The Hairdressing Career Ladder - What's the Next Step
Hairdressing is an exciting and rewarding career. Many people wonder what working in a salon is like and how it compares to other careers in terms of profession and promotion. While you may be familiar with the work of your local hairdressers and general salon work, you may not be so familiar with the many opportunities a career in hairdressing presents. There are many different paths you can take to pursue a dream career in hairdressing, and this article will take you through some of them.
The stages of pursuing a hairdressing career
Training and education
Pay: Typically minimum wage or none if in full-time education.
In order to begin a career in hairdressing, you will need to undergo education and training to teach you the basic skills of becoming a hairdresser. No matter what area of hairdressing you go into, you will need to complete some form of training in order to get the experience needed. There are a few ways you can get the training you need. Many colleges offer full-time and part-time hairdressing courses which will give you a qualification at the end that will be recognised by salons and the wider hairdressing industry. Alternatively, you may find a salon that will be able to take you on as an apprentice and ensure that you attend college regularly in order to gain your qualification. The type of path you choose may depend on the sort of person you are, your preferences and your circumstances. An apprenticeship will normally take longer than a college course, but you might find you prefer to learn at a slower pace, as well as being in a real-life salon environment.
At this stage of your career you’ll want to show initiative and enthusiasm as well as a willingness to learn new skills. It's also a good idea to demonstrate an interest in the industry and learn more about the different career options available to help you determine what type of hairdresser you want to be.
Low level/junior stylists
Pay: £11,000 – £16,000 (increasing depending on experience)
After completing your training and initial education, you will have learned the skills necessary to get on the hairdressing career ladder. You could find work as a junior stylist and continue to learn new skills and techniques taught by your colleagues. You will be responsible for managing your own client load and tasks and will work as part of a team to deliver the overall client experience. During your time as a junior stylist, you will be able to undertake further training to broaden your skillset, and potentially think about taking part in competitions and showcases.
When applying for roles as a junior stylist, make sure you show off your passion with a diverse and professional portfolio and show a commitment to the salons you’re interested in working for.
Senior, high-level and specialist stylists
Pay: £18,000 - £20,000
After several years of working in the industry, you will have developed your skills and may have gained experience in areas such as management, product supply and others. By this stage you may have decided to specialise in certain areas such as colouring and creative direction and you will have built up a key client base as well. By this stage in your career you will be able to consider moving into other positions including salon management or training. You could even move into the sales side of hairdressing, representing brands and being the supplier contact for your area.
Specialist and freelance stylists
Beyond working in a salon, there are many opportunities available to hairdressers who have a passion to succeed in their fields. Hairdressing careers can include those in the media, working with magazines and photographers or film and TV with opportunities for international travel and the chance to work with models and celebrities. It’s an exciting career path for a skilled stylist, and can open many doors along the way.
Others might choose to work as a mobile hairdresser, choosing their hours and availability to suit their own needs. Freelance wages are variable, and you need to be prepared for the possibility that you could go days or even months without work. To become a successful freelancer, you will need a good portfolio (both offline and online), be good at networking and making good contacts. Working for yourself will require good time and people management skills, and you’ll need to be responsible for your own accounting. If you want to work for yourself and enjoy being able to choose your own work and clients, this could be a great step for you in your hairdressing career.
Further hairdressing career paths
After years of learning the craft and honing your skills as a hairdresser, you may want to consider taking further steps on the hairdressing career ladder. You could consider opening your own salon or moving into teaching as a way of becoming more independent and giving you the confidence to take on some new challenges.
Working hours as a stylist can vary. Apprentices and those in training will tend to work part-time, with many apprentices working Saturdays while they are still in school or in other forms of employment.
A salon is typically open 5/6 days a week. The majority of salons are open on a Saturday and you will be expected to work these as part of your job, totalling between 35 and 40 hours over the course of the week. Some salons will close on a Monday to make up for the additional day, and other salons will rotate off days to give stylists a day off during the week.
As a stylist, you should prepare to work long hours on occasion. You might have to work weekends to cover weddings, which will involve some early starts. Freelance stylists will have unpredictable hours which could involve working early or late, as well as long days spanning 12 hours or more. You might find that there are some periods of the day that are quieter than others and should look into taking on additional duties during this time.
Being a hairdresser is more versatile than you might have thought, and if you’re creative and personable you will love working in this fast-paced industry. With new trends and styles emerging all the time, you’ll find that a hairdressing career is interesting and challenging, with no two days being the same.