The Short List: 5 Pieces of Advice From Your HairdresserKate Allen

I have seen hundreds of people in my chair during the five and a half years I’ve been dressing hair. I
have looked them all in the eyes and greeted them with a handshake or a hug. They have listened to my suggestions and let me cut, color, and style them to perfection. We’ve poured over countless Pinterest boards, color swatches, and celebrity photos. They have given me their time, trust, and ultimately the ability to wake up everyday and do what I love. I am completely grateful.

But I have a confession to make. Out of the three cities I’ve lived in during my career and the hundreds of faces I have seen, I can count my most favorite clients on my two hands. It had nothing to do with how much they paid, which services they received, or how they ended up in my chair. It had to do with their respect for my time, their respect for what I do, and how they treated me as more than just a woman giving them a service. Probably a lesson we can all use in everyday life!

It’s called the short list… my list of those clients who I can squeeze in on a busy day or stay late for, give special discounts to, and just generally go out of my way to take care of way above and beyond what is expected. Follow these bits of advice next time you are in the salon and I promise your hairdresser will take note. And probably throw some goodies your way, too!

Timing Is Everything

I wear a watch everyday at work to stay on time. I also have the use of two assistants on any given day to help me mix color, blowdry, and do anything I need help with. I’m doing literally everything I can to make sure I run precisely on time for you, so please do the same for me. Waltzing over to the salon fifteen minutes after your start time because “brunch with the girls ran late” doesn’t fly with me. What that means to me is that I’ll be running fifteen minutes late all day and will probably have to skip my lunch, which is not fun for anyone. I understand things happen, but give me a call to say you’re running late at the very least. I have one amazing client who comes in ten minutes early to almost every appointment. And usually has a vanilla latte in hand for me, too! And guess what? I am always so excited to see her!

My Prices Will Rise At Some Point

Every time I have raised my prices, I’ve been met with anger and other forms of negativity from clients. As a hairdresser, a price raise is a very exciting thing. It means I have worked my butt off to meet my education requirements and have learned enough to excel to the next level. Simply stated, my education level and skill set is now worth that increased price. But I never get to celebrate my “promotion” because I know the price increase means losing some of you, my valued clients. Look, I love having you as a client. But I also can’t charge $35 for a haircut my entire career. If you decide you can no longer afford my services, please tell me. I have some killer assistants I’ve trained up who will be in your price range for anywhere from 1-5 years and they will take excellent care of you. But please don’t cause a scene or question my loyalty to you and your budget. I would love to do anything I can to make this transition easier and I will always give you a 4-6 month notice of my increase, but please be mindful of how my industry works. I don’t receive health insurance benefits, paid time off or sick leave. In order for me to create a sustainable career, I have to be able to do things like raise my prices. It’s nothing personal and it doesn’t mean that I no longer value the time we have had together and hopefully will have, it just means that I need to keep moving forward with my career. And seriously… if you can’t have me, what is better than an assistant I personally trained up who already knows your name and color formula? :)

Send Your Friends In

I still remember one client I had at my first salon job… I could tell she was very social, had a ton of friends, and after seeing me, had gorgeous hair. So I offered her a deal. I told her that for every guest she sent in that spent $150 with me, I would give her a free haircut. A year later and with her sister and best friends all on my client list, she still had yet to pay for a haircut. She is still a great client of mine and has now become a good friend as well. Ask your stylist what kind of referral discounts she offers…. every hairdresser offers them. And every hairdresser is more than willing to give you certain perks in exchange for spreading the word. Heading to a party after getting your hair blown out? Ask for some business cards to hand out. Check in at her salon on Facebook, post photos to her salon’s Facebook wall or post photos of your hair to your own Facebook and let your friends know who does it. Trust me, she will see it and send rewards your way. The best way to build your clientele is through word of mouth and every hairdresser prefers to build that way.

Be Realistic & Embrace What You’ve Got

I wish I had Jennifer Aniston’s hair, too. And her wise-beyond-her-years advice. And Beyonce’s dancing ability and Jennifer Lopez’s confidence while we’re making a wish list. But let’s be real with each other here…. I don’t and neither do you. And that’s not a bad thing. You are you exactly as you are and that’s perfection in itself. So let me work my magic and make your hair look as full, shiny, and bouncy as it can look. Let me show you how to style your hair so that it can look its best when you aren’t in my chair. But let’s put down the magazines and photos of Kim Kardashian…. all we are looking at is airbrushed makeup and hair extensions anyway. And let’s look into the mirror and embrace the curl, the natural undertone of your color, and the natural part you always try to fight. Trust me, we will both be happier if you can accept the real you and let me make that the best “you” you’ve ever seen.

It all boils down to one thing, really: trust. There’s no better way to get on your hairdresser’s good side than to trust her. You’ve chosen me because you know what academy I went to, you have a friend who sees me and loves me, you know that I’ve recently taken some blonding classes and you want a perfect honey-blonde highlight or you just love my personality. Whatever the reason, you have chosen me. And I’m honored. And beyond that, I truly do want you to look your best. When I suggest a slight variation in the color you want, it’s not because I want to be right. It’s because I know that particular blonde might wash you out a bit and I want you to look glowing and healthy. Or those bangs you showed me a photo of? I just know that you’ll hate them within a month and ask me why I let you make the commitment… So let’s just commit to trust each other and have a great time! And if you go the extra mile and bring me a pumpkin spice latte? Well, girlfriend, you have got yourself a hairdresser and friend for life!

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  1. Hi Kate! Thank you for your article! I have a hairdresser whom I love! And I tip him generously but I’ve always wonder about that. I’m your experience how do you feel about tips? I feel that if you’re charging accordingly to your skills and training, aren’t you asking for exactly what you believe you deserve? Waitresses rely on tips, but that’s because they make a fraction of what they should. So after you’ve done an incredible job on my hair and charged the amount to mirror my fabulous, do you expect an extra 30% (or +) on top of that? I’m always grateful to show my appreciation for sublime service, but what is your take on this?

    • Great question, Karleia! I think I might have a different take on this than other hairdressers. The standard tip in the salon I manage is 18%. We add that to the service total for all of our weddings and larger parties and then for just standard appointments (haircuts, straightening treatments, blowouts), it’s whatever my client wants to tip. I honestly feel that a tip is just icing on the cake for myself and I’m grateful to receive one. However, for more junior stylists and assistants especially, oftentimes them receiving tips is factored into their pay scale. Most assistants in salons are receiving minimum wage or less and the only thing about tipping that drives me crazy is when someone doesn’t tip the “shampoo girl” or “the girl who did my blowout”. She’s not just that… she’s a licensed hairdresser who gave you an amazing head massage and a fabulous blowout. In fact, if I have an assistant do that for a client and they tip me and not my assistant, I will usually split that tip with my assistant. She works hard, too!

      I do, however, receive those larger tips of 30% or more on some guests. Last week, I received a larger tip on a guest that had a unique color situation. She knew that I’d spent twenty minutes in a consultation listening to what her unique issue was, another thirty minutes or so creating a color pattern that would fix the issue, and of course, the time to actually execute it. When we were finished, her problem was gone and she loved that I’d put the extra time into her hair. She tipped very generously and I thought that was very sweet of her, though not expected. If there was a time to tip that high, though, that would be it.

      The only other thing I want to mention is that I have a few clients who have unique financial situations (recently divorced, stay at home mothers, unemployed) and I am incredibly sensitive to that. If I know my client has a situation like that, I will usually ask her not to tip on top of the service price. I feel bad about it, I know it her took her awhile to save up the money to see me, and I just don’t feel right accepting it.

      Every situation is completely unique and unfortunately, most hairdressers are embarrassed to talk about it. I would always tip something, though. Usually anywhere from 10-20% is great. And it’s important to know that hairdressers who booth rent often get to keep about 60-80% of what they make on a service and stylists on commission end up keeping about 40-60%. So, I would definitely encourage you to find out what kind of environment your stylist works in and tip accordingly in that way. And I would also make note that no matter what you can afford to tip or whether you never tip at all, your service with me will always be above and beyond. I will never treat you as less because of that factor and neither should your hairdresser.

  2. I’ve yet to find a good hairdresser but believe you me when I find them they will be treated well and will hear no complaints about prices raising. A good haircut is a luxury and if you cannot afford a good haircut then settle for a decent, haircuttery haircut. The person doing your hair is amazing for a reason-hard work and schooling. Schooling isn’t free!

  3. It always take forever to do my hair! I love my hairdresser because she’s super friendly and patient. I think it’s important to develop a rapport with your girl/guy; mine actually makes me breakfast sometimes when I come in the mornings. I think tipping for a job well done is imperative. It keeps both parties happy!
    Carla @ Love Cartista

  4. I love my stylist… The first time I used her services, it was 7 years ago. I loved my haircut so much, that I started going every 2 months for a haircut.

    My natural hair color is black. She has made me blonde, gave me red stripes and blue too. One time, I even got my whole head purple. She always informs me of all the stuff I need to know about the products she uses in my hair

    I have gotten to the point that when I make an appointment, I just tell her to do her thing. I do not even choose the hair style anymore, I only let her know the length I want, and she just takes over. I always leave her chair with a big smile.

    I have referred about 30 people to her during this 7 years. Most of these people I do not even talk to anymore, but they continue to get their haircuts from my hair dresser. I always have paid for her services but the prices she gives me, are probably the same as 7 years ago.

  5. Kate, thanks for the great advice and interesting perspective! You’re right that it’s a two-way street – as a service provider there are certain expectations placed on you, but it’s just as important to show professionalism and respect from the client’s side. I wonder how many stylists will be getting unexpected goodies after your article (:

    • Hey Katie! Thanks for the feedback! I’m sure a lot of this information could probably apply to service industry workers in general, right? And if I’ve inspired a few goodies along the way, I’ve done my job! lol

  6. I like this article! It’s nice to hear things from the other side of the chair. As a customer it’s really easy to say “Wow, your prices went up? That sucks.” But to hear it from your side, it makes more sense.

    • Hey Jordan! Thank you so much for the feedback! I’m glad that this article allowed you to see things from a hairdresser’s experience… I think oftentimes the public misjudges some aspects of our industry (through no fault whatsoever of their own) and I just wanted to clear the air and kind of speak up for all stylist’s who have had to raise their prices. None of us like to burden our clients, like I said… we love them! But we do have to make a living, too! Thanks again for the feedback, Jordan. Love it!

  7. I went from just a drab normal hairstyle to 3 different styles within about a years time with my stylist! Tried out blunt fringe bangs and trims for about a year to try and grow out my locks.. a year later and i cut it all off. I gave her an idea of what I wanted and trusted her expertise to make it looking bangin’!! actually 3 months after having it cut short, i got it even shorter – she was so excited to do what I wanted and we had a lot of fun in the process. I always look forward to my appointments every 6 weeks. :D