My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer

It’s a Hard Lesson for Hairstylists



You’ve heard it before and it’s a wonderful ego stroke; your clients praising your genius and telling you they will follow you to the ends of the Earth.

“I can’t live without you, I will follow you anywhere.”
“Nobody has ever done my hair as well as you.”
“I need you to come live with me and do this every morning.”

And then suddenly you realize it’s been months since her last visit and she isn’t booked for anything upcoming. You stalk her Facebook page and see she doesn’t have roots. Maybe she even unfriended you.

You did her wedding hair, you were with her through the tough times, supported her through the break-ups, did her baby’s first haircut. You were a part of all her major milestones. She was more than just a client. What happened?

There are a lot of reasons clients move on. And it is usually something small that we aren’t even aware of. But often it comes down to a couple of things:

  • If you are always running 10 minutes behind, she eventually got sick of it and started walking in already expecting to be frustrated with your lateness. And you probably delivered.
  • Someone somewhere along the line didn’t treat her like the valued customer that she deserved to be treated as.
  • The parking became more trouble than it was worth.
  • You were too hard to get in with or your schedule changed.
  • You were no longer delivering on the hair.

But there is a common issue that confuses most of us, given the relationship we thought we had established; you became too familiar and too casual with your service.

Maybe it started with you telling her to help herself to coffee, or making a small crack about something you thought would be OK but for her was off-limits. It didn’t happen right away, it had built up to a point where once you could do no wrong, now you could barely do anything right. In her mind. It might have been that she was just having a bad day and there was one tiny thing that set her off.

Here is a list of things you can do to try to retain your clients for as long as you can:

  • Never become too familiar. Always treat them like a VIP. You may make jokes but be incredibly protective of their experience with the salon.
  • Pre-book your clients. It protects you from her co-workers and friends trying to lure her to their stylist.
  • Have a plan for her hair. For the same reason as above. But even more importantly, a plan means you are always making her hair priority number 1 during visits. And this is where we often fail with longer-term clients.
  • Sit down each visit and have a consultation. Shut up and LISTEN.
  • Good hair is not enough. Everyone expects good hair or else they wouldn’t go to you. To make someone a raving fan, you have to go way above and beyond a good haircut or colour.
  • Be enthusiastic about her appointment. When you see certain names on your book you get excited to see that person. Tell them.
  • Mirror their energy. If your client is up, be up. If she is quieter, be quieter.
  • Always finish her hair. Even if the assistant or another stylist does 99% of the blow-out, get in there and apply some product, tweak the look, fix the bangs up and do a little dry cutting.
  • Try to stay on schedule at all times. If you are always late, fix it.
  • Raise your prices. Yes, raise your prices. For me, it makes sure I am always performing at the highest levels. You can’t raise your price without improving service. So set yourself up for a few months by performing at the highest level you can. And then raise your price.
    And understand that for a client to see value at your $70 haircut price, you have to give a $100 service. For this, if you don’t know what that looks like, go to the Four Seasons and have lunch or dinner. You will see the difference. But raise your prices for new clients even more, so that your older clients are still rewarded for their loyalty.

I have lost clients I have gone way above and beyond for, who have begged for favours and to be squeezed in repeatedly. My wife has lost an entire family she adored and thought she was very close with because they found someone a little closer to home a $5 cheaper.

We are therapists, shoulders to cry on, part of a select few they share their darkest secrets with, yes. But ultimately we are their hairdressers. They have a lot of options out there and eventually will find themselves in someone else’s chair. Maybe they will come back, maybe they won’t. So we keep giving great hair and being whoever they need us to be at that time. And it’s OK to love them. I currently have several clients I feel so strongly about. I absolutely love them. But I know at some point I will likely lose them for some reason or another.

Never forget, clients are where your living comes from and we are where their professional hair services come from.


Addendum: A quick story about how I lost a long-term client.

2 years ago my father was in the hospital and given 6 days to live. Leukemia. He had battled cancer and had been in remission for the 3 months prior to this so it caught us off guard.

I was visiting him every night after work but never missed a day. I never miss a day.

My long-term client “Brenda” had been incredibly high maintenance for years. She was funny and dramatic and always needed to be squeezed in because she always had an “event.” She was shallow, exhausting and kind of awful but fun for a visit every month.

On Tuesday my wife calls me while I am doing highlights on another client. She has been in a car accident with my 2 young boys. She’s about 2 miles away. I pass off the client to another stylist and go straight there. It’s a bad accident but thankfully nobody is badly hurt and the kids are fine but scared.

We deal with the paramedics and police etc and I take my family home in my car, about 45 minutes away. I had decided to cancel the rest of my day as it would have been another 45 minutes back to the city and I was kind of emotionally drained at this point. And it was only 2 clients and I would squeeze them in throughout the rest of the week. One of those clients was Brenda.

Later that night my wife told me I should go see my dad. I didn’t want to but decided to. I spent an hour with him and he was in completely different condition than he was the day before. He died a few hours after I left.

I had to cancel my week for obvious reasons. I was suddenly in charge of setting up a funeral, dealing with things I had never done before.

Brenda was now angry. “I don’t want to sound like a bitch, but I have an event.” I made sure she was set up with a stylist she had been with several times for blow-outs and that I would take care of her the following week for her roots. Or she could see the other stylist. I was dealing with these calls from the funeral home.

Brenda never came back. She cancelled her upcoming appointments and said she had found someone else and she was happy with them.

I had put up with more drama from this one person than any other client ever. I am glad she is out of my life, but am still am insulted and hurt that after 8 years she would leave me because she was inconvenienced.


120 thoughts on “It’s a Hard Lesson for Hairstylists

  1. How true.40 yrs. in the business and I still try to figure out why someone leaves. I’m surrendering to the fact that I have no idea why they leave. Just want to do hair. It always works out. To me, at this point it does zero good to waste the negative time in my sensitive,loving head to try and figure out what ldoes or thinks. Thx for your post.

  2. Great article! Thanks. I am glad Brenda is out of your life too. People like that are so stinking selfish. You deserve better treatment because you are a PERSON, not just a server!

    • I agree alwayspretty, some people can be awful. But I also have some absolutely amazing clients I adore. And I know at some point they will move on as well.
      All we can do is do the best work and give the best service we can, and have some fun with them. It’s what we have chosen as our career.

      • As a hairdresser and Freind to many we don’t need clients like Brenda we are talented hairdressers with a personal life and must be respected the doller should not rule our lives right always do our best and learn

  3. When my then 5 year old son was diagnosed with cancer it was on December 13th, the height of Christmas rush. In my “slow to accept the situation” mentality, I cancelled a day at a time the first week but ended up canceling 3 weeks total as he was in ICU and our lives had been turned upside down. As the receptionist called to reschedule the clients, most were incredibly understanding. One though, a decades long client I had thought of as a friend replied, “You DO realize I’ve had this appointment for 3 months!!” To which the receptionist replied, “You DO realize her son has cancer!!” It was the one time I was okay with the receptionist getting snarky. I wasn’t even upset at that moment with the client. I actually laughed. 1) I realized just how important our jobs are. 2) I realized that at the end of the day, no matter how much you think your clients are your friends, they are people you are servicing. 3) It’s not the end of the world sometimes when they leave.

    In most cases, there is a lot to learn from why they left if we get the chance to know. Your article is spot on. We often take those relationship for granted. And when we do, they will find better service somewhere else. But then there are those times that if someone values you so little as a human being then saying good bye is alright too.

    P.S. The client came back. We never mentioned it and I am much clearer on our relationship. She is there for a service. I am there to provide it. We just happen to have incredibly great and intimate conversation at the same time. What I love about our job. She ended up with such a rare and horrific cancer, it changed her forever. And before you think karma, I was okay with just my own discoveries. I didn’t need her to feel my pain. I did her wigs, bent over backwards and understood her pain. In the end, we are all human and being an asshole is part of that. So is being understanding.

    • so happy to hear your son is doing well, Paula!

    • Sooooo well said!
      At the end of the day most people care if you are going through a hard time but…they still need their hair done. I’ve experienced it all in 34 yrs. and have learned a lot about myself as much as others…invaluable gift.

  4. Great blog Michael! The sooner you can learn the lessons you have written about the better your relationships with your clients will be. We are fotunate to have you to share your experience both good and bad to help make us and the industry better.

  5. Great, honest article. Thank you for this. Glad to know I’m not the only one; it’s the way it feels sometimes. 🙂

    • I’ve been following your blog and you are so inspirational to me. The latest really hit home with me, being a hair stylist of 15 years. Myself being the problem of losing long term guests was not something that I wanted to hear. It’s soo true though, I’ve become too comfortable with them and “watering down” my exceptional service qualities and standards. I truly thank you for all that you share. It’s been eye opening.

  6. Wow. Yes, this is spot on. I own a salon with my mom & brother and since we joined her in the business 20 years into her career we have a long history with her clients and our clients feel that they are part of the family connection. It a fine fine line keeping our services professional and not familiar. Really hard. Some days we give eachother looks or “remind” rachother in the back room. I’m going to print this off as a wake up call. Thank you.

  7. My first employer out of hairdressing school 26 years ago,
    gave me great advice ” Be friendly with the client, but the client is NEVER your friend” He came from the era of calling them by “Mrs. Jones ” and “Mr. Smith” and always discussed their hair with them and never asking too personal of questions in between the service. I still use that advice with every client. When they choose to leave, its not something we should hold onto too long just wish them well and know that you have the opportunity to meet someone new….and when a PIA moves on well, that just opened up openings for ten wonderful new clients! I almost lost two clients one afternoon when a PIA came in and started the drama. I did her blowout as quickly as I could to get her out but her attitude about her last service and constant complaining and disrespect for me and the other clients was enough. She told a rather slender client she was ” rounder than the last time she saw her” ! When I was done and walked her to the desk, I told her there would be no charge for her hair , she smiled, I said “because it`s the last time I am doing it”. When I walked back I just remained calm but the two clients( mom and daughter) sitting said “Thank God because I wasn’t sure if we could have sat through her rude behavior again”

    • Good for you! I’ve always struggled with the weird situation that the hugest bitches also spend the most amount of money annually.
      As long as they are not rude to those around me, I am happy to deal with it because I absolutely charge them way more than other clients. Its the PITA fee.
      Thanks for reading my post and for sharing your story.

    • I am glad I am not the only person to have said and done this with a particularly rude client.

      Thank-you for sharing this with us,

  8. Great article! andrea I love how you handles that PIA!:-)

  9. Awesome article and dead on. It made me realize that I am too comfortable with people and I need to step back a little. I too have “fired” a client. Whenever someone else did her while I was on vacation and yes, I do take vacations because we too have lives, she would do nothing but complain about me, but she would also complain about the person who did her hair while I was out. She was just a miserable person and tried to drag everyone wlse into her misery. This was also a weekly standing client. I basically left a message on her phone saying, since I did not make her happy, then I was making it easy for her to find someone else, she was no longer on my book. Made my Thursdays so much calmer after that.

  10. I left my last hairdresser bc she seemed fake. She was all over me while cutting my hair and seemed to be my BFF but I ran into her at a few events and she acted like she didn’t know who I was. I couldn’t sit in her chair again and play that game!

    Be real…thats my advice. My current hairdresser is nothing like me and we probably wouldn’t hang in the same social circles BUT we find common ground, she gives me a great service at a fair price and I am loyal until she gives me a reason not to be…which would have to be a big reason!!

    • Great point!

      I see it with my own team as well where the stylist seems to be saying all the right things but it completely lacks sincerity.

      I would say be the best version of yourself.

  11. Wow, great article. Thk you!. Can totally relate. I ran behind 5 mins on a male client, Sat. I did say at that point give me 10 mins and I would be right with him. Before him I had a corrective color. My color client said “if you would like go ahead and cut his hair, I will gladly wait”. My male client said “no that is ok” and walked out. I always get him in on the time he wants. Very unusual for me to run behind. I make all my own appointments, so I am very familiar with my customer’s services. Always enjoyed seeing this client. Been cutting his hair for years. I also do his wife’s hair. It really hurt my feelings when he walked out, and a little embarrassed. My color client found him to be very rude. It has bothered me since. I don’t understand, was he having a bad day?

    How should I handle this? Should I just let it go? Or text him with a apology why I ran behind?

    • That’s tough. I would chalk it up to him having a bad day. But the sign of a good business is how they handle negative client experiences.

      I think 15 minutes is the max acceptable amount of time and you did the right thing by letting him know.
      I would apologize and offer him a free cut next time and then make sure to not book heavily before him.

      Make amends on this one and see how things go, but it’s possible he will now be looking for issues.

      Good luck.

    • Yup. All you can do is to reach out one time, offer him the free cut. If he responds, good. If he doesn’t, then let him go and allow time to heal your hurt. Be the gracious one!

    • This EXACT thing happend to me!!!! The guy client I had emailed our salon to make his appointment since he works with computers at his job. I had a corrective color right before him and I was 100% done with when he walked in. OF COURSE the color client asked me to thin out her hair a little bit more. So of course I did and told “Matt” I would be with him in max 10 min. He waited for like 6 minutes and JUST WALKED OUT! I always squeezed him in gave him the exact time he always wanted on the exact days everything! So I emailed him when he left since at the time I thought it be a good idea, and appologized and explained that I finished that client and even offered a few bucks off his next cut. And he replyed back saying he accepts his appology, but he needed to part ways!!! WTF first time I was ever late with him. And he had to be dumb. BYE. so annoying!!

  12. Thank you!! Appreciate 🙂

  13. wow. thanks.. this is just what i needed to read. I can relate to this whole article I live in Queensland Australia and I have been hairdressing for 20 years have my own studio salon under my house.

    I have many long term clients that have been with me for over 10 years. I love my Job, my clients , and this creative industry, but recently my mother passed away 4months after a double lung transplant, and i find myself stuck. i cant seem to find that thing i had every day for my craft and clients. i am restless. and scared with this state i will start to damage my business. this is a good reminder that its time to put my prices up and respect peoples time. I think I am re evaluating what is important some life choices.

    Thank you so much.


  14. This was a great read. I’ve been wanting to stay inspired after attending my class at Bumble University last month in New York. This blog was a great find today!
    There is a client where I work who is medium-high maintenance and sees the owner of my salon. She started having her two sons, age 8 and 13 come see me for haircuts. She always sung my praise to my salon owner and would always tell my co-workers and other clients how her boys won’t let anyone else cut their hair except for me.
    2 years ago on June 7, my family lost my grandfather to a 13 year long battle with cancer. He fought like a warrior until the day he died. His battle was an inspiration and a sight to behold. Needless to say, my family was devastated. I called my salon and told my employers that I would need to be going to his funeral. They were very understanding and had the receptionist start calling clients. About an hour later, my receptionist called to tell me that she couldn’t fully un-book my Friday (the actual day of the funeral) because this client was refusing to move the appointments for her two sons to get their hair cut by me. I told my receptionist to call her back and tell her I was attending my grandfather’s funeral that very day, and that having me do their hair was not an option. Her sons have never been booked an appointment with me since.
    I got upset about it for a while, but I eventually got over it. If somebody is going to show such a huge lack of respect for us and what we do, we don’t need them in our lives. It can be hard, because sometimes they are people we really like, who don’t show this side of themselves until the one time we need something from them: flexibility.
    A friend of mine who I worked with for years, used to have a co-worker whom she absolutely adored. They did hair together for many years in the same salon. He eventually passed away, but my friend and co-worker was so inspired by him, that she would tell me stories about him, and things he would say. So something we all need to remember from time to time, is a quote from a man named Gerard, whom I never met. His take on this?
    “Lose one, gain two.”

    • Is that Gerard Scarpaci? He is the man.

      I don’t know about this “Lose one, gain two” thing. I suppose if you are good then yes. Lots lose and don’t gain and don’t understand why. Maybe that’s my next article.

      I think what you’ve written here is really powerful and I appreciate you taking the time to share it.

  15. My instructor from beauty school told me, when you lose one, you gain two. She was right as hard as it is sometimes:)

  16. We can’t please everyone. I have a client who always complain that what i’m doing wasn’t right. But she keep on coming back for the same service.

  17. the same thing happened to me. i sent him a note saying sorry and that his next haircut was on me and he did return to me.
    he did take the free haircut and had said he was having a bad day. we never talked about it again and he is still my client.

  18. When you cross the line and become their friend this will happen. Always no matter how long you have been doing their hair maintain a professional position.

  19. Thank you for the article. I needed all of these reminders.
    I was diagnosed with cancer and was shocked at how insignificant my life was to those I had given my all to, compared to their hair needs. One client who was especially rude was diagnosed with cancer shortly after. She sent me a card of apology. Yes, karma is real. I still love this profession!!

  20. Great article!!! I also enjoyed reading the comments to see other stylists thoughts. I myself have wondered these very things and it goes through my mind like crazy! I must say though, all the clients I “bend over backwards for” are the ones that eventually leave. I have to come to the conclusion that I need to say “no” from time to time and they actually appreciate that. You can’t do everything to please people and it does hurt loosing someone who you “thought” was a good client. End the end it’s their decision but most of the time it’s never about the hair. It’s about them and their convenience .

  21. Great story and I’m feeling this situation with a few past and close clients. Great read 🙂

  22. It is the life we choose….I love my job and I love this article….Thanks so much…..much love my friends1

  23. Thanks Michael, but for me it’s the other way around. I told my ‘difficult’ client like ‘Brenda’ to go seek some one else. After 30yrs in the business, I do not and I will not put up with this ‘s%^t’, it will make both happier early then later…..

  24. I bloody love this! Any advice on stylists renting chairs with horrendous attitude problems?

    • Hi Kate,

      Why would you expect any attitude, good or bad, as a rental owner ? When you own a rental salon, all you can expect is that the rent is paid and the contract is lived up to.

      It’s a different world, akin to your landlord at the salon always being around and expecting things from you, when you would have the attitude of “Just make sure the building is maintained, I will pay my rent. Beyond that, leave me alone.”

      Don’t rent if you want people to act like staff.

  25. Love this! I can’t get enough of your articles!

    How true is this in all aspects.

    People come in to your life for a REASON, a SEASON and a LIFETIME… This goes for our clients also.

    This inspires me to step it up a notch with my existing clientele. We can always be better for them and take our customer services to another level, and when we have done all we can, some clients will still choose to leave for whatever reason. We must not take it personally (easier said than done), but instead think of our best interest and the client’s. They or we have moved on for a reason and we must never forget the good times when we did have them in our chair and salons.

  26. Was recently in a position that almost cost me my sanity. I had a client confide her extra marital affair to me. She came every two weeks for cut and color. She is a prominent figure in our community. I also had her whole family as clients. We were friends as well. She became obsessed with sharing the intimate details of this affair
    Calling me at night texting me daily… I could not take it anymore. I felt burdened and cheapemed and guilty. It drained me. I had to let her go. In doing so all of her friends and family have stopped coming. I don’t care. My integrity cannot be bought and the truth will prevail. Do not become friends with your clients.

  27. Great and very true article. I think that most stylist that has been in the game a long time has experienced why they thought the client that made them feel as if they were God sent to them and that no one was as good as you, left without an explanation. That’s why is so important to always remain business and professional with your clients at all times, even though we may grow to care about them. Every now and then a client will remind us of we are and how we are suppose to view them. As a customer and that we are in business to service and provide good professional quality hair services to them. They are coming to the salon mainly for one solid thing to receive a hair service. We not there to hang with them, be their friend, or doctor, so if we always keep everything professional, when they leave us, we want feel so hurt or bad. If you know you did your job, and usually have to ask or think about what you did wrong for them to leave, then usually it was hardly anything or nothing at all. We know that only the strong survives in this business. In any business customers come and go for nearly any reason. cheaper price, convenience,better service, chair hopper,doing it at home (income decrease) etc. Just continue to stay strictly business. and produce quality service, usually when one leave we gain a lot more.

  28. I cheated on my hairdresser and wound up going back to her to apologize. She was accommodating my requests for slight changes in my all over color by sometimes changing the tone to warmer, or some red, etc. Problem is, this was adding a lot of bands. Instead of communicating to her that I was unhappy with the bands, I went to another stylist that quoted $130 during our consultation but at the end charged me $230 without communicating the change in price. This was to take my hair from a level 4 to a 6. She put the most ugly color on my hair.

    I went back to my original stylist, explained what happened and why I cheated. She had to cut off 4 INCHES of fried hair but gave me beautiful color. Had I just communicated with her on what I was unhappy with, I wouldn’t have needed to stray. I do feel that stylists and clients sometimes get in to a rut and too comfy. Stylists need to step back and take an honest look at their work on long time clients. Be honest with clients and tell them what is and isn’t working. I feel like my stylist should have fixed the bands, or mentioned that the color was leaving bands and fixed it. I love her though and hope that she accepts my apology and that we continue to work together and get great results.

    • You are correct. Your stylist saw the banding and hoped you wouldn’t notice. Lots of stylists do this once in a while, myself included.
      We need to work as if someone another stylist is going to look at and judge our work.

      Hopefully she learns from this.

  29. I have went somewhere else before just because I could walk in. I have went to very high price salons looking for something FANTASTIC.(disappointed with cut AND bill! The girl that I love and cuts my hair perfectly is the one I always go back to. It has never been anything personal. More just my impulsive ways! LOL

  30. so true I find a stylist can get to comfortable in there shoes and forget to listen about the hair or does not own there mistakes to. We are human to and make mistakes . I to believe constant sickness is a reason for loss and some just get lured to a better advertising and marketing so many hair salons tody

  31. Fuck Brenda. Those are the people you don’t want to come back. A great client would be sympathetic to your situation just like you would be for them.

  32. Thank you for that!! So true!! This is why I wrote a novel, Towel Dry and a Good cry, to show the world AND hairdressers what it’s REALLY like to stand behind the chair. If you haven’t read it, you’ll laugh and cry and be proud you picked the best profession on the planet!

  33. Thanks for that!! So true!! This is why I wrote my novel, Towel Dry and a Good Cry, to show the world and hairdresser’s what it’s like to REALLY stand behind the chair. If you haven’t read it you will laugh and cry and be so proud you chose the best profession on the planet!

  34. I stopped going to my stylist, “Peggy” of 2+ years. She was doing such a great job on my hair (layered cut) and I never thought that I would ever go to someone else, until for some reason, she gradually got so relaxed that she stopped listening to what I needed done. On my last visit, while explaining and asking her to “fix” (I used this word for lack of the correct terminology) my hair in the nicest way possible, she became argumentative with me. She told me she cannot fix my hair because it is not broken and practically told me to stop talking. I would have walked out if I did not need the haircut so badly. She decided to give me a trim, I paid her, made my next appointment because she asked me to. I left the salon feeling really bad because there was no reason for her to be so rude to me. I am an easy client and work in an industry where clients have to be treated well or they will go to the competitor. I understand that Peggy may be having a bad day, but despite the awkwardness of the moment, I made light conversation while she was cutting my hair to encourage pleasantness. Eventually, I cancelled my appointment and went to someone else. My current stylist, “Meg” is very nice but has not cut my hair the way Peggy did back in the good “ol” days. I made a drawing of the hair style that I will show Meg for my upcoming appointment and to give her a last chance. I am strongly considering going back to Peggy because I’m tired of trying someone else out if things don’t work out with Meg; however, I do not know how to approach Peggy. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  35. I loved this blog. Great lessons for hairdressers, and really anyone in any industry who has clients. Thank you!

  36. The one thing I have to say is good riddance. Im saddened but always glad that they have moved on. After being in the business for 32 years . I have noticed a trend with these type of people they always like to get their way and if they don’t they’re responses is I’ll just go somewhere else so you know what I say go and then get a new one that will appreciate you even more. That you actually get to charge more.and have no more stress over their drama

  37. Thank you for sharing your story. I actually googled ” how stylist handle when they’re clients leave”. I have experienced everything you have shared in your story. I had a “high maintenance”, I always have an event customer to just leave after 12 years of service because I cut my days after major unexpected surgery. No matter what.. clients can love you and leave you. You hate to admit it to yourself on how much it hurts because you dedicate your life around they’re life. I’m at my 25th year in the hair business and ready to move on to a new career. I’m totally exhausted with the ups and downs. It has became just too much.

    • I totally understand Erica. This business can be a grind, so it’s important that we never stop growing, progressing, raising prices and moving forward. When we get complacent, these things affect us more.
      Keep going.

      • I appreciate your blog as well as this comment…After 16yrs. working in salons, taking & teaching classes & doing hair shows
        (my fav!) for a big name hair comp. I let myself become burnt out, hated the salon I rented from & eventually lost the drive & ambition I once had. It affected me so much I decided to quit the horrible salon I’d been at way too long & take a step back from Hairdressing to focus on my health & wellness. Didn’t take very long though to miss my career & clients terribly (still saw some at my home salon so didn’t loose entire clientele) so now 1yr later I’m attempting to return to a salon environment-basically starting my career over again. So after all I’ve seen & been through (good & bad) I couldn’t agree with you more on how vital it is to keep improving yourself taking classes, charge what you’re worth & don’t let yourself get complacent (or burnt out!). Being a Hairstylist can be 1 of the most fun, rewarding & lucrative jobs if you keep moving forward & never forget why you chose this profession in the 1st place:)

      • Thanks for writing Heather.

  38. I have done hair for over 20 years in a small town. I was always booked atleast 3 to 4 weeks out if not more and occasionally would work 7 days a week to accommodate people. I never hardly took off and was always missing my own family’s things or late for them because I couldn’t say no. Well long story short….my 6 year old was hurt in a hunting accident (yes, shot) last November and was flown 2 hours away and in ICU and had alot of recovery (still dealing with it) my husband is the one who saved him or he would have died. It was and still is very tramatic. I was off from November 15th through January and returned part time in February and was completely back full time in April. My salon staff was amazing and did their best to accommodate everyone the best they could. I am so surprised at how many people have not been back. People that I have done for years have not supported me at all. And actually act like I don’t exsist. I have had a very hard lesson that we care way more than they do. It is a very hard lesson to learn.

    • I completely agree. We love our clients, and then when we think they will be there for us *pouf* (pardon the pun 😂) they are gone. I love this industry and its s real hard one. I’ve been doing hair 20 years now, still trying to figure jut why clients leave.
      Anyway sorry about your son, hope he’s recovered, and you gain new caring clients. ❤️

  39. Just back from my last appointment with my hairdresser. And I do mean “last appointment.”

    My decision to move on didn’t happen immediately. It happened over time – 11 years in my case. Incidents that built up to this point include:

    1) A stylist I’d been seeing for the first 5 years leaving, and me not being informed until I arrived for my appointment.

    2) A stylist whom I was passed to being extremely negative and rude. I never saw her with a smile on her face. She appeared to be one of those Eyores that enjoys sucking the fun out of life. Telling depressing tales, moaning about her life, stating that a colour I’d asked for was “too brassy”, and generally being a PITA emotional vampire. I dumped her pretty quickly.

    3) The next stylist I was passed to was the salon manager. Things were OK for a couple of years. Then one day she got careless and burned the back of my neck with dye. (A hole 1 cm wide that took a couple of weeks to heal and left a scar that is fortunately sovered by my hair.) I was not impressed, but took it as a one off major mistake, never ever to be repeated.

    4) The same “neck burner” stylist talking me into a different colour that I immediately regretted and hated. She fixed it for no additional cost. But I resolved to never again let her boredom become my hair disaster.

    5) Being careless with the dryer. Several times she got caught up talking to somebody, leaving a hot hairdryer blasting at my scalp. Only when I told her she was burning me did she give the job the full attention it should have received in the first place. Also, she stopped using heat protectant, which I feel was simply lazy and/or miserly and damaged my hair over time.

    6) She became too familiar. Always telling me negative stories about her boss, or the personal business of her direct reports. And making jokes out loud about things I’d told her in confidence (I never made that mistake again.) Nobody likes a big mouth that sees other people’s real lives as a source of their entertainment.

    7) I bought a particular hair product from this hairdresser for about the first 9 years I was there. When I asked them for another batch last year, I got fobbed off repeatedly. I had to make several visits between appointments before eventually realising they were simply wasting my time and failing to order it. I was eventually offered an alternative product. But when I got it home I quickly realised it was completely unsuitable, and was just something I’d been fobbed off with after asking for the thing I really needed several times, and receiving several empty promises to deliver.

    8) Lastly, for the past couple of years this hairdresser was never on time. It started off being about 5 minuters late. Then progressed to 10, then 15. Today I was sitting there for 30 minutes, listening to her talking crap with her preceding client, and watching other members of staff socialising. None of them offered me so much as a cup of coffee whilst I waited. So I left, never to return.

    Reading back the above list, I can see this had been building for a while. I’m actually surprised I waited so long for them to get their shit together, instead of finding someone sooner that is able to do the job that will respect my time and professionalism as much as I respect theirs. Here’s hoping my next salon is better.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s amazing how often we chip away at the relationships people choose to have with us and rarely look in the mirror when people stop coming.
      Good luck with your next salon.

    • Hi there,
      I’m so glad I found your comment. You won’t believe how much I needed to hear this. I have a tiny little salon with almost no clients. I opened it 4 months ago. I feel miserable. And yet I have no idea why I’m telling you this.

  40. This has been very enlightening. I have observed a problem with stylists/salon.
    A nice middle aged woman with beautiful LONG hair needed chemicals, dye and well water residue striped from her hair. She hadn’t had any processing done to her hair for over 10 years but she wanted a change. Her hair was in great shape. She called (at my suggestion) and got in with the best stylist N. N a great job the first time. The client made an appt for a retouch in 6 weeks. The client got the flu & pneumonia and had to cancel but She gave 3 days notice. The client rescheduled when She was well. She was told She would get N but ended up with M while N sat playing on her phone. M proceeded to mess up her beautiful hair, bleach it to an awkward shade of all one color Barbie blonde instead of the balyage the client added for (I overheard M and N talking about how they needed to tone the messed up hair since it looked fake. They didn’t do it.) The client was kind and chalked it up to a mistake. I tried to be positive and I encouraged the client to book a retouch for 7 weeks later, this time SPECIFYING that She wanted N. N agreed to keep the appointment. She even wrote it on her appointment card, not the generic salon ones. This evening I overheard N laughing about passing the client on to M again. That she had done the old “switcher-oo and that the client was too meek to complain. Somehow the client found out. (No, I didn’t tell her, The beautician told the wrong person who passed it on to the client) This woman is too nice to be furious But she is disheartened and disappointed. This client is a good woman, agreeable, is open to suggestions regarding products, tips well, is nice, kind and appreciative but I see she has had it. I know she will call and cancel soon. I wish I could clip this post and send it to M & N. They are losing a good client because they didn’t appreciate her. They had no respect for her wishes. They thought for some reason they could bully her into accepting M as her stylist when she wanted to stick with N. This is a lose-lose situation. The salon loses a good client who would have been loyal and the client will most likely go another 10 years before she lets anyone touch her hair again. IMO, there needs to be a pull back of attitude with N & M but they see nothing wrong in what they have done. It’s sad too. I feel like I messed this up. I was the one to suggest this salon in the first place.

  41. Ugh soooooo good! Thank you I needed this!!! It’s such a great reminder!!

  42. Michael,
    Thank you so much for this article! I appreciate that you respond to the comments left by people who visit your blog. That portrays good customer service in and of itself.

    I have been in the business for ten years. I have recently noticed a decline in my regular clients return appointments and pre books. I have felt really burnt out the last six months. It’s weird to see that/ although I think my customer service and delivery on 100% quality services hasn’t changed. That through a show of numbers, and missing Faces every 4-6 weeks that the burn out feeling is effecting my performance. I plan to attend a color class in Dallas to hopefully re-invigorate my passion for the industry.
    Anyhow, great article! Thanks for the insight!

    • What you are experiencing is normal and it happens to all of us. A colour class is a good thing, and external motivation is really helpful.

      But what is likely happening is that you are putting out a vibe that the clients are picking up on and not appreciating.

      For me, I’ve always found that an actual technical class will only help me so much. But if I take that class with someone who is more successful than me, someone who is famous, or has multiple awards, or charges a fortune, or does celebrity hair, then I pick up on much more than the actual technique.

      Basically I take classes so that I can reinvigorate my salon presence and energy. This translates into my work. If I take a class simply for the work, it doesn’t take care of my deeper issue that I need to perform at my highest levels.

      This may seem really vague, but I find a lot of people focus on technique rather than attitude and persona.

  43. Nice to read this article . I’ve been out for 6 weeks now . Had found a place to work now , am just jittery about calling aw it has been a while now . And advise on this ?

  44. JUST WHAT I NEEDED MICHAEL. Thank you. Thank you!
    Im in a different boat, struggling with the reality that I DONT want to do this creative service anymore after 35 years of high end hairdressing to those ungrateful self righteous people that I accept payment from. The more I charge, the worse it gets. I needed to find this blog. I needed permission to leave my craft on a high and let the clients figure out where to find another “me” out there.
    My feelings always swung to the fact that I was an artist, not a service person. I had my own voice, fired when necessary, but usually when my training staff were mistreated or blatantly criticized for being ” my substitute.” I stood my ground, put my work on the walls, took too manyLondon training courses, ( I’m a California yank) and built it up to a masterful technique that has left my hands leather like and knuckles bulbous, but I am proud of what they’ve done. Two homes, no mortgages, kids in college, cars paid off, all is good but my love for my passionate career that still thrives and build without my college education. My husband is my partner in crime, amazing as well, and we have a 5 star existence on multi media.
    Now, after creating and serving 35 years, at 50 yrs old, I realize that I’m only young to the older ones, whom I started when they were raising kids as I have done. The retirees don’t tip anymore because I am the owner of a beautiful space I paid $150k to welcome them to. The young ones who fuel my fire think I’m old. Young to the old and old to the young is a tough place to be.

    Will I like this position if I work less, so it becomes more intimate to those who stay? Can I take the scrutiny or say no to those who whose hair has become an estrogen graveyard of fluff or a wax and polish from absent testosterone?
    Do I sell my salon and hide out at my friend “secret ” spot to the big spenders and forgo all families or friends so they don’t have to lie for me
    I’m not going to thin out and slow down by raising my prices because the negative repercussions and gossip that spawns from the penny pinching retirees will tarnish my image, are purely because they don’t think they should be paying more because they aren’t asking me to be “wild” anymore.
    I am disheartened with the routine, my left foot X-ray shows a U shaped notch in the top of my foot from the chair pump. I did 60 hour weeks, then 50, then 40, and now 35, and the comments come still when I’m on vacation for a week. ” You hardly work anymore?”
    My salon is ready for a lease renewal, in a thriving town that hold more 5 carat diamonds and Teslas than anywhere in the US, and I want out.
    I’m packing it in, forming that letter in my mind as I write this, trusting Sir Michael Cole
    ( @Michaelcoleoverthetop) will get me through this with his hairdressing insight that turned to the gospel of all learning.
    I remember the book that was titles “Fear It And Do It Anyway ” and I am doing just that. I feel that my destiny will thrive if I continue on with my creativity and not rely on the “Golden Handcuffs”of hairdressing disappointments as I wean from 4 days a week to a happier 2.
    I can’t bear the thought of the comments that I might face ( and face off) when I reassign myself to other passions of interests that don’t involve scrubbing, painting, snipping, and rolling for the ones who have forgotten what I have done for them for 35 years or less. We are all artists, hospitable, successful at merging stories, and after so long, we need them to keep the day going. I can’t pick favorite s as I will still get caught at some point.
    I love what I had, just hate the ones who have become all too familiar and frugal in the most important investment years of my life. To end is to leave the $10k of bills and expenses that goes along with the salon owning job. It’s time to let them figure it out, without me. I’ll be happy walking my dog and building fairy houses in the park, and wearing my feet down without that chair pump. Money isn’t everything.

    • I loved reading this. You’ve done your time, I hope you are able to do something you love again.

      • Omg I will be 60 in months and 40 yrs of healthy happy hairstyling. I feel the same. My problem is I lost my only child at 55 andca barber in progress, and wanted to reinvent myself to be busy..
        I so feel very old at the salon,
        But I am up on everything. So far I am building steadly and am going to be who I am for at least 4 more years❤❤❤ Thank you for sharing what I have been thinking😎🙌

      • Awesome! That’s a great attitude!

    • I am 58, a salon owner / stylist. I love it all, but I’m tired, I’m passionate about hairdressing still I love learning still, however I am feeling irrelevant as I age in This industry even though I stay current in my skills and because of my age (to those who are new or don’t know me) I have to Prove” myself even more. I can’t imagine doing anything else however I do have other interests and things I want to do, it’s really hard right now figuring out what to do in the future.

  45. I wish I could meet you. I am 46 and just starting in the industry. Micheal Levine came to sleek at the school I was attending and spoke, he left such a mark. I am always seeking industry leaders that are ‘old’. They are so hard to find. Crones. The wise Women and men of the industry.
    All hail the crones!

    • Hey, we aren’t that old! And most of my friends who are industry leaders are my age. Just ignore the new leaders and pay attention to Nick Arrojo, Ted Gibson and Charlie Price. All doing amazing things!

  46. Great read and so true to form. Oh the ‘Brenda’ story. I think we’ve all had one of those. Last year, I was 3 months pregnant and found my father dead. Obviously, I wasn’t capable of working that week and the week after. A ‘Brenda’-like client of mine insisted on me ordering some hair product for her and bringing it in, because she ‘needed’ it. “Sorry about what happened, but I need this product,” she said. I told her she can find it at Ulta or online. Needless to say, I never saw that client again and was glad I never did, but like you, I felt angry and perplexed that she felt “inconvenienced” but would also bother me during a time like this to get a product she could’ve easily bought elsewhere. I felt like saying REALLY? THAT’S YOUR EMERGENCY?! A F—ING hair product?!! The insensitivity is astounding.

  47. 43 years 5 hand surgeries ,2 back surgeries.Extremely busy! Highly educated and still fill of paasion. 5 years from now I am sixty… Plan semi retirement. Never made a lot of $$ no retirement benefits, no health insurance . Owned my own shop for 30 years add that to being busy behind the chair. Tired. Have a great support team Thank God when I’m out.. just telling what it is. Still love it but what’s next?

  48. Pingback: ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE ONE BIG TRUTH? | The Hairstylist Mentor

  49. I say it everyday “some clients do not care about us, all they care about is getting their hair done. “

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