Lately, it seems that hairdressers are being pressed about our pricing structure and why we charge so much. I feel the need to address this question from my own experiences of working as a commission stylist to working as an independent contractor (freelance/booth-renter).
I’ve only worked at and trained in high-end salons my entire career, so the price points that these types of salons demand has become second nature to me. In order to help explain the situation, I thought it might be helpful to take a step back and look at it from the guest/client’s point of view.
I remember when I first started my apprenticeship after beauty school at a high-end salon in SOHO New York City. I was gobsmacked at what they charged for haircuts! At that point in time, I think it was $90 for a cut from a Junior stylist and $125 or more for a cut from a Senior/Master stylist. That was over 10 years ago. What my mentors and teachers explained to me is that you must charge what you are worth. Now that could be subjective. I know a stylist who charges $700 for a haircut, and that doesn’t even include a blow dry, or the assistant does the blowdry. Yet, despite the high price tag, they are booked to capacity.
That being said, what haircut is worth $110? To break it down, you are paying for the experience. With experience comes extensive training in the classic and latest techniques and trends. Training costs money, and the average haircutting workshop can cost a stylist anywhere between $200 and $1500. If you chose a stylist who works at a high-end salon, they have had to apprentice at least three years on top of the one- or two-year training they received at beauty school to get their license. That’s close to five years of education. At the end of that education (and education is ongoing for the lifetime of their career if your stylist is smart) your stylist should have the ability to dissect your hair type and texture in such a way that makes your hair more manageable with an effortless grow-out. For those of you who have experienced a good haircut, you know exactly what I’m talking about. However, most of you haven’t had that experience, so the concept is lost on you. Just a trim is never just a trim if you have an experienced hair stylist (unless you have a regular stylist who is maintaining their own work).
A client shared with me that before meeting me, she regularly went to a national salon chain because she had a lack of funds and she wasn’t sure where to start to find a new hairdresser. She explained to me that after they tacked on extra fees, her $40 basic haircut came out to $65 or more. She also mentioned that she would have to go back every six to eight weeks because the grow-out was so unmanageable. Doing the math, it would cost her around $260 a year if she were to get a haircut every three months. I usually see my clients between one or two times a year on average. I charge $110 for my haircuts, which would come out to be $220 per year, and my cuts are not basic by any means.
When I met this client, her layers were blunt, chunky and heavy. When I lifted her hair up to check the shape, you could literally see blunt angles without any softness or weight removal to allow for movement and volume. She said she couldn’t just wash and go and that she had to use some type of curling iron or flat iron to make her hair look like something. However, when I gave her a haircut, she could put her hair in a bun overnight and when she took it down, it flowed into place. See the value? This client was actually paying more for less in the larger sense.
Those with fine hair may feel that they don’t need all the fuss of an expensive haircut. Again, let’s break it down. A lot of what you pay for is the experience. When you walk into a high-end salon, you should expect to be pampered in addition to receiving a great haircut. A few things you can expect when you’re paying a higher price include:
- Product knowledge
- A stimulating shampoo with a head massage
- A clean, warm, and inviting atmosphere where you can escape the day’s craziness
- Staff that are clean, neat, professional, and fashionable
- High-quality products with low parabens, sulfates, additives, and animal cruelty-free
- A likable stylist
- A thorough consultation
- A haircut that allows you to easily style your hair at home
This is what you pay for — the entire experience, the attention to detail to your hair, and the environment that you are patroning. Every person wants to leave the salon feeling good about themselves, and hair plays a very important role in your self-esteem. As I always say, “A bad hair day is a bad day.”
The average person doesn’t factor in what a stylist has to pay in overhead fees to be able to achieve that special experience. Did you know that the average cost of professional-grade shears costs anywhere between $200-1500? Not to mention, $200 are the cheapest pairs that you can buy, and they wear out on you after a year! Most stylists have at least three to four different pairs of shears that they use intermittently in order to achieve their signature looks. Let’s not even go into the cost of running a hair salon or suite as a booth/chair renter and/or independent contractor. But you have to factor in where you are located and if it is in an expensive part of the country like New York or Los Angeles. If the rent is expensive in that neighborhood, the stylist has to charge accordingly to be able to run their business.
I have been fortunate enough that I haven’t had to raise my prices in six years, and I don’t plan on doing so anytime soon. My regular clients and I are comfortable at this rate and it works for us. I’m not interested in price gouging, but I do expect to be paid what I am worth and the market is what dictates that price.
With that in mind, if you want to save money, ask your stylist about their referral/rewards program, as many stylists offer them. You could be literally saving half-off your services when you participate. Additionally, being a loyal client who sends referrals and prebooks appointments will surely recommend you to be grandfathered in on some serious price reductions. I’m constantly rewarding clients at check-out with 20 to 30 percent off. They weren’t even expecting it, but that is one way I show my appreciation. I also have a New Guest Promotion sign-up with literally 50 percent off all services for a first-time guest. I want to take the pressure off that first-time experience, allowing them to experience my work at a low cost so that they understand where, why, and how their hard-earned money is being spent. If I could give away my services for first-time guests, I would (and have), but good intentions don’t keep the lights on if you get my meaning. Stylists love it when their new clients tell them how much they love what you did to their hair and that it has never looked for felt better. However, it’s absolutely heartbreaking when they say that you are overpriced in the next breath. What we hear is that all of our efforts were worthless. Yes, we are sensitive, creative types and no one likes to feel underappreciated.
When I order my guilty pleasure of french fries at McDonald’s on cheat day, I expect to get flash-frozen, mass-produced fries in a greasy brown paper bag or a plastic tray with questionable sanitation. On the other hand, when I go out to a nice restaurant and order french fries as a side, I expect something more high-quality. They arrive on a nice plate and are made from organically grown potatoes, hopefully from a local farmer, deep fried/baked in the lightest of curated oil with a sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and sprinkled with an exotic spice/herb. What I receive is still a french fry but what a difference! The same goes for hair salons. You can pay a less expensive price for a lower quality salon, but essentially, you are getting what you paid for. If you want to receive something more high-quality that will look and feel great, you need to be willing to pay the higher price.
If you are interested in experiencing the difference that a great haircut can make, then visit Rayna Hair Artistry in Los Angeles. I know what it takes to love your hair, so if you’re ready to get an amazing cut and an even better experience, call today to schedule your appointment!