A Stylist’s Perspective On: The Cost of Hair Appointments

Written by Cori McCann, level five stylist and educator

This is a topic I (as well as many other hairdressers) legitimately dread. Whether it’s a price increase, a gratuity prompt, or the purchase of product, we dread it as much as you do. I can honestly say that if hairdressers had a way to give you free services and still pay the bills, we would. We form a bond and friendship with our clients and hearing about financial issues, personal strife, or the potential loss of a job and the uncertainty that comes with that…. handing over that iPad at the end of a service to settle-up at the end is the absolute worst.

So WHY do we charge what we do? What logic or system goes behind our pricing? Let me start with a look into what it’s like to be a hairdresser existing in a world where that very question is something we face daily. The other day I was at the grocery store with my partner and as we were checking out, the cashier and bagger were asking us about our jobs. Coming from California this level of interest from a stranger is foreign to me, but alas, we live in the South now and are kind of getting used to it? My partner divulged his career as a professor, the challenges that come along with that, as well as his current enrollment in a Doctorate program. Their eyes widened and they looked at each other with a silent respect for him. He was met with “Good for you!” and “I am so impressed”. They then turned to me and asked what I did for a living. “I am a hairdresser and educator” I replied with a smile on my face. The cashier scrunched up her face and said “I got my hair done for the first time in seven years at a professional salon and I couldn’t believe how much it cost. It’s like they’re overcharging for no reason these days”. They being me. So here I am, having to defend why we as a collective industry charge what we do.

I understand why there is frustration, I also understand why my partner’s career is meet with adoration where as mine is met with suspicion. There is a stigma within our industry I try to shed light on, and all I can do is hope that that information is met with understanding. Although it was not that way for me on that grocery trip, I have accepted that part of my role in this career is to be a martyr for every stylist that miscommunicated, overcharged, or flat our lied to a client. I can only meet a new client with a history of a bad experience with an honest communication. So here we are. Let’s get honest!

Every hairstylist has a varying financial scenario, so all I can do is write from my experience. I know on average this will apply to most. My current price point is $80/hour. my overhead is a 50% commission from that, making my take-home $40/hour. That sounds like a LOT right? First, let’s discuss an average work-week for a stylist. The goal is to always be booked, but that is unrealistic due to sickness, change of appointments, etc. So although I may be scheduled to work full-time, more often than not I am not fully booked for each hour of my work day. When this happens, I am not making money. So there is an inconsistency in how much we average financially per week.

On top of that, there is also the understanding that this job is VERY physically tasking. On a busy day I am typically working 8 hours with no break. If you are processing with color, I am probably using that time to use the restroom and work on the other aspects of my business that are unpaid (social media, responding to client messages, helping around the salon). This mean back-breaking work, so we have to prepare for the potential that we may need to retire 10 years younger than the average individual within their business. That means more savings for retirement.

We also work in an industry that is forever growing and shifting, and spend a good amount of income on education each year. I average about $500/year on education myself. After all of that we also are paying monthly for things like tools, marketing, etc. For example, I purchased my first big set of shears in 10 years, but they cost the same each month for me as a car payment. Some hairstylists pay for Instagram ads, or for apps that help them with their marketing content.

I know, all of that information is probably super overwhelming. It’s overwhelming for us as well, and we’ve been working in our careers for years! At the end of the day though, its worth it. We have to be artists, photographers, marketers, therapists, all while managing to pay for all of the same bills a lot of other companies include in an average salary. We are REALLY good at multitasking.

I hope all of this sheds some light on why we charge what we do when you sit in our chair. We pour every bit of ourself into each service. We use our education to help better understand why your hair is doing what it’s doing (falling out, thinning, changing texture, feeling more dry or more greasy, etc.). We would rather skip out on lunch, barely have time to pee, and work a 12 hour day than make you miss an appointment. We LOVE what we do. We love you, our clients. Like, a LOT. You guys are all cooler than us and we hope one day we can grow up to be as cool as you. Seriously. I look forward to all of the things I learn from you, all of the friendships I have gained through my career, and mostly… I look forward to making you feel beautiful. Its not about the money; if it was I would probably be an accountant. Instead I am me, a lil’ old hairdresser trying to make it in the world just like everybody else.

Scroll to Top