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07 February 2022
Posted by in Students

Salon or Freelance: Which is right for you?

Discover the real pros and cons of being a freelance hairdresser or beautician, and decide whether it’s the perfect fit for you.

One of the biggest decisions that every hairdresser or beautician has to make is whether to work in a salon or become freelance. This isn’t just something that students consider as they’re about to finish their training, it’s also a subject that you’ll revisit throughout your long and successful career.

To help you decide whether you’d rather be employed by a salon or become self-employed and work for yourself, we’ve put together a guide on everything you need to know to make your decision. There are more than 45,000 hair and beauty businesses in the UK according to the National Hairdressing and Beauty Federation (NHBF), so there is plenty of opportunity for you to succeed.

Working in a salon

If you like the idea of a fixed monthly salary, and a ready-made team to work with, being employed by a salon could be the answer.

Pros of working in a salon

  1. You have a regular income: If you are employed by a salon then you’ll have a regular monthly salary and you won’t need to worry about setting money aside for tax, because your employer will handle all of that.
  2. You will be looked after: As part of your employment, you’ll be entitled to holiday pay, sick pay, as well as maternity or paternity pay. Always remember to check your contract or employment handbook for details on how much you will receive.
  3. You will be working in a team: Being employed by a salon means you are instantly part of a team. This means you’ll have people around you and you’ll also be able to learn from your more qualified colleagues.
  4. You will get ongoing training: Your employer may arrange outside training for you, or they could have training days at the salon. Either way, they will often invest in your ongoing education, which is a huge bonus.
  5. You are part of an established brand: If you’re newly qualified then you might be nervous about finding clients. Being employed by a salon means that they already have the customers and a reputation, which means you can concentrate on improving your in-salon skills.

Cons of working in a salon

  1. Your earnings are limited: As an employee, you have a regular salary paid directly into your bank account. However, if you’ve just qualified, you’re unlikely to be earning a huge amount: the starting salary for hairdressers and beauty therapists is around £14,000.
  2. You have no control over when you work: There’s not much flexibility with your rota if you’re employed by a salon because your boss will decide when you work. While this suits some people, others might want more say in the hours and days they work.
  3. You can’t pick which products you use: During your training or career you might have discovered some essential products that you love. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use them if your salon doesn’t already use them. This lack of choice can be frustrating.
  4. There could be less variety in your work: If you want every day to be different then working in a salon is probably not for you. Instead, you might prefer the variety of freelance work.

Freelance world

If you want more flexibility in how you work then becoming one of the 63% of freelance hairdresser, nail technician or beauty therapists in the UK could be the right choice for you.

Pros of freelance hair and beauty work

  1. You can set your hours: If you have a family and need to work around your children, or only want to work certain days and times, you can pick the hours you work. This flexibility is a huge bonus for some people and it can be the deciding factor in whether or not to go freelance.
  2. You can set your own prices: As a freelancer there is no set salary but, while this might seem daunting at first, it does mean your earnings are unlimited! You can set your own prices and work towards whatever financial goal you have. Remember to check out our money management tips for hairdressers and nail technicians.
  3. You have total flexibility: Being self-employed means you can work exactly how you want to. Whether that’s contract work, renting a chair in a salon or working as a mobile hairdresser, you can decide what works best for you.
  4. You’re the boss: Probably the best thing about being self-employed is that you’re in charge. You can pick your business branding, the services you offer and the type of clients you want to work with. However, being your own boss can be a challenge, so it’s important to stay focused on your business goals.
  5. You can pick which products you use: Whether it’s hair colours, gel nail polishes or skin treatments, the choice of products that you use is yours. You can use any products you want but, with so many brilliant ranges to choose from, the only problem will be picking your favourites.

Cons of freelance hair and beauty work

  1. Freelancing can be lonely: Being self-employed can be lonely at times, but there are ways that you can get professional support and advice. If you are a hairdresser then the Freelance Hairdressers Association is a good starting point, because they have a virtual staff room where you can chat to other stylists. Also, remember to check out our Learning Hub for expert advice and videos.
  2. You need to find your own clients: In a salon there’s a steady stream of clients already on the books. Setting yourself up as a freelance hair and beauty professional means that it’s up to you to find your customers. This can feel quite challenging at first, but reading our expert tips for building your client base will help.
  3. There’s no holiday or sick pay: If you’re freelance then you won’t get the sick pay or holiday pay that a salon worker receives. Remember to build this into your financial plan, because the bills will still need to be paid even if you’re not working.
  4. You’re in charge of your education: You’ll need to stay at the top of your game, and that means staying up to date with the latest techniques. You won’t have the support of a salon but remember to check out our training courses and bookmark our Learning Hub.
  5. It can feel like a lot of responsibility: You are in charge of every aspect of your business from cash flow to handling difficult clients, completing business accounts to paying tax, and even keeping your stock levels topped up. Also, remember to keep up to date with your insurance.

Whichever direction you choose to go in, whether that’s working in a salon or becoming a freelancer, consider your choices carefully and do whatever feels right for you. Remember, you’re a part of our hair and beauty family, and we’re always here to help.

Shop all the professional hair and beauty essentials for your salon or freelance business at Salon Services, and stay up to date with the latest trends on our Learning Hub blog.
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