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Do the math on what you’ll earn in a career in the beauty industry

By Laurie McLachlan Brown

Talent is the tip of the iceberg for a successful career in the beauty industry. Cosmetologists, estheticians, nail technicians, and barbers know that a keen business sense is what takes talent to the bank.

For example, “Roxanne” is an unbelievably talented hair stylist.  While at beauty school, her designs blew away the competition and impressed instructors beyond measure. The school’s job placement counselors were confident Roxanne would land a rewarding job in one of the area’s hottest salons or day spas.

Yet six months after graduating from the cosmetology institute, Roxanne was back with the placement counselor looking for another job.  Why? She failed to manage her time, which in the world of fashion, equals money.

Admittedly, Roxanne struggled with self-discipline, which is critical for the entrepreneurial-style beauty industry.  Without setting clear expectations for managing her time and budget, Roxanne slipped into an attitude of showing up and filling her quota card for hair cuts, perms, colors, shampoos, and more, with little thought to how much money she was making, what her supplies cost, or how she could reinvest her earnings.

Hair stylists, nail technicians, estheticians, and barbers with a desire to succeed financially need to look beyond the hourly wage offered by most salons, day spas, resorts, and even medical offices.  Setting goals for tips (“I’ll have to do XYZ to earn at least a 20 percent tip on every hairstyle”), selling product (“My goal is to be the top seller every month”), and reinvesting revenues into marketing and promotional materials (business cards, brochures, websites), are tools that will take any emerging stylist or skin care consultant to the next level.

Other financial considerations include, in some cases, booth rental fees at the salon, whether the stylist provides his/her own products or tools, and how to account to the IRS for income earned as an independent contractor. 

Most importantly, however, is that students at hair styling institutes or beauty academy in general, develop not only their artistic talents, but also their aptitude for business.

Tricks of the trade for beauty industry freelancers

By Laurie McLachlan Brown

Don’t be intimated by the notion of working as an independent contractor for a career in the beauty industry, even if you’re currently employed full time by a salon, day spa, medical office, cruise ship, or resort.  You could be among the thousands of successful hair stylists, nail technicians, cosmetologists, barbers, and estheticians who are earning top incomes as freelancers—and working their way toward owning a salon one day.

Here are a few tips from cosmetology professionals and instructors at top hair styling schools on how to create and keep a successful freelance career in the beauty industry.

Build a portfolio. Clients and potential employers might know the accredited hairdressing college or esthetician school you attended but the proof is in the pudding.  Take professional quality photographs of your designs and mount them in a bound book or portfolio to demonstrate a progressive body of work. Include photos of both traditional hairstyles and some that might be considered trendsetting, to show your diversity as a stylist. If you’re a recent graduate of beauty college and don’t have a lot of experience behind the chair, host free makeover events for friends and ask them to sign releases to publish before-and-after shots.

Create marketing materials and carry them with you everywhere.  Any office supply company or big box retailer will sell printable business cards.  Keep the design of your card simple and professional looking.  Develop a website, blog, or online photo gallery of your work.  A brochure highlighting your services, such as hair styling, manicures, pedicures, skin care, make-up, or personal appearance consultant, along with photographs and contact information is a great icebreaker with potential clients.

Start a beauty-related conversation with others, wherever you are.  Everyone has an issue with his or her hair, nails, and skin.  Start by complimenting others on what they are doing right with their look, be casual, not critical; and end by offering services that he/she might “enjoy taking the look even further or enhancing a bit here and there.”  Offer a small trick of the trade as a gesture of good faith, asking them to give you a call before they visit another salon.

Lastly, make yourself work.  Commit to scheduling at least three freelance appointments each week and continue increasing that goal as your business picks-up.  Keep up-to-speed on the business aspects of your career, such as good record keeping, ordering supplies, and budgeting.  Find and keep a solid routine, and stay motivated. 

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