“My clients are so excited to be back!”
It’s the moment you’d all been waiting for. So after months in lockdown, how’s your ‘back to work’ going? We chatted to freelance hairdresser Sarah Daglish, who is based in Watford, to find out how the first few weeks in her home salon have been.
And we also caught up with mobile hairdresser Samantha Toogood who told us about her increased hygiene measures… and why hairdressing is so much more than hair.
Sarah’s return to work: First day nerves…
“I was a bit nervous and apprehensive before reopening. I had a bone marrow transplant five years ago and have a weakened immune system. I felt quite anxious about returning to work but it really has been okay. I have a salon at home and also rent a chair in a local salon. The preparation was actually more nerve-wracking than the actual reopening. For so many weeks we were told, ‘you’re not allowed to go out, you’re not allowed to do anything’. Then suddenly we're open and allowed to touch people at work!
I put all the Covid measures I was taking on my website so all my clients knew exactly what I would be doing to keep them safe. I thought I’d feel like an idiot opening the door in my PPE, but after my first client I felt absolutely fine!”
Extra cleaning measures
“I’ve made a few changes in my home salon. When clients come in, I ask them to wash and sanitise their hands straight away. I then put a gown on them before they sit down - before the pandemic I would have had a chat with them first so that’s changed. I’ve also invested in some UV sterilising bags which are fantastic and save a lot of time. Any product I use and then touch a client’s head, I can sterilise it along with my curling irons, hairdryer and so on. After clients leave I spend 15 minutes wiping everything down and use sprays that kill viruses and barbicide. I specialise in colour and only see around three clients a day so it doesn’t affect how many people I can fit in. I can imagine if you are a barber, that added cleaning would mean a lot of lost time.”
“The first week after lockdown I worked ridiculous hours: 9am until 11pm!”
“I’m lucky that I’m not down any clients. But I am working really long hours to catch up on the money I lost during lockdown. Before the pandemic I worked five days a week, 10-6. Now I’m working six days a week in my home salon or the salon where I rent a chair from 9am until around 8pm. I’ll do that until my earnings are back up. It’s not been difficult to find clients - everyone wants their hair cut! But I’m knackered. The day after I opened, I felt like I had sunburn on my back because my muscles were aching so much. We’re all so used to doing this job, you don’t realise how tiring it is. After so many weeks not working I was exhausted but I know I’ll quickly get used to it again.”
Staying safe at work
“I’ve tried wearing a face mask under my visor but the moment I started talking I steamed up! For my vulnerable clients, including those with asthma, I wear both but can’t talk. But for my other clients I’ll just wear the visor. I’ve known lots of my clients for years and haven’t seen them for months, so not talking is impossible! When their colour is developing and I’m a distance away from them, I’ll take the visor off and wear a face mask. All my clients wear a mask and they’ve all been absolutely fine about it.”
Renting a chair
“I rent a chair in a salon one to two days a week. They’ve been absolutely brilliant and phoned all of the freelancers asking us how we felt about returning to work. I said I was asking clients to wear masks in my home salon so they’ve made it a policy in their salon as well which is great. We keep our sections clean as we go along, but they also have a cleaner who comes in every night. It’s nice to be part of a team again and physically being around creative people - it can be lonely working for yourself. I’m a member of the Freelance Hairdressers Association who have been amazing as well with support and Zoom training throughout lockdown.”
Working out pricing
“I have an annual price increase in April anyway, so I haven’t really added on any extra cost for PPE. I’ve joined the Green Salon Collective who recycle dirty hair foils and hair. It costs around £1 per client which I’ve incorporated in my prices: any profit they make goes to haircuts for the homeless and other charities.
“I kept in touch with clients all the way through lockdown. Reading some other hairdressing Facebook pages I realise I’m lucky with how understanding my clients are. I didn’t have any pushy customers asking to see me during lockdown, or demanding appointments on 4 July! And it’s been so nice to see clients - they’re all so excited to be back! Every client is a transformation. You’re dealing with four months’ worth of roots and haircuts are taking longer because it’s a restyle on every single person. I’ve had a few questionable fringes come through the door but luckily no one tried to dye their hair at home. They are literally so happy when they see the end result and that makes me so happy, too. It’s total job satisfaction right there!
Follow Sarah on Instagram, @sarahdaglishhair.
Sam’s return to work: Extra challenges for mobile hairdressers
“It’s been a learning curve going back to work. The first day I was fine but the second day I felt like a college leaver - I was so slow! I definitely felt the pressure and responsibility of seeing clients after lockdown: because I work on my own, it all comes down on my shoulders. I have to make sure I’m following all the hygiene procedures and protocols. I made an Instagram video showing my customers all the measures I’m taking to ease any of their nerves. When I get to a client’s home I take my equipment out, put it on a disposable towel and spray it all down in front of them. Even though I clean and sterilise everything between each client and at the start and end of every day, clients like to see I’m taking extra care.”
Every client is different
“Because I’m visiting different households, it’s about managing my clients’ expectations. Some are quite nervous and want me to wear a face mask and a visor. Others are a bit more relaxed. It can feel quite claustrophobic wearing both the mask and visor so that is going to take some getting used to. I haven’t requested that clients wear a mask unless they want to or are in contact with high risk people. I’ve been working with all my customers for years - I’m not taking on any new clients at the moment - so I feel okay going into their homes.”
Preparing for the return of weddings
“The first week after lockdown I worked ridiculous hours: 9am until 11pm! I hadn’t worked for 104 days so didn’t really have a choice. Weirdly my toes really ached - I’m not sure what that was all about! I’m spacing clients out and trying to book in people who live in the same area on the same day to be more efficient. I’ll also be doing weddings again on weekends - it’s good to be back at work!”
Good to talk
“I kept in touch with my clients throughout lockdown and they are all so pleased to see me. It shows that hairdressing is so more than just hair. A lot of them said they missed just talking. I definitely think there needs to be an element of psychology in the hairdressers qualification. Over the years I've learnt how to ask questions and how to listen. I think that should be discussed early on in training - it’s never been more important.”