Freelance hair stylists and hairdressers work to create hairstyles for individuals and groups for special occasions or in the creative industries such as fashion, film, television and music. Job duties include:
Researching hair styles and trends
Creating mood boards for clients
Providing a range of different hair services for clients and customers such as cutting, colouring, styling, shampooing and blow drying
Taking into consideration each client’s hair care needs and executing this
Being able to recommend hair styles and procedures to individual clients
Maintaining health and safety requirements
Maintaining cleanliness requirements
Maintaining good relationships with all clients and customers
Managing schedule and bookings correctly
Types of Hair Stylists
Like all other industries, they are different stages that freelance hair stylists go through during their hairdressing career. Each level of experience increases the stylist’s opportunity to gain access to higher pay rates and work with bigger clients.
Assistant Hair Stylist
Assistant hair stylists are the entry-level role in the hairdressing industry. They assist junior and senior hair stylists, usually while studying to become more qualified in this area and are able to learn on the job while making valuable contacts. This entry level role is typically for hair stylists who have less than 5 years of experience in the industry and their average salary is ₤15,000.
Junior Hair Stylist
Junior hair stylists represent those who have worked their way up the hairdressing industry, usually through both hands-on experience and education. They have gone through the initial training and have become competent in providing a large range of hairstyles and treatments. Junior or mid-level hair stylists typically have 5 to 10 years of experience and earn, on average, ₤15,000 a year.
Senior Hair Stylist
Senior hair stylists are expected to know the complete ins and outs of hairdressing and have a wealth of experience in all styles, hair textures and hair treatments that they can execute without fail. These stylists have 10 to 20 years of experience and have an average yearly salary of ₤16,000. Senior hair stylists with 20 years of experience in the industry or more earn, on average, ₤17,000 a year.
Mobile Hair Stylist
Mobile hair stylists work for themselves outside of salons in their own work environments, usually from home. These type of hair stylists also visit their clients home directly and style them in the comfort of their own surroundings. Aside from the usual set of clientele, mobile hairdressers can be required to occasionally work for public services such as the armed forces, hospitals and prisons.
Mobile hair stylists must be skilled in creating hairstyles in any environment, regardless of what is happening around them. Due to the individuality of each freelance hair stylist, it is difficult to gauge the average salary for mobile hair stylists, but they can expect to earn anywhere between £14,000 to £30,000 a year.
By gaining qualifications, freelance hair stylists can justify charging higher rates as it will make them come across as established professionals, dedicated to perfecting and pursuing their craft. Qualifications and courses available for hair stylists at all stages of their career include:
Most hair stylists will pursue a National Vocal Qualification (NVQ) at some point in their career, helping them to become and stay employable. An NVQ has four levels. Level 1 is a basic introduction to hairdressing and is mandatory to move on to level 2, which provides a more in-depth understanding of hairdressing and is widely considered the minimum qualification for stylists to work in a salon.
Level 3 focuses on technical skill whilst training students to become supervisors, this qualification is required if a hair stylist wants to have a role in management. Level 4 is essential for any hair stylists who hope to be managers in the future or senior hair stylists. It focuses on the technical and professional skills needed in hairdressing.
Hairstyling apprenticeships can be a great way of studying the industry whilst learning from on the job experience. Through this route, students will also gain an NVQ and can use this alongside their salon experience to progress in the industry and set up their own self-employed business.
Diplomas can be taken after an NVQ has been completed, a Higher National Certificate (HNC) is equivalent to one year of university and takes one year to complete or two years part-time. A Higher National Diploma (HND) is also an option in pursuing hair styling. This is equivalent to the second year of a three-year university degree course and is considered to be a semi vocational, semiprofessional course.
Short courses are an ideal way for freelance hair stylists to gain more professional experience and be accredited for it whilst continuing to run their business. Short courses typically focus on one specific area, for example; cutting, colouring, wig styling and can last anywhere from a few days to a few months.
Although not necessary, many budding freelance hair stylists may choose to study a whole degree to help them reach their career goals. Degrees include foundation (FdA) and bachelors’ (BA (Hons) and can offer an in depth in sight into the hairdressing industry, covering all areas.
Industries That Require Hair Stylists
Freelance hair stylists in the fashion industry must work with other creatives to complete a look for a fashion designer or company. Hairdressing jobs within the fashion industry include styling the hair of models during London Fashion Week, working on mainstream and independent magazines and styling lookbooks, catalogues, fashion campaigns and fashion films.
BECTU is a UK based media and entertainment trade union who state that hair and makeup professionals working in the fashion industry can expect to earn between £150 to £475, depending on the freelance hair stylists level of experience and the type of project that they are working on.
Television and Film
BECTU states that the rate for hair stylists who work in film, television and media varies greatly depending on the client’s budget. When working with clients who have a budget of £1m to £1.5m, freelance hair stylists can earn anywhere between £6.52 and £17.77 an hour, depending on their experience.
For bigger budgets, such as £3m to £6m, freelance hair stylists can potentially earn between £7.68 to £25.31 an hour, and for budgets of £20m to £30m, freelancers can earn between £8.34 to £28.14 an hour. The biggest budgets for television and film projects, which are £40m or more, allow freelance hair stylists to earn between £8.93 and £30.13 an hour.
Celebrity hair stylists can work for individual high profile clients or work out of a salon frequented by celebrity clients. Most individuals who work in the entertainment industry have their own personal hair stylist, getting into this type of freelance hair styling is fiercely competitive and the job opportunities are usually not advertised. Freelance celebrity hair stylists can earn, on average £53,000 a year.
Freelance hair stylists are required to work at a variety of different events to ensure that the clients desired look is achieved to a professional standard. Events that most require a freelance hair stylist include proms, birthdays, baby showers and any other special occasions. It costs on average £50 to £85 for each person’s hair to be styled.
Nearly all weddings will require the assistance of a hair stylist, regardless of the size of the event. There is an additional pressure to create perfection during weddings jobs as they are widely regarded as the most important day in a women’s life, so clients will usually pay more for a hair stylist than any other type of event. It costs on average £50 to £85 for each person’s hair that is styled.
There are a few staple hairstyles that the majority of freelance hair stylists are expected to be familiar with and able to perform when requested. These styles include:
Updos are formal hairstyles that are highly requested for bridal hair. They include chignons, French twists and fishtails amongst others. A professional and formal updo costs around £85.
Usually, blowouts are requested by clients with long hair and consist of a professional shampooing and conditioning service followed by blow drying the hair to achieve a fresh and just left the salon look for the client. On average, professional blow-drys cost around £60.
Extensions see hair stylists use fake or human hair to enhance the length of the client’s hair or to give them a new head of hair altogether. Extensions can be applied to the hair using a variety of different methods including sewing, bonding, glueing or by using clips. A full head of extensions cost around £124.
Hair cutting is extremely varied and there are many different methods that can be applied when cutting a client’s hair. Some of these techniques are club cutting, graduating, thinning, texturizing and layering. Prices for haircuts range from £35 to £107.
Hair colouring includes full colour, highlights and ombre. All hair colouring requires precise technique and is usually carried out by the most experienced stylists. Hair colouring services cost between £46 to £142.
Possibly the most important factor to consider when deciding on what rates to charge as a freelance hair stylist are the costs that are present in running the business. Costs that every freelance hair stylist will come across include:
Hair Stylist Kit
As freelancers go from job to job in a variety of different settings, it is vital that they have their own kit that covers everything that could be required of them when they agree to do a job. Some clients will include a kit fee as part of the job, but even so this is not something to rely on and freelance hair stylists should be able to bring their own set of tools to the table. A standard hair styling kit comprises of:
A selection of hair brushes
Hair clips and pins
Plastic and metal tail combs
Wide tooth comb
A selection of hair accessories
Travelling from job to job can definitely rack up costs and therefore must be considered before taking on a project. This fee should be negotiated with the client before the job begins. Sometimes the client will offer to pay this cost, if not freelancers must ensure that they consider it when setting the overall rate for the job.
As a freelance hair stylist, it is vital that some money is spent on advertising and self-promotion, as it will be the only way to advertise services to potential clients. Setting up an attractive and easy to use website is an essential tool in showcasing a portfolio of work and will act as an essential marketing tool for freelance hair stylists. The website should showcase the variety of skills and techniques that the freelancer has mastered as well as the types of clients they have worked with previously.
Today, social media is arguably one of the best ways to get your business’s name out there. Although oversaturated, it provides an easy to use method for people to find and become interested in your services. It is a cost effective and creative way of promoting services with one of the only problems being assessing how to stand out from the crowd.
Creating leaflets and business cards can also work well in securing clients. These products can be distributed at local businesses which will also help the freelance hair stylists to make contacts with potential clients who are based near them.
Although not compulsory, freelance hair stylists should consider investing in insurance as it ensures that freelancers are covered for the loss or theft of equipment and accidents. It also includes public liability insurance which is helpful when visiting the homes of clients that aren’t suited to the hair treatment that they require.
Even freelance hair stylists that work from home or travel to the houses of their clients may occasionally decide to rent a chair in a salon in order to pull in a different set of clients and advertise their business. There are different options when it comes to renting chairs. One of the most popular choices for renting salon chairs is by charging the freelancer a fixed rate for the week or month. Instead of being charged rent, some freelancers will have around 40% to 60% of their earnings for the day taken from them by the salon.
Although many companies and clients will provide tips, bonuses, and overtime pay, the benefits that full time employees receive will not be present from job to job whilst working as a freelance hair stylist. These include holiday pay, sick days, dental fees and a pension plan. It is vital that freelance hair stylists factor in these costs when setting their final fee.
How to Charge Rates
Flat rates are popular as they decrease the risk for the client. By negotiating a fixed fee before the job starts, both the hair stylist and the client know what is expected of them and there are no sneaky surprises that will affect the fee at the end.
An hourly rate can work well at ensuring that a freelance hair stylist is paid fairly for all of the work that they carry out during a job. It is common for hair stylists to work overtime as their hours are very unpredictable. By charging by the hour, the hair stylist will be paid for every minute they work on the job.
Give Your Clients an Introductory Rate
Freelance hair stylists should consider giving their clients an introductory rate, to encourage them to take a chance on a new hair stylist, come back again and spread the word to friends and family. It works best when freelancers give introductory rates to businesses that are based around them, as they are likely to be lured by the accessibility and to audiences that they wish to target.
Choose Your Clientele
It is important for freelance hair stylists to decide on what type of clientele they are hoping to attract. Are they more intrigued by high-end clients or do they want their services to be affordable to the majority of the public? If the hair stylists specialise in one area such as colouring or extensions, they need to consider who these treatments are most required by.
Add-ons are a great way to make more money while giving the client a more complete look that they’re likely to be pleased with. Add-ons can include beauty treatments, providing hair accessories, it could also be extending the service that the client has already bought. For example, if they are having a blowdry, stylists can charge extra for a simple haircut at the end.
Working as a freelance hair stylist can be a very rewarding career that allows individuals to set their own hours and choose their own clients while pursuing their passion. It is necessary, however, that freelance hair stylists are business savvy and dedicate just as much time to practising their craft to learning how to charge rates, negotiate with clients and run a business from home.
The most important thing is those freelance hair stylists are able to survive off of their income and therefore should think twice before setting rates. Deciding these rates is the most difficult part of the job and the factors that influence this change as the industry does. Each freelancer must work hard in ensuring the fairest and best rates for their business today, and their longevity.
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