30 Success Strategies On Being An Independent in a Salon

30 Success Strategies On Being An Independent in a Salon


I’ve heard everything – independent contractors are lazy or not interested in education. They don’t participate.  The role of an independent stylist can get convoluted and fraught with details, start-up costs, regulations to be aware of, the perception in the industry, or salon owner abuses. However, there is always another side to the story. These 30 strategies on being independent in a salon will help you be successful, should you choose to walk this path and despite the negative press from within the industry. They come from the experience over 30 years of being self-employed and three years as an employee.


Perks for working in a salon as an employee can include education, medical and IRA contributions.  But what if you are a self-starter, committed, and a team player?  What if you have an entrepreneurial spirit? I can list many reasons to become an independent stylist over an employee.



There seems to be confusion about what an IC or independent contractor role is. Some even say you are either an employee or self-employed. Regardless of how you feel about it, self-employment is on the rise in salons. Be very clear about the owner’s expectations. If the salon owner wants you to attend specific education meetings and take the client’s money, you are an employee. It doesn’t mean you can’t do those things if you wish to, but the salon is off the hook for paying your taxes, medical(if they even provide this), 401 k(if they even are set up), education, etc.

As stated in a Think Progress article by Bryce Covet, Why Your Beauty Salon Likely Doesn’t Have Any Employees,

“Today, more than 90 percent of all salons have no direct employees, meaning they either have just one person cutting hair or rely completely on independent contractors. Meanwhile, more than a third of all hairdressers, stylists, and cosmetologists are self-employed, compared to just 7 percent of the overall workforce.”

According to the Job Monkey article, Working at a Salon – Employee vs. Independent Contractor,
“Independent contractors are free to set their schedules, can come and go as they please between clients, and maybe even take a second job or a class. They can choose the product lines they want to use and to sell. While all this freedom is very appealing to many cosmetologists, most wait to become independent contractors until they have a steady clientele built up. Whether or not they have any appointments on their books, they must pay their rent and purchase supplies to stay in business. Many cosmetologists who are self-employed may also own their salons, but a growing number of the self-employed lease booth space or a chair from the salon’s owner.”

In their article, the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) states Other Factors to Consider: Areally, an Independent Contractor?

“An independent contractor can operate in different environments, in addition to a salon suite rental. The IRS outlines factors to help determine if you are truly independent.

A few factors to being genuinely independent include:

  • owning a key to own establishment
  • setting your hours
  • purchasing your products
  • having your telephone number and telephone line
  • establishing your business name
  • determining your pricing for services
  • incurring all business expenses, and you may be able to deduct certain business expenses
  • fully reporting your income (including tips)
  • paying your state, local, and federal tax obligations

Fulfilling your obligations as an independent contractor means you will operate your business as a serious, professional business owner. You must abide by all the legal local, state, and federal tax regulations, report all income (including tips) and maintain the appropriate licenses as well as personal liability insurance for your independent business.”

It isn’t easy to monitor and regulate salons and their practices. Plenty of guidelines on renting a chair in a salon are available online. Beauty industry advocate Tina Alberino writes on her blog, This Ugly Beauty Business, in the article, The 20 Factor IRS Test For The Beauty Industry,

“Working in the same salon every day is expected to be loyal to that salon, being paid a paycheck on a biweekly basis, being told what to do and how to do it, being told what products/tools to use to perform your services, being controlled through the threat of dismissal, being required to go to training or mandatory meetings, and being required to work a schedule set by the salon owner are all indicators that you are an employee. Nothing about that says “self-employed.” So why the hell are you paying the entirety of your employment tax responsibility? That’s not your burden to carry. If your boss wants to control you, they need to be paying your employment tax like every other employer in every other industry.”


“Let’s be clear, you are either an employee or self-employed in a salon.”


These resources are essential to read. They inform us of all the shades of gray in what should be black and white arrangements happening at salons. The situation should be like this: you are an employee, or you are self-employed. Be aware of which position you are choosing and why. If you are considering renting a chair within a salon, definitely be clear about the details.



Three years into being licensed, I knew one thing. I needed to make money, and the only way I could see doing that in this industry was to be self-employed. I needed to have control and to dictate my future as well. The specifics of each contract differed, but I was an independent contractor and self-employed in all situations. Self-employment and entrepreneurship became the only way for me. I had no choice, as I did not come from a family with wealth, nor did I have anybody to lean on when the books were empty. Independence was quite simply the only way I could pay my bills. The following is how I handled my own business within salons, and I own a two-chair studio.

  • Know yourself.
  • Look at the list above by PBA, and get clear on what role you are playing.
  • Be invaluable.
  • Treat the salon as your own business.
  • Get your business license.
  • File and pay your taxes with the IRS and state and sales tax if you sell products.
  • Hire a bookkeeper.
  • Hire an accountant.
  • Feed your creativity.
  • Pay for education.
  • Maintain balance.
  • Be on time.
  • Save your money.
  • Dedicate yourself to serving.
  • Decide your pricing.
  • Give yourself raises.
  • Create a website.
  • Utilize social media.
  • Become a noticeable contributing member of your community.
  • Study your craft.
  • Define your role with the salon.
  • Invest in great tools as you can.
  • Maintain client database.
  • When you lose faith, find a mentor to talk to
  • Say yes to every hair opportunity.
  • Give business cards out to everybody.
  • Never stop marketing.
  • Never stop studying business and marketing.
  • Get clear on your values.
  • When you have an open slot in your schedule, help the greater good.
  • I could add additional tips could be added to this list.


Write a vision statement for yourself. A statement that guides you in your career speaks to your vision, commitment, and what matters to you. Years later, you will find that certain aspects of it will remain ever-present and follow you to the salon that will be your home, and maybe one day own your own.


To include a little contrast to the mix, check this video out on the topic of decision-making.

If you would like help in brainstorming the possibilities for you, click here.



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