With 30 years of hairdressing experience, Sharon Jackson has been a member of the industry for a significant time. However, majority of those 30 years were spent as an employed member of staff, yet she now works as a freelance stylist at Guy Harvey, in Reigate. So, what led her to make the change at a well-established stage of her career? HJ sat down for a chat to find out…
Sharon explains, “I became a freelance stylist towards the end of 2019 – little did I know what was about to happen across the world.
“At the time, the salon I had been working at for most of my career had started to go downhill. This was all evident for a while, however it took around six months of contemplating leaving to actually do it. In the end, everyone made their own plans to move on at the same time, and consequently, the salon closed.
“Once I made the decision to leave, I had to plan my next steps. Going freelance made the most sense for me, as it would allow me to gain a level of control I hadn’t had previously. However, it was a difficult transition to make logistically, trying to let my clients know what I had planned and where I would be going. I think it would have been wise to have all of my social media set up in advance, with my new hours and location, as this would have made it easier to communicate details with clients."
My Advice for Others
“As such, I think ‘be prepared’ is something others need to keep in mind if they are planning on going freelance. My circumstances were unusual because we didn’t have much notice (the demise of the salon was quite fast). If I had taken the step sooner, I wouldn’t have been as rushed, and could have been more prepared – in terms of social media, but also registering my business and getting stock.
“Being realistic with your stock levels is something other freelance stylists I know have had trouble with. Get as much stock as you need, but don’t overdo it – you don’t know how many clients will follow you. However, being freelance does mean you have more control over the brands and products you stock, which is something I appreciate.
“Whilst benefits such as these are great, it’s worth noting there will be some downsides, too. For example, if you want to stay up-to-date and attend courses, you will have to pay for these yourself. You’ll likely have more control over the courses you want to attend, though, and can work these into your schedule as you see fit – so every cloud has a silver lining.
“I would also recommend using an accountant, if you can afford one. Whether you plan on managing your finances yourself eventually, at the beginning it’s helpful to have one less thing on your plate – especially now that you’ll be managing bookings, ordering stock, doing the hair, managing social media content and more. Plus, I found that there were things I could claim for that I wouldn’t have realised myself, such as laundry products for towels and gowns.
“Make sure you give yourself enough time for each appointment. Again, you’ll likely be doing more without the help of an apprentice or receptionist, so you’ll need more time than you’re used to. Don’t try and squeeze people in, as it’s not worth it. Think ‘quality over quantity’.
“I would also advise people not to lower their prices. People were happy to pay for your services before, and as long as you keep your standards up, nothing has changed. Plus, you have more expenses to cover now. I think that there’s a bit of a stigma around freelance hairdressers – some people think they’ll have to lower their prices if they’re not employed at a big-name salon – but remember that your clients pay for you to cut their hair, not the salon.
Consider Your Relationships
“I also think it’s beneficial to connect with other freelancers – whether that’s people you’ve worked with in the past or new contacts. It’s great to have people to bounce ideas off of and get feedback from. During covid, it was especially useful to be able to talk to people going through a similar experience – it will likely be the same with the energy crisis we’re currently facing.
“One change I’ve noticed since going freelance, that I perhaps wasn’t expecting, is my relationship with my clients. I think myself lucky – many of my clients were happy that I had gone out on my own, and wanted to be supportive, given the circumstances. That brings you closer. However, you want to remain professional. It’s a more direct communication without any middlemen – I’ll still take their coat and make them a drink to give them the full salon experience, as I want to make them feel welcome. You never know what’s going to happen in the future, so it pays to maintain your relationships now.”