so far:

  • Take your breaks and actually rest. Whether it’s a 15 minute break from clients or a weekend break from work, actually take the break and don’t try to cram anything work related into it. You deserve and need that time out.
  • Breathe. It’s crazy how we do this naturally, but don’t take much notice of whether we’re doing it properly.
  • Eat healthily and mindfully. If you know you’re going to have a busy day with no proper lunch, pack lots of healthy snacks to keep your energy going.
  • Keep checking your goals. They should still be relevant to your life. When trying to make it to the top it’s easy to get tunnel vision, and lose sight of everything else. Each month, quarter and year, just check in with yourself and make sure that what you’re doing is what you want, and that what you’re saying ‘yes’ to is helping you reach your goals. If not, start using the power of ‘no’ and create a new path.

What got you to where you are today? Let us know in the comments

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