October 3, 2019

Making $100K as a Stylist is Easier Than You Think

Eyes covered with money representing how to earn $100K/year as a hairstylist

Making 100K as a Stylist is Possible

Believe it or not, making six figures as a hairstylist is completely possible. While it is possible, it’s going to take a lot of hard work, discipline, and determination. There are plenty of stylists out there making six figures who aren’t celebrities or work in high-end shops. They’re just like you — trying to boost their salary.

While there is no guaranteed formula for making six figures, we do understand what it takes to become a successful hairstylist. We’ll go over the math, walk you through business concepts, and more in this blog.

Advancing Your Career Methodically

Becoming a hairstylist will never be a get-rich-quick scheme, but getting over the $100K mark is doable for those who want to be in the world of beauty. You’re gonna have to work at it just like everybody else, no matter what profession you choose. If you’re already in the industry and feel like you’re not even close to 6-figures, you’re going to have to do some research about how you approach your work. For those just starting their career, you’re going to have to pay your proverbial dues. You’re going to have to approach your career like the professional you are.

The good news is that making$100k doesn’t mean working 60+ hours a week. Instead, it’s about incrementally building on the areas of your business that get you there most efficiently.

How You Can Run Your Entrepreneurial Business

You don’t need to own the salon, but you do need to treat your profession as the business it is. That means knowing your numbers.

To keep it simple, your annual income as a stylist comes down to four basic numbers:

  • Average Service Ticket per Visit: What does your average client spend each time they sit in your chair?
  • Your Percentage of that Service: If you take a commission, what’s your percentage? If you rent a chair, what percentage of your revenue are you left with once you pay for rent, product, and the other expenses of renting?
  • Client Visit Frequency: How often does your average client come to see you?
  • Number of Clients: Self-explanatory. Current clients + new clients – churn (lost clients)

hundred dollar bills spread out

How to Make a Goal of Reaching 100K As a Stylist?

There are countless ways to set that goal of reaching your first 100k as a stylist. That being said, there is a few sweet spot numbers that make getting there easier. Let’s take a look at one path to $100K that falls in that sweet spot and then break it down into smaller pieces.

The Sweet Spot Numbers:

  • $120 Average Service Ticket
  • 45% commission (net revenue for you booth renters)
  • 20% tips
  • 25 client services/week

These are not unrealistic numbers. Nor are they the hard, specific numbers that you need to hit. Each plays off the other, meaning you can make up for shortfalls in one area by raising one of the others. Let’s dig a little deeper:

A $120 average service ticket means a $40 haircut and an $80 base color. At a mid-to-upper-tier salon, your average ticket could be significantly higher.

A 45% commission/margin means you’re working on commission, every salon is different, but they typically fall in the 40-50% range. Often tiered based on the amount of revenue you bring into the salon. If you’re renting a chair/booth, it’s all about making sure ALL of the costs associated with that rental, works out to 55% or less of the revenue you bring in.

Getting 20% in tips is admittedly on the high side of the industry-standard 15-20%, but with a legitimate focus on your service, this is absolutely maintainable.

25 client services/week is realistic. That’s 5 clients a day if you’re working 5 days a week. It’s roughly 6 clients a day if you’re working a fairly typical 4 days a week.

So What Do Those Numbers Get You?

Twenty-five services a week at a $120 average service ticket is $600 in-salon revenue a day. That’s $3000 in revenue generated per week or $150K in revenue generated per year, assuming you take 2 weeks’ vacation.

If you take home 45% of the revenue you generate, that means your cut of that $150K pie is $67,500/year ($150,000 *.45).

Here comes the tips –20% of $150K? That’s a very real $30,000/year.

With those numbers, you’re at $97,500/year. We could round up to $100K or you could do the bare minimum to educate your clients on the products you’re using and use your product sales commission (typically in the 20% range) to get you over the 6-figure mark.

*Please note that these numbers don’t account for any state or federal taxes and may not be your exact net salary.

Different Ways to Get to $100K as a Stylist

$100,386/year before product sales

  • $130 Avg. Service Ticket
  • 40% Commission
  • 15% Tips
  • 28 Services/Week
    (165 total clients with a 6-week visit frequency)

$114,103/year before product sales

  • $160 Avg. Service Ticket
  • 48% Commission
  • 16% Tips
  • 22 Services/Week
    (150 total clients with a 7-week visit frequency)

$104,780/year before product sales

  • $100 Avg. Service Ticket
  • 60% Margin (likely a chair rental)
  • 18% Tips
  • 27 Services/Week
    (155 total clients with a 6-week visit frequency)

$140,400/year before product sales

  • $180 Avg. Service Ticket
  • 60% Margin (likely a chair rental)
  • 12% Tips
  • 22 Services/Week
    (~125 total clients with a 6-week visit frequency)

Hairstylist Income Calculator

We’re going to walk through a few different scenarios that could allow a stylist to reach the $100K mark. Feel free to play with those numbers or your own using the stylist income calculator below.

*Please note that the scenarios below are made up and don’t reflect the average student at JD Academy of Salon + Spa.

Meet Stephanie

She graduated from cosmetology school 4 years ago.

After working for a year-and-a-half as a stylist’s assistant at a mid-to-upper-tier local salon, she’s spent the last 2 years on the floor as a stylist – working her own chair, building a repeat client base, and taking on overflow walk-in customers from the salon.

She currently averages about 4 services per day, 5 days a week which works out to about 125 active clients who come in every 7 to 8 weeks (7x/year).

The salon’s average transaction is relatively high at $140, though as a “Junior Stylist”, she tends to average closer to $100/customer visit. She doesn’t do as many high-dollar color services as some of the other stylists (Balayage, etc). She’s paid on a 40% service commission structure and averages 15% tips.

Using those figures, Stephanie earned roughly $48,000 last year and that doesn’t factor in the 20% commission she takes on product sales. Let’s say that’s another $2,000 for a nice round of $50K income.

So how does Stephanie double her business over the next 2 years?

She needs more clients.

Realistically, she should be shooting for about 6 services per day. In her case, that works out to be about 75 new clients – bringing her to about 200 clients total. While gaining 75 new clients may sound daunting, it is possible through social media, client referrals, and outside networking. Simply creating and having business cards on hand can also open up a lot of opportunities.

It is also important to note that reaching 200 clients takes time. We’re looking at a 2-year plan. She’s already been taking walk-ins and overflow clients for the salon, which some of those may translate to repeat clients (first-time-client retention rate). Using the rest of her averages, getting to 6 services a day increases her income to $77K per year.

She needs to get her average service price up.
Like most professions, the more your practice and work, the better your skillset gets. As a hairstylist, you’ll want to focus on higher-priced services, such as coloring. Not only will growing her skillset help Stephanie move up from her Junior specialist role, but it’ll also start to build trust with her clients.

In Stephanie’s case, she should be looking into advanced classes in her free time to learn more advanced color techniques. She should be actively working with the senior stylists in her salon to get comfortable with these new techniques. For example, a typical Balayage service in The Bay Area runs between $175 – $250. Higher-priced services such as these will get her average service ticket up.

Minimizing client turnover, increasing tips, and looking at commission rates
By approaching her work like a professional and continuing to build relationships with her clients, she’ll improve her first-time-client retention rates, minimize client turnover (churn), and can likely increase her average tip percentage. Based on our math so far, 20% in tips gets her over the $100K mark.

To better understand the commission structure, she needs to talk to the salon owner. She can ask the owner about a tiered commission structure, meaning if she hits her set revenue goals she could potentially increase her commissions. Even just a 5% increase can put her above the 100K mark.

To achieve this revenue goal, she should be pre-booking every one of her clients at the end of each service and she should be targeting 6-weeks out.

There isn’t just one path for Stephanie to hit the 100K mark. . Each of those core, income-driving numbers plays off the other, meaning she can make up a shortfall in average tip% by increasing her average service ticket. If she can get her client frequency up to every 6 weeks, she only needs 160 total clients.

How to Get There Efficiently

The Importance of The Salon You Work At

The salon you work at plays such a huge factor in the numbers that make up your income. The bottom line is, that the easiest path to $100K is to get into the right salon, one that offers high-priced services and is well established.

If you’re early in your career, don’t shy away from taking a stylist’s assistant role. You’ll make less money short-term in the assistant role, as opposed to working as a stylist at a lower-tier salon, but your path to $100K will be much shorter. Pay your dues. The reward will be worth it.

We’ll give some specific tips a little further down this article, but you need to break out of “being comfortable”. If you’re already at a salon with a lower floor, applying at a salon with a higher floor makes it easier to hit that 100K mark. Starting at a new salon is scary, especially when you’ve built a sizeable client base at the salon you’re at. But the fact is, you can rebuild your client base at a high-floor salon much more easily than you can raise your average service ticket to a similar level at a low-floor salon.

stylist working on a salon floor

The Importance of How You’re Paid:

It probably goes without saying, but you’ve probably never going to make $100K as an hourly employee of a volume-based salon chain, even at a high-end salon. If you were bringing in enough revenue for the salon owner to justify a $100K+ salary, you’d likely be leaving an awful lot of money on the table by not taking a cut of that revenue.

That brings us to deciding between a commission-based role or the chair/booth rental model. Which is the best decision? Let’s go over the two.

If you’re early on in your career, working with a commission at an established salon lets you leverage your resources. It’s typically easier to grow your client base using their marketing, walk-in traffic, and the salon’s name recognition. It also gives you more opportunities to learn from experienced stylists and removes many of the complexities of the business itself – everything from product ordering to taxes. When you’re just starting out, it’s nearly impossible to be profitable in a chair/booth rental. You simply don’t have the client base to support it yet.

However, when done correctly, there will almost always come a point in your career at which it becomes more profitable to rent a chair/booth. There are a lot of costs that come with renting beyond the rent itself. It’s product costs, marketing costs, insurance, accounting, taxes, and more. Once you have the client base to support it and the industry experience to manage it correctly, your margin (revenue minus costs) will be significantly higher than the typical 40-50% commission rate we looked at earlier. That makes some of the other numbers we’ve looked at much easier to hit.

The commission vs booth rental discussion is deep. It’s about maximizing the revenue you take home from every person that sits in your chair. On the commission side, that’s simply what percentage you take. On the chair rental side, that’s what are your margins (revenue minus cost).

The Deck is Stacked in Your Favor

Here are a few things you have working for you on your quest to $100K+:

Hairstylists have really strong customer loyalty

The vast majority of new clients you get should become clients for years to come. Think about your own hairstylist. Once you’ve found someone you like, you’re not jumping around from place to place trying to find someone else. You’re sticking with the person that you found, because let’s face it, finding a new hairdresser sucks.

Salon professionals build accumulative income growth
The result of having low churn (when a client goes somewhere else) is that every new client you bring in means accumulative income growth. Just brought in a new client? Awesome. You just gave yourself a raise.

Much of the time spent with your salon clients are idle time
You’ll want the majority of your customers to be coming in for color and color takes time. But it’s typically a lot of idle time spent waiting for hair to try and developer to work. As your experience level grows, You may be put in a position to easily work with more than one client at a time. At later stages in your career, especially with the help of a stylist’s assistant, there’s no reason you can’t work on multiple clients at once. Finding a balance between managing personal relationships and working with multiple clients is key.

Tips to Get to $100K as a Stylist

1. Knowing How to Track Your Numbers.

You need to know how many net clients you have, their average spending each visit, and an estimate on how many times a year they come to you for services.

We recommend developing a system to track this independently from the salon itself. That means if you’re working on a commission-based plan, don’t rely solely on their POS system to tell you your numbers.

2. Set specific goals and build out a 2-year plan call these S.M.A.R.T. goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

  • Specific:
    “I need to make $100K or more” or “I need more clients” is not specific. You need to make these goals as specific as possible, such as: “I need to average 3-4 new clients each month, and keep my client churn rate below 20%”.
  • Measurable:
    Measurable means knowing what numbers you have to hit to reach your goals and making sure you have the processes in place to track your progress.
  • Attainable:If you work part-time in a small market, don’t set a goal of 250 clients with a $200 average service ticket. Setting unrealistic goals and then missing them can be draining. There is no shame in starting smaller. If you’re currently making $30K/year, maybe your 2-year plan is based on getting to $60K.
  • Relevant:
    Making sure your goals are relevant can take two forms. On the big-picture side, if you’re balancing family and kids, social life, and more, it may not be a relevant goal to say I want to run 400 clients and be Instagram famous. On the more granular side, setting a goal of raising your per visit product sale average from $5 to $10, may only raise your income by $1,400/year (+$5 * 200 clients * 7 visits/year * 20% commission). If your goal is to increase your income by $50K, there are probably more relevant goals to get there.
  • Timely:
    Timely means you’re setting specific milestones that you need to reach at specific times. At a high level, that’s saying I want to double my income in 2 years, but you should really be aiming for more granular timelines. Using the “75 new clients in 2 years” example we used earlier, breaking that down into smaller increments showed us we needed to add 3-4 clients every 30 days. Create accountability for your goals.

3. Take advanced classes and take them seriously.

Never stop learning. You should always be expanding your skills – keeping up with current trends and filling in the gaps. The faster you can get really good at the high-dollar color services, the easier hitting $100K becomes.

This article was by no means meant as a sales pitch, but we do run our own advanced classes on Sundays and Mondays here at JD Academy – bringing in some of the best stylists in The Bay Area to pass some of their hard-earned knowledge and techniques onto the next generation. You can learn more here.

Prepare for Beauty School

4. Have a method for storing client details

When you get up into the 200 client range, there is absolutely ZERO chance you’re going to remember all of the details that make those relationships meaningful.

Take 2 minutes after every client to make a few notes about what you talked about. Hair preferences, personal details, or just about anything you talked about during the service. Remembering those small details helps keep clients coming to you.
Make sure you’ve got an actual process in place, and preferably, one that’s not 100% reliant on the salon’s POS/CRM platform. If you don’t know where to start, Hubspot offers a free CRM platform that’s perfect for this.

5. Keep business cards on you

Keep a few business cards on you at all times. Next time you’re out and about, try saying this to a stranger: “Wow. You have amazing hair.” Hand them a card and just let them know that you’d love to work with them sometime. Worst-case scenario, you brighten someone’s day with a compliment, but you’d be shocked how often simply putting yourself out there does in fact turn into new business.

6. Learn timing on all services you offer

How long do your haircuts take? How long do shampoo and dry take? How long does the developer take for Sue’s root touch-up?

Doing great hair takes time, but as we mentioned earlier, so much of that time is idle. The vast majority of stylists making over $100K/year are double booking. They’re replacing that non-revenue-generating idle time with revenue-driving productive time. They’re cutting Jen’s hair while Sue’s color is developing.

Doing this well, without sacrificing the strength of your client relationships or the quality of your work, is knowing exactly how long it takes YOU to do everything you do.

7. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

We know the saying is cliché, but it’s true when it comes to the stylist profession as it is anywhere else. Do you want to be a $100K hairstylist? Come to work dressed and put together like you’re a $100K hairstylist.

8. Raise your pricing without fear of losing clients

This is a line that every business owner needs to toe. What’s the line between getting paid what you’re worth and not alienating the client base you’ve worked so hard to build.

At an absolute minimum, inflation is real. Every year, that dollar you earned last year is worth 2-4% less than it was. That means if you’re not raising your prices regularly, you’re going backward. More than that though, every year, you’ve gained hard-earned experience, and experience breeds compensation.

9. Take Social Media Seriously

Your social media profiles are a reflection of you. If you’re sharing your personal social media accounts with your professional life, you need to make sure you’re keeping it classy. If your social posts aren’t all professionally classy, create separate ones for your professional life and limit the public visibility (security settings) on your personal accounts.

With your social media, you need to actively be putting your work out there. That means taking before and after pictures of just about every service you do. Pick the highlights and get them out there for the world to see. Have good lighting, find a decent background, and use the best camera you can.

While it’s possible you’ll pick up new clients directly this way, it’s more about providing an easy, digital portfolio of your best work – both for potential clients checking you out and for potential salons that may be a stepping stone to breaking $100K.

10. Don’t let yourself get overly comfortable

You might be comfortable at your current salon, but if you’re not getting paid what you’re worth or you don’t have a clear path to $100K, it’s time for a heart-to-heart.

Are you slacking on social media because you’re comfortable with the $50K you made last year? Bottom line, getting to the 6-figure mark means staying hungry. When you get overly comfortable, your career will plateau.

Wrapping Up

You’re not going to come right out of school and pull down $100K a year, but if you approach your career as the professional you are, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t achieve your dreams.

The numbers we’ve thrown out there (200 clients, $120 average service ticket, 45%+ commission/margin, and 20% tips) aren’t pie in the sky numbers. If you approach your career with intention, those are insanely attainable. Half the battle is showing up. The other half is going after it. Go after it.

Ready to Get Started?

Are you ready to pursue your passion for beauty? If you’ve always dreamed about being a part of the beauty industry, the first step is to enroll in beauty school. Schedule a JD Academy of Salon + Spa tour in Danville, California to learn more about what our East Bay beauty school has to offer and begin your application process. Fill out our contact form or call us at (925) 855-5551.

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