It’s the eternal question for all stylists – commission vs booth rent. (There is, of course, a 3rd option – the salon suite – but that’s a subject for a different blog post). I’ve been a salon owner for 9 years, and I worked as a stylist for another 12 years before that. I worked in good salons and bad ones, and I’ve learned a lot along the way about what works in this industry and how we should be doing business.
Assuming you prefer the comradery and benefits that come with working in a salon atmosphere, you are often faced with 2 choices – give up your freedom (and some of your money) and become a commission employee, or risk it all and go out on your own as a booth renter and hope you’re busy enough to make it work. But don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be as bleak as it seems out there. There are benefits to both structures, and more salons are starting to go hybrid, offering a variety of options.
There are great benefits to working commission. If you can find a salon that provides you with the tools you need to be successful, it can be an extremely rewarding, stress-free way to work. Of course, those tools should include your basic supplies: color, color supplies, backbar, styling products, towels, and a clean safe workspace (big red flag if they don’t supply these things.) But a well-run salon, with a conscientious owner can provide you with so much more than that. They pay half of your FICA taxes (that’s your social security and other federal taxes). They can help you get booked with new clients and build your clientele. They can provide you with training, education, and help to elevate your skills throughout your career. They can help you with goal setting, career advice, and help you market yourself. Plus, they can provide you with the safety net of hourly pay for those slow weeks. It is often the perfect choice for a stylist that has been working behind the chair for 5 years or less, a stylist who has recently moved to a new area, or someone who simply doesn’t have the bandwidth for all that comes with self-employment.
For some, working commission can come with drawbacks. Many salon owners require you to work long hours with little flexibility. There can be high pressure tactics to sell retail, ridged dress codes, and any number of other restrictions and requirements. Those are not the kind of salons I wanted to work in, and that’s not the kind of salon I want to run. I believe in work/life balance, and I think employees should have the flexibility to create a schedule that works best for them. Maybe you have kids and don’t want to work late. Maybe you love going out to live music and clubs and don’t want to work at the crack of dawn. Maybe you do drag shows on the weekends and can’t work Saturdays. A good employer should care about their employees lives outside of work. I believe in treating people like individuals, allowing them to be themselves, and helping them create a working environment that will help them feel fulfilled.
I’ve been in this industry for 20+ years, and I understand that a lot of people reach a point in their career where they’ve built their clientele, have a steady income, and would prefer to work for themselves. So many salons lose talented people who want to become their own boss. I do understand this feeling, and I want to provide space for those people as well. That is why I run Revolver as a hybrid salon. When you’ve been with me for over a year and you feel ready to make that leap to self-employment, I provide that option when an opening becomes available.
I know how daunting it can feel to suddenly become responsible for running your own business and I am happy to help provide advice and show you the tools you’ll need to get started. It can be a much more complex process than most people realize. First, you’ll need to start an LLC, buy liability insurance, apply for a federal tax ID number, and if you want to sell your own retail, you need to apply for a sales tax license. You’ll need to do your own accounting, which means opening a business bank account and keeping track of all your business expenses so you can deduct them at tax time. You’ll also need to either set up quarterly tax payments with the IRS or set aside 20% of your income each month to pay that tax bill each year. It can feel overwhelming for someone doing it for the first time. I’m happy help walk you through it and provide advice. I’m also happy to allow you to stay on commission as long as you like if you take a look at all of that and decide it isn’t for you.
Ultimately, I believe that if you are talented, professional, and a team-player then you are worth keeping happy. I believe that restrictive, high-pressure environments aren’t good for your mental health. I didn’t want to work in those salons when I was young, and I don’t want to run one now. Happy stylists are productive stylists, productive stylists make money, and everyone wins. This is such a simple idea that’s been missing in our industry, and I think it’s time for that to change.
Start the conversation about your employment with us here or text me at 720-939-5986
Kitty Vincent, owner Revolver: a Salon