Cosmetology is one of the many professional fields that people choose because it is rewarding to the stylist and the client. As a hairstylist, you have the privilege of helping others look and feel better about themselves by providing clients with a makeover through cutting, coloring, or styling. For the stylist, hairdressing is an acquired skill, as well an art. As a professional hairstylist, these are the steps that I learned when I was beginning my professional career in cosmetology.
First, many states require some form of certification through schools that specialize in cosmetology. Cosmetology is not just the practice of hair cutting, styling, and coloring; it sometimes includes manicures and facials. Cosmetology programs range from one to three years in duration depending on the institution and state requirements. There is a common misconception that the cosmetology program is quicker and less expensive than a degree-seeking program, but many times it costs the same as general college courses.
Upon completion of school, hairdressers must take a state board examination in the form of a multiple-choice quiz and hands on demonstrative example of the skill they obtained in school. Once a stylist takes the state board, they may start their career. Although a university provides a sufficient cosmetology program, the most efficient way would be to further education through an internship. There are many cosmetology-specific institutions on the market such as Paul Mitchell, Aveda, and Pivot Point. Interning at such schools will offer a strong foundation for any novice.
When ready, some stylists choose to work for a commission-based salon, which can be a viable launching pad to a new hairdresser’s career. Under commission, hairdressers are provided a station to work in, products to use, and an hourly schedule. Working commission allows beginning hairdressers to build a clientele without having to worry about paying for professional products or rent a booth. Usually, these salons are walk-in type salons like Cuts by Us or Fantastic Sam’s. Stylists are paid a weekly amount based on a percentage of the services they performed. If stylists do not meet the commission rate, they may only be paid the minimum wage rate. Under commission, employers may offer free advertising, health benefits, paid vacations, and other incentives for their employees.
The alternative to working for commission is for stylists to pay a booth rental. Booth rental allows stylists to pay a set weekly or monthly price to cover the cost of using a station. These stylists must buy their own supplies, self-market, and file as 10-99 workers. Clients, hours, and benefits are not guaranteed in this case, but the trade-off is the choice of scheduling, setting prices, and the ability to choose whichever professional brands appeal to the stylist. Renting a booth is a great idea for stylists who want a flexible work schedule and like the idea of operating as their own boss.
There are some universal pros and cons to becoming a hairdresser. Because cosmetology is parallel with the fashion industry, an advantage is the glamorous side of the job. Another advantage is the ability to meet new and different people and, sometimes, potential friends. Considering every individual’s hair requires different treatments, everyday is filled with new and exciting challenges. Despite these advantages, some important disadvantages exist when becoming a professional hairdresser. Physical conditions such as chronic carpal tunnel, shoulder, and back pain are often times among the disadvantages of becoming a hairstylist. Another disadvantage is that people primarily want appointments at very inconvenient times, (i.e., appointments early in the morning, late afternoon, and on Saturdays). This implies a sacrifice of your time to meet the demand of the clients.
Becoming a hairdresser, at times, is a sacrificial job. However, there are many opportunities to make good money, build solid relationships with clients, and potentially becoming a salon owner. Because hairstyles are always changing and the techniques are ever improving, professional growth and advancement are constant. Learning never stops. Becoming a professional hairstylist is an exciting career that can make the hairdresser feel accomplished and the client feel refreshed.