What it takes to become a hairstylist

Published on: 31 Mar 2017

Much of this growth can be attributed to the world of celebrity in which we live. We are surrounded by images of ‘perfect’ role models and we aspire to look and be like them, whatever it takes. Indeed, the hair and beauty industry is built on making people look and feel great.

A good hairstylist has the ability to transform people, to give them confidence that knows no bounds and make them feel a million dollars. But there is much more to it than that.

A successful hairdresser will understand the business side of the industry, have impeccable customer service skills together with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Still interested? Then read on.

There are several routes available into the industry but probably the most popular is to enroll for one of the many NVQ training courses currently on offer. NVQ courses range from an entry Level 1, aimed at students with little or no hairdressing experience, right through to a more specialised Level 4 where trainees get to hone and develop their skill sets in more niche areas. These levels consist of a number of mandatory units along with a range of optional units and can be studied alone or combined with other subject areas on a full or part-time basis.  

Other options include an apprenticeship in a salon and learning ‘on the job’ where an apprentice will usually attend college at least once a week on day release.

As a junior in a salon you will start by greeting customers, making coffee, ensuring that supplies and towels are always ready and prepared and keeping the salon clean and tidy at all times.  Then you will progress onto shampooing and eventually simple cutting, but take heed - this won’t happen overnight. The route to a successful hairdressing career is a long one but if you have the patience, determination and drive required then you will reap the rewards and it could well be the career for you.

It must be remembered however that whichever route you choose to take into the industry, a clutch of professional qualifications won’t make you a hairstylist, there is a lot more to it than that. Sure, all of the knowledge and technical acumen that you have learned (and are still learning) will give you good solid career foundations but these raw skills now have to be nurtured and expanded. You will need an artistic eye, creative flair and the ability to visualise. You must be a ‘people person’ with excellent customer service skills and an insatiable willingness to learn; patient yet determined. Still sound like you? Then take a look at our checklist below.  Here we have outlined some of the qualities you will need in order to survive and succeed in this industry and become a successful hairstylist. If you answer yes to most or all of them then congratulations, this may well be the right career choice for you. 

Are you creative?

A successful hairstylist will invariably possess an artistic eye. They should pay minute attention to detail, combining a creative flair with an ability to visualise their designs. Creativity together with top notch technical skills makes for a great hairstylist

Are you determined?

At first glance the hair and beauty industry is a glamorous one, it is after all founded upon image, upon making people look and feel good. And yes, often it is glamorous with celebrity shoots, glitzy events, wow factor weddings but it takes a lot of hard work and effort to achieve all this so a trainee hairstylist has to be determined. Long days, relentless tasks and low pay is the reality of a junior stylist but stick with it and it will be worth it.

Are you willing to learn?

The hair and beauty industry is constantly evolving. New techniques, fashions and product innovations all make working in this industry a constant learning curve. As a trainee stylist you should always pay attention to your peers, learn from their experience and absorb as much of their knowledge as you can. Take an interest in the business side of the industry, you might be running your own salon one day so do your homework now and it could help you in the future. Familiarise yourself with all of the products sold in the salon. Be aware of what is happening in the marketplace, embrace new techniques and current trends and never stop learning.

Are you flexible?

A successful hairstylist will be flexible in their approach to work, not only with regards to working hours but also in their attitude. So be prepared to go above and beyond your role, always be on hand to help and never complain.

Do you make a good first impression?

In an industry which is built upon making people look good it goes without saying that appearances are key. Therefore it is vital that as an employee you look good too and create a great first impression. Remember you are an ambassador for your salon so always maintain a presentable client facing appearance whilst also being mindful of the upkeep and overall aesthetics of the workplace too. Pay attention to your body language and be aware that it is your non-verbal body language (posture etc.) that speaks the most volumes to hopefully create a positive client experience. Always respect your client’s personal space and make regular eye contact with them. Remember, if a client feels at ease in your care they will almost certainly visit again.

Are you a people person?

A hairstylist’s job is defined by their clients so you will need exceptional people skills in this job. You should be capable of providing exceptional customer service at all times in order to retain the clientele for your salon. It is not all about the weather and holidays and you should endeavor to make an appropriate  connection with each and every client, whilst remaining professional at all times. 


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