Boss Moves: Working In a Salon vs. Owning One

Be Your Own Boss

If there was ever a good time to be a hair stylist, it’s now! I remember years ago when salons were packed, you were there all day, and it wasn’t about experience or even customer service. Clients were just there to get their hair done. Most hairstylists lacked passion and were running their chair like an assembly line. Now people have made styling hair a lucrative career choice. Stylists have turned their hustle into a full-time business that they plan to retire from one day. Branding themselves individually and even becoming famous off of the pictures and videos they post online. Hair Salons have become beautiful spaces you go to relax, and if a client doesn’t feel like you are giving them great customer service, they are ready to leave a negative review. Times have changed. There weren’t many examples of people owning their salon. Honestly, most of the stylist you typically knew worked at the same salon for years, just settling. Now, we have options! Stylists as young as eighteen are investing in their salon suite or building. Let’s assume you just graduated cosmetology school and you're deciding on applying for a position at an already established salon, renting or purchasing a building, or opening a suite. Here are some pros and cons to consider.


Just like any other job, you apply to a salon with hopes of joining a team that makes coming to work pleasant. There is usually an owner, salon manager, assistant(s), and stylists. Some stylist comes out of cosmetology school and becomes an assistant for a salon or head stylist. Starting as an assistant first will give you experience and a good idea of the salon flow before taking clients. If you are considering working as a stylist here is a few things to consider. Word of advice: Research salons to make sure they offer the services you want to master, read their reviews, and check their online presence to get a good idea of the salons brand. If you aren’t learning or growing at a salon, find one where you can improve your skills. Remember, you choose where you want to work.


  • In most cases, you are apart of a team.
  • You have the option of working in a commission based salon or booth rent salon.
  • The everyday cleaning and management are not up to you.
  • Most salons market you and offer business cards and branded attire at no cost to you.
  • You can build status at a salon by getting good reviews.
  • You don’t have to worry about inventory unless you are booth rent and they do not offer products to booth renters.
  • The salon covers the booking system.
  • The salon owner handles the paychecks, and give you a tax form at the end of the year.
  • You do not have to pay for credit card fees.
  • Some salons will pay for you to take classes or go to hair shows.
  • The salon handles all repairs and issues.


  • There is usually a cap on how much you can make because a portion goes to the salon.
  • You are working for someone else and their vision.
  • Owner determines who works there, not you.
  • Pricing for services is already selected.
  • You do not get to bring in products the salon as a whole isn’t using.
  • You're on a specific schedule and not your own. Salons have hours of operation.
  • Dress codes.
  • Some salons put you under contract. Under that agreement, if you leave you cannot take clients that you did not personally bring to the salon, and you can not work in a 5-10 mile radius of the salon for however many years.
  • There's no option for you to choose who you style, and if the salon accepts walk-ins, that means you do too.
  • You can not become in personal contact with a client you did not know already. You can not get your clients contact information or give them yours.
  • Your clients have no privacy because it is an open floor.
  • If the atmosphere of the salon is unpleasant, you are a reflection of it.


A salon suite, loft, or studio are separate rooms you rent out in a single building. Some buildings may have 20 suites and others have 50 or more. Each room is rented out by an individual stylist. Some of the rooms are different sizes with different layouts, and you pick which one best suits you. Salon suites have become very popular and are an option to consider when deciding on owning or working at an established salon. If your booking is not full or have a steady amount of weekly clients, I do not recommend getting a Salon Suite. Having discipline with your money is important. If not, it could also put you in the hole with your finances. Remember a salon suite is a mini salon, and your own money has to keep your business afloat. Word of advice: Save up $1500 or more to comfortably move into a salon suite and withstand the first three months. Already have clientele. Salon Suites are the perfect in between of working at someone else's salon and owning a salon building. Although it may seem like something you can quickly jump into, it is always best to have a plan so that this decision works beautifully in your favor. I knew I was ready to get a salon suite when I became fully booked and was making $1000 checks even with a commission taken out weekly. I made a business plan and also made a spreadsheet of everything I would need to buy for my suite all the way down to the mop. If you are serious about taking that next step in owning a salon, this is a great start.


  • It is your space. Your vision. Your way.
  • You can come and go as you please and have 24/7 access to the building and keys to your room.
  • Start to handle your own money.
  • You don’t have utility bills.
  • The owners take care of repairs like your sinks or a/c.
  • Most buildings have cameras and security locks on the front and back door.
  • Most buildings have front desk concierge.
  • You can wash and dry your towels there.
  • It is the owner's responsibility to keep the building and bathrooms clean.
  • Most companies have incentives like 4-6 rent free weeks when you sign a lease. Use these wisely.
  • Individual freedom to brand yourself.
  • You get to use your favorite products. You can also retail products to make some extra money, just make sure you are charging sales tax and reporting them.


  • You are working with small space. Some rooms are only 100-500 square feet. I paid for the owners to knock down a wall and combine two 500 square feet rooms so now I can comfortably have two stylist work at the same time, but it's still not a lot of extra space.
  • You have very little space for storage.
  • It is up to you to bring in shelves, cabinets, and every piece of furniture you would need.
  • The buildings usually have a little or no break room.
  • Your rent is due weekly which anyone would get tired of paying. I just write four checks a month and give it to the owner.
  • You can not move where your sink is located in your room because they are usually in the only area where plumbing is accessible. Not being able to move your sink could limit your plans to furnish your suite.
  • Your neighbors are just a wall away, and unless they have soundproof rooms, you will hear everything
  • You are responsible for your credit card machine and fees. Those fees will make you roll your eyes when a client pulls out the plastic.
  • You have to pay for your booking system. This system will make your life easier once you get busy.
  • You have to stay on top of restocking inventory in all aspects of your tools to products.
  • All the cleaning duties of your room are up to you. Washing and folding towels are never-ending. I miss being done with my last client and just leaving the salon!
  • You have to obtain a business license, cosmetology license, salon license, and salon insurance.
  • Create and enforce policies. Some clients will disregard the rules and regulations you have in place.
  • Reporting your taxes and keeping up with your write-offs. After my first year of business, I hired a CPA, and that was one of the best things I could have done for my business.
  • Paying yourself an actual check and putting money back into your business weekly.
  • You have to always multi-task styling, cleaning, booking, checking out, and other daily responsibilities.


If you thought that was a lot of responsibility to rent a salon suite, you're in for a treat when owning an actual salon building. You have to be a business minded person with your finances in order because owning a salon is a huge responsibility. Not only are you running a business but you have employees now. Word of advice: It is important to be financially stable before opening a salon. Take a few months and make a business plan, research the perfect location, perspective stylists, and everything else you may need to be successful.


  • Most of the pros from having a salon suite but on a larger scale and you own it!
  • You choose who works for you.
  • You put systems in place for a smooth running salon.
  • It is up to you if you want to be there every day because now you have people to take clients and manage the salon.
  • You own space to have events and classes which will make you more known in your community and bring in extra income.
  • The power to establish how much you pay yourself.
  • You set up your pay scale for your employees.
  • Owning a salon can be very rewarding and fulfilling just because it’s yours!


  • The first year or two of you establishing your salon may be rocky financially. So make sure you go into owning a salon with a good bit of rainy day money.
  • Take into consideration most of the cons of having a salon suite.
  • Hiring and firing. Finding the right stylist to work in your salon can take weeks or months. Firing a stylist is even worse.
  • You are in charge of getting your employee's paychecks right and giving them tax forms.
  • You have to remember to appreciate everyone that works for you to keep every position full.
  • Bills, Bills, Bills. Hire a CPA.
  • Taking out a loan or using a huge chunk of your money to renovate, furnish and stock your salon.
  • If anything goes wrong with no hot water, broken dryer, or drama on the floor you have to make it right.
  • It is up to you to maintain an appealing and informative website.
  • Marketing is all up to you, even if you hire someone to do it you have to pay them and sign off on all visuals. Setting up and maintaining all social media accounts.
  • Choosing the right products lines your stylist will like. You want to get behind one or two and make sure they work across the board.
  • Make and maintain a business plan. As well as always monitoring how your business is growing or if it isn’t.
  • You have to be a multi-tasking machines and still be accessible to clients and your employees.
  • Sometimes you have to take on roles you don’t want to like assistant duties when you don’t have an assistant or taking clients when your stylists aren’t there.

Make These Boss Moves

As a stylist, you have the option to be a business owner right out of cosmetology school. Some may want the experience first, and others will just dive right into ownership. I worked in salons for five years, and I honestly gained so much knowledge from the owners and stylists. I took all of that experience and opened a successful suite. Soon I will own a building, and the rest will be history. What path will you take? Choose what is best for you and learn every step of the way!
Back to blog

1 comment

I loved the part about how renting a salon suite meant I wouldn’t have to worry about doing the repairs or keeping the bathroom clean. That is a big thing since I would have just graduated from cosmetology school if I rent a salon suite. That means I don’t have the money to take care of repairs or hire someone to clean.

Elaina D'Agostino

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Featured product