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How to Become a Great Hairdresser: What Hair Clients Want

A professional career coach, Marcy has helped hundreds refine their resumes, improve their interviewing skills, and advance their careers.

Here's What Women Want. From Their Hairstylists, That Is!

Hairdressers need to listen and "read" their clients in order to understand their needs.

Hairdressers need to listen and "read" their clients in order to understand their needs.

Are You Keeping Your Hair Salon Customers Satisfied?

Do you want to build a large and faithful group of clients for your hair salon?

Some hairdressers wonder why they lose clients, or why they can't seem to grow their business.

Although there are many reasons women leave relationships, there are only a few main reasons why women leave (or don't return) to a hairdresser.

If you know what a woman wants from her hairdresser, she will be a loyal client for years to come and will refer all her friends.

Follow these tips to do your best work, keep your salon clients happy, and keep them coming back for more.

Your Hair Client Will Tell You What She Wants

You might have to ask a few questions, but if you listen to your hair customers, you'll know what they need from you.

You might have to ask a few questions, but if you listen to your hair customers, you'll know what they need from you.

How to Listen to Your Hair Salon Clients

You may be an expert in hair styling, but the only person who is an 'expert' in a particular head of hair is the woman (or man) who wears it.

Listen to what your client tells you about her hair, and believe her. You may have been taught in stylist school that a certain cut or blow-dry angle will produce specific results. But the person sitting in your chair knows how her hair behaves, and it may not fit the cookie-cutter mold you were taught.

Few things are more annoying to a hair client than having a hairdresser tell them they're wrong when they try to (helpfully) let you know the tricks and stubborn behaviors of their own hair.

Not all fine hair is the same, not all curly hair behaves the same, and one person's straight hair may not respond the way others do.

Similarly, color formulas aren't one-size-fits-all. If your client tells you her hair goes red, believe her. If she says she has a lot of breakage (or feels like she's 'losing her hair,') take care when timing the color processing so you don't make matters worse.

If your client asks for a certain style or cut, you can suggest some new ideas, but don't overrule her. I once asked for a certain style, and the hairstylist overruled me and said she didn't want to do that; I let her push me around, but I regret I didn't have my hair styled the way I wanted it for that particular event.

Perhaps your client isn't explaining herself in a way you understand (she hasn't learned the lingo you know, remember?). Take a few minutes to make certain you heard her correctly.

Phrase her statement back to her in slightly different words. For example, if she says she wants more streaks in her hair, ask her, "Are you saying you prefer the highlights in your hair to be more distinct?" That one question can tell you if she wants her streaks to stand out more ("chunky") rather than being blended, or if she's asking you to make her hair lighter all over. There's a big difference in those two things.

A few minutes of close listening can ensure good results when she leaves the salon, and a return visit the next time she needs a cut and color.

Get the Best Hair-Cutting Shears You Can Afford

Why are good scissors important to a hair stylist?

You will be cutting hair all day long, five or more days a week. Your salon scissors will get a workout far more than other shears you might own (you know, those things you pull out from the kitchen drawer to open a package of chips?). Your scissors need to hold up to the constant workout.

You will be cutting every imaginable type of hair, and you'll be angling the cut of the style in various ways. You can't afford to use scissors that don't leave a good cut.

Read More From Bellatory

Good hair shears hold up for many years; they can be sharpened repeatedly, repaired, and kept in great shape. They're an investment in your career.

There are many great brands to choose from yes, you might get sticker shock when you spring for a leading manufacturer, but when you find a brand you like, you'll be happy with the investment.

Kamisori Emerald is a good choice, as is their entire line of hair scissors. There are various lengths to choose from, depending on how large your cutting hand is or how you hold your shears when you cut hair.

If you're left-handed, you'll find Kamisori shears designed to accommodate that as well.

Other great brands include AuPolus, Feng Chun, Shark Fin, and Kenchii. All good brands of hair shears have scissors for lefties or righties, and offer choices in the lengths and angles of the blades.

You'll also want to find a good blowdryer, the best brushes and combs, and a flatiron that you feel comfortable using on all types of hair.

Good Hairdressers Sell Themselves, Not Hair Products

Women want to believe they can buy the styling products you used and get the same great results you just gave them when they go home, but try to avoid pushing products that they really may not need.

Ask your client what products she still has at home before telling her she will magically reproduce your skills if she only buys a tube of this or a bottle of that. Respect her budget, and offer suggestions on how she can use up one of the zillion bottles she has in her cabinet before investing in yet more of the stuff.

Tell her to bring in the products so you can give her tips on using them. This personalized service will go a long way to building trust and loyalty.

Most woman have dozens of jars, tubes and bottles of unused or partially used hair products; they really don't need to buy more goop, but they do need some guidance on how to get the best results with what they have on hand.

Excellent Hairstyling Service Starts at the Appointment Desk

Make sure the scheduler in your salon knows your pace and your preferred timing for hair appointments.

Make sure the scheduler in your salon knows your pace and your preferred timing for hair appointments.

How to Improve Your Service to Salon Hair Clients

It's common practice for hairstylists to book clients on top of other appointments and try to work in a cut or blow-dry while another client's hair is color-processing.

This can work, but it can also backfire. If you leave clients under the dryer (heat processing) as a babysitter while you are doing cuts for other clients, you're probably overusing the dryer and damaging her hair.

If your client tells you she has breakage and worries about the heat, honor that concern and don't put her under the dryer to process. Sure, this means you may have to attend to her sooner than you planned, but, after all, she is paying you for your service, isn't she?

Don't engage in conversations with others while you're cutting or applying color to your client. Some hairdressers treat their salon like a party room and allow anyone to interrupt them while they're working on a client. This is rude, inconsiderate, and sends a message that you don't respect the person in your chair.

If others try to interrupt you while you're working, ask them to wait a few minutes so you can finish what you're doing.

What About You?

Hair Clients Don't Like to Wait

Monitor your pace and set your appointment book to reflect the amount of time you actually need for each client.

If your clients mention they've had to wait, it's a sign you may be overbooking or getting distracted while you work. Listen to the clients and you'll see where you need to tweak things or adjust the timing of your appointments.

Chances are, your clients took time off from work or family needs to make their appointments, and they may even have paid a babysitter. If you consistently run an hour behind, it costs them money. Respect their time, and they'll respect yours.

Never, ever, show preference for one client's time over another. I once saw a hairdresser ask one client (who had arrived early and been waiting patiently) to wait while she took another person who had just arrived. She framed it by saying she could 'give her better service.' The hairdresser had arrived late and clearly showed preferential treatment to Client #2, who was a wealthy businesswoman but had just arrived.

The hairdresser lost the business of the first client, and other staff members reported the incident to the salon's investors.

If there's been an unavoidable delay, acknowledge it, apologize and offer some small consideration to make up for it. Give her a bottle of product (a few dollars of shampoo or a jar of scented cream may save you hundreds in lost business), or reduce your fee slightly for that day.

Your apology will let her know you care about her as a person, that you realize her time is valuable, and that delays aren't your normal way of doing business.

Do You Charge Too Much for Hairstyling?

Every market and every salon is different, and every stylist can command his or her own fees.

But the economy can fluctuate, and if your fees are already pretty hefty, don't raise them needlessly.

Some people have left good hairdressers to whom they have been paying high fees (which makes it appear they don't mind paying for expensive services) when there's been an increase. If you raise your fees by $20 and drive off three customers who come in every six weeks, and who refer customers to you, have you made a good business decision? Probably not!

Are you raising fees on someone who tips you well? If she regularly tips $10-$20, she is already paying a higher fee. If she leaves due to an increase, you've lost the original fee plus the tip.

Learn the Latest Hairstyling and Coloring Techniques

Attend workshops, read up on new hair trends, and keep yourself current!

Attend workshops, read up on new hair trends, and keep yourself current!

A huge issue for many women is when they go to their hairdresser wanting a new color technique or a style that is currently popular, and the hairdresser has not yet learned to do it.

You may have clients who love the same style they've had for years (and they could use an update), but don't assume that the way 'you've always done it' works for everyone.

Most women will want their color applied with foils rather than a cap, for the obvious reasons that there's less breakage, less pain, and more flexibility in creating certain effects with the color.

Sure, those courses are expensive, and they may take more time, but they will pay off in making clients happy and in continued business.

You would not want to go to an accountant who was not up on current tax law, so why would you expect your hair clients to go to a stylist who doesn't know how to keep up with the trends?


AWESOME STYLIST on April 08, 2016:

Just to add to my last rant:)) we are all human:)

If you want a good haircut/stylist, and you are out and about, and you see a cut and or color that you love, please stop and ask that person who their stylist is, more than likely they will be willing to share.. This way you have already seen a sample of their work and have a bit of an idea as to what to expect! This is how I have built my clientele, one at a time. A clients hair -is a stylists advertising! Pick a stylist that is INTO their work.. and someone who is willing to "give" you a 15 minute consult BEFORE you book your appointment so you can decide if this is the stylist for you. Also, they are not there to make friends and chat you up. A serious and thorough consultation is needed, and hopefully they are understanding what you are saying, so make sure communication is absolutely clear. Repeat yourself if you feel its needed. your stylist should understand and be patient. Communication is key!! If your stylist is chatting too much when cutting or doing a complicated color, kindly say to him/her that you would appreciate it if they would not chat.. I know it tough to do, but it is for your benefit:) I personally find it a lot easier to not have to entertain while I work.. it is multitasking. If you are cutting a fabric for a tailored dress, would you be waving your arms around and talking about the new cabin at the lake.. or whatever??? Highly unlikely!! There ARE good Stylists out there... Good luck in your search everyone!

Lorie Nny. on October 13, 2015:


I am a hairstylist, extremely seasoned, this has been very helpful. I do not claim to be a hair artist, if that was the case I would take your cut hair and frame it. We are sales people, that provide service. I like that you all of you are saying listen , listen, listen,,. you have given us the golden key. Now we just have to apply, the only hair cut I don't prefer to do is the mullet, but if that is what you wan to wear, by all means do. It's your hair, not mine.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on March 02, 2013:

Hi, oohlala! It's great to get a comment from someone who's been there and understands! From what you've said here, I can see your clients are very lucky to have found you. Many thanks for commenting!

oohlala on March 01, 2013:

I am a humble hairdresser and can say I love this. I too cut my own hair and I own a salon. I train my girls however to listen and will be sharing this with them tomorrow. It's important for us to remember where we came from. There are no hair rock stars. Only artists... Be humble and listen. .. then they will come back. ;-)

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on December 16, 2012:

Thanks Just Ask Susan - hey, wouldn't it be interesting to keep count of the number of hairdressers various people have walked away from after just one visit? And wouldn't it also be interesting to know how many other potentially loyal clients have walked away from the same hairdressers for one reason or another? We should form a club or something. BTW - I've had issues with hair that holds the red, too, and have had many hairdressers more or less ignore my cautions. And then I've had to live with the red for weeks & weeks.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on December 16, 2012:

Have had a few bad experiences. Once when I was getting streaks put in and I told her that I have a lot of red in my brown hair and need the color removed before the blonde goes in. Well she didn't listen and the streaks came out red. I lived with it but I never went back to her again.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on December 08, 2012:

Hi, DDE - I know what you mean - I went through a period of several years when I cut my own hair, because I'd gotten so frustrated trying to find a good hairdresser. No wonder the hairdressers who are skilled and who pay attention to what people want get loyal clients who follow them from place to place.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 08, 2012:

It can be frustrating in finding the a good or correct hairdresser the one who would style your hair the way you want it or like I fully understand. i sometimes cut my hair on my own as well.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on December 01, 2012:

Yay!!! Congrats, Watergeek!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on December 01, 2012:

Oh, I have definitely heard the "I know best" line, GoodLady! I sometimes think people need therapy when they've been subjected to that sort of controlling experience in the name of hair styling. Thanks for the votes and the share!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on December 01, 2012:

Oh my - I am trying to picture how someone would use pipe cleaners to perm hair!!?? That sounds like a scary experience - and the ear infection could have been a disaster, Melovy!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on December 01, 2012:

Thanks for reading and commenting, Carol - when a hairdresser messes up, you have to live with it for quite a while!

Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on December 01, 2012:

Hey Marcy - My "a" is green! :D

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on December 01, 2012:

I do hope every hairdresser in the world reads your hub! They are such a frustrating lot with their 'I know what's best for you' attitude (and scissors). Every time they make a mistake with my hair, it takes a year to grow back.

Maybe they do know best, but they aren't wearing the hair.

Voting and sharing and FBing too!

Yvonne Spence from UK on December 01, 2012:

I've had my fair share of hairdressers who didn't listen or did things I didn't like - the worst by far was when I worked as a fashion designer and agreed to be a model for a hairdresser to experiment on. They permed my hair with pipe cleaners, shaved my fringe (bangs) off and managed to get perming lotion in my ear which gave me an infection. But it was different to the way they'd done it on the last model, so they were happy. And luckily, working as a designer meant looking a bit weird wasn't the same issue it would have been had a worked in a bank!

Still, I was glad when my hair grew in again.

For years now I have lovely hairdressers who used organic products, and listens to what I want - or to what my daughters want.

Here's hoping your hub helps produce more of the latter type of hairdresser! Voted up.

carol stanley from Arizona on December 01, 2012:

Some really good information here..and I would hope hairdressers would read this. I can vouch for many of these issues and why I made changes.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on December 01, 2012:

I think we may know some of the same hairdressers, Watergeek. I asked one stylist not to blow-dry my hair a certain direction, because it was so curly and would stay that way. She argued and said, no, it would give me 'lift' when brushed the opposite way. I explained that my hair doesn't work that way, but she kept at it. Afterward, it did exactly what I said it would, and took me weeks to 'untrain,' it. And the cut was the worst I've ever had.

Too bad more hairdressers don't realize clients speak with their pocketbooks.

Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on November 30, 2012:

You are so right, Marcy. I had three experiences with hairdressers that turned me off. I went back to the first one, but not the next two.

The first one would not cut my hair the way I wanted it. She argued and finally asked the hairdresser next to her, when I wouldn't give in. He told her to do what I wanted. When she finished, she was surprised that it looked good and complimented me. That one I went back to.

The second one cut my hair totally differently from the way I'd asked for. It looked good, but didn't fit my lifestyle, requiring a recut every month or so. I couldn't afford it, so I just never went back to that salon.

The third one asked if I wanted color. I said no, just a cut and shampoo, so he shampooed my hair with a shampoo that made it look grey. I was savvy to marketing tricks and ticked off. A few days later when I shampooed my own hair, it went back to its normal dark blond color. I never went back to that salon either.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on November 30, 2012:

Oh, Nettlemere, I know the feeling! I have cut my own hair in the past, but it just won't work for me to do that now. I firmly believe God gave us chemistry to protect us from knowing what our real hair color is. So I do use a hairdresser now, but I do understand the idea of giving up on the hassles and cutting your own!

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on November 30, 2012:

I can't cope with having my hair hair dressed at all, I used to so dread going, partly for some of the reasons you outlined, that about 18 years ago I bit the bullet and cut my own hair. Problem solved!

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