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 earn a high-paying gig or the chance to land a big hair client. As a freelance hairstylist (or stylist that doesn’t work in a beauty salon), you will learn that consistently doing great work will lead to you getting more clients – you’ll need to market yourself, just like any other freelance job, but at the same time if you are consistently turning out great hair work, it will show and hair clientele will often refer you or at the very least help you network your hair skills and services.
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 that you’re also continually learning and studying new and modern hair techniques that will keep you in touch with other hairstylists, hairdressers and beauticians within the ever-evolving cosmetics industry. As with most other professions, the more you put into your craft as a licensed cosmetologist and freelance hairstylist the more you’ll 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 midway through a film or TV appearance and you’ve got to stay completely flexible and roll with the punches in order to get re-hired by them as well as earn a reputation that you’re a hairstylist that’s very easy to work with within the TV & film industry. Directors may want to add more glam or go in a completely different direction and look using wigs and hair accessories. For example, they may want you to apply a hairpiece or mix color and chemicals on the spot, and as a well-trained hairstylist, you have got to be completely flexible. You’ve also got to be just as comfortable putting together everyday looks for print as well as the high-fashion and glamour looks for runway or photographers, and making sure you’ve brought everything you’re going to need in your kit to give your clients that look while out in the field.
Another example of going out of your way in order to get rehired as a freelance hairstylist or hairdresser could be leaving your comfort zone in order to do apply a look on a client that you’re not necessarily comfortable with in order to please them. Often times you’ll see that simply going out of your way for a client, even when it comes to pushing yourself will lead to getting rehired and referred to other paying hair gigs in the future.
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 (getting your name out in the industry) 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 is 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.
Other ways to get your name out there is to stay working within the industry and 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. Staying active within the hair and cosmetics education system is also a great way to get and keep your name out there – these students that take ‘looks’ and beauty industry insider knowledge away from the sessions you teach will always reach out to you later or quote you when working with their clients, effectively keeping you alive in the hair and beauty industry for quite some time. 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 as well.
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 really 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 as well as 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. 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.
This could lead to you getting hired by higher-end hair clients who you’ve never worked for before. Reassuring your new clients by telling them you that you won’t let them down and living up to their expectations and working hard for them will not only show them you’re worth your fee as a freelancer, but also that you’re a stylist that they’ll want to rehire. Many inexperienced freelance hairstylists won’t make them feel this level of comfort or give them the reassurance, so be sure to go out of your way to prove yourself to your new clients – they’ll remember and rehire or refer you throughout the years.
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 the way you carry yourself and market your brand. Your reputation as a freelance hairstylist will follow you throughout the years. Not only how well you work as a cosmetologist and freelance stylist, but also for the entire experience of working with you – the way you actually conduct yourself on a personal level while on set. 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 every time they have an opening or need a great experienced freelance hairstylist. Remember that it’s not only the person that hired you, but every single person that you come across while out in the field that will tell others whether you’re a great freelancer or awesome to deal with on a day-to-day, and that usually gets around.
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 so that you can become a freelance hairdresser, you’ll want to attend a well-known cosmetology school, like Colleen O’Hara’s Beauty Academy in Orange County, CA. Our world-class modern beauty school facility in Santa Ana, CA is one of the best hair schools in California. 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 (888) 463-7869 in order to start your career as a licensed hairstylist today! For more information on beauty school and how Colleen O’Hara’s Beauty Academy can help you become a Hairstylist in California today, please call us or visit us at