One of the greatest joys of being a stylist is when you have that client you mesh with not only on an aesthetic level, but also on an energy and personality level. They are the ones who respect you, value your time, and leave you feeling recharged after their appointment. These are the clients you want to fill your books with.
Then we have those clients who we don’t look forward to seeing. They are negative, drain the positivity right out of us, or belittle us and make us feel unworthy of our own time. They aren’t respectful of our time, constantly book and cancel at the last minute, always show up late or ask too much of us when we simply do not have the time allotted for them.
So, when is enough, enough? How do we know when it’s time?
- They don’t respect your time. We know time is money, and we base our paychecks on butts in our seat. When we run late, we risk the next appointment being late and it becomes a trickle-down effect for the rest of the day. No one wants to be on time only to learn their stylist is running 20 minutes behind. When we have clients who repeatedly fail to show up for an appointment, cancel at the last minute, or constantly show up 15–30 minutes late, they are demonstrating that they do not respect your time. Once or even twice can be forgiven. But you should establish come clear guidelines in your salon policies or make it clear what your expectations are.
- They are never happy. I think we have all been there. That one guest who, no matter what we do, how many times we do something to try and please them, they complain about the results and make us feel like we are incompetent. As hairstylists, it is in our nature to make our guests look and feel amazing—so we try and try. Sometimes you have to acknowledge that this client will never truly be happy it’s probably time to let them go.
- They take advantage of you. Know your worth! If you charge a certain amount for a haircut, then you need to be firm and charge that amount. All too often, stylists feel bad for charging a certain amount for a service. But remember, you did not pay thousands of dollars to go to school to learn a trade to do it for free! Would you expect to bargain with the clerk at the grocery store for cheaper bananas or expect a plumber to fix your leak for free? Of course not. So, when this guest constantly asks for a cheaper price, or gives you a hard time of the amount the bill at the end of every appointment, this person needs to find someone else who can accommodate them because that person isn’t you.
What do we say and how do we go about it?
- Keep calm. We’ve all experienced it—a client is upset, the stylist is overwhelmed and frustrated, and it turns into an argument. In these cases, you may need to give it a day, get your emotions under control, then give them a call to let them know that you can no longer service them. You thank them for their time, but you understand that you are not the right stylist for them and you can recommend another stylist to take your place.
- Be honest with them. Let them know your reasoning behind it. For example, “I want to thank you for trusting me to color your hair, but we have redone your color service four times and I just cannot seem to make you happy. I would like to suggest another master colorist to take my place with the hope she can give you what you are looking for.” You can also let them know how you feel: “I appreciate that you come and see me every eight weeks, but each time you make me feel inadequate in my skill with some of your belittling comments. Unfortunately, at this time I cannot continue to service you.
- Stand Firm. Sometimes the client will agree that yes, maybe you aren’t the right stylist for them and change their mind later and want to come back to you. Or a guest will try and bargain with you right away, pleading you to not let them go. Whichever direction that goes, stand firm on your decision. There’s no need to stress about every time you see their name in your book or dread having them come in.
Some people feel a client is always right. But you know what? The client is not always right—we make a client feel right by bending the rules and overlooking unacceptable behavior. We need to be professional, respectful, and honest, and we can’t forget to stick to our guns on our decisions. Being as up-front and transparent as possible is always best. You may find that just by having an honest conversation about boundaries cab save some clients.
Always protect yourself and your livelihood, and if it comes time to fire your client, know you did all you could and tried your best and that you’ll be happier after you’ve done it.