How to Avoid Chaos and Set Boundaries as an Independent Hairstylist

When I first transitioned to being an independent hairstylist, I didn’t set boundaries with my clients. I didn’t know I needed to, in the beginning. I was actually looking forward to a more personal experience with my client base. Little did I know, not setting boundaries would lead to a greater disservice to my clients.

The phone started ringing nonstop, and I began to resent the workload. I had immediate anxiety every time my phone made noise. Rather than improving my customer service, I began dodging client communication until it was absolutely necessary, sometimes avoiding tasks for days that I knew I could get done in mere minutes if I weren’t so overwhelmed. This was not good for my personal health, nor was it fair to my clients.

When you first move out on your own, you remove the middle man, which has its upsides and downsides. There’s no front desk to disconnect you from calls, but all of your guests have your personal number. This means they will call and text at all hours of the day. They are used to an immediate response from the salon receptionist, so they forget that you’re not going to be available to answer the phone at the drop of a hat – even after hours.

Do yourself a favor: learn from my mistakes and set hours for yourself! You may be thinking “I do have business hours, it’s when I am behind the chair!” But your business hours go beyond the hours you are directly interacting with clients behind the chair. You can no longer think of yourself as simply a stylist. You are a business owner now. You have all the duties of a stylist, as well as the duties of an owner, manager, and receptionist.

Set specific time aside every day to reach out to and respond to clients. I found it best to answer calls and texts once in the morning and once in the evening. In between, let the phone ring. As long as you are making time every day to address client needs, there is no need to be at their every beck and call. You can even set one or two days to be off, but be sure to let your clients know. For example, if you work Tuesday through Saturday, let your clients know that you won’t be returning messages on Sundays and Mondays. Just be sure to address clients promptly on Tuesday morning before starting your day behind the chair.

I also ran into the problem when I first started where I knew I needed to grow and I definitely needed the money, so I basically chucked my schedule out the door. Needed a last-minute updo on Friday night? I was there. Need a cut and color before your morning yoga on Monday? I made it happen. This is fine in the short term, but in the long run you wind up with clients who come to expect you to get them in whenever they want.

You want to build clients that are willing to work within your schedule. Do this from the beginning. If you don’t, you will wind up feeling like you never have a day off. As you get more and more appointments booked, you wind up sacrificing a lot of your free time, which is a huge reason many of us move to booth rental in the first place — to maximize our free time.

There is a delicate balance. If you open with clear and fair boundaries, you will build the clientele you are ultimately more satisfied with. There are plenty of customers out there. Take the ones that are willing to work with you, not against you.

Take a realistic look at what you want your hours behind the chair to be, the amount of hours necessary to manage your business (inventory and ordering), the hours needed to communicate with clients, and what you want your free time to be. If you are honest with yourself about what all of these things require and you set a schedule (and stick to it!) you will have a successful business and a happy amount of free time. Of course, these rules only apply if you are willing to be present and engaged in your business during your business hours. Work hard while you are at work and relax and enjoy your free time when you are off.

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Michelle Guetersloh

Michelle Guetersloh

Hairstylist Consultant at Michelle My Stylist
For some, hairstyling’s a job. For others, it’s a passion: an innate gift that lights them up and drives them to outperform and overdeliver. Michelle G. is definitely the latter.

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