The Ultimate Guide to Opening a Hair Salon

woman in gray sweater managing a salon
Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

Running a hair salon can be extremely rewarding, and making it successful has a lot to do with planning – before you ever open your doors to customers. Owning a business is rarely all smooth sailing, and you’ll face challenges along the way, but the potential benefits are worth the effort.

The great news is that with the right strategy, personnel, and tools, you can get your new hair salon up and running quickly and with less effort. So, take the time to read our ultimate guide to opening a hair salon, and you’ll be well on your way to booking your first customer!

How to Start a Hair Business

Getting any business off the ground is a heady mix of excitement and hard work. Every salon owner wants a packed waiting list, but there is a range of things to consider and several hoops you’ll need to jump through to avoid any hiccups on opening day. With that in mind, here’s a concise list of what you need to be aware of before you open a hair salon.

Opening a Hair Salon: Quick Checklist

No matter how frugal you are, opening a hair salon is going to cost money – whether you’re using savings or borrowing. You’ll need to make sure you’ve covered all the basics if you’re going to get things right. Here’s a good starter checklist to get you going:

·   Commercial rent: No matter what type of premises you operate from, you’ll need to budget for rental costs.

·   Utility companies: Keeping the lights on and the equipment powered costs money, too. Remember to include air conditioning and/or heating costs.

·   Software, office supplies, and IT: Keeping track of your client list, your online salon waitlist, managing hair appointments – it all means having suitable systems in place and can help you achieve a few different aims. It’s essential to manage salon appointments efficiently if you’re going to maintain a high customer retention rate. Don’t forget to budget for an appropriate phone system, and remember to include accounting software, too.

·   Payroll: The more employees you have, the more you’ll need to allow for wages. Remember to include the cost of paying for benefits and vacation leave.  

·   Refurbishment and décor: If you’re going to need some significant refurbishments to get your salon off the ground, allow a healthy budget and stick with that.

·   Hair salon equipment and fittings: Every hair salon needs the right equipment to operate. Budget for hair wash stations, driers, and furniture – and don’t forget the counter!

·   Hair salon inventory and products: Selling cosmetic products can provide hair salons with a great sideline, and you’ll also need to budget for the products you use day-to-day.

·   Insurance: It’s vital you have the right insurance in place to protect your employees, equipment, clients, and premises. Take the time to shop around.

Every Hair Salon Needs a Solid Business Plan

Now, it’s time to put all those costs, expenses, and figures down on paper. If you’re more creative than business-minded, it’s essential to realize you’ve got to put in a certain amount of business planning to get where you want to be. A solid business plan performs a few different important functions.

Firstly, it helps you set realistic targets for growth; secondly, it clearly shows the boxes and milestones you need to reach along your business journey; and thirdly, you’ll find it easier and cheaper to get funding. Think of it as a map to success and something that will make you more informed and less likely to overextend your finances needlessly. The U.S. Small Business Administration provides some excellent advice on this subject.

What Makes Your Hair Salon Different?

You’ve likely already got a vague idea of how your salon will look, but it’s vital to meditate on these questions. The answers you come up with will define your brand, and to a certain extent, your entire client base.

With any business, having a coherent brand strategy is just as crucial as a financial plan. Being unique is essential. Offering something clients want is not negotiable. Knowing who you are and knowing your target customer inside-out is an absolute must.

There are many types of salons, from budget establishments offering few frills and reasonable rates to high-end joints with prices and services to match.

Where does your business fit? How will you be different? You can’t even begin to design the styling environment or think about staffing policies until you’ve answered those questions, so think hard.

Likewise, how you present your business and brand is going to define your setup. The mood must match what you offer, and clients should feel relaxed and happy when they visit – because it will keep them coming back and your salon waitlist overflowing. If interior design isn’t your thing, consider hiring a professional to at least get you on the right track. Be clear about your budgets, business goals, and what makes you different.

Location, Location, Location

Arguably, where you place your business is more important than square feet when you’re starting out. Commercial real estate will be one of your biggest costs, so make sure you put in some research and choose your premises wisely. Maximizing space can save new businesses a fortune. Think about how the salon will run day-to-day and use every inch available to keep rental spend down.

Use your business plan to figure out what you need to spend now and what you can upgrade later. Don’t expect to start with all the employees and equipment you’re ever going to need – and you can even move to bigger premises too when your waiting list and business starts growing. Get the best place you can afford where foot traffic is high and your target market lives, shops, or works. Remember that outgrowing your premises is a good thing, so don’t view the prospect as a problem – see that as a positive step and plan for it from the beginning.

Pick Hair Salon Products and Suppliers

Part of setting your salon aside from the competition and defining your brand is choosing quality products and providing a killer environment for customers. Offering high-end products is also great for a high customer retention rate in hair salons. It’s essential to build great relationships with the right suppliers to ensure you keep your overheads low and your client ratings high.

Start working on those relationships and negotiating rates as soon as you’ve found premises, designed your salon, and decided on your USP. Choose the best equipment and products you can afford within budget and save where you can on installation by using local tradespeople – without cutting corners. The more hard work you put into this stage, the better the results will be. Talk to as many suppliers and candidates as possible. Keep it fair, but don’t be afraid to ask for discounts either.

No Replacement for Great Recruitment

More than anything else, employees are what makes a great business. They’ll keep your waitlist full, client ratings high, and customer retention rate super healthy. If you can only really afford to spend money on one primary thing when you start out, make it people.

Let’s face it, most clients will happily sit in a pretty basic room to get an appointment with a highly-skilled stylist – and a large part of what is going to build your outstanding reputation is your irreplaceable staff. Start smaller if you have to, but don’t compromise on skills and good people. Recruit wisely, encourage training and career progression, pay decent rates, and retain the best employees as you grow. If you can do that, you’ll be most of the way to owning a successful hair salon. 

It’s Time to Get the Word Out!

There’s no point in doing great hair and offering an excellent experience if nobody knows about it – and how you market your hair salon will have a significant influence on your chances of success. Don’t forget that you’re performing a local service that people will want to know about, and when you do a great job, they’ll also be quick to tell their friends and colleagues. These days, Google Maps is just as important for businesses as word of mouth. Having a sleek, informative listing is crucial. List your opening hours, show your services, link to a well-maintained website, and respond to reviews so that your growing customer base knows you care.

Social media accounts are a great way to highlight events, special promotions, post pictures of client results, and promote engagement with a family feel. Consider nominating a tech-savvy junior employee for social media duties so you can keep your pages up to date and post regularly.

How to Manage Your Waitlist

It’s goal number one. If you do everything right, you’re going to end up with a thriving, busy hair salon – and a salon waiting list to match! One of the biggest challenges that both budding and established hair salons face is managing appointments. Not doing that efficiently is expensive and inconvenient for everyone, from clients to employees. The less downtime you have, the more money you make – so it’s crucial to waiting lists for salons right from the get-go.

The fact is, customers can be difficult to deal with at times. They’re unpredictable, and they’re going to let you down on occasions. That can be for a number of reasons. Some people forget appointments, or they can just have unexpected things occur. Either way, having the best systems in place to deal with those occurrences will set you up for more success and more significant profit margins.

Salon Cancellation Policy Using Waitlistr

Nowadays, more and more salons, service providers, and even restaurants are using online waitlists to minimize the problems associated with missed appointments and maximize the time they spend making money. An online cancellation waiting list for salons can help with everything from bookings, filling vacant slots, and dealing with no-shows at short notice.

Waitlistr is one of the most successful platforms in the marketplace because it provides tailored, easy-to-use systems that work for many types of business – including waitlists for salons. Having a hair salon waitlist means you can line up clients when your schedule is full and provide automated alerts when a slot frees up. When that happens, waitlisted customers get the option to step in on a first-come-best-dressed basis. You can even take care of walk-in clients with Waitlistr – without the need to spend hours managing slots.

Not only that but every salon and business experiences busier times and quieter periods throughout the day. An online salon waitlist allows you to offer slots in the most manageable, efficient way possible. Customers can confirm and cancel bookings via text, email, or both – as well as calling you up on the phone. It frees up your staff to do what they’re best at – cutting hair. And it also makes you more available for clients and making sure the business is running smoothly.

Plus, you’ll need a smaller waiting room. Waitlistr allows your customers to monitor salon wait times online and show up right before their favorite stylist is free. That’s excellent for client satisfaction and reviews and gives you more space to get creative and provide awesome service.

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