Your Beauty Career......
                            the beginning.

Where should you start your beauty career?

I support your dreams and your desires to be anything you want to be.  But I want you to fully grasp the idea that to reach the heights of a successful cosmetologist career you will have to pay your dues somewhere.

We all have to start somewhere!

A Beauty Career is a lifelong building endeavor.

Tina's Story 

I had no illusions when I finally went to cosmetology school. I had put it off until I had children and by the time I graduated I found myself divorced with 2 kids who depended on me. I did not have the luxury of time to pursue an apprenticeship.  I had to hit the ground running.  I was waiting tables while I went to school and I couldn’t wait to shed that life and embrace my new one.  Ending up divorced and a single parent meant I had to start making money immediately. I needed an environment that would support me during my learning and adaption phase.  I needed a place that would help me develop my skills and not depend on me to build a clientele.  A Supercuts owner came into our school one day and gave a presentation on the benefits of starting your beauty career at Supercuts.  All the other students spun their pens on the desk and couldn’t care less.  Most of them were young and didn’t have the responsibilities I had.  But my ears perked up because it sounded like everything I needed! They even provided a week of training before being allowed on the floor to insure that I would be ready and confident.  It sounded awesome to me. And there was a very successful store a mile from my apartment.  In school the students would talk about where they wanted to work when they graduated. I was the only one who chose to work for a fast-service hair salon franchise and they would roll their eyes at me, like there was something wrong with franchise salons.  I was hired by Supercuts right out of cosmetology school and worked at the one close to home for 5 straight years, not because I wasn’t good enough but because it suited me and I LOVED IT! 

So....Private owned or Franchise?

OR.......Go Solo & Booth Rent?

Where should you start your beauty career?

Your residence will determine how many options you actually have.  If you are in a large city you have all of the options available to a licensed cosmetologist.  But if you are in a small town you won't have near as many opportunities.

I have lived in both and it was so much easier to dream in a big city. My opportunities were so limited in a small town that I couldn't wait to get back to the city.

And in a small town it is even more important that you maintain a good reputation.  Our community can be tiny when job hunting.  If you have problems with one manager or owner it could be hard on you in the future.  Managers salon hop too.

Beauty Career Options

Franchise or Fast Service Salons

All that being said, each franchise is a little different from the others and every point may not apply to all.  This is only a general overview of franchise salons.

I started to list the points as advantages and disadvantages but realized that an advantage to me, like limited service, may be a disadvantage to you!  Like I hate doing perms. So if a salon doesn't offer them then it's good for ME.

Some cosmetologists may look at the "hourly wage" as a negative but to Tina it was a lifesaver.  Instead of building a clientele over time she could earn a living immediately.

I also know stylists that preferred franchise salons because of the training it provided right out of cosmetology school.  Afraid to mess up clients this can be a good option to learn your craft without the stress of building clientele at the same time.

For a closer look check out or (Link will open in new window) 

Maybe this is a good place for you to start your beauty career. Or maybe not!

Privately owned salons have such a wide range of everything that it is truly difficult to discuss them in detail here.  You have high end salons where some stylists charge $600 for a haircut and you have salons that just think they are high end and are NOT.

There are barber shops that have been open for 75 years and there are expensive male grooming salons.  There are kid's salons and there are salons in the back of people's houses.

Where you want to work is up to you, but I want to encourage you, no, INSIST that you do your research.  A salon may look right for you on the outside but the insides may be a hot mess with bad attitudes and neglected leadership.  Starting your beauty career in the right place will have a big impact on your career in the future.

Plant your seed in fertile ground!

It sure sounds good at first but let's take a closer look at booth rental to start your beauty career.

Yeah you keep the profit and make your own schedule and have like your own business. BUT...and there is a big are responsible for EVERYTHING. 

You pay all the bills, you supply all of your retail for sale (which is very expensive), you take all of your own appointments. You don't have the luxury of a "team."

And the biggest thing to me is your clientele!  You have to have a large clientele or you LOSE money.  I have a friend that just had this very experience.  She wanted to be her own boss.  She had a decent clientele built where she had been working and believed that everyone would follow her 30 minutes away.  She didn't take enough time to consider the reality of being her own boss and the challenges she would face. 

 It takes an enormous amount of self discipline.

Plus her rent was almost $800 a month!

So the bottom line for a brand new cosmetologist is DON'T DO IT! I know how tempting it is to start your beauty career as your own boss, believe me. But honestly, you should only consider booth rental if you are very experienced, have strong self discipline, are good with money and have a humongous clientele that will follow you to the ends of the earth and they have signed a contract saying so.

Do NOT make the mistake of assuming that you have enough friends and family that will use your services often enough to support you in your own venture.  Be realistic, not delusional. 

This is real money we are talking about.  I would hate to see you start your beauty career with stars in your eyes only to be beaten down in the beginning by a poor decision.  Remember that only 20% of us stick with our profession and 85% of salons fail.

You need the support of other stylists in the beginning.  You have a lot to learn.  No one comes out of hair school with enough knowledge to successfully pull it off. There are always exceptions but I would say less than .5% could do it.  So take your time and learn and build first.

First find out what your needs are. What is important in the beginning of your beauty career?

Do you have the time and financial flexibility to do an apprenticeship?

Do you need to hone your cutting skills?

Do you need schedule flexibility due to children?

Is dress code an issue to you?

Do you need to start earning immediately?

Where is your passion?

Is location important?

How capable are you to self market?

Your Next Step to Start
Your Beauty Career

Ok, so you have a general idea of what you want to do.  I use my guinea pig Paige throughout the site so I'll plug her in as an example.  Paige is a single mother of 2 young kids.  Her passion is updo's and her dream is to become a wedding stylist.

Where would be a good place for Paige to start? 

Her cutting skills are not yet up to par nor are her customer skills.  But she has to consider that she needs a steady income for the kids and a somewhat flexible schedule.  Insurance would be nice too.

My advice would be for Paige to go to a Franchise salon for at least 2 years.  There she can get needed education and experience while making a steady wage and  benefits for the kids.  If she is clear up front on her scheduling needs she will probably find someone that can work with her.

However, If Paige can find a high traffic private salon with stylists that have a built up clientele she may be able to get enough walk-ins to get her started while being mentored by a seasoned professional.  In this case Paige needs to be pro-active in an interview to see if they fit HER needs for skill development. 

And in the case of starting at a private salon, Paige will need to put a lot of focus on building her clientele rapidly and marketing herself.  Ask yourself if you have that level of commitment when starting your career. 

Self Evaluate. You are starting a Brand New Beauty Career.
It's kind of a big deal!

One big, huge, ginormous question to ask in the very beginning:

How much investment are you willing to give to the growth and maintenance of your new beauty career?

I only ask because it's that damn important to know. Let's face it, most people are lazy and would prefer that things come to them.  I know. I have watched for years as people come into salons to "fill out applications."

Here is how it goes:  New stylist walks in looking ok, not great and on point, but ok. She asks for an application. She fills it out in the lobby and leaves it with whoever is at the desk.  The application gets pushed to the side and ends up in a stack of papers. These cosmetologists are just hoping to get lucky. Maybe they will get a call back. Hey, it could happen, but probably not.  It's the shotgun approach. Blast a bunch of applications out there and hope for the best.

But that's not how we do things at Cosmetologist Life!

We make plans, we have goals, we know what we want and we go after it showing salon owners why it is in their best interest to hire US.

It's a totally different approach, isn't it?

I went to a Paul Mitchell School once and did a presentation to hair school students about the salon I was managing.  There were a couple of girls that truly got my message.  They liked what we had to offer, they thought they would like me as a manager and they set their sights on working for us after graduation.

One girl wound up being a disappointment because of her lack of professionalism on the floor. But the other girl turned out to be the apple of my eye!

A month BEFORE she graduated she came to see me.  She was dressed in her best, had a resume (with hardly anything on it) and we had a nice meeting.  She stressed to me how she had grown up in our neighborhood and how much she wanted to work for us because she loved our culture.  She impressed me so much that I held a spot for her for 3 months! I waited for her to pass her state board and began training her as soon as possible. Years later she is still with the company and developing her career. 

My point is she KNEW what she wanted and as a hiring manager I could see that.  She was invested in her career.  She didn't expect things to be handed to her.  She went after what she wanted.  And because she would invest in herself it made me want to invest in her. She has made me proud. (Thanks Daniko!)

How much investment did you say?

If you are clueless on where to start you will need a very structured environment like a franchise salon.  They will take care of providing you clientele and a regular paycheck.  That can be a very good thing when you are starting your beauty career.

But if you are willing to get out there and try things to market yourself to grow your clientele, or have the support of a good management team, you will be fine to start your beauty career at a private salon. 

My biggest concern for you choosing this is that you have a strong support system in the salon. I would like to see you have a strong manager that is an effective leader.  I would like to see you provided with a mentor or a go-to person within the salon to help you acclimate and help you if you get stuck on a client service. I would feel better knowing they provided continuing education.

And if you have financial support to get you started then an apprenticeship is awesome. You may or may not get paid,though.  Each apprenticeship is unique.  The management determines the length of the apprenticeship. It's possible you could make tips but it would never be as much as a stylist.  Paige would love to do an apprenticeship except she can't afford it having to support 2 children. No apprenticeship in her town would pay enough to support her needs. But maybe it is perfect for YOU!  If you can pull if off I highly recommend this as your first position. You will learn so much. 

When beginning your beauty career it is so reassuring to know someone is there that's got your back. My girls, Shannon and Mitzi, came between me and disaster more than once.  In the beginning it took me 45 minutes to do a simple haircut. With continued support I got it down to 15 in no time. In school it once took me 3 hours to do a 90 degree cut on a mannequin! Fear not. You will be awesome before you know it.

Create Your Own Apprenticeship

If you want to get really creative, and I believe you do, you could find just the right salon for your interests and personality.  When there, keep your eyes open for the stylist you respect.  Watch for the ones that have large clienteles and a good work ethic.  When you find one that you can really connect with ask them if they will mentor you.  Then you will have your made your own apprenticeship program while working at the same time.

Do you feel more informed now?

I hope this gave you some information to work with when beginning your new beauty career.  Everyone is different.  What's good for your classmate may not be what's best for you.

Don't worry about impressing others.  Figure out where you want to go according to your goals and passions.  Do what is best for YOU!

Stay grounded and realistic while continuing to dream. 

Your dreams are your tomorrows! 

You will do GREAT. Now put on your black pants and get started landing your first cosmetologist job!.

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