We’ve all dabbled with our hair at some point. Whether you’ve braved the scissors/clippers and have chopped off previous inches; have attempted to style, curl or straighten your locks or have tried to create an elaborate hair-do… we have all attempted to replicate our favourite images from YouTube and Instagram.
However, seeing and doing are not always the same thing, which is why if you’re serious about becoming a hairdresser you cannot rely solely on your raw talent alone. To be a success you need training, experience, and the right qualifications.
So what can you do? How can you ensure that you’re on the right path to achieving your dream of working and styling hair?
The first step is ensuring that you’re fully aware of what the job entails, before acquiring the skills and training you need to pursue it.
What do hairdressers/hair stylists do?
Hair stylists are expected to do more than colour, cut, treat, and style hair. True, it is at the core of their job and it is something that you will need extensive training on. However, you will also be expected to advise clients on styles and treatments (to improve the health and appearance of their hair); offer consultations, and have strong admin and communication skills.
You will also need to perform the following duties on a daily/weekly basis:
- Demonstrate product knowledge and technical expertise – Remember, you are the expert in your client’s eyes and they will want you to demonstrate it. This will range from taking them through the styling/cutting process, to teaching them about the best products to use on their hair type.
- Consulting clients– Taking into account your customer’s individual needs and requirements; you will be expected to offer advice on suitable cuts, colours, and treatments (and must be able to modify these suggestions based on their skin, hair type, and general health).
- Washing, conditioning, cutting, colouring, and styling hair.
- Stay on trend – You need to be up-to-date on the latest trends, hairstyles, and products so when a client makes a request, you can give them exactly what they need.
- Customer service – Unless you have an assigned receptionist, you will have to welcome clients and make sure they are contented before, during, and after their appointment.
- Cleaning/tidying/maintaining workstations – You will need to clean your workstation and sanitise your equipment throughout the day so your space remains appealing and comfortable to clients.
- Equipment maintenance – Alongside being able to use a variety of equipment i.e. straighteners, clippers, and hot brushes – you will need to maintain and keep them in good working order. This means you’ll need to practice your skills when you can and keep yourself abreast of how to keep your equipment fully functional.
- Inventory – You will regularly have to do inventory on your hair products/tools so you never enter a client meeting unprepared.
- Payments – Cash or card, you will need to collect payments from clients and ensure you are charging the correct amounts.
As a hair stylist, you have the power to transform and change the appearance of your client simply by knowing what will flatter their face shape, skin colour, and hair type. In turn, by knowing how to treat damaged, dry, coarse, or thinning hair and give it texture/volume; you can give them the confidence boost they crave within a matter of hours.
What skills and qualifications do you need to become a hairstylist?
As we mentioned before, there is more to hair styling than knowing how to wield a pair of scissors and demonstrate your technical expertise. You also need to be a people person i.e. you need to be capable of having professional conversations with clients while working close to other hair stylists. In addition, you need to have an outgoing personality and be prepared to engage in lengthy random discussions while you do their hair.
- Strong listening skills – You need to be able to read, respond and understand your client’s needs and correctly interpret them. At the same time, you need to genuinely listen and engage with your clients during their appointment.
- Good verbal skills – You need to be able to switch between being able to professionally advise clients and being conversational as you style their hair.
- Excellent customer service skills.
- Flexible work schedule – Your working hours will be varied as most of your clients won’t be available Monday to Friday between 9 am-5 pm. Many will seek your services at the weekend or in the evening when they are free. As such you need to be flexible and be prepared to work 6 days a week or 12-hour days.
- Ability to build long-term relationships – To succeed as a hair stylist, you need to establish lasting relationships with your clients so they’ll seek you out time and again to do their hair. This repeat service will keep you working, successful, and paid.
- Patience and the ability to remain calm under pressure – From clients constantly changing their minds about what they want, to styles not going exactly to plan; you need to be able to remain calm under pressure. In turn, you need to be efficient and capable of working to a time limit. The more efficient you are, the more appointments you’ll be able to fit in.
- Physical stamina – You might not think it, but as a hairdresser, you will spend a lot of time on your feet. As such, you will need plenty of stamina to handle these long hours.
- Good time management skills – To ensure repeat custom you need to achieve customer satisfaction. Going the extra mile to remain efficient and prevent your clients from having to wait will go a long way toward guaranteeing this.
- Basic knowledge of computers – You will be expected to perform admin tasks such as booking appointments and taking payments.
Experience is everything when it comes to being a hairstylist as it helps boost client confidence in your capabilities. This means, alongside having the training and qualifications, you also need a decent amount of experience.
Most employers expect hair stylists to have at least 2-3 years experience of working in a salon, especially if you’re applying for a more senior position.
Even Junior Hair Stylists need to have around one year’s experience on the salon floor.
Now, the best way to acquire this experience is to train with a salon and get on-the-job experience. In doing so, you’ll be in a greater position to apply for a job when you are fully trained as they’ll be able to see that you can handle the post.
That being said, experience and training alone won’t guarantee you a job. You also need to bolster your CV with the right qualifications.
Training and education requirements:
While there are no fixed education or training requirements to become a hair stylist, most employers will want you to have at least a few GCSEs, in particular in English and Maths, and will expect you to have decent reading and writing skills.
In turn, given the competitive nature of this field, having several hairdressing qualifications under your belt will increase your odds of being hired or chosen to train with their salon.
Top qualifications include:
- NVQs in hairdressing – Possessing a Level 1 or 2 diploma in hairdressing will show that you have got all the essential knowledge to work as a qualified Hair Stylist. Should you go a step further and get an NVQ Level 3, you will find it easier to apply for senior positions.
- Online hairdressing courses – These types of courses have the benefit of giving you the theoretical knowledge you’d acquire from an NVQ, while also offering you practical training. Some online courses include up to a week’s practical training that you must complete to qualify. Another benefit to going this qualification route is that you can complete these courses from the comfort of your own home. This means, that instead of having to attend a set college course at a set time, you can fit your studies around your current work and social commitments and learn on your terms. Online courses to consider are the Complete Beauty diploma; Beauty Treatment Consultant Diploma; Beauty Therapy Level 2 and Beauty Salon Management Level 3. For more information on online courses, click here.
- College courses – Similar to online courses, there are many dedicated college courses you can complete that will enhance your hair styling training.
As is the case with most jobs, when you first start as a junior hair stylist your salary will be lower until you build up your portfolio and experience. For instance, most junior stylists earn around £15,799 a year, while senior hair stylists earn on average £23,970.
You also need to take into account where you work, your specific work environment, and your specialisms. For instance, if you work in the south of the UK or a posh salon, you will earn more than those working in a more traditional salon. Likewise, if you specialise in hair extensions, wedding hair, or hair colouring, you will earn more than someone who performs basic haircuts.
Should you choose to work as a freelance hairstylist, your annual salary will vary depending on:
- Your experience/portfolio – as a freelance hair stylist you need to be able to prove that you can do the cuts, styles, colouring, and treatments you say you can. Photographing and showcasing your work will help to build trust and ensure clients are willing to pay your prices.
- Equipment and travel costs – to begin with, you will be out of pocket as you build up your own supplies and equipment (and fuel your journeys). With careful route planning, time management, costing, and budgeting, you will begin to see greater profits as your business grows and your reputation builds.
- The type of cuts you’re doing – similar to working in a salon, clients will pay more for more complicated styles and treatments. Hair extensions, colouring treatments, and occasion hair cost more because they take longer to do.
Alternative job choices
Working as a hairstylist is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the beauty industry.
To help supplement your income and give your day greater diversity, you can also consider working/training in the following:
- Beauty therapy (skin treatments, eye, and eyebrow care, etc.)
- Makeup artist (wedding, movie, TV, etc.)
- Massage therapy
- Nail technician/nail art
Alternatively, if you’re feeling adventurous you can try running your own salon and managing your team. Simply add some bookkeeping, business management, and salon management courses (online or offline) to your arsenal, and you can become your own boss and move up the career ladder.
Working as a hairdresser/ hair stylist can be an incredibly rewarding and creative experience. So if you’re serious about working in this field, why not add some online courses to your CV and express your interest in a salon today? With the right practical and theoretical training, you can take your love of styling and showcase your talent every single day.
For more information on how to become a hairdresser, manage your own business, and register for an online course, click here.