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Can You Make a Living as a Hair Stylist?

There are many young people – both gals and guys – who visualize that they will make a decent living by helping their clients to look to be at the top of their game – at least when it comes to the hair on these customers’ heads.

These would-be beauticians go to school to learn the grooming how to’s: how to cut, style and design simple and intricate hair do’s for men and women of all hair types and in all age brackets.

The education continues. Stylists must go back to “school”, as it were, by periodically attending seminars and workshops, to stay in touch with the latest trends and fashions.

How do you know if it’s for you? If you’ve a hankering to be involved in fashionable and trendy ‘do’s, and if you relish the idea of completely making over a person’s appearance with a flattering hair style, then you’re a hair stylist-in-the-making.

“I’d love to do it; I’m always practicing on my friends,” you might be thinking, “but I lack the mercurial temperament of a hair stylist.”

Halt!  That’s a stereotype which has worn out its welcome.

Despite the ages-old characterization of hair stylists as lightweight personalities who are hyper-image conscious, most stylists that this author has met have been even-tempered and upbeat.


It takes confidence to be able to meet and exceed the demands of sometimes exacting clientele. It, takes, also, a firm grasp on reality to know which fashionable looks will and won’t work on their customers.

Deciding if the Hair Stylist Career is For You

To break it down further, you must have a passion for making your customers look (and, with your attentiveness, feel) “fabulous” each time they make an appointment to have you cut, color, style or condition their hair.

You will be willing to immerse yourself in learning all about healthy, beautiful hair, and will train yourself to spot which looks fit which facial shape, and how many sorts of hair textures and conditions exist.

As you and your customer watch your hair artistry in the mirror, you’ll absorb his or her direction and help them go from drab to delineated; from lackluster to renewed and from listless to radically lovely.

You must be an adaptive beautifier.

What else?   You must be insightful and dependable.

If you like the idea of having your regular customers relying on you to deftly arrange their coif, from start to finish, and perhaps recommend flattering colors and accessories, you’ll “do” just fine as a hair stylist.

Too, you should have a flair for the artistic…even for the slightly dramatic. Some avant-garde looks require a flexible, open-minded approach to what looks pleasing.

It helps to train yourself to learn to shift slightly, when gauging a style, so that you are looking at things from your customer’s point of view.

For instance, if your customer insists that a pixie cut is the ONLY style that will suit her (or make her happy), then you must create that attractive look for her, and, using your creativity and imagination, help her achieve her goal.

Along the same line, if someone wants you to cut ONLY an 1/8 of an inch when you wholeheartedly believe that a full five inches would really open up their face, you must conform to your customer’s idea of beauty—at least in this instance.

Note: Cosmetologists sometimes also “do hair”, and vice-versa.  If you’re interested in learning about the fine art of applying make-up expertly, and of demonstrating the ins-and-outs of selecting, avoiding and applying cosmetics to your clientele base, you’d need to go to school specifically for that skill, as well.  It’s definitely worth considering, as your services would be that much more in demand with your double-beautifying whammy!

As an interesting aside, when the entertainer Beyoncé offered cosmetology classes for disenfranchised young women at the renowned Phoenix House a few years ago, it piqued the interest of many people who had heretofore not considered the stylist field as a viable career.

How Soon Can You Make a Good Living as a Hair Stylist?

Seasoned hair stylists report that their career is lucrative.  Not all beginner stylists—especially those striking out on their own—will experience queues  of customers waiting for them to cut or style their hair, but this scenario IS an entirely feasible one and WILL come to pass once your success as a stylist is established.

It is not unheard of for customers to eventually seek out their beloved hair stylist as they might a confidante—for that is what many hair stylists soon become: a trusted “ear” or shoulder to cry on, as well as a beautifier.

And Salaries?

Assistants earn minimum wage to $120 per day (in the pricier salons). Most of your earnings will be from tips.  New or “junior” stylists earn about the same. A colorist?  You’ll earn commissions. Well-established or “senior”/master stylists can earn from $800 to $4,000 per week.

How Do You Get Promoted to the Position of Senior Stylist?

Once you merit a following, you’ll want to know if your status in the hairstyling community is “set” (no pun intended). Word of mouth travels quickly.  If you’re good at what you do, and your customers feel comfortable sitting in your chair and chatting with you—as well as discussing the latest ways in which fashionable cuts or colors might frame their face—your boss, or the owner or manager of the salon you’re working in—will start thinking of promoting you.


It literally pays for your boss to do so. Many styling salons feel comfortable offering higher prices when a cut is performed by a senior or master stylist.


What’s Involved in the Process of Becoming a Stylist?

You will need a cosmetology license.  This can be obtained after the required 1,000 or so hours of training.

After that, you can join a salon, but, first, you must make a decision:  do you wish to enter a huge corporate-style “chain” of hair cutting establishments where you’ll likely toil as an assistant for several years (and perhaps earn a bit less at the beginning, but much more after you are “promoted”), or do you wish to join up with a smaller salon, with more flexibility – you will probably get your own chair within several months–but minus the chance to ever be able to charge as much as the larger salons do?   There are up sides to both options.

Keep in mind that tuition for a beautician’s license will be in the $10,000 to $15,000 range, although there is plenty of government financial aid to see you through.

And to double your income:  sideline doing weddings, film and photo shoots, and cruise ship gigs!   Too, don’t forget to have business cards printed up, so you can pass them out wherever you go.  The more people that know about your artistry, the more that you can earn.

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