Why You Should Move from Commission to Booth Rent

By September 16, 2015 Fashion, hair stylist, salon industry

kittyupdo salon

Okay guys, I’ll give it to you straight. I worked as a commission stylist, with a full clientele, for over a decade before finally taking the plunge in to booth rental. Once I finally did, I found myself asking – why did I wait so long? The reasons were numerous, but mostly I didn’t make the switch because I was comfortable. I’d worked at the same salon for a very long time, I liked my boss and my co-workers, I had steady money, so why should I leave? Plus, booth renting seemed super scary, I had so many questions – What are normal booth rental rates? What if I want to go on vacation, do I still have to pay? What products do I provide vs. the salon? Where the hell do I even buy said products? What if I have a slow week? How do I find the time to keep my own appointments? How do I manage my taxes? What if my friggin’ brain implodes trying to figure all this out? I’m a worrier, and it all seemed like too much. It was easier to stay put and collect my paycheck. I also, had this idea that booth rental salons are full of loners with an every-man-for-himself mentality (this turned out to be an unfounded fear), and I loved being part of a team of people who worked together and supported each other.

So what finally forced me out of my comfortable bubble? Here’s the real deal, I got fired. I’ve always been an independently minded person. I don’t like authority figures, I won’t wear a dress just because a Kardashian has it, I don’t consider Taylor Swift “good music” and I don’t care how many people disagree. I live my life the way I want to. I’m not a personality type who is all that well suited for a large corporate salon. But that’s where I’d been for almost 10 years. I can only assume they finally got tired of my quiet refusal to follow most of the rules. In truth, the fact that I flew under their radar for so long was pretty remarkable. So why did someone as independent as me stay in a corporate commission environment for so long? I got complacent, and afraid to make a change. This happens to all of us, and over time it made me restless and resentful. And here’s the truth, getting fired from that job was the best thing that ever happened to me. I took my clientele, and decided it was time to work for myself.

And how did I overcome all of my anxieties about working for myself? I started asking questions. A lot of them. Productive ones. I used the vast network of friends, family, clients and coworkers I’d built over the years (as well as facebook) and before long, I’d found myself an accountant and a bookkeeper. Having those two in place, I felt better already, knowing someone else would be looking after my finances since that has never exactly been the most organized part of my life. It was a good first step.

Next I had to find a salon. There are so many salons out there, it seemed overwhelming at first, but I knew there were certain things I didn’t want, so I started there. A lot of those things came down to the location and the salon owner. I wanted to be in the city, not too far from my old salon (for client convenience), but I didn’t want to be right downtown where there’s no parking, and I didn’t want to be in the too-sexy-for-my-shirt neighborhood where stylists are expected to wear all black and speak in a fake British accent. You know the neighborhood I mean. I also needed the salon owner to be responsible and down-to-earth. Let’s face it, the salon industry can be full of wackos. and salon owners are no exception. I wanted someone who paid their bills, cleaned their salon, didn’t do drugs, didn’t have an ego the size of Dolly Parton’s…ehem…hair, didn’t have frosted tips and a corvette. I wanted to work for someone, well, like me. This was easier said than done, but I ultimately decided on a salon where a friend of mine worked. Which probably wasn’t the best way to find my new home, and it wasn’t the all-out utopia I’d hoped for, but it served my purposes to start. Later I would move on to a nicer space that ticked more of my boxes.

The next confusing thing was figuring out what I should be paying for a chair. Booth rental pricing is all over the map you guys, but the bottom line is that most of the time, like anything in life, you get what you pay for.   You only want to pay $165 a week for a chair? That’s absolutely fine, but don’t expect a beautiful space or much in the way of amenities. You want big picture windows, exceptional lighting, big stations, foot traffic, full beverage service, and a receptionist? Great! But these things cost the salon owner money, so expect to pay more. For me, it came down to being able to offer my client the best possible experience. Better client experience = better clients = more money, so I chose to pay more.

And that is the bottom line, right? Money. Being a booth renter means running your own business, so lets talk money, because that’s really the point of all of this. We have chosen creative, fulfilling jobs, and that is wonderful, but at the end of the day, we are here to make money. So listen up, because I’m going to break down my actual numbers for you. You don’t want to skip this part. Your own numbers may vary from mine, depending on where you live and what you charge, but the principle is the same. I was charging $50 for a haircut and making 49% of that at my commission salon. If I did $5000 in services in a month average, after commission, taxes, and deductions I went home with roughly $2000/ month (not including tips). It’s enough to live on, but it’s a pretty modest life. Skip forward to the same service numbers as a booth renter. I was paying $250/week for a chair, plus estimate another $200-400/month in expenses (color supplies, accounting, etc). For that same $5000/month in revenue I was now keeping $3600-3800 of it. Plus tips. That’s 80-90% more money in my pocket at the end of each month for the exact same amount of work.

And once the money started coming in, all those other things I’d been worried about, buying my own supplies, keeping my own appointments, suddenly didn’t seem like a big deal. I kept a calendar on my phone (now our salon has an integrated system with online booking & reception, but clients still text me for appointments too), my co-workers pointed me towards beauty supply, I got Square to process credit cards, and voila! I was my own boss. I made my own hours, I never again had to answer to someone who thought I should come in earlier, or be more involved in team events. And you know what, I was still part of a team of people who loved and supported one another, but wanted to keep more of their money, just like me. All the things I had been afraid of became easy and routine very quickly. It’s amazing how quickly we can adapt, especially when there’s money involved. And yes, I even got vacation. Turns out two free weeks a year is common in booth rental salons. So if you have a steady clientele, why on earth would you keep giving so much of your money to someone else? Take charge of your own business, make a change. I have to tell you, you will never regret the choice. I will never work for someone else again. In fact, liked working for myself so much, last year I took it to the next level and opened my own salon. Revolver Salon at 1489 Steele St, and we are looking for talented booth renters like you!

Start the conversation about your employment with us here or text me at 720-939-5986



Kitty Vincent, owner Revolver: a Salon



Join the discussion 31 Comments

  • Krista says:

    Thank you for such an inspirational read! I myself have been in a commission based salon for 10 years . I have debated SEVERAL times on going to a booth rent salon, even once put in my two weeks (chickened out of going) and went back to my comfort zone! I’m slowly preparing myself for the change to both rent by buying supplies , I have a saline picked out with an AMAZING owner who wants to do nothing but help me in every step. But still I find myself scared to take that jump, even though I have complete support from all of my friends and family!! This read just helped me get one step closer just by hearing your story and how mcheap it sounds like mine!! Thanks again!!!!! ♡♡

    • Kaytay says:

      This is amazing . Ive been with numerous corporate Salons for about 5 years now. Im sick of always answering to someone, and never EVER having the products I need. You have inspired me so much! You have me thinking . Thank you ❤❤❤

    • Jacklin Kennedy says:

      Thank you! Thank you Thank you!!! I needed this read so bad! I have been a commission based stylist for 6 years now and I work in a small mom and Pop shop in an adorable and well established town outside of Seattle. With that said however, I have a 6 month plan in motion to be on my own finally and I’m not going to lie.. it’s sooooo intimidating but exciting @ the same time. I really needed to read this right now, and I felt like you just described me to a T! I hate Taylor Swift too! Lol, jokes aside, I feel so much better and confident that I AM. Making the right decision. Thanks again. Mind blown!!

    • Kai says:

      Seriously your blog is awesome. You just wrote down everything I’ve been feeling. Thank you so much for expressing this. I am in the process of trying to figure out if I am ready to booth rent or stay put where I am at. I don’t ever feel like I fit in and I am trying to find a good salon home. Thanks

  • Sandra says:

    How can we start a salon like the one you spoke about before you opened your own. We are in Flourtown pa. Please help us start up salon like that. What do we do 1st and so on. Would appreciate any and all advice

  • Shanda Davis says:

    Thanks for this, have me some reassurance. Like you, I’ve done corporate hair and commission/hrly salons and I just made the move to booth rent. I’m still scared, but feel better about it. The owner seems great and living it so far!

  • Madisson says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I really needed to read this right now. I am just now going out on my own in the booth renting world, from a commission salon, doing everything except hair. I have wanted to do this for a long time but was scared, got fired and had no choice; it was time for me to face my fears. Now, my biggest concern is taxes. How did you jump that hurdle when just figuring it all out? I feel like everything I read is in another language! Do you have any advice for a beginner like me?

  • Salon Lofts is the best move I ever made! It’s really a no brainer to make the switch from a regular salon. Unless you like all the drama and everything else that goes with it! Do it! You won’t be sorry!!

  • John says:

    Out of your minds what about the fact that you pay double social security. You pay estimated quartly taxes for the up coming quarter. Not to mention all of the extra hours in bookkeeping and inventory. Also credit card fees. Easy to say square processes my credit cards but that costs money. No mention of disability insurance, unemployment insurance both state and fed, and liability insurance. Accountant fees and any needed legal expenses. That only scratches the surface.

    • Kitty says:

      All valid concerns and worth addressing. I can tell you from my own standpoint, having done both rental and commission for many years, once you actually make the switch those issues don’t seem as big. Your estimated quarterly taxes (if you chose to structure it that way) are no different than the standard wage withholding taken from your weekly paychecks as an employee. You pay them in larger chunks in fewer intervals, but if you plan ahead it comes out the same. Square takes 2.75% in fees, which is pretty minor. Plus many salons will deduct credit card fees from your commission checks, so again, not a major difference. Inventory can generally be taken care of with a quick weekly phone call or email to your supplier and they can be delivered to your salon, so it’s minimal time out of your day. Inventory cost is, again, a wash. Odds are good your salon has been charging you backbar fees to pay for your color, shampoo, etc, so this in not a new or additional expense. And most booth renters spend very little on accounting and bookkeeping. Those who chose to use those services generally need minimal assistance with basic filling, etc, so the fees are small, and many chose to keep their own books which is pretty easy through services like square. As for legal fees, as a salon owner I’ve incurred them over the years, but never once as a booth renter, it’s pretty rare. Yes, you do pay double your social security, no way around that. And Unemployment is tricky. If you incorporate as a self-employed person you can be eligible for unemployment, but yes there is less of a safety net there. Most folks still come out ahead at the end of the day, assuming they have a strong clientele and aren’t afraid to work. As with anyone who is self-employed there are greater risks, but with those risks comes a great deal more freedom and the possibility for greater reward. It’s definitely not for everyone. You have to ask yourself what’s important to you and whether you have the personality to be self-motivated and successful on your own.

    • Maria Gudino says:

      Thank you so much for your detailed story! Truly inspiring! I’m on the fence right now. Need to decide wheather to continue managing (babysitting adults) at a corporate salon, or rent booth at a nicer salon down the street from home. I’m nervous about not having that steady income and not worrying about taxes, vacation, sick pay etc. I want to be independent and want to give my clients a better service and nicer experience. But I’m self doubting! ;(

  • Sheena says:

    Hi..The post you shared is truly inspirational. Thinking to have own business and taking steps to achieve it are two different things. Opening a business from scratch is not an easy thing. As you said, considering a lot of points, taking advice of the concerned people including your clients will definitely add up in setting up a business.

  • Ashley says:

    This story was so amazing. Thank you for this. I’m actually going to start my own salon business and I was looking for chair booth rental amounts and you have me more than just that!! You confirmed a lot of things I had planned for my salon such as receptionists, beverages, traffic space, and big open Windows. Your story was so helpful in numerous ways. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    • Stacie Paulson says:

      I wanted to ask you from reading all of the post. How is your business going? Yes she makes some very valued points.

  • David says:

    Great post! We see good sides to both commission and booth rental. I think it comes down to the flow of business in each salon!


  • Antony says:

    Great post. I am not even in the stylist industry but I feel your examples could be applied to occupations outside hair care. It is interesting how people weigh combinations of price, value, risk. As more of us out in the world become self employed it is good to examine success stories like yours. Cheers!

  • Toni Akin says:

    I was being paid commission and being held to salon expectations (chore chart dress code schedules) but then handed a 1099. Getting the worst of both world.

  • futurehairstylist says:

    Hi Kitty,
    what about health insurance?

  • Kevin F. says:

    Hello. In California, a new law was passed called Bill 1513. Basically any commission based employee needs to also be paid an hourly rate during their down time. Waiting for clients, folding towels, answer calls, etc. This is causing havoc among salon owners where it almost isn’t worth it to do commission style compensation any more in California.

    My wife is a stylist and her salon is getting around it by having her sign an independent contact where they are “renting a chair” to her but instead of her paying a daily/weekly rental rate to the salon, she pays them via a % of whatever she makes for services rendered.

    Getting the word out there.

  • CeeCee says:

    I’m just getting to cosmology I am a current student at David Pressly I will be graduating in October of this and once I build my clientele I’m considering in renting a booth until I’m able to buy my own salon so I dnt think renting a booth is bad it’s just a start to something better.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Hello I am slowly making the transition from employee to booth renter and have no idea where to start. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your help!

  • Sandra says:

    Your story is very similar to mine. I have managed cooperation salons and still didn’t make enough money because their wage system is so jacked up. So I went and worked for a private owned salon on commission. The owner had no idea about rules laws and so on and tried to pay stylists who worked 40 hrs on a schedule, only commission and not minimum wage if that was higher. And every time he had a cute young girl work for him he was flirting with them and let them get away with stupid things. So after close to 5 years there i said…. Forget you I’m out packed and left and went into booth rent. The first place was nice but the owner was ghetto fabulous and always had drug dealing baby daddy drama and the second place… Well she seemed nice but contradicted everything she said and one day I came in and she had removed all my tools put of my station.. After that episode of dealing with this gold digger (her man paid for the salon but she had plenty other old men doing her “favors”) I said I just have to open my own.
    And now after 2 years opened my own salon. The idiots I worked for or with showed me everything I did not want to be as an owner.
    My advice is before you even ask for booth rent go in and get a shampoo and blowout to see how the owner interacts with clients and other stylists.

  • Armando says:

    Thank you so much for this. Very informative & inspirational. Ive been a barber for 14 years, started my whole life over again to become a assistant in a summit salon for 20 months & now a fulltime stylist for 7 months. My clientele & skill as a stylist now is developing fast. I have a lot more to learn about womens hair & am very fortunate to be in the very educational commission salon that im at.. but secretly i know i will want to be a booth renter in a few years when im ready. 40/60% split Is brutal before taxes on my side of the world. Might aswell learn as much as i can about booth rental early. Thank you so much for your story.

    – Another Destined Stylist

  • LAM says:

    Hi Kitty!!

    I LOVED this read! Thank you for your honesty. I’be been a hairstylist for over a decade but now only work part time because I’m a mom. As in part time, I mean only 20 hours a week. I’m a higher level stylist at my commission based salon and just want/need more. I have a steady clientele and am booked most weeks, however I’m wondering about booth rental for part time people? Would you suggest it? Thanks for your time!

  • Bex says:

    I’m currently in the process of making the switch….so many questions…the one that haunts me the most is buying color….I can’t afford to be totally stoked up like my corporate store was…but I don’t want to have a client come in and not have what I need. A proper list of things a new comer needs for their booth rental would be so helpful

  • Karen says:

    After working 2 years at a corporate salon in Walmart, I still have not been paid more than minimum wage plus tips, except a $1 raise after my manager pressed the issue for me because I was training new hires how to do the work, and kind of babysitting. I am not busy, do not have much loyal clientele, but I am looking at other options to elevate my experience professionally, but it is scary. Thank you for sharing the information and comments too.

  • Cynthia says:

    Hello Guys, I have Bering working on the field for the past 7 years always by comisión. My clients always told me about a booth rent but to be honest I didn’t have the balls to do it because I felt afraid of don’t be able to pay and be along. Rigth now I’m working on ansalkn by comisión but I do t have any benefits, we split 50/50 I’m the girl who advertise and work hard I brought all my clients to the salon but I just guet 50% comisión I don’t think is fair at all. I spoke to the owner about get in 60% and she said NO! To be honest I felt bad because as I said I’m the one who is working the most in compare to my lazy coworkers. Enough is enough. I will talk tonight with her about that I’m leaving because of other offer. I already have 2 places to go here in Maryland as a booth rent. I’m doing it… thank you for these amazing post wish me luck… Cynthia

  • Michelle says:

    Great story really made me feel inspired to booth rent. I was told I need llc and trader liscense, true??

  • Laura says:

    I am certainly not against booth renting but boy this leaves out some important information. For example, self employment tax at 15.3%, unemployment insurance, workers compensation and possible healh care coverage. As an employee your employer pays 7.65 FICA on every dollar they pay you, in addition toon to disability and WC insurance. As a self employed hairdresser you now pay 15.3% on every dollar you earn. You also no longer have unemployment insurance, disability insurance (unless you buy a separate policy, very expensive) or workers compensation. If you were getting paid vacation as an employee, now you don’t have to pay rent for 2 weeks, but you are losing often hundreds or thousands for those 2 weeks. Employer paid all or part of your health insurance? Guess what, now for a bare boness policy you are probably looking at $350-$600 per month. And lets not forget credit card fees! Even if you qualify for a low rate of 2%, by the time you add in the per transaction fees, statement fees, PCI compliance fees, etc, you are paying a minimum of 3% and probably closer to 5% on each transaction. These are just the additional hard costs. What about advertising, software, etc.
    Chair renting can be a great option for some. But get all the facts first.

  • Jess says:

    Hi there!
    Thank you for this article – it was the exact honesty I was looking for.

    I’m working at a salon in my small town where I’ve been for the last year. I’m only two years into this industry. I currently am working four days a week and I’m generally 60% booked up a month ahead of time (booking back to back, two clients at a time). I’m starting to find that the way I’m expected to book my clients in isn’t doing me any justice and I find myself having to sacrifice some skill just to fit everyone in a day but my boss expects me to continue booking this way so we can bring in more money. There are other small issues that I’m finding I just don’t quite “fit” at this salon.

    Long story short – I’m thinking of going out on my own. But I’m afraid that I’m too new. Just wondering if you have any advice on how long you should be in this industry before going on your own. Am I crazy to be considering this so soon?

    Any advice will help.
    Thank you!

  • Tanya Wright says:

    Help! My boss of 15 yrs told me 1 hr ago she is closing the salon…..have been a comm. stylist forever.

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