Advice I would give my younger self- as a stylist.
It's been 21 beautiful years that I have been in this industry both behind the chair and beyond...they say hindsight is 20/20 and this week I gave myself the time to reflect on these past 21 years.
If I could do it all over again, what would I do different?
What lessons did I learn, that if learned sooner, would have changed the course of my career?
What would I change?
These questions inspired this post today, and I want to share them with you. See, on of my goals with COMBED Education is to help save you YEARS of learning lessons the hard way.
I hope you take away + implement some of what I share today and set yourself up for an amazingly successful career.
1. Seek out a mentor, or a few. Take the time to learn from others who have a successful career. I briefly assisted, and because I'm so damn stubborn, I went into both renting rather quickly. I had the " I GOT THIS" mentality...but in reality, I didn't "GOT THIS". There were so many missed learning opportunities for me because I chose to go for it and rent before I was ready. The truth is, what we learn in school VS what we learn BTC are two COMPLETELY different things. Assisting for a longer time AND with the RIGHT PERSON could have set me up for a more successful career, sooner. I could have learned salon life, how to run a business, communication skills, consultation skills, people skills, technical skills....allllll of the skills. Watching and learning from a few people could have made a big difference for me.
---> If you're a newer stylist, PLEASE, take the time to seek out a mentor or find a stylist who is looking for an assistant to TRAIN and not just do the "bitch work" for. Believe me when I tell you that there is so much to be learned in this industry that far exceeds just doing "good hair".
2. People skills MATTER. You can be an amazing stylist but if you're not good with people, you'll find that your client retention rate may be very low. See, what I've found is more often than not, clients care MORE about their experience in your chair than they do the results. YES, great hair is VERY important, but if you're rude or don't have the skills to have a good conversation and make them feel special, it's going to be harder for you to build. You gotta like (or act like you like) people!
---> Make the experience more about them than you. If they're open to it, ask them about their life, their hobbies, their family, what they enjoy. Some people will disagree with me on this one, but my relationship with my clients...our conversations...are soul satisfying for me. There are stylists who think that it doesn't matter, and "we're not therapists" and although, I agree that we are not therapists, I do think that there is an opportunity to give and to learn from our clients and we can definitely build a great relationship that leads to a very loyal client...as long as we are enough.
3. Do not give out your cell phone number. This is a BIGGIE! A lot of us are guilty of this, especially independent stylists or suite owners. This can create a huge issue with boundaries. When I went to a salon suite 13 or so years ago, I gave my cell phone number out to everyone. When I was out and would meet "potential clients" I gave my cell phone number out. I gave my cell phone number out to everyone and boy do I regret that now. At this point, my main line of communication with EVERYONE is texting/calling and it is overwhelming AF! I do have an online booking option, but still, most clients will text me to "make sure" they did it right.
---> If I could do it differently, I would get a second phone number that's for WORK only. This way on my days off, or when I'm not working, it would be off and I could enjoy my time off. I would also create a specific email for clients to communicate with me...this way my personal time is not being compromised and I would create healthy communication boundaries with my clients. Key point: GET A BUSINESS PHONE.
4. Think about retirement the DAY you get that license. I have met so many wonderful stylists, some of who have been behind the chair for decades and didn't even think about retirement until they were in their 40's. The truth is, we cannot work BTC forever. We have to plan a few things out. #1 How can we start investing into our retirement ASAP? #2 what is my exit strategy? These are things that need to be planned and thought out way in advance so that when the time comes, you, my love, are prepared!
---> I wish I had opened up my SEP IRA when I was freshly licensed instead of in my 30's. I would have had an additional DECADE to contribute to it. Even contributing $100 a month goes a long way..long term. Also, I started considering my exit strategy about 10 years in to my career. I knew that I didn't want to work BTC forever so I focused on building my skillset with education and facilitation. I have worked for manufacturers and I also created my own independent education..As these avenues for additional income grow and build, I can scale it back BTC and not lose revenue. Maybe owning a salon is your exit strategy? Maybe creating your own Education company is your exit strategy? Coaching? Consulting? Whatever it is, begin building the foundation and the skillset you need to elevate THOSE goals so that when you're ready to scale it back BTC, you can out your plan in motion.
5. Social Media Matters. As annoying and cliche as it may seem, social media is the single most important tool that we have today to build and scale our businesses. When social media first came out, I, along with the majority of us, was posting filtered photos of my dogs and food. (FACE PALM). Once I realized that I could showcase my work on social media to attract new clients....I knew what I had to do. I had to post. But fear crept in. Imposter syndrome crept it. "I'm not good enough" crept in. I wasted YEARS not promoting myself on social media and who knows how missed opportunities. It's not too late, social media is evolving and growing every day..and you need to evolve and grow with it. The only way you can grow and evolve with is is by UTILIZING it. It's that simple.
---> POST. just post. Don't worry if its not perfect. Don't worry if not every single hair is perfect, or if your caption is spot on. Don't worry and just post. Engage, find other stylists, clients, local shops and engage with them. Stay consistent and post. It doesn't matter how many likes or views you get..none of that matters. What matters is that you are posting, and learning, and growing and engaging...it will pay off for you.
6. FEAR. I saved this one for last because it has been the single most constant theme in my life, along with many many other peoples. Maybe yours too. Here's what I've learned about fear. Fear..is very real and we feeeeeel it. Fear comes up in situations where we might not know what to do, fear comes up in social situations, fear comes up when we have to make a decision and don't want to be wrong, fear comes up when we have a new client, a new job, a new opportunity and fear...well, it can be crippling. The thing about fear is that you cannot just WILL it away. It doesn't disappear because we hope it disappears. It doesn't magically turn in to courage. Fear is real and will be there. You just have to be brave enough to ACT even in the presence of fear. ACT. EVEN IN THE PRESENCE OF FEAR. Do it scared.
ONLY THEN does fear begin to dissipate and transform into courage or bravery or confidence. It's when you look fear dead in the eyes and GO.
So many times I let fear paralyze me. Fear of the unknown, fear of my inabilities, fear of being wrong, fear of what others would think...and I allowed my fears to hold me back from doing the all of the things. Taking all of the risks. And really living out my dreams.
This past week of reflecting I learned a lot..and as I always say my mission is to inspire and empower this industry through my own learnings. I encourage you do do the same. Reflect on your career this far and take a look at what you want your future to look like. Make the necessary adjustments and thrive baby.
Happy hair coloring