When I started my career, social media was not a thing. I didn’t have the luxury of posting before-and-after photos of the awesome hair I was doing, using hashtags to promote myself, or asking people to like and follow my page. That didn’t exist! So, I did the next best thing—I hustled.
Here’s the thing: this is a customer-service industry and there can be dozens of salons or barbershops within a 10-mile radius. So, I hustled. I started out doing a lot of free or discounted work; if the client referred people or told their friends and family, I did their hair. I passed out business cards to every single person I met. I would go out to lunch and strike up a conversation with the server about her hair and suggest some neat color combos. I’d go out with my friends, mingle with people, and always work hair into every conversation because I was so passionate about it. But I also wanted to make this a real living for myself and needed to build my books to do so.
When I finally had people coming in the door, I had to keep them. So, I made connections with them, starting with the consultation. I was honest with my clients; I offered the best professional opinion I could and made sure to ask many questions for detailed clarity so I would be offering them exactly what they were looking for. But I was always honest with them. If they really wanted something done and I just knew it wasn’t going to look good, I would suggest a plan B for them if it didn’t turn out the way they were hoping for. Because let’s face it—very few popular hair styles are made for everyone’s face shape.
Looking the part was key. Yes, looking professional, making sure I was put together. In the event I got bleach on my clothes, I had a sharpie handy to cover up the bleach spots. My hair was done every day, my nails were well manicured and polish was not chipped. My makeup was done, and I always wore a smile. The one thing I think some stylists forget is that the conversations are also a part of that professionalism. I left my problems at the door. If I was having a bad day, most certainly my clients did not know about it. This was their time to relax and enjoy the experience I was giving them, not to listen about how my best friend and I had a falling out the night before.
Being nervous about upselling services and products was something I had to overcome. I think stylists—and yes, we all know someone that falls into this category—think the price is too high or feel like they are a salesperson if they try to push product. I went to a CE class that revolved around selling product and why it is our job as professionals to recommend hair care products to our clients’ wash or style routine. I learned so much! And I tried and practiced exactly what I learned. And it isn’t salsey at all. I learned that when you perform a color service, you are recommending product to ensure your work lasts. An insurance policy, if you will, for the chemical service you’ve just completed.This will be your walking advertisement as your client goes out and about and does their daily routine. What was most fascinating about this class is the selling techniques I learned. I didn’t wait until checkout to try and get them to buy the product, it started the moment they sat down in my chair and the consultation began—asking the right questions and immediately suggesting we try this or that while they are there. Once I used the product, I would ask them what they thought and talked about the benefits it had for the integrity of their hair. It was as easy as saying, “Which one of these will you be taking home today?” I didn’t give them the option to say no, and it worked.
Putting my education first helped me build and maintain my clientele. Every chance I got, I attended hair shows, learned about new products that came on the market, really dug deep into the health benefits of products we put in our hair, new trends and hairstyles—the list goes on and on, but this saved me in so many ways. The more education I got, the more I could educate my guests on what to use and why to use it. The great thing about this was I stayed in the loop of new styles so when I had that customer coming in for a “fohawk” or that balayage color, I knew what they were talking about and how to do it. This industry is always changing. Just because I learned how to do something one way 20 years ago, doesn’t mean there’s not an easier or better way on how to do it now.
Once I had a full book, I maintained rebooking every client that I could to keep my books consistent. However, over time I realized that to stay busy and keep my professional image, time was money, and I think we can all agree that when you have people in your chair, you are making money. So, when I had clients constantly showing up late with excuse after excuse, I had to make the difficult decision to fire them. These clients were making me run late for my next appointment, and as a result, I’d be running late for the rest of the day. Now I know what you are thinking—why would I do that after hustling to build my books? The answer is easy. In order to give the best experience to keep my on-time clients coming back, I had to weed out the ones who did not respect my time as a professional and make room for new ones who would. And I did exactly that. Before I knew it, my books started building even more!
Remember, keep grinding and get your name out there. With social media and so many different platforms that are at our fingertips, it is easy to show the world what you are capable of. Don’t just sit around waiting for people to walk in the door and hope that when they do, they return to you. You must put in the effort to make this work in your favor—the world is your oyster.