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2 Skills You Need To Become A Successful Hairstylist

As a Cosmetology Student or a New Hairstylist, have you ever wondered: What does it takes to become a successful Hairstylist? What skills do I need to be confident, know what I'm doing and make a lot of money? ...or at the very least, enough money to pay your bills?

By now you might be realizing that our industry is very different from most other industries. The majority of Hairstylists are independent contractors, entrepreneurs, or another way to put it: self employed.

For the good or the bad, your success as a hairstylist is up to you.

It takes two skills to be a successful Hairstylist. As a Hairstylist for 35 years and the Director of Education for New Talent Hairstylists for 20 years, I have trained and worked side by side with hundreds of Master Hairstylists and New Hairstylists. From my years of experience, what I know for sure is that getting good at these two skills WILL make you a successful hairstylist.

1. You have to get really good at “doing” hair
2. You have to become an amazing communicator.

Why are these two skills the ones that will make you successful? If you get really good at “doing” hair, clients will trust you with their looks, and love you for seeing and bringing out their beauty. If you are an amazing communicator, your clients will keep booking their appointments with you, and tell all their friends and family about you.

As the Director Of New Talent Education, these are 10 of the ways my New Talent Stylists became successful Professional Hairstylists.

10 Ways New Hairstylists Get Really Good At Doing Hair

  1. They kept working on foundational cutting and color skills. They sought out classes, anywhere and everywhere, and participated. They didn’t wait for their salon to teach them, they went looking for educational answers.

  2. They reread their Cosmetology Books on hair color and hair cutting theory. They studied the color wheel and the color chart of the color line they were using. They studied and practiced one length, layered, and short men’s cuts. (Foundational cutting and coloring skills.)

  3. They prepared for an appointment. They talked to their client outside of the salon, and asked them for inspo pictures. When they had an idea of what the client might want for their cut or color service, they watched YouTube Videos, practiced on a mannequin, and talked to other Hairstylists. By the time the client came in, the New Hairstylist was nervous, but they were ready to perform the service.

  4. They went to the dorms at the local college and offered the students low cost haircuts, styling, and hair color. They did hair in the dorms outside of their work hours to practice their skills and build their confidence.

  5. They asked more experienced Hairstylists if they could observe (or assist) them doing a cut, styling or color technique they didn’t know how to do. They asked a lot of questions in the back room. And listened to the answers.

  6. They practiced cuts and color on their moms, dads, friends, siblings, aunts and uncles.

  7. If they were scared of a particular haircut, they watched YouTube videos, and practiced on a mannequin, then took the mannequin to an experienced Hairstylist and asked them to go through the cut and give them constructive criticism.

  8. They asked if they could bring in a client to practice a service they wanted to get better at doing, and then asked for feedback from another Hairstylist. Or they asked if they could put up a tripod and mannequin to practice when it wasn’t busy in the salon.

  9. They worked one or two days a week at a kid salon or a blow dry bar to improve their skills and speed.

  10. They volunteered to apply color, or blow dry the front desk, cleaning person, or anyone that worked at the salon.

11 Ways I've Seen New Hairstylists Excel At Communication

  1. They communicated by continually improving their social media presence, by taking off personal posts and making it professional. They provided services, hours, policies and contact information and showed examples of their best work.

  2. On a daily basis, they would reach out with a text or message to friends, family, neighbors and invite them to come in for a salon service. EX: “Hi Aunt Sally, when I saw you at our family Christmas you said your roots were in need of a color retouch. It would be a HUGE favor to me, if you would come into the salon and let me practice my color application speed. I would be able to charge you half price, and it would mean so much to me. Let me know if this would work for you. My number is (888)888-8888. I am available M,T,W from 9-12. Looking forward to hearing from you!”

  3. They had business cards made with their name, cell, email, Social Media accounts, Salon, address and hours listed. They invited and gave their business card to the barista at Starbucks, the guy at the car wash, the person at the grocery store who complimented them on their hair, the women in their mom group, and the friend of a friend. They invited anyone and everyone to come in and see them at the salon.

  4. They learned how to do a stellar consultation. They didn’t say “ok”, when the client said what they wanted, instead they REPEATED back to the client what they heard them say. They asked for clarification, they made sure they understood the client and the client felt heard. EX: “Ok, so Roza, you want long hair and are growing your hair out. You want a trim to keep your hair healthy and you want to keep your length… let me show you how much I think we should trim, and see if we are on the same page. Is that what you were thinking? Great, you can trust me with this, I will only trim off what we both agreed to.

  5. They greeted clients with a big smile, a friendly greeting (including their name) AND a genuine compliment. EX: “Hi Brittany, I’ve been looking forward to seeing you! What a cute purse!” They would show them where to wait, let them know how long before they would be ready, and offer them a beverage.

  6. They would give their client a tour of the salon so the client felt comfortable. They showed them where the bathroom was located, the water and coffee station, the color bar, shampoo bowls, the dressing room…

  7. They asked them questions about their hair and listened. EX:May I ask you questions about your hair?” “How long has it been since your last cut, your last color? What don’t you like about your current cut or color? What is working? Do you have any specific concerns or something that you would like today?”

  8. When they were finished they would hand their client a mirror, swing the chair around, move and lift the hair so their client could see their hair from every angle. This offers transparency and accountability for the work that was done.

  9. They learned to talk to their clients about maintaining their look. Reserving their next appointment, showing them how to blow dry their style, and make product recommendations. After the appointment, they would text their client and thank them for coming in, and that they hoped the client was enjoying their hair.

  10. They did their job honestly. If they made a mistake, or screwed up in any way, they owned it, they didn’t let their client leave that way. EX: “Oh, Jessie, I’m a perfectionist, and I see a hair that’s not even, or, the color is too solid here and I need to break it up, or, the money piece isn’t popping enough….give me a couple of minutes to make this how I want it, up to my standards…Thank you! I want you to LOVE your hair”.

  11. They read or listened to self help books or podcasts on communication, conversation, manipulation, listening, healing, organization and leadership skills.

My Private One on One Talks With Hairstylists In The Backroom

My job as Director of Education was to “walk” New Hairstylists through their client experiences and help them improve. We would review what went right, and what could use improvement. I would give them a pep talk, make suggestions, and show them additional tips on how to tackle the cut or color. New Hairstylists need a sounding board, a guide. I love that job! There is nothing better for me than to see the “light bulb” go on, and to watch a New Hairstylist grow in their confidence and skills. I want you to take a minute and examine your Haircutting and Color skills, and your Communication skills. How can I help?

I am Here For You, Please Reach Out!

I hope you find this helpful, and will leave feedback, comments, or questions. I absolutely love supporting New Hairstylists. My intention with every post is to give New Hairstylists all over the world the tips, short cuts, and tools they need to quickly achieve success and to show you what is possible as a Hairstylist.I would love to connect, I think you’re great!

Elevating The Industry,

Karen Spinelli


Cosmetology Students and New Hairstylists I would love to hear from you! You can reach out here, on my site, Instagram, or Facebook. Sign up for my newsletter to receive my weekly blog sent to your inbox.

Cosmetology Schools and Teachers I would love to talk to your students! To book Karen as a speaker at your Cosmetology School, click here.

Karen Spinelli is from Pasadena, California. She was behind the chair for thirty five years, as well as Salon Director of Education for New Hairstylists for the last twenty years. Karen loves to spend time with and watch Hairstylists succeed!

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