The beauty industry was predicted to be one of the fastest-growing sectors between 2017 – 2022, with UK salons pulling in about £4 billion annually. Perhaps that’s why hairdressers are considered to be some of the happiest workers in the UK.
It’s easy to see why: providing services that make people feel great about themselves, combined with the flexibility of setting your own hours and the satisfaction of calling all the shots.
If you want to enter the hairdresser business, we’re here to give you all the steps, options and information you need to become your own boss in no time.
That’s enough off the top; let’s skip straight into the facts.
How to start a hairdressing business
As we’ve explained in other guides, there are three phases involved in starting a business.
- Preparation. This is where you get your business plan together and prepare yourself for business. Here, we’ll think about what type of hairdressing business you want to set up, the services you’ll offer, where you’ll operate, what prices you’ll set and how you will attract clients.
- Registration. This is where you officially set up your business as a limited company or register to be a sole trader. It’s here we’ll dot the i’s, cross the t’s, and make it all official.
- Trading. This is when it’s time to start attracting clients, creating dream hairstyles and making money!
And before you’re tempted to skip straight to registration, remember that the more preparation you do, the better chance your business has of success. In the UK, one in every five businesses doesn’t make it past the first year. The ones who didn’t make it didn’t prepare. Don’t let that be your business.
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Preparation: How to start a hairdressing business
1. Decide what type of hairdressing business you want to run
Do you want to own a salon?
We’re hitting you with this question early as it’s an important decision you must make.
Knowing how to start a hairdressing business begins with this question.
This is because becoming a business owner can take several routes. This can involve opening your own salon, renting a chair in another salon or even operating remotely or from your own home.
There are pros and cons to all of these options. Having your own salon is the most expensive and intensive option – there will be a lot of paperwork and costs involved in getting set up before you can start styling.
The exact cost will depend on the location and how much work is needed, but it can fall anywhere between £3,000 and £35,000.
However, having your own salon will give you the best place to grow and really make a name for yourself. Alternatively, you can operate a salon from home. This will be cheaper than buying or renting a full salon, but you will still need to pay for equipment hire and installation in your space.
Renting a chair in another salon can be a great way to get started and build up a client base before you create your own salon.
This is where, rather than paying the full operating and overhead costs, you pay to access a chair and equipment in another salon. However, it can be difficult to distinguish yourself from the salon that you rent from, which can be difficult if you then go out on your own.
Operating remotely is where you go to clients’ houses, which can be a great selling point to differentiate yourself. However, you will have to factor in travel costs and transporting equipment. In addition, the time travelling between clients would mean you would see less in a day than in a salon environment.
|Owning a salon
|The best way to build your brand and offers the best way to scale and hire others
|The most expensive option, with building costs, overheads and equipment costs
|Running a home salon
|Cheaper than renting a salon and more convenient for you to work from
|Will require home equipment installation and changes to insurance policies
|Renting a chair
|Cheaper than owning a salon, a great way to build a client list
|Can be hard to differentiate yourself from the salon
|Gives you a unique selling point by going to the client and reduces overheads
|Will need to account for transport time & resources, and will have less calendar availability.
If you’re torn between options, remember these aren’t locked in forever.
2. Set out what makes you different
There’s no harm in starting by renting a chair or operating remotely and then moving to your own salon when you’re ready to grow and scale. The choice depends on what you are comfortable with.
To get clients (and therefore make money and make your business a successful one), you need to have a unique selling point. This is the thing that makes people choose you rather than another hairdresser.
This point could be anything, such as:
- Specialist knowledge and expertise. For example, you could have 5,10 or 20 years of experience, have trained at a prestige salon, done a celebrity’s hair, worked on TV sets, etc.
- Specialist services. For example, this could be hair extensions, colour specialists, or also offering cosmetic services like dermaplaning.
- Your location. This is particularly true if you open a salon in a busy or popular area or if you offer remote services.
- An environmental pledge, i.e. you only use vegan and/or eco-friendly products.
- Customer type. For example, you could specialise in curly hair to tailor to a particular demographic.
If you’re stuck, just think about a potential customer of yours deciding between you and a competitor. What would you tell them to make them choose you?
3. Know your audience
What type of customers do you want to serve? Are you planning on being a local, generalist hairdresser that people can rely on, or do you want to bring in:
- Fashion-conscious demographics will want expensive and time-consuming makeovers and upkeep – like extensions and colour.
- People with certain hair types, for example, curly hair or people with hair conditions like thinning hair, alopecia or illness-related hair loss.
- People of a certain age group, like children, those under 30, 30-50 or over 50s?
Some of these will depend on the services you offer. If you’re a specialist in hair relaxing, for example, it’s more than likely you will be targeting a curly-haired demographic.
4. Create a service and pricing list
It’s one of the fundamental steps in answering, “How to start a hairdressing business?”
Because this is where you list all the services you offer and how much you will charge for them.
When it comes to services, our advice is to start small. It’s easier to find a niche to fit into rather than try to offer everything all at once. Once you get going, you can easily expand your services according to demand.
For pricing, there are a couple of factors that you need to keep in mind, such as product usage, equipment, and overhead costs. Fundamentally, you need to price your services in a way that covers the running costs of your business. Otherwise, you will never make a profit.
It’s also worth looking at what your competitors are pricing services at for a guideline, but don’t be tempted to just go cheaper to ‘win’ over customers.
Cheap isn’t always better, and if you can offer a better quality and experience, that is something clients will pay more for.
5. Figure out your equipment and starting costs
This is a big one for hairdressing businesses. Some equipment will differ depending on the services you offer (for example, if you’re offering cosmetic or beauty services on top) or if you plan to own a salon or rent a chair. Generally, hairdressers will need:
- An appointment book or scheduling software on your computer to manage client appointments
- A cash register and Point of Sale (POS) system to accept payments from clients
- A salon chair, which can range from £200 to £1,000.
- A backwash unit, which is attached to a sink to wash and dry hair. This can cost between £400 and £700.
- Mirrors to allow the client to see their haircut, as well as handheld mirrors to show customers the back of their heads.
- Chairs for a waiting area and any magazines or entertainment for those waiting for their appointment
- A beauty trolley to keep all your main equipment close by and make it easily accessible. This can cost between £80-£500 depending on the size and compartments they hold
- Cleaning equipment to ensure a good level of hygiene and comply with all safety legislation and requirements
- Styling equipment, including straighteners, hairdryers, curling wands, etc.
- Hairdressing scissors, which can cost between £50 and £175. A full set will be needed for different styles and cuts
- Towels and gowns to protect your clients’ clothes and shoes. It’s better to have extras, as you may need to clean them between each client
- PPE such as gloves, aprons and face coverings, especially when working with chemicals such as bleach
- Combs and brushes
- Hair colouring supplies, including various colours and tones
- Hair extension equipment
Depending on your set-up and services, the equipment needed to start a hairdressing business could cost between £3,000 and £30,000.
To cut back on costs, you can consider renting equipment as you start out, with the view to buying later once you start making profits.
6. Certifications and licenses
Although you don’t need a specific qualification to start a hairdressing business in the UK, having some behind your belt can make customers more at ease.
One of the most popular routes is to have a National Vocation Qualification (NVQ), which is available up to level four in Hairdressing.
In addition, you can also get beauty therapist qualifications or even a salon management qualification.
If you want to operate remotely, then you don’t need a license either. However, if you want to open your own salon (or create a salon at home), you must register with your local council.
Requirements for hairdressing usually involve proving that you have the relevant training, safety and cleanliness guidelines and insurance to operate your premises. At a minimum, this will include Public Liability coverage.
For more information about what types of insurance you might need, discover our guide: Do I need insurance as a sole trader?
There are several options that you can take to fund your hairdressing business.
Firstly, you could do it yourself from your savings or by taking out a personal loan. This option requires less paperwork, but it is risky if anything were to go wrong.
Alternatively, you could borrow money from friends and family or take out a business loan with a bank. In addition, you could look to get investment from an investor or apply for a local funding scheme.
Whatever option you use, remember that you won’t just need money for your starting equipment. You will also need to consider everyday running costs and overheads. To help get a better idea, look at our guide of 15 startup business costs to consider in the UK.
8. Create a business plan
All businesses need a plan. This is a drum we bang a lot, but we’ll go ahead and keep banging it. It’s that important. A business plan is the holy grail for your business. Its purpose is to:
- Show who your business is and what you provide
- Set your (realistic) goals and achievements
- Showcase what makes you different from other hairdressers (also known as your unique selling point)
- Demonstrate who your audience is (i.e. what type of clients you will serve, such as fashion-conscious demographics, people with certain hair types, people who are facing hair loss issues, demographics of a particular age group)
- Calculate the equipment and funding that you will need to get started – and how you plan to get that funding
- Plan how you will market your business to your audience, i.e. how you will gain new clients (such as word-of-mouth, referrals, social media marketing, etc).
Each of these items you will recognise from our other preparation steps – so all the answers will be in your mind. It’s just getting them all into a single document, which will become your guiding light. And we’ll give you some marketing tips and insights at the end of this document to help you get those clients.
If you’re planning on applying for funding, your business plan will also be needed for each application.
The above list looks like a lot, but don’t worry. We have a comprehensive guide walking you through each step of crafting your business plan. Or, if you prefer a simpler approach, Startup Hive offers a free tool. Just fill in the blanks, and you’re good to go.
Set clear goals for your business
Plan and manage your time more effectively
Brainstorm ideas and log inspirations
Stay motivated and encouraged
Registration: make your hairdressing business official
The planning is done. Now, we’re at the penultimate step in knowing how to start a hairdressing business.
It’s time to make your hairdressing business official.
To do this, you need to choose a company structure. You have two main choices:
- Sole Trader: This is the quick and easy option. Just tell HMRC you’ll handle your taxes through Self-Assessment.
- Limited Company: This option is a bit more complex but offers better protection. You’ll need a unique company name, a business address, a director (which can be you), and assigned shares. You’ll also need some official documents to register with Companies House.
To find out the differences between a sole trader and a limited company before you make your choice, find our guide here.
When you are ready, Company Formation Agents can handle all of the paperwork and take care of this step for you. Take a look at our top-rated company formation agents here.
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Trading: Start cutting hair and making profit
Once the official bit is done, all that’s left is to start bringing in clients!
There are many different ways that you can attract your audience, including:
- Advertisements in local newspapers or radio stations
- Printing and distributing leaflets in your area
- Starting social media profiles and building an online audience
- Creating a referral program to reward clients for spreading awareness of your business through word of mouth
- Having an opening party or lavish pamper nights to promote your services
- Collect reviews from your clients to build trust and your reputation
If you’re looking for ideas for your marketing, take a look at some of our popular guides for advice and inspiration:
- How To Promote Your Business On Google
- 6 Best Website Builders For Small Businesses
- How To Market A Small Business On Social Media
- 7 Small Business PPC Tips
- 7 Affordable Small Business SEO Tips
Alternatively, you might want to sign up to Startup Hive. Created by the Business4Beginners team, Startup Hive is the hub for business news, advice, tips and step-by-step guides to kickstart your business journey.