To celebrate HJ’s Freelance Week, we asked a broad range of freelancers how they knew it was the right time to take the plunge into self-employed life.
From bridal specialists to film and TV hair stylists, we asked freelance experts for their top tips to help you get started in your chosen field.
Name: Josie Wright
Job title: Freelance hairdresser and Wella Passionista
“After a decade of salon life and wondering ‘what if?’ – a change needed to happen. I was working a full day and then would leave work at 6pm and travel to do hair at people’s homes – sometimes until 10pm. I would get messages every day asking for appointments at home. I got really run down, so I took the risk and set up on my own. It felt good to be 100% my own boss. It’s hard work as I’m now the person who deals with every enquiry from appointment bookings, to stock taking and advertising. Three years in, I’m consistently booked up eight weeks in advance. I’ve recently opened a salon studio so the hard work and extra hours have paid off.”
- Social media is everything. This is the modern way that potential clients will look for a new hairdresser.
- Set boundaries. Don’t let people dictate to you – choose your own hours and stick to them.
- Don’t expect to be fully booked straightaway. When you have quiet days, spend this time on pushing advertising to fill your books or online education to perfect your skills.
Name: Claire Guy
Job title: Freelance hairstylist, make-up artist and bridal specialist
“Choosing to go freelance was about having the flexibility to be in control of my own workload. At the time I had three young children and needed to work around my husband’s shifts. I still like to think I am in control of my diary; however, I often look a few months in advance and discover I’ve forgotten to book myself a day off. I love that I can set my own hours around family commitments such as school pick-up times and football practice (I have three sons, so this is most days). I worked for a corporate company before I began my hairdressing career and while I thought I loved it – I love this more. Yes, it can be hard work, but it is also rewarding.”
- Never stop learning as when you are freelance the onus is on you to stay at the top of your game. Courses are an investment for your future.
- Do your research and find out what other people are offering in your area. What will make you stand out? Don’t price yourself low as you need to make a living.
- Social media is a fantastic tool and a great way to showcase your work. Ask your clients to leave reviews. I believe every hairdresser should have an Instagram account – it’s easy and free!
Name: Tracy Pallari
Job title: Bridal hairstyling specialist and educator
“I started my hairdressing career from a family salon background in Bristol and always had a passion for long hairstyling. I worked as an educator for Clynol and travelled extensively teaching long hair. Following a move to London, where I worked as a Session stylist, I decided to specialise in bridal hair and became a freelance wedding stylist. At that time, most brides would visit a salon on their wedding morning. There wasn’t many of us travelling to wedding venues, so I saw this as a gap in the market that I wanted to expand. Fast forward to 2019, I am the national bridal hairstylist winner of the TWIA (The Wedding Industry Awards) with a successful freelance business. I have my own pro team and run bridal hair training workshops and one-to-one bespoke tuition alongside a busy wedding diary which takes me all over the UK and abroad for destination weddings.”
- Create your own specialism or niche – for me it was bridal. Clients love going to an expert in their field.
- Establish your ideal client and build your brand accordingly. You need to present a professional image and stand out from the crowd and this is a crowded market.
- Learn everything you can about social media or pay an expert to do it as this is the way to promote your business and build a great reputation.
Name: Paris Quarterman
Job title: Freelance hairstylist
“I decided to go freelance because I wasn’t 100% happy where I was working. I had recently had a baby and craved some flexibility in my job. I knew it was the right time to go freelance because I was feeling confident (something I have struggled with before) and I was receiving requests for home visits. I believe you know in your heart when you’re ready to take the jump! If you aren’t sure, my recommendation would be to go part-time and advertise yourself to see what interaction you get from your adverts first.”
- I took a pricing course, which helped me set my prices with confidence.
- Being freelance is a chance to shine and show your personality. If clients don’t like it, are they really the right clients for you?
- Find online forums and hair pages. There is a huge support network for freelance workers, so you’ll never be by yourself!
Name: Tilly Penn
Job title: Freelance stylist/educator
“I had thought about going freelance for several years. I loved salon life but was excited to work in different places with different people. I’ve always loved the more creative side of hairdressing. I found working in a salon meant I was always having to choose or understandably I couldn’t get the time off work to take a dream job. This is when I knew freelance was going to be a better option for me and the busier I became juggling both, the more I knew the time was right to work for myself!”
- Be prepared as the more prepared you are, the less pressure you will put on yourself.
- Trust yourself. Get ready for a lot of opinions (good and bad) and talk to freelancers to put your mind at ease about your new freedom.
- Put yourself out there – use social media and join support networks for freelancers. There are even consultancies that provide one-to-one coaching for educators.
Name: Michael Gray
Job title: Freelance hairdresser and Wella educator
“I was working in a salon in Nuneaton. I always wanted to learn and got bored easily so I started styling hair for shoots with local photographers and designers. I fell in love instantly with another side of hairdressing. I went on a lot of hairdressing courses all over the country studying updos, colour, cutting and barbering. I loved working in a salon with my clientele, but I knew I wanted to move to London to see where it would take me. Sadly, I had to leave what I knew behind, but I didn’t want to live with regrets. I gave myself six months to save, move and start building connections. It was the best thing I’ve done and I love it.”
- Try different areas of hairdressing to find your niche and build your portfolio of work. Many hairstylists stick to cutting or colouring but there could be other avenues for you to explore.
- Use social media as your platform to showcase your work. Show your personality to people you want to connect with and don’t forget to praise those who inspire you.
- You’ll have days where you’re quiet and you’ll feel down that you’re not working. Embrace those quiet days by being creative with other creatives. Collaborate with or assist other hairstylists and practice mastering your craft.
Name: Dionne Smith
Job title: Freelance hairstylist
“I’ve been a salon owner for many years and I have constantly been let down by my staff members. In the end I said to myself if I go freelance, I will only have to rely on myself and this seemed like the best decision. I got to a point where the choice was clear for me – I wanted to grow as a brand and I wanted to venture into the world of fashion shows, session styling, photoshoots and teaching. It was the right choice as I haven’t looked back since.”
- Build a good clientele initially and continue to build it up.
- Never undersell or devalue yourself because you’re not in a salon. Maintain your price point and treat your freelance business as a commercial salon business.
- Stay on top of trends and the latest happenings within the industry. As freelancers we can get comfortable so it’s important to be able to offer new techniques and services to our clients.
Name: Samantha Toogood
Job Title: Owner Toogood Hair
“Being freelance allows me to be independent – I can use different colour houses and make my own rules.Hairdressing isn’t about how many clients come through the door, each one of my clients has a story and being freelance allows me time to listen. I knew when the time was right for me. I was working a full week after having my children and realised it was time to change. I exchanged a five-day for a three-day week, so I have time for both my hairdressing family and my real family.”
- Create your own brand and decide how you want people to see you.
- List your prices as this will set a precedent for how clients should treat you.
- Connect with like-minded people. The Freelance Hairdressing Association (FHA) offers invaluable connections.
Name: Melanie Victoria Doyle
Job title: Hair and make-up artist
“I left my full-time job six years ago to go freelance within the hair, make-up, TV, fashion, photographic and film industry. I kept asking my manager for time off to do freelance jobs outside of my full-time career. I realised the freelance industry was a growing market and one-to-one training was becoming more popular so there was a gap in the market for me to help others up-skill. I live in northern England so the introduction of Media City and BBC Scotland in Glasgow has created lots of freelance opportunities and our industry of freelancers is growing through groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.”
- Attend as many freelancer events as you can, such as BECTU which is a union for hair and make-up artists, and professional hair trade shows.
- If you want to get into TV or film, research the hair and make-up heads of department for TV dramas and films. Contact them directly with your CV and cover letter asking to be considered for work experience.
- Join online forums such as Purpleport, Star Now, Model Mayhem and mandy.com as they are great for looking for unpaid and paid work, as well as networking.