How Stylists Can Manage Coworkers, Clients and Brands

Hairstylist Advice

Salons have been called personality melting pots. And while artists are typically attracted to environments that encourage individuality and freedom of expression, it’s often those same characteristics that can make the pot boil over when temperaments clash. Managing relationships between coworkers, clients and brands may be among the trickiest challenges stylists face, but the lessons are worth learning. Three industry experts share their insight on how to get along.

Caring for Coworkers

The work can be draining—stylists spend hours on their feet, imparting expertise and energy to guests. When people tire, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to rise, but inter-salon bickering is a sure way to alienate coworkers. “Always make an effort to lift your colleagues up, especially when you see someone suffering through a bad day,” says Daniel Mason-Jones, owner of Muse Salon and Spa in Johns Creek, Georgia, and developer of a soon-to-launch online educational series. Though it may be easy to get emotionally depleted, try to remain a source of strength and positivity. You just might forge unbreakable bonds with teammates—a rich reward.

The effort starts before you get to work. Translation: Leave personal problems at home. “The more you keep individual issues off the cutting-room floor, the more professional you can be with colleagues,” says Mason-Jones. Further, make it a group endeavor. Coworkers can agree to hold one another accountable for good behavior—and should a stylist slip, approach her for a chat that’s kind and honest. “A strong team environment can only function if the standards of professional conduct are clearly defined, and everyone agrees to operate within that world,” notes Mason-Jones.

Gossip is workplace poison. “Typically, slanderous chitchat stems from a sense of insecurity among peers who need to brew drama in order to feel better about their own situations,” says Mason-Jones. Its effects are toxic on morale, so avoid listening to or partaking in any form of this type of negative discussion.

Interacting with Clients

Regardless of whether it’s a new guest or the woman whose hair you’ve styled for years, start every appointment with a face-to-face conversation at your station. “We roll out the red carpet for new clients, wishing to dazzle with our killer consultation skills,” notes Missy Megginson, stylist, business coach and owner of Collab + Co. in Jupiter, Florida. “But if you send a longtime client straight to the shampoo bowl without even looking at her hair, the service experience has been compromised— and you’re only sixty seconds in.” Direct eye contact is more effective than talking through the mirror, as it signals focus and attention. is simple step can help set you apart from the pack.

Now that the connection has been made, define yourself as the expert. “Clients are sometimes confused about what’s realistic or attainable,” says Megginson. “Never say ‘yes’ to a service you know you can’t deliver.” Instead, flip the script. Give guests credit for being creative, then offer a style or color solution that would better suit their lifestyle, hair texture or desired daily goal. “Honest conversations can take you from looking like the ogre who cried ‘no’ with attitude, to an expert with a feasible resolution,” says Megginson.

It might seem difficult to control a guest’s experience unless you own the salon, but tress services go beyond the type of music playing or variety of refreshments offered. “You’re in charge of what occurs in the four-foot circle around your station, and an experience is more about the way you make a client feel,” explains Megginson. Remain present and engaged in conversation. Keep clients comfortable while processing. Inform them on each step of the service. Create a safe space to talk.

And should something go wrong—which will happen, even stylists are only human—own the error immediately, then work to fix it right away. “You keep guests returning not by never making a mistake, but by how you handle yourself when it happens,” notes Megginson. Avoid growing defensive; don’t re-part hair to cover up a gaffe. “A client’s perception translates to reality, so be humble enough to accept blame and make amends,” says the pro.

Working with a Brand

Congrats! You’ve made a name for yourself, and brands are taking notice. In your zeal to forge this new working relationship, don’t forget to start by procuring a contract. “Ask for one if it’s not provided, or be prepared to offer your own when necessary,” urges Ursula Goff, Matrix global team member and owner of Karma salon in Wellington, Kansas. “That signals your expectation of timely payment, and it’s a seamless way to ask for money if that part of the negotiation feels uncomfortable.”

Read the fine print carefully. Understand it, and have a lawyer take a look if possible. Ensure you aren’t inadvertently signing away power without proper compensation. “For example, if a company asks for exclusive rights to your work, that means no one else can ever use it,” Goff explains. “If you waive the rights to your own work, not even you may use it moving forward.” Appropriate rates should be offered for physical labor— working on set, doing hair shows—along with travel fees. Creative or intellectual labor demands additional payment, be it in the form of royalties, a flat-fee licensing agreement, hourly rate pay or a day rate commensurate to content created. “Negotiate, if something rubs you the wrong way,” says Goff. “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need. For instance, I always state up-front that I won’t promote a product I don’t love, and I’m currently nonexclusive with the brands I represent.”

Once signed, show up. As with any styling job, come early, be prepared, go above and beyond, and lead by example. “Consistent delivery of good work and professionalism make you that much more likely to develop a solid reputation and potentially attract additional contract offers,” says Goff. Strive to bring good energy to any environment—and nix the negative feedback. “If a brand wants input that’s ultimately unfavorable, I’ll offer it privately or simply refrain from posting on social media,” Goff explains. “It’s possible to be honest while remaining diplomatic, and the importance of not burning bridges can’t be overstated.”


[Image: iStock Photo]


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