How I built a full clientele in one year


When I first started out in this industry, I really didn’t think about the whole “building” aspect. I thought I’d finish school, I would apprentice to master my craft, and the clients would flood in because I was “talented.”

The reality of this is that no matter how talented you are, how good your tools are, or how much practice you’ve put in to perfecting your craft: the clients aren’t going to flood in. They just don’t. (Unless you live in some tiny sleepy and out of date town that houses literally zero sufficient hairstylists… in which case, you go boo.)

Cosmetology school is a lot like highschool in that : sure, you learn some useless fundamentals. You learn how to get a passing grade and a certificate at the end, but you never quite learn the real life or business principles that you need in order to be successful. (and you know, not go in to debt.)

Outside of really perfecting my craft, apprenticing taught me a whole shit ton about how not to run a business. See, I worked under someone who banked everything they had on their talent. And being the bottom layer of that business, I got to hear a lot of complaints from the customers.

Here are a few examples:

“He’s always running behind, it’s just not good business.”

“He did what he wanted, and not what I asked for.”

“He didn’t really seem to care, everything felt rushed.”

“He doesn’t recall what we even spoke about last time.”

This hurt my heart and opened my eyes all at the same time. I quickly learned the art of taking care of customers, making sure they felt heard, and over delivering on every promise. When I left with nothing but one pair of (really bad) shears, I was determined to do the oppposite.

While working my butt off with essentially 0 clientele, I put my energy in to four different areas. These areas are what gave life to my business, what allowed my to thrive while others didn’t, and what created the foundation for a thriving career within 12 months. Interested? Ok, here we go..

These are the four areas that I truly believe are the most important for your attention behind the chair (notice which one is last. These are in order of importance. )

  1. Consultation

    This is the life blood of your whole appointment. This is what defines you as an expert, gains your clients trust, and sets the cornerstones of a successful appointment. Get this right, and your clients will come back to you again and again. Not because your talented, but because you listened and you delivered on your promises.

  2. Client experience

    The experience a client has in the salon is so much more than the service you’re providing. It’s how you make them feel, the energy that is omitted, the extras that other providers bypass. Check on your client experience, make sure they feel taken care of when they are in their char. (p.s… the experience starts and ends with the consultation.)

  3. Time management

    I can’t stress your time management enough. Consistently running late for, or moving your clients appointments around, is just plain disrespectful. Book yourself accordingly, stop worrying about leaving at a certain time, and keep to a strict schedule as much as possible. This includes not taking a client who shows up 20 minutes late if it means you’ll run late for your next scheduled appointment. You have to demand and encourage a level of time management that keeps your business running smoothly.

  4. Your craft

    Your talent and craft is a vital part of your success, but it’s not everything. Do I think you should practice and indulge in continued education? Always. Do I think that should come before the other three? Nope, sorry. There will be disagreement on this but lets just put it this way: I’d rather have a mediocre dinner served on time by someone attentive than an excellent meal that came out 45 minutes late with a shitty server. Always work on your craft. Always try to be a better hairstylist than you were last month. Just don’t let your talent override your service…

So you want to build a full, thriving clientele in 12 months (or less?) Spend your time focusing on those four things in that order. I promise you if you learn to nail your consultations, create an experience, keep to a schedule, and consistently improve your craft: you’ll be making 6 figures in no time. (I know because I did it.)

Got questions? Leave em’ in a comment and i’ll be happy to answer!

Esther Chapman2 Comments