Today I want to write about the things that sit deep in my heart about being a hairstylist. Right now my mind is overflowing with all the things I want to say, so bare with me if it sounds all over the place. I love the fact that I wake up everyday and live out my passion, I have no doubt that I am in the right profession. I have worked harder than most people will ever know to get to where I am today, unless of course you too are a hairstylist and you too have worked your butt off to get to where you are. Being a hairstylist has so many meanings to me, I get to influence someone’s life, I get to share the start of a brand new journey with them on their wedding day, I get to be their hero when I fix a hair disaster. I influence how they see and feel about themselves. I create emotions of complete amazement when you create a colour they’ve sought after for years but no one could achieve. See, us hairstylists play a really big role in the lives of our clients… what you may not realise is how big of a role you – a client, plays in our lives. How you, a client treats us and how it affects us. Every hairstylist reading here most likely will relate to some of the things I say if not agree with everything I have to say.
Today, I want to tap into the hairstylists side, talking from behind the chair from a stylists point of view. Of course not all stylists are equally driven, not all stylists are passionate, but this is about the ones who are, like me. Because I care about my job, my reputation and my clients, I get affected emotionally and mentally. I work 8+ hours 6 and sometimes 7 days a week. I hardly get time to eat during the day let alone pee. I am pulled into all directions, trying to pay attention to the client in my chair as well as the clients who Whatsapp my personal number, let’s not forget the clients who call the landline number wanting to talk to me, and only me, not understanding that I cannot leave the client in my chair every 5 seconds to have a conversation over the phone when my assistant is perfectly trained to handle your query. This is extremely exhausting, because I feel like it’s a battle I can not win. I ask my clients to not hand out my personal number because I have a business phone but it still gets handed out – now before saying ‘you shouldn’t have handed out your number in the first place’ bare in mind that friends and family hand out my number on a regular basis, once it’s out then it’s done. I can’t control it. Change my number? Sure, like that will help. I try to be nice and hand out my number to clients for if they ever just have a question or want to run something by me, stating that appointments are made and cancelled via the business phone but that is also soon forgotten. If I receive a whatsapp while I am busy with a client I can not respond, or I receive a text and as I want to respond my next client walks in so I put my phone down and I forget about your text as my day goes on. The client then feels unimportant, or upset that I read her text but did not ‘bother’ to reply …. I have received calls on a Sunday NIGHT to book an appointment. I have had clients text me at 11:30 pm to find out when and what time their next appointment is. Week after week, month after month. I have had really rude, really nasty messages sent to me because why am I not answering my business phone on my OFF DAY. Last year I had my first nervous breakdown because mentally I was exhausted. I just couldn’t handle everyone bombarding me from every angle. Clients begging for an appointment when I am already full. Clients asking me if I am joking when I tell them I am booked fully for the next 8 weeks and that I can’t help them, like I am not good enough to be that booked, yet they are calling to book with me.
I have been a salon owner for 1 year 3 months and 19 days. It has been great, it has been mind blowing, it has been terrible and it has been exhausting. I never prepared myself for how much and how fast my business would grow. In my first month I did not make enough profit to pay my rent. We had an emergency fund set out for the salon for 4 months, so I knew that I had 4 months to really get my business out there and get my appointment book full. By month 3 I was fully booked every.single.day. Soon I was booked 2 weeks in advance, 4 weeks in advance, at this very moment I have bookings that stretch into 2017. I do have a very. very large client basis. I have loyal, amazing, wonderful clients that make me feel like I am on top of the world. They stick by me, they trust me and they have helped me grow my business. But then I have the clients that I have had a negative interaction with. Sometimes it’s me and sometimes it’s them. I know myself, I know my personality, I personally think I don’t have your typical personality you find in a professional industry. I don’t believe the customer is always right and I don’t kiss ass just to please a client. I am very straightforward, I’m a bit awkward and I hate small talk. I don’t tolerate being disrespected. I don’t jump at the click of my clients fingers and I don’t mind telling someone that they are not welcome in my salon again.
That said, I am very, very passionate, I do have a soft heart although I guard it pretty tight. I will walk to the ends of the earth for my clients, and I have. I will work until I am satisfied and I can see the client is satisfied. I handle criticism easy and I don’t get offended easily. I like making jokes and having a good time with my client. I have clients that are like friends, we click instantly, they share very personal information and they seek advice from me. I have clients that I have very deep conversations with, I have clients where all we do is literally just laugh the whole time. I have clients where we barely talk. I have clients that have become family. Clients I can be at ease with, but this post is not about my great clients. This post is not about the ones that keep me going even when I want to give up, this post is about the side of being a hairstylist no one ever talks about.
Grab a warm cup of coffee or an ice cold glass of wine – this might turn into a 5000 page book.
I feel like as I stylist I can be as nice as I want to or as rude as I want to I still loose. Because the client will always only speak from their point of view, which is totally understandable, but still unfair. When a client comes and sits in my chair complaining about everything the previous stylist messed up, I NEVER ask who that stylist was out of respect for that stylist I may or may not know. Because I know so well how things can turn between a client and myself, a miscommunication, and she too might run off talking bad about me when in fact I may not have done anything wrong. So, I sympathize with the stylist the client bad mouths, unless I can see that this poor client’s hair is so damaged due to negligence by the stylist, of course then I totally get where the client is coming from.
I have found that you can have as thorough consultation as possible and the client will still turn around afterwards saying you never told her. Or she thought you meant something else, when in fact you said it pretty clear. I am probably taking on a subject here that most stylists keep to themselves or only discuss with other stylists, but I really feel the need to speak out. We get disrespected and broken down by clients, who also want fabulous hair at a next to nothing price. They demand but refuse to compensate properly. How much should I be compensated for standing on my feet for 8 hours, colouring one persons hair? What would you suggest I am worth? It IS expected of me to colour your hair like a Victoria Secret model for 6 to 8 hours long for only R700 maximum. Are you kidding me? Really, are you joking? Would you stand on your feet for that many hours for R700? Yet this is what many clients expect me to charge for such a colour session. I have to cover rent, water, electricity, salary, phone bill, insurance, wifi, product cost, security costs, food, living expenses and personal bills. I also have a formal education that was costly, I didn’t study for free.
The most disrespectful thing I have encountered and it bugs me so damn much is when someone has the nerve to ask me WHY I charge SO MUCH. Since when did it become OK to ask someone something like this? With all due respect, if my price is too much nobody is forcing you to make use of my services? The second problem I have is when someone wants to tell me that I need to fix the mess the previous hairstylist made, without breaking her hair ANY more, she does not want to pay a lot, she only has 2 hours OH and if it does not look like the picture she won’t pay. Girl… back away slowly.
It infuriates me but saddens me even more that clients, people can be SO demanding and yet still have the nerve to say I am charging too much. Everyone should know by now that quality is something you pay for. If you believe that quality can also come cheap, fine by me, but then I am not the stylist for you, because you will pay for my quality and my time. What is the difference between Wella and Pantene? L’Oreal and Tresemme? Why do clients always comment that their hair is so soft after leaving the salon compared to when they wash at home? QUALITY! What is the PRICE difference between Wella and Pantene? What is the price difference between L’Oreal and Tresemme? Why does DKNY perfume cost more than a Revlon deodorant? QUALITY. Catch my drift? If you want Pinterest hair, if you want to look like your favorite movie star, then pay what they pay to look like that. Don’t expect a hairstylist to bend over backwards and use up all their products and time to make you look like a million bucks but then she can’t afford to even put petrol in her car to get to work. Or pay her bills. This is NOT fair. It is NOT OK to treat someone like this.
Also understand that achieving a colour is not as easy as 1,2,3. You can not go from black to blonde in one day. And even if you did, it would be so expensive you might.just.die. Clients need to realize that patience is key, sometimes I can achieve what you want in one sitting, sometimes I can’t. If you want to go and tell everyone that I suck at my job because you are too uneducated to know how colour works, hey, I can’t help that. If I tell you I can’t bleach your hair because it is too damaged – trust me. Because me breaking your hair = me being the worlds worst hairstylist. Then again if I don’t bleach your hair I am still the worlds worst hairstylist.
The other day one of my Facebook friends made a Facebook status posting a picture of a pretty bob, asking for recommendations of a good stylist in her area, one comment caught my eye and she commented that her stylist is absolutely the BEST and she must go to her stylist she won’t be disappointed and oh wait for it she is “super cheap” – I am sorry but that is so insulting! I would rather have people say ” you know what my stylist is pricey but she’s worth it” You charge what you think you are worth. I’m a hairstylist, I am not a slave. I don’t work for discount, I don’t work for free.
You have to understand a good hairstylist will go to all lengths to satisfy you, he/she cares about your hair, they care about their reputation and their end result is like a painting to an artist, they won’t put their name on it unless they are happy. But a good painting takes time, as much as we would love to be magicians we are not, we know hair better than you, trust our judgement and follow our advice, and a good painting is expensive, good hair is expensive, because good products aren’t cheap and knowledge does not come free either. Understand what you are paying for, be realistic and you will soon come to realize that it is not that expensive after all.
It baffles my mind how clients can tell you what to charge – let me tell you one of my stories. I had a client book for a HALF HEAD foil (crown area to front only) I asked her if she would like me to put 2 foils on each side (above ear area and hairline) so when she ties her hair up the colour is even all around her face ( I normally don’t charge extra if it’s just 4 foils – although I am more than entitled to) she said yes and asked if I could put a ‘few’ foils down in her neckline too because she doesn’t want a regrowth there – now you are looking at almost 12- 14 foils EXTRA. So I charged her for it. She forgot the total amount I gave her to pay at home when she wanted to do the transfer so she came on to my website and looked at my price list and made her own summary of a half head foil + toner + blow dry and paid in that amount. All payments are made within 24 hours from the appointment, that is my regulation. When the payment was not received in time, I sent her a message inquiring about the payment. This is when she told me she forgot the amount but had a look on my price list and paid according to that, I sent her the amount – which differed from what she paid in and she was very surprised, disgusted and angry that I charged her for the extra foils. She told me that a well known “sought after” salon in my city didn’t even charge her as much as I did for the same amount of foils – now first of all if they are so sought after why did she bother coming to me? And second of all I don’t compare my prices to other salons. I am not a other salon. I am my salon with my prices. She told me that she ever so kindly payed for a full head of toner but only had half a head of foils done – But her existing blonde was yellow and I wanted to even out her colour without bleaching all her hair off as she already had severe damage. I did a full head toner and charged her – which was apparently wrong. If I had only toned the top part she would of had an uneven colour and I would still be wrong. I was accused of over charging and taking advantage. So what do I do? Needless to say I cancelled all her future appointments and told her she’s not welcome at my salon. Harsh? Yes, I’m not going to pretend like that was not harsh, but I am sick and tired of being walked over and pushed over by clients. And if this means I have to stand up for myself and my worth by being straight forward and telling it as it is then that is what I will do. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE that knows me personally will be able to tell you that I am a very generous person. Seriously, I have never over charged anyone on any service. My assistant is constantly telling me to stop undercharging. But to this client, because according to her and what other salons charge I was over charging her. That’s not fair.
I consult with clients before hand, it has taken me so much time to be able to be upfront with a client about pricing before the colour service, but yet people act so shocked when they have to pay. And not all my clients are like this, obviously, I have clients that have been with me for years, and the new ones, who pay with a smile, who even ask me “is that all?? you must be joking are you sure you are charging me correctly?” and those clients are the ones you will give discount, or treat with a free blow dry. Clients who support and trust you. That allow you to work within a reasonable time frame to fix their messed up hair. And I have decided to filter out all clients who give me anxiety and stress – because I am constantly stressed or tensed up about pricing during a colour service. Everytime I have to mix a new bowl of colour my stress levels go up. Because the client has her specifications and I have to deliver, but when it comes to payment from the clients side it’s a whole new battle. I have even asked a cheaper price for the sake of avoiding conflict with a client, not really making a profit at all. How am I supposed to live and be happy like this?
A client will be quick to call you up and say she coloured her hair 4 weeks ago and the colour has faded and is looking dull, and wants it redone for FREE but refuses to buy salon quality shampoo and uses head and shoulders instead which by the way strips colour. Once again, the stylist is shamed for not doing their job properly but no proper aftercare was done. A client will be quick to say you damaged her hair when you took her blonde but she uses no salon quality protein or moisture treatments. They just want it all. Without giving anything. Hair is hair, it’s not a magic string where you can keep performing chemical processes without having consequences. If you want to change your colour every 6 weeks or be blonde buy the proper products to take care of your hair and you will have no problems.
I think people forget either that I am human or that my needs just don’t matter – I have expenses just like you. I have dreams just like you. I have goals just like you. I have a family just like you. I want to save for my future just like you and I want to grow my business just like you. Am I not entitled to do so? I read in a support group for hairstylists the one day, another stylist commented about a new client that came to her and while chatting the client mentioned she had a great stylist and was very happy with her but she’s not doing hair anymore now because she’s GOT A REAL JOB now ….. that is how little respect we get. My job apparently, is not a real job. There is no science in the mixing of a colour. There is no mathematics in the angle of a good symmetric bob. This kills me so much. I can’t even go there.
I cannot begin to even explain how much effort and energy and time it takes out of you to do a corrective colour. The amount of product used, the amounts of treatment to keep the hair strong and healthy throughout such a process. I can not even begin to express how expensive good salon colour and products are and how much of it I have to buy to keep my business open. Doing a clients hair is not a favor, it’s a service which you have to pay for. Being a hairstylist is a craft. It’s natural talent combined with formal training and a formal education. I worked my way up from only washing hair, sweeping salon floors and cleaning the salon to owning my own successful business. I had to endure crap from qualified stylists above me while I was still an apprentice. I have worked hard in my life for a next to nothing pathetic salary. As a salon owner I refuse to be treated like I owe you a favor by doing your hair and I should be thankful for what you pay me. It is time clients start respecting their stylists personal time, appreciating the amount of time it takes to do your hair so beautifully. Pay with a smile. Stop criticizing and stop comparing us with other salons. I give a rats ass as to what other salons are charging. I am not defined by another salon. At all. Just think for yourself and treat people the way you want to be treated.
I don’t deserve to be so anxious about what I am worth. I don’t have to stress about your appointment and whether paying is going to be a conflict encounter. I don’t have to worry about paying my rent or buying stock because I undercharged out of fear of being told I am over charging. If treating people in such a way, and trying to destroy the name someone has built by bad mouthing a business because you are selfish is your way of living life, you seriously need a reality check.
In a way I feel like I am fighting with the city I live in, because in Johannesburg and Cape Town people pay double what I charge, but I will not conform to my area. My skills are not determined by where I live. My price is not determined by whether I am a salon in a busy mall or a small house salon. My price is determined by my worth.
If I am not worth it – you are welcome to skip right along.
To my fellow stylists who relate to what I am feeling, remember your worth. Don’t let clients control you, don’t let them make you feel like you are not worth more. If you work hard, if you deliver results and have passion, then you better charge for it. Your clients who appreciate you are the only ones worth keeping. We don’t have to please everyone if it means losing ourselves in the process. We are stylists, we deserve respect. And we deserve to make a good living too. That life is not reserved just for doctors, lawyers and engineers.
Well thank you for reading – if you came this far 🙂 And now if you are not completely shocked or upset by what I have just said, have a great hair day!