How to be a Successful Freelance Hairstylist

Working as a freelance hairstylist has its perks. You’re able to do what you love for a living, you get paid to make people feel and look their best, and of course there’s always the opportunity to land a high-paying gig or client down the road!

As a freelance hairstylist (or simply a stylist that doesn’t work in a beauty salon), you will learn that consistently doing great work often leads to more clients. You’ll need to market yourself effectively, as with any other freelance job, but focusing on excellent work helps build a strong network of repeat business and referrals.
As a freelance hairstylist, if you’re looking for the high-paying jobs, you’ll need to make sure that you are always out in the field applying your craft, but you should also be continually learning new techniques and trends that will keep you ahead of the curve in the industry. As with most other professions, the more you put into your craft as a licensed cosmetologist and freelance hairstylist the more you’ll often get out of it.

Do More as a Freelance Hairstylist in Film, High-Fashion, and Television

As a professional freelance hairstylist for television and film, you’ll run into on-set directors that may often challenge you as a hairstylist by switching the entire artistic direction at the drop of a hat. You’ve got to stay completely flexible and roll with the punches in order to get re-hired by them and earn a reputation as a hairstylist that’s professional and easy to work with.

2 women applying makeup on a production set

Make sure you come prepared with a kit that allows you to revamp a look at a moment’s notice, switch gears stylistically, and work around new props and wardrobes that may come with the often hectic environment of film and TV.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. You should be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do, so that you don’t back yourself into a corner, but go the extra mile for your clients. Try new looks and techniques to give them something they’ll absolutely love and remember you for.

Getting Paid More as a Freelance Hairstylist

Give your clients an introductory rate. A lot of well-known hairdressers and freelance hairstylists got their start doing reduced-rate hair jobs early on in their careers. For instance, you can take on higher-profile clients who you know will either re-hire you or help you network and start off by telling them you’re going to give them a great introductory rate in order to earn their business.

This will not only set you apart from the competition, but you can also let them know that you’re worth a lot more – that your real rate is actually substantially higher, but that you’re willing to cut them a deal in order to start a successful partnership that will thrive in the future. Needless to say, this can be a great way to get your foot in the door and begin gaining a higher level of clientele that will also refer you to others at their level.
Another way to get your name out there is to focus on cosmetology education. You can teach classes at the hair & beauty school that you went to, or at regional occupation schools and cosmetics and beauty colleges.

You can approach these from a mentor perspective if you’re unable to teach full-time or you can always be a guest lecturer. These students that take ‘looks’ and beauty industry insider knowledge away from the sessions you teach will often reach out to you later or quote you when working with their clients. You may also find yourself working with or alongside these students one day out in the field, which can lend to more networking opportunities in the future.

How Much Can You Charge as a Freelance Hairstylist?

Some hairstylists swear by setting rates very high from the get-go for their daily and hourly hair gigs. While sometimes setting your rates high will attract a certain clientele that is looking for an experienced and high-end freelance hairstylist, it can also scare away clients that you could have grown with and can be dangerous to your reputation if your experience doesn’t stack up against your hourly rates.

Some freelance hairstylists charge a flat fee for their work, while others swear by charging hourly with a minimum number of hours per gig. Other experienced freelance hairstylists say that they wouldn’t accept a flat rate for a day because hours on-set can go long and deep into the night – something running 12-16+ hours and making you work for a flat fee doing way more than you bargained for.

makeup kit with beauty products and tools for freelancers

Other things to consider are charging a kit fee for the hair products you consume during any of your freelance hair gigs. For instance, some freelance hairstylists charge upwards of $65-120 for standard on-site cuts as well as $150-$550 for special chemicals, cuts and other customized work. Since they are using their own colors, chemicals and equipment, these prices (while much higher than salon prices) are often justified. Also, as a freelance hairstylist, you’re often putting together specific looks for your client, meaning that there is a lot of customized processes that were thought through, specifically for this job, and your clients should know that.

Some Final Notes on Finding High-Paying Clients as a Freelance Hairstylist

Above all the things you can do out in the field as a hairstylist is, be nice. Be honest and work exceptionally hard at your profession. Not a lot of people get to work in their dream career and be out of the office earning a steady paycheck, so it’s important to work hard and take time to be grateful.

Whether you like it or not, it’s important to remember that these clients will judge you and your brand based on the way you carry yourself and market. Your reputation as a freelance hairstylist will follow you throughout the years. If you’re kind to people and smell great, are showcasing your best hair looks and are well-put-together, as well as sympathetic and good to every client you work with, you’ll almost always be suggested in the future when they have an opening or need a great experienced freelance hairstylist.

A final thing to keep in mind is your hairstylist and cosmetology foundation. If you are serious about becoming a licensed hairstylist in Southern California,, you’ll want to consider attending a well-known cosmetology school, like Colleen O’Hara’s Beauty Academy in Orange County, CA.

We’d love to give you a free tour of the campus and show you why we’ve been one of the longest running cosmetology schools in California. Please call us at 833-841-4201 in order to start your journey into beauty today, or contact us here at this form.