I'm a freelance hairstylist in Oregon. I'm an entrepreneur at heart and I want to help you be a successful cosmetologist!
New to the Beauty Industry?
Starting out as an independent contractor can be scary, and it can feel like a long uphill battle to success. Truth be told, there is much about growing a small business in the beauty industry that they don't teach you in cosmetology school.
When I started as an independent contractor cosmetologist, it was in a new city, so I had no clients from beauty school to start my new business with. But I doubled my income every single year and by year three my income was well above average for any industry in my area.
Here's how I did it and how you can too.
1. Work Saturdays
Working Saturdays is crucial when starting out as a new cosmetologist. If you can find a way to work both Saturdays and evenings, that's even better. You will find yourself building a clientele much faster if you are available during these times because most people work 9-5 five days a week. Bank holidays are also a great time to log some extra hours and gain a few new walk-in clients.
2. Take Walk-Ins
While there’s nothing scarier than juggling the expectations of people you don’t know, it's an important step towards creating a sustainable clientele base. Without initial walk in traffic, growing your business can be a long uphill battle. Sometimes that color correction that walks in crying (usually just as you're about to leave for the day) becomes your new best client. People who are dazzled by your incredible generosity in taking them last minute or staying late for them usually tell their friends about you.
3. Answer the Phone
If you work in a salon that doesn't have a receptionist and the calls are taken by available stylists, jump. on. that. phone. Most hairstylists are natural in-person conversationalists, so developing rapport over the phone can be difficult, but it's well worth the effort to brush up on your phone skills and nab those extra clients in your "down time."
4. Do Your Hair and Makeup
You probably wouldn't pay big money to a lawyer who looked like a pawn dealer, so show up to work looking like a master of your craft. If you show up to the salon looking like you just rolled out of bed, you client is likely not going to trust you for a balayage and brow wax. Take pride in your appearance; it's a billboard you take everywhere.
5. Don't Do Your Hair and Makeup at Your Station!
I know that giant mirror in front of you can be tempting, but resist the urge to primp at work at all costs. It's just not classy.
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6. Keep Learning
You passed the classes, took the state board exams, and are out in the real world, but that doesn't mean you should stop learning! The nature of the beauty industry is that it's always changing. Trends change by the year and require you to learn new skills in order to execute the newest look. Invest in yourself by putting aside a little of your earnings each month so you can attend shows and classes. This money will come back to you ten-fold!
7. Keep Track of Your Earnings
Keep track of every penny that goes in and out of your hands. Simple mistakes like not tracking cash and tips will cost you in the long run. Rather than unraveling a giant mess at tax time every year, spend a few dollars and buy a cash book to track your tips and earnings. If you are an independent contractor, you also need to record everything you spend on product and mileage.
It's also worth it to have a qualified tax preparer file your taxes for you. While TurboTax might seem like a cheap alternative, it really isn't. A tax preparer will be able to alert you to write offs you may not be aware of, which can save you thousands over the years!
8. Pay Estimated Quarterly Taxes
Instead of just hoping you have enough spare cash laying around at the end of the year to cover your taxes, fill out the necessary paperwork to pay state taxes quarterly. This will make those steep self-employment taxes less of a blow in the spring.
It's also worth it to set aside 30% of your earnings to cover federal taxes. While that may seem like a lot, it's worth it to have the buffer in case the total you owe adds up to more than you thought. Anything left over from that 30% is like a double tax refund!
9. Rebook Your Clients
This should go without saying, but I've seen many new cosmetologists fail to rebook their clients. Most clients who don't book an appointment while they're in your salon never come back. Repeat business is the at the absolute core of being a successful independent contractor. A client who comes back is one less client you have to find through advertising. Offer your client the opportunity to rebook with you while they're still enamored with the fabulous job you just did! Here is some advice if you're having trouble rebooking.
10. Don't Criticize Your Competition
Tempting as it may be to criticize the esthetician who turned your new client's eyebrows into McDonald's Golden Arches, avoid this mistake at all cost. We all have bad days and your client probably already feels embarrassed and annoyed. Being critical of other stylists may seem like a way to make yourself look good, but in the long term it sullies your reputation and makes you seem less trustworthy. Try to only speak about other cosmetologists the way you would want them to talk about you.