Owners of employee salons have long argued that making more money isn’t one of the biggest pay-offs of going solo. Not so. The problem with the side-by-side income comparisons most often used in the industry is that they underestimate self-employed stylists’ incomes and overestimate taxes because they don’t account for business deductions like rent and education. To explore the full, true benefits of self-employment, Salons by JC polled hundreds of its own suite renters, whose professional experience ranges from one year to over 16 years. Thus, Salons by JC has pinpointed the top five biggest real-world financial and personal benefits of becoming a self-employed stylist.
- The Ability to Make More Money. The majority of salon pros who chose self-employment did so in hopes of making more money. And, the clear majority did. In the Salons by JC 2016 Tenant Survey, 75% of Salons by JC suite renters said their incomes increased by as much as 20%, and another 24.3% said their incomes increased by 21% to 30%.
In Corpus Christi, Texas, Tim “Bo” Mac, says he wasn’t looking to be self-employed but when his salon owner presented him with a 150-mile radius non-compete, it left him no option. “I’ve been in a Salons by JC suite for about 9 months now, and my income has increased by about 40%,” says Mac. “In my old salon, I was paid a salary with no benefits. Now, own a home and have new car, instead of living paycheck to paycheck. I am in control of what I make. I wasn’t a person who thought he could be self-employed, but the deal breaker was how minimal start-up costs were; a Salons by JC suite comes with quality furniture, electricity, plumbing and everything I needed.”
Sarah Heath, whose Salons by JC suite is in Austin, Texas, says she was always entrepreneurial and went right from cosmetology school to a rental salon to a Salons by JC suite. “Last year, I made just over $100,000, says Heath. “My rent is about $12,000 a year, and I’m disciplined about running a business. I also sold $12,000 in retail last year. I know I’d feel bad giving my clients 100% and getting only 50% back in income. But I really chose independence for the opportunity and flexibility.”
- Freedom Over Your Own Schedule. Heath isn’t alone in wanting control over her schedule. In the Salons by JC survey, nearly 30% of respondents said they moved to a suite for “freedom over my hours.” Mac uses that freedom to educate for Pravana and have “husband and father days,” while Heath, whose retailing success resulted in the opportunity to teach bimonthly classes for Aquage says, “That wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t at Salons by JC.”
Many other stylists say they want flexible hours to be able to take classes, work on platform, accommodate early-morning or late-evening clients and enjoy a work/life balance. At Salons by JC in Bolingbrook, Illinois, tenant Monna Bianca says she became self-employed so she could leave work to pick up her children from school, share a dinner and then return to work for a while.
- Total Independence. It isn’t just scheduling flexibility the self-employed crave. Several surveys reveal that independent-minded salon professionals want to set their own policies and procedures, design their own spaces, decide to discount or not on their own and choose the products they want to carry.
Esthetician Katheen Fereday, whose The Light Touch by Kathleen is located in Salons by JC in Charlotte, North Carolina, says “If I had known how much better being self-employed was, I’d have done it a long time ago.” After 30-plus years in the beauty industry and 13 years in a local salon, she recalls that employees were required to carry clear purses to deter product theft. “Now, I can charge what I want, and if I decide to do a client’s brows gratis, I don’t have to worry about someone telling the desk how I did brows that weren’t paid for.”
- Convenience for Stylists and Their Clients. As an esthetician, Fereday says she always worked in a private room, but that both she and her clients favor the bright, clean, private suite and concierge service at Salons by JC. “My clients love the atmosphere,” she says. “You always lose a few clients when you move, but I’ve gained more though marketing, word-of-mouth and referrals from the stylist renters. I can come in early or stay late, which is as convenient for my clients as it is for me. If I want, I can book an extra 15 minutes to accommodate clients who run late, so neither of us is rushed. I love that I’m not under pressure anymore; even my husband noticed I’m in a better mood than when I was an employee.”
- The Ability to Keep More of What You Really Earn. Ultimately, self-employment means keeping more of what you earn. When employees deliver services, and sell retail, they often bring in much more than they keep, and it’s not just due to commission payments. It’s rarely mentioned during hiring but some salons deduct “product fees” from stylists’ incomes, which can bring 50% commission down to about 43%. Then, there’s retail. Self-employed stylists can mark-up products as much as they want and keep all the profits, instead of getting 10 or 15 percent–if they meet quotas.
Fereday estimates that after moving into her Salons by JC suite 2½ years ago, she makes about 35% more than she did as a commission-paid employee and reinvests it into new equipment, so she can offer all the new services, like LED light therapy. She also says she now has the extra money visit her grandchildren in Kentucky, travel to the mountains and “enjoy life more.”
Mac set up a retirement plan—one of the best ways to keep more money and earn even more from it. Bianca, who raised her balayage prices by $25 for current clients and by $40 for new ones, says she can now pay for the higher-quality products she prefers and take the classes she chooses. “I invest in unique classes first; I’m still working on saving more,” she says. “But I can pay my bills just fine and never work on weekends. When stylists hear that, they’re amazed.”
Whatever your reason for joining millions of other self-employed professionals, the fact you can make and keep more money is a reality. The key is to recognize that working for yourself isn’t all about the flex-time. Put in the hours, add to your income with retail, manage your salon suite like a professional business, and a higher income will follow.