Want to Become a Professional Hairstylist? Here's How to Start

Being a hairstylist is an ideal career. You can be flexible with your hours, constantly develop your skills, and make a living by making people feel great.

With that being said, it takes a lot of hard work to build a career as a professional stylist.

Whether you are new to the professional world or searching for a career change, you can utilize these 6 tips to help you move into the field of professional styling.

1. Understand the Expectations of Hairstylists

Being a hairstylist is not the career for everyone. It requires you to:

  • Be open to constant change and industry advancements
  • Adapt to an ever-changing schedule
  • Be outgoing and willing to engage in personal relationships with clients
  • Work efficiently with a team
  • Perform independent work
  • Manage your time efficiently
  • Be respectful of clients’ requests, preferences, and criticisms

Just like any other career, you should determine if you can meet all of its expectations before deciding to officially pursue it. Talk with hair stylists to determine the benefits and demands that the job entails. Discuss your possible career path with family and friends, and do some self-reflection to ensure that you are entering a career as a professional stylist for the right reasons.

2. Earn Your Education

While hair styling is something that can be performed casually without a standard education, you will be more reputable with formalized education under your belt. To become a hair stylist, you can enroll in training programs at cosmetology or beauty schools. Some community colleges offer an associate’s degree that takes two years to complete.

No matter the training program you enroll in, you will likely take courses on cutting, coloring, shampooing, and styling hair, as well as courses that cover broader topics like salon management.

Before spending your time, efforts, and financial resources on a cosmetology program, make sure that it is approved by that state you reside in. You don’t want to go through the process of obtaining your education to learn that it isn’t approved in your state for licensing purposes.

3. Obtain Certification

After finishing your approved cosmetology education program, seek certification in your state. This usually entails passing a licensing exam. Study for this exam to ensure you are adequately prepared. Passing your licensing exam the first time you take it can save you time and money and ensure that you stay on track to becoming a professional stylist.

4. Find a Job (Or Internship) and Build Your Portfolio

Now that you have obtained your certification, find a job as a stylist. You can work part-time in order to gain experience before making it your full-time career.

If you choose to immediately pursue hairstyling full-time, there are several options available to you. You can work for yourself, work from home, offer mobile services, rent a chair in a local salon, or work at a nursing home or vacation resort.

Whichever initial job you select, use it as an opportunity to build your portfolio. Ask clients if you can snap some pictures of the hairstyles you have given them. Be sure to capture a variety of hairstyles and skills to show off your versatile experience and education.

In addition to creating a portfolio that can be used to land future jobs, maintain personal notes for only your eyes to see. In these notes, you can document successes, shortcomings, and techniques you hope to improve upon. These notes serve as a place for you to reflect on your progress. They can also be used to help you develop professionally and become a well-rounded and adaptable stylist.

If you have the financial resources to do so, consider a short period of working as an intern. Many high-profile stylists are willing to allow you to shadow them and share their knowledge with you –though be aware this is usually on an unpaid basis. This route is not practical for everyone to pursue, but becoming an intern, even for a short time, will grant you invaluable experience and set you apart from competing up-and-coming stylists. You will gain experience in a professional environment that you may not be able to come by (at first) on a paid basis.

5. Decide Your Path

After gaining experience in the hairstyling world, it may come time for you to determine what your ultimate career goals are. Do you want to work for yourself from home? Do you want to continue renting out a chair to gain a loyal client basis? Do you want to specialize as a dedicated colorist?

Once you have made a definitive decision regarding your career path, it is important to have access to resources that will help your career as a professional stylist thrive. For example, if you choose to open your own salon, GlossGenius’s salon management software helps salons conduct their operations smoothly, from booking appointments to collecting payments. If you are just starting your own salon business, you don’t have to break the bank, as Gloss Genius offers premier customer service and pricing plans that fit within stylists’ varying circumstances.

6. Seek Advancement

If your career as a stylist begins to feel stagnant, there are steps you can take to challenge yourself. Education doesn’t have to stop at the required certification in step 2. You can seek other certifications in specific skills, like those for adding hair extensions or coloring hair. These additional certificates will foster your confidence, increase the trust that clients have in your abilities, and possibly increase your salary.

You should emerge yourself in the world of popular fashion. This will help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends. With this knowledge and exposure, you can help clients present themselves in the most current ways available.

Seize the Day!

Don’t put your dreams of becoming a professional stylist on hold or any longer. A positive mindset, dedication, and hard work, and abiding by these 6 steps, will help you easily become a professional stylist!

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