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How To Become A Cosmetologist

By Laurie M. Brown

Okay, so you’ve already heard and read about what cosmetologists do.  Cut and color, head massages, scalp treatments, skin care, eyebrow shaping, manicures and pedicures, and so on.

But what’s it really like, and how to become a cosmetologist?  We asked one of the area’s premier stylists to chime in on what it takes to build a successful client base, to call your own shots in the marketplace, and to maximize your earnings potential.  Her responses might surprise you.

Q: So you’ve been in the salon industry for five years now. What advice can you offer people on how to be a cosmetologist?

I think a lot of academy grads automatically think they should apply at a local salon when there are actually a lot more options available to them. A growing trend is for mobile hairdressers who go around to people’s home, even nursing homes, to do hair, make-up, manicures, pedicures, and skin care.  Magazines and photo studios looks for freelancers.  Even home parties, bridal showers, and weddings are popular. Besides, you get to choose your hours and your rates.  There are also a lot of tax write-offs involved when you’re self-employed. But you’d better take the time to develop your marketing materials, like a professional portfolio.  People want to know you’re qualified.

Q:  Is this economy, I think a lot of stylists are concerned about income.  What has been your experience?

How much you earn is completely up to you.  Stylists willing to work long hours, like nights and weekends, have greater earnings potential than someone just in it for the 9-to-5 routine.  My financial success stems from my willingness to work really hard to keep clients who aren’t afraid to compensate me for the extra effort.  I also market my talents extensively.  I bet you’ll ask me about marketing.

Q:  Yes, I will.  Thanks for the heads-up.  I guess a lot of stylists forget they are self-employed and that marketing is really critical to being successful.

It depends on the person.  If a stylist is happy just being behind the chair, as we say, then that’s great for them.  Everyone has his or her own motivation and situation.  I’ve got a passion for fashion and am always looking to push the envelope in terms of technique and creativity.  For me, it’s a career that never stops pushing me to improve.

Many stylists underestimate the value of word-of-mouth as a marketing tool.  Or they’re just too shy to ask.  But this business is about putting yourself out there.  Word-of-mouth is the most efficient, least expensive way to market your business.  If you’re in it to win, then ask your clients to refer you to a friend, especially if you’re just starting out.

Q:  Well then, what about marketing?  What’s your approach?

It’s gotta be the whole package.  From showing the client what works for them, to advising them on new products, to introducing new ways to improve their personal appearance.  You just can’t be their ‘hair cutter.’  You need to be their personal consultant to total good looks.  And I mean that in a really genuine way.  A client will know when you are phony.

There you have it, good advice on how to become a cosmetologist from someone who has been there.

Cosmetologists don’t cut corners on quality

By Laurie McLachlan Brown

You’ve made it through beauty school and the state exam with flying colors and are now ready for an exciting career as a cosmetologist trained in the latest hair styling, perming, coloring, cutting; nail artistry, and skin care techniques.  Your clinical experience while at the academy has enabled you to build an outstanding portfolio, your courses in business administration and marketing have prepared you for managing a successful career, and your talents in artistry are evident in everything you do.

How will you stand out from the crowd?  Through a total commitment to quality.

Quality and Client Satisfaction. Instructors at the nation’s top hair styling colleges claim students who demonstrate a willingness to go above and beyond, aiming for total client satisfaction, will experience greater success while employed at a salon, day spa, resort, or even as a manager or owner of a beauty business.  Stylists should customize every cut, color, perm and other treatment to the specific needs and desires of the client, avoiding cookie-cutter approaches at any cost.  Each client wants to believe he or she is the hair dresser’s most important customer of the day, and should be treated as such.

Quality and Cost. The products and tools used by hairdressers are a reflection of their commitment to providing a quality haircut. As a trained professional in the beauty industry, you understand the value of good clippers, combs, razors, shears, gels, sprays, and more. Be prepared to purchase the best products offered in your industry. A good pair of shears can cost up to $300, razors run for about $40, and some retailers might charge up to $100 or more for a decent pair of clippers.

Product sales make-up a large portion of your income as well so commit to using the best shampoos, conditioners, treatments, styling gels, and hairsprays so that clients can see the benefits first-hand.  Talk up the product’s benefits during the treatment or styling session, and highlight monthly specials. 

Also, many hairstylists working at top salons are required to rent “their chair.” Rates vary from state to state and even between suburban and metropolitan areas but cosmetologists should ask upfront what the employer requires.  Be ready to negotiate, based on your talents and references, from a monthly flat rate to a percentage of your sales.

Quality and Care.  Serious stylists care about not only their client’s but also themselves.  Demonstrating a commitment to a quality appearance is critical to your career’s success.  Clients want to know their stylist understands the latest fashion trends and is willing to show that interest through careful attention to their own hair, make-up, and wardrobe.

Quality and Continuous Improvement.  Your training doesn’t end after completion of beauty school.  Successful stylists, cosmetologists, nail technicians, and barbers stay ahead of the latest trends by attending workshops, trade shows, and by networking with industry representatives.  Enrolling in training courses periodically will help you help your clients to look and feel their best.

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