How to Become a Hair Stylist in 6 Simple Steps

As with any career, there are many trajectories that lead to success within the beauty industry – no matter which specialty you may choose to pursue. While there’s no exact formula or set of rules for how to become a successful professional these days, if you want to become a hairstylist, you can’t go wrong following a few basic steps for breaking into the biz. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to become a hair stylist with some invaluable insights from the experts in our GlossBoss community.

Step 1: Do Your Homework

Get into research mode and do some recon on the current state of the industry. Start by speaking to hairstylists in your neighborhood or networking online. You likely have your own favorite hair professional that you frequent, so start picking their brain to learn about their career journey thus far. Online, there are also plenty of communities to join where you can chat with seasoned pros, ask questions, and read through the experiences of others (think Facebook groups, Reddit forums, or Twitter threads). For extra immersion, start searching for trade show tickets in your area where you can network and get familiar with the big brands and thought leaders in the styling sector.

Step 2: Immerse Yourself in the Industry

Get as close to the industry as possible by landing a job in a local salon that doesn't require you to have a license. Prior to getting your certification, you can enter the beauty workforce as a salon receptionist to begin getting familiar with the salon environment. GlossGenius educator, Kendall Whitley, went this route, which was highlighted in our recent success story where she shares how she started and how she’s since built the business of her dreams.

Step 3: Get Your License at an Accredited BeautySchool

To become a working hairstylist, completion of a state-approved cosmetology training program is necessary in order to obtain a hairdresser’s license from your state's Board of Cosmetology Examiners. Many board websites will list the state-licensed cosmetology schools in their area making this a good starting point to select a school that will no doubt get you the accreditation required.

Before enrolling, pull together a list of questions, like these examples below, that will help you qualify which program is the best fit for you.

  • Is this a full-time or part-time program?
  • Does the school offer a variety of specialties? 
  • Will you be able to practice on real clients instead of just wigs?
  • What is the total cost of the program and is financial aid available?
  • Is the school accredited?
  • Does the school have a continuing education program?
  • Will they help you with job placement after graduation?
  • Does the school focus on a specific brand of products?

To get started, check out some of these top beauty schools with locations across the country: 

Step 4: Start With an Apprenticeship

After graduation, you’ll want to start looking for an opportunity to apprentice in a salon, and if you’re already working as a receptionist, you’ll have your foot in the door. In this industry, it’s important to walk before you crawl and crawl before you run. “When you get out of school and you have your license, a lot of girls I found, think that they should just go right into their chair,” says Marissa King in a recent community spotlight where she shared a range of advice on how to become a hair stylist. “Don't go right into it... Become an assistant at a salon that you like that has successful stylists there. You need to be extremely humble.” As much as you’re likely excited to get started as a hair stylist, take your time to thoroughly observe and gain experience as an assistant first.

Step 5: Be Ready to Hustle

Once you’re feeling confident in your skills as a new stylist, you’ll want to mentally prepare for the hustle of making a name for yourself in the area. “Always[have] a stack of business cards with you,” King advises. “On your day off, going wherever you go, commenting on somebody's hair, giving them your card…  just non-stop.” In the early days of your career, there are no days off when you’re building a name for yourself. Not to say you shouldn’t have any work-life balance, but you should be prepared to put in the hours and the effort to build a strong foundation for your future as a hair stylist. “That's the biggest thing,” King says. “If you're not prepared to hustle and be motivated all the time, even when you have other crap going on, it's not going to be an easy road for you.”

Step 6: Prepare to Get Behind the Chair

Now that you’ve got the license, the skills, and the clients under your belt, you may start thinking about going fully independent. When you're ready to venture out on your own, one of the most daunting tasks may be finding a place to call your home away from home.
Whether you’re looking for a salon suite to rent or are planning to launch your own salon, be sure to do your homework and take note of everything you want (or don't want) in a physical space before signing on the dotted line. If you're going the salon suite route, don’t sign a lease until you’ve done a deep dive into the interior, exterior, and details of the space. When opening your own salon, you’ll want to check off all of those boxes and more.

And when you do go independent as a hair stylist, always remember that GlossGenius has your back!

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