How to Be a Professional Hairstylist: From Passion to Profession

How to Be a Professional Hairstylist: From Passion to Profession

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to turn your passion for hair into a full-blown professional career? Whether you’ve spent countless hours experimenting with styles on your friends, or you’re just someone who can’t resist watching hairstyling videos on loop, you’re in for a treat – you’re about to learn how to be a professional hairstylist and what it takes to become one.

Becoming a professional hairstylist isn’t just about wielding a pair of scissors like a pro (though that’s definitely part of it). It’s a journey that involves creativity, dedication, and a pinch of business savvy.

Are you ready to discover all there is to know about how to become a professional hairstylist? In this blog post, we’re about to dive headfirst into the world of professional hairstyling. From the exhilarating rush of creating a stunning look to the nitty-gritty of managing clients and building your brand, we’ve got the inside scoop on it all. So grab your favorite styling tools and get ready to tease, tousle, and transform not just hair, but your entire career trajectory.

Let’s make your hairstyling journey a cut above the rest!

What does a hairstylist actually do?

At the heart of every fabulous hair makeover and stunning coiffure is the unsung hero of the beauty industry: the hairstylist. But who exactly is this magician of the manes? A hairstylist is a true artist, armed with an arsenal of tools and techniques that can turn a seemingly ordinary head of hair into a canvas of creativity. They possess the uncanny ability to blend an individual’s personal style, facial features, and even personality into a harmonious hairstyle that tells a story.

A hairstylist is someone who knows the ins and outs of hair, from cutting to dyeing, to styling. They might specialize in a specific hair texture, cut, or color. For example, some hair stylists might be the go-to experts for blondes, doling out the best highlights, lowlights, and color treatments.

Whether they’re working their magic backstage at fashion shows, preparing brides for their big day, or simply giving someone a confidence boost with a fresh cut, hairstylists are the professionals who wield the power to make people feel like their most beautiful and authentic selves. And that’s the real beauty of becoming a professional hairstylist. They’re part creative genius, part confidante, and they hold the scissors to a world of endless possibilities.

Besides their hair duties, many hairstylists manage their own schedules, book their own appointments, and accept direct payments. Those running their own salons also juggle managerial duties.

The many faces of hairstylists

different types of professional hairstylists with clients in a salon

Image by macrovector on Freepik

As a hairstylist, you get to play with all sorts of hair care services. Cut, color, style – you name it. But how to take things one step further and become a professional hairstylist? Choose your area of expertise! It’s like selecting your own unique path within the world of hair styling.

Imagine the world of hairstyling as a big, creative playground, and becoming a hairstylist is like picking the coolest game to play. There are various “games” you can choose from, each with its own rules and challenges. These “games” are actually specializations within the hairstyling field, and they let you focus on the aspects of hair that excite you the most.

Here are some of the different “games” or types of hairstylists you can become:

Salon stylist

This is like the classic game where you get to cut, style, and color hair for all kinds of people. If you choose to become a salon stylist, you’ll work in a salon, giving clients fresh haircuts and awesome styles and even making their hair look super cool with different colors.

Color specialist

If you’re into playing with colors and making hair look like a beautiful painting, this type of hairstylist might be perfect for you. You’ll become an expert in coloring techniques, making hair look like a rainbow, or creating natural-looking shades.

Texture specialist

Think of this like being the boss of curly, wavy, or kinky hair. You’ll learn how to make different hair types look amazing by using special techniques and products that embrace their natural textures.


This is the game for those who love working with guys’ hair. As a barber working in a barbershop, you’ll give stylish haircuts, shape beards, and create the coolest looks for men.

Extensions specialist

Imagine getting to add extra hair to make someone’s hair longer, thicker, or even more colorful! That’s what an extensions specialist does – they help people achieve their dream hair.

Bridal and special occasion stylist

If you love creating magical hairstyles for weddings and big events, this is your game. You’ll make brides, bridesmaids, and others look stunning on their special days.

Celebrity and editorial stylist

This game is like being the hairstylist for celebrities and models. You’ll create jaw-dropping hairstyles for red carpets, photoshoots, and fashion shows.

Texture and curl specialist

This is all about making curly and wavy hair look its best. You’ll learn secrets to make curls pop and waves shine.

Medical hair restoration specialist

This is a special game where you help people dealing with hair loss. You’ll learn about treatments that can bring back their confidence.

Remember, once you decide to become a professional hairstylist, you can start with one game and switch to another if you want to try something new later on. Each game comes with its own adventures and learning experiences, so take your time to figure out which one gets you the most excited. Whether you’re cutting, coloring, or styling, the hairstyling world is yours to explore and make your mark in!

How to Become a Professional Hairstylist: The Path to Success

Curious about how to be a professional hair stylist? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Step #1: Research the market and get to know your scene

Alright, so you’re all amped up to jump into the hair game. Well, there’s a path to follow, and it’s not just about holding those shiny scissors.

Step one, it’s all about knowing your turf. What’s happening in your hood? Are there a lot of salons or are you the new kid on the block? Figure out your competition and scope out the salons with a solid reputation.

Second, in the hair world, you have to be one step ahead of the trends. Look up the freshest cuts, the newest colors, the slickest techniques.

Now, this third step is crucial – if you want to become a hair stylist, you have to invest in your education. Depending on where you live, there could be some specific training or education you need. Find the local beauty schools or vocational programs that teach all things hair. And we mean everything, from mastering the hair styling techniques to running a hair salon, keeping things spick and span, and ensuring your clients are over the moon with your service.

Step #2: Get into a cosmetology program

No need for a university degree here, but hey, you need to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent to get into most cosmetology programs.

Cosmetology school, that’s where the magic starts. You’ll learn all about cutting, coloring, and styling all sorts of hair, and not just on dummies. You’ll be working directly with real clients, under the watchful eye of a professional.

Now, a full cosmetology program is what most states require. You’ll cover skin care, makeup, and nails, along with hair design.

You can check out the American Association of Cosmetology Schools’ (AACS) website to find a program that suits your needs. The ideal program would be one that focuses on hair.

Step #3: Gain experience and learn how to be a hairstylist through practice

Before you become a certified hairstylist, you first have to work for some time and get your hands dirty.

The required hours for practice can vary, depending on your location.

In California, they need you to put in 1,000 hours of supervised practice. State-approved cosmetology schools offer training programs that blend classroom learning with hands-on practice. This way, you get all the required hours and expert guidance from seasoned instructors.

Another great way to gain experience is interning at a licensed salon. You’ll be able to observe and learn from professionals, as well as work on refining your skills.

Step #4: Get a state-issued license

Your cosmetology degree is just part of the puzzle. To style hair professionally, you need a state-issued license.

These licensing requirements can be different depending on where you are. If you have doubts about a program’s legitimacy, hit up your state’s licensing board. You can find a list of them on the AACS website.

To kick off the process, you usually need to send an application to the licensing board, along with some personal info, proof of your education or training, and any necessary fees. Some states might also need you to pass a written test that assesses your knowledge of cosmetology concepts, salon safety, and cleanliness practices.

This could be followed by a practical exam where you show off your skills in front of a board of licensed professionals. This part usually involves performing various hair styling techniques, such as cutting, coloring, and styling, to prove your competence.

Step #5: Choose your specialty

Becoming a professional hairstylist means you’ve got some important decisions to make. Here’s what you might need to think about:

Your specialty: Think about what you want to excel in. Is it haircuts, color, styling, or maybe some specialized stuff like extensions or chemical treatments?

Your work setting: Fancy the buzz of a hair salon, building your own clientele, and hanging out with other professionals and well-known hairstylists? Or does the freedom and flexibility of freelance work, setting your own hours, and choosing your clients, sound more appealing?

Your lifestyle and work-life harmony: Picture the kind of life you want to lead as a hairstylist. Things to consider might include your working hours, how flexible they are, and how it all fits into your personal life.

Hair stylists mostly find themselves working in salons, but you might also end up in a spa, hotel, or resort. There are even people who lease a booth in a salon or start their own mobile hair salon.

Fun fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost half of all hairstylists are self-employed. They usually rent a station or chair in an established salon, and while a good chunk of them work full-time, there are plenty who go part-time.

Step #6: Start working with clients

Once you’ve got that license in your pocket, it’s go time. Now you need to find a gig. You might have one lined up already if you were working in a salon during beauty school.

When it comes to working with real, live clients, you’ve got a few options to choose from:

  • Salon Apprenticeship: Hands-on training under the watchful eyes of experienced stylists. It’s a chance to learn on the job, get constructive feedback, and get better at your craft.
  • Salon Assistant or Junior Stylist: This kind of role lets you get your feet wet by helping with various tasks like shampooing, blow-drying, and getting clients ready for their appointments. As you get more comfortable and prove your chops, you’ll start working on clients under supervision.
  • Freelance or Mobile Stylist: Maybe you’ll start by offering your services to friends, family, or people you know. From there, you can grow your client base through referrals and good old word-of-mouth. You might even partner with local businesses or offer your skills for events like weddings or photo shoots.
  • Volunteering or Community Outreach: Doing hair for the community can help you hone your skills while giving back. Plus, it’s a great way to get your name out there and network with industry folks.

Step #7: Craft an impressive portfolio

professional hairstylist and their clients showcasing different procedures

Image by macrovector on Freepik

If you want to learn how to be a professional hairstylist, you first need to understand the importance of having a great portfolio that showcases your experience. Your portfolio will be your best friend. Offer your services to friends and family, maybe at a discounted rate or even for free.

When you’re building your portfolio, it’s all about those before-and-after shots. Make sure the pics show off your clients’ hair transformations in all their glory. Good lighting, clear focus, and accurate representation of the colors, textures, and details of the hairstyles are key.

But your portfolio isn’t just about photos. To show off your creativity and attention to detail, include other things like sketches or illustrations of hairstyle ideas, or pics of intricate braiding or updo designs you’ve crafted. If you’ve earned any certifications, awards, or recognition, throw them in there too to boost your professional image.

Remember, as you gain more experience and broaden your skill set, keep that portfolio updated. Make sure it always showcases your latest and greatest work.

Step #8: Keep up with industry trends and fashion

Knowing what’s up in the hair and beauty world is a must for any professional hair stylist. You have to stay relevant to your clients, right?

Make friends with industry mags, both hardcopy and online, that dish the dirt on hair, beauty, and fashion. Engage with their content and keep tabs on the latest trends and styles.

Be on the lookout for hair-focused workshops, seminars, and conferences. These gatherings are golden opportunities to learn from top stylists, teachers, and industry pros.

Don’t forget the power of social media. Follow your fave hairstylists on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Get involved with the online hair community – comment, ask questions, and share your own work. It’s a great way to connect and stay in the loop with industry happenings.

Connect with other hair stylists in your neighborhood. Get out to local industry events or join professional groups. Networking opens doors to share ideas, swap experiences, and learn from your fellow stylists.

Step #9: Connect with other professional hairstylists

Getting involved in networking can seriously expand your professional sphere. You’ll forge valuable connections and open up doors to new opportunities in the industry.

Industry events, trade shows, and seminars pull together pros from all corners of the field – stylists, salon owners, educators, product makers. Plus, these events often feature workshops and demos by industry leaders, so you can learn new techniques and stay in the know with the latest trends.

Join social media groups or online forums dedicated to hair styling. It’s a space to interact with pros from all over, learn from their journeys, and ask for advice when you need it. These virtual hangouts are a goldmine for sharing insights, chatting about industry topics, and keeping up with the latest trends and techniques.

Through networking, you might stumble upon job opportunities, freelance gigs, or get referrals from other stylists who can’t fit in certain clients. You could even team up with other pros like photographers, makeup artists, or fashion designers.

Step #10: Get your name out there

Alright, so you’re in the hair styling game now. To stand out, you need to have some clever marketing moves and fresh ideas up your sleeve. This is how you draw in new clients, build a kickass brand, and grow your hair stylist biz. With the right tactics, you’ll be the talk of the town:

Your digital footprint

For some killer online marketing, keep these things in mind:

Your website is your online HQ. It should be neat, easy to navigate, and showcase your work, services, contact details, and happy client testimonials.

When becoming a professional hairstylist, social media is your best friend. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are perfect for showing off your work, engaging with your followers, and attracting potential clients.

Create content that brings value to your audience, like blog posts or video tutorials. This helps to show off your expertise and establishes you as a hair master in the field.

Ask your happy clients to drop positive reviews on platforms like Google My Business, Yelp, or salon review websites.

Community marketing and networking

Don’t forget about local marketing and networking, it’s just as important. Here are some ideas:

Team up with local businesses like boutiques, bridal shops, or photography studios. You can cross-promote each other’s services. Moreover, get involved in local events, charity fundraisers, or fashion shows. It’s a chance to show off your skills and meet potential clients.

Another idea is to set up a referral program where happy clients are rewarded for bringing in new clients.

Step #11: Make clients come back for more

Having a solid client base isn’t just important, it’s the lifeblood of your hairstylist career.

Putting your clients first is the key. Treat each one with respect, focus, and professionalism. Listen to what they want and need.

Tailor your approach to each client. Take into account their unique style, hair type, and lifestyle. Offer advice and recommendations that fit their specific needs. Small details make a big difference, so make sure your salon or workspace is clean, inviting, and comfortable. Offer extras like drinks, magazines, or chill music to enhance the overall vibe.

Happy clients are more likely to recommend you to their friends, family, and colleagues. Set up a referral program or offer incentives for clients who bring in new customers.

Step #12: Handle your bookings like a pro

There you are. A pro at cutting, coloring, and styling hair. Your creativity is off the charts, but the chaos of managing appointments is making things a little… hairy.

Ever felt drowned in a sea of sticky notes and jumbled time slots? We get it. Scheduling isn’t the reason you got into this gig. No, you’re in it to make your clients look and feel their absolute best.

But the truth is, appointment management is a significant part of the game.

Now imagine this:

A world where your creative genius is all you need to focus on. No mix-ups, double bookings, or last-minute cancellations. No frazzled feeling at the end of a long day.

Just you, your shears, and your ever-growing client list. Sounds dreamy?

Well, it’s not just a dream anymore. It’s a reality with Trafft.

Trafft: Booking and beyond

Trafft is more than a tool – it’s your secret to becoming a hairstylist superstar.

Here’s the magic it offers:

  • Automated scheduling, where you won’t have to play phone tag with clients.
  • Seamless calendar integration, so you can view your entire schedule at a glance.
  • Reminders and alerts to ensure no-shows are a thing of the past.
  • Easy-to-use and intuitive app, so you can take your business with you wherever you go.

trafft hair salon booking website and a booking app showcased on a smart device

Want to transform your business? Wave goodbye to scheduling stress and say hello to more time for what truly matters – making your clients shine.

Ready to take the leap? Unlock your path to success with Trafft today – use our FREE plan designed for less than 5 members. Because every stylist deserves their moment in the spotlight.

Go ahead. Make your move. Your future self will thank you. And so will your clients.

What ARe the Perks of Becoming a Professional Hairstylist?

Becoming a hairstylist comes with a range of perks that make it a rewarding and fulfilling career choice.

As a hairstylist, you have the power to boost your clients’ self-esteem and confidence. A great hairstyle can make someone feel like a million bucks, and you get to be a part of that positive transformation.

What’s more, hairstyling is a form of art, allowing you to express your creativity and artistic flair every day. You get to transform hair into stunning works of art, experimenting with colors, cuts, and styles to create unique looks for your clients.

Additionally, many hairstylists enjoy flexible work schedules. You can often choose to work full-time or part-time, and you may have the option to set your own hours, especially if you run your own hair salon business.

But that’s not all – a career in hair styling is bound to bring some cash your way.

How much can you earn as a pro hairstylist?

A stylist’s earnings can vary.

The average salary for hair stylists in the U.S. is around $60,192  a year, although this can fluctuate based on lots of factors.

Taking extra courses, honing their skills, or venturing into self-employment can boost hair stylists’ income and increase hair salon profitability. So, if you’re excited to make a mark in the world of hair styling, start your journey today!

Can you expect a bright future if you become a professional hairstylist?

In the world of hair styling, your journey is yours to shape. Investing in your craft and honing your interpersonal skills will push you forward.

The future shines bright for hair designers. As our population grows and folks continue to chase after the latest style and color trends, the need for skilled hands in hair care increases.

As a matter of fact, employment for barbers, hair stylists, and cosmetologists is predicted to swell 11 percent from 2021 to 2031. This growth is quicker than what most jobs experience.

Still, scoring those top-dollar gigs will be challenging, given the vast pool of talented stylists reaching for the same stars.

FAQ on Being a Professional Hair Stylist

What kind of education or training do I need to become a professional hair stylist?

Well, first off, most places require a high school diploma or GED to begin. After that, you’ll need to attend a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school where you’ll learn the ropes – think cutting, coloring, and styling.

It typically takes about 9 months to 2 years to complete, depending on the program. So, yes, schooling is essential – it’s where you build your foundational knowledge!

Is it necessary to have a license to work as a professional hair stylist?

Absolutely! After your training, you’ll need to take a state licensing exam. Now, this may sound intimidating but it’s really a combination of written, oral, and practical examinations. It’s all about showing your understanding and applying what you’ve learned.

Maintaining the license may require continuing education too – but hey, in this profession, there’s always something new to learn!

How long does it take to become a professional hair stylist?

Depending on your pace, completing cosmetology school can take anywhere between 9 months to 2 years. But the learning doesn’t stop there.

You’ll need time to build your clientele, hone your skills, and maybe even specialize in certain styles or techniques. Give it a good 3-5 years to really establish yourself in the industry.

How can I gain experience as a hairstylist?

Get out there and network! Find a salon where you can begin as an assistant or junior stylist. You’ll learn invaluable lessons by observing seasoned professionals.

Participate in hair shows, workshops, and classes to keep expanding your skill set. Volunteer for fashion shows, and photo shoots – any opportunity to work on different hair types and styles is a gold mine!

Is it necessary to specialize in a specific area?

Not necessary, but definitely beneficial. Having a specialty like color correction, balayage, or even hair extensions can set you apart from other stylists. But remember, the key is balance.

You don’t want to limit yourself to just one thing, right? Master your specialty, but be versatile enough to accommodate different client requests.

What are the job prospects like for a hairstylist?

The job prospects are pretty solid. People always need haircuts, right? And with the beauty industry constantly evolving, new opportunities keep cropping up.

Sure, there’s competition, but with your unique style, commitment to learning, and excellent customer service, you can make your mark.

What is the earning potential for a hairstylist?

Honestly, it varies. Factors like location, years of experience, your specialty, and the size of your clientele all play a part. You earn a base salary, plus tips.

Some experienced stylists even venture into salon ownership or professional training. With hard work and perseverance, your profits can skyrocket!

How can I build a strong client base?

Winning personalities go a long way! Engage with your clients, understand their needs, and deliver quality results. A satisfied client is a repeat client, and better yet, they’ll refer others. Don’t forget to leverage social media too.

Showcasing your work can attract potential clients. Just keep in mind, building a loyal client base takes time, but it’s oh-so-worth it!

How important is staying up-to-date with the latest trends?

This is super important! The beauty industry is all about trends. Clients come in asking for the latest celebrity hairstyle, or the new hair color trend they saw on Instagram.

Taking classes, attending workshops, and following industry leaders online, all these can help you stay on the pulse of what’s hot.

How can I handle difficult clients?

Ah, the unavoidable difficult client. Always remember, clear communication is key. Understand their expectations upfront, provide your professional advice, and manage their expectations. Keep your cool, even if they don’t.

After all, customer service is a big part of being a successful hairstylist. Difficult situations come with the territory, but they also shape you into a more seasoned professional.

Ending Thoughts on How to Be a Professional Hair Stylist

Becoming a professional hairstylist isn’t just about cutting and coloring hair – it’s about mastering the art of transformation, fostering creativity, and building meaningful connections with clients. If you follow the steps laid out in this guide, you’re well on your way to a successful career.

Find the right hair styling school, gain some hands-on experience, build a kickass portfolio, network with industry pros, develop your own style, stay on top of the latest trends, build a solid client base, and never stop learning.

With some dedication, sweat, and a commitment to excellence, you can smash open the doors to a killer career as a pro hairstylist. So, go on, chase those dreams, and let your success shine as bright as your locks!

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Jovana Smoljanovic Tucakov
Jovana Smoljanovic Tucakov

Jovana Smoljanovic Tucakov is a Content Marketing and SEO Specialist who uses both words and data to communicate a message and deliver value. With more than 5 years of experience in digital marketing and content production in the IT industry, she loves identifying and solving the readers’ pain points and creating targeted content.

Curious about the human mind and emotions, especially those that drive consumer behavior. Likes fitness, food preparation, board games, reading (both for pleasure and learning), and binge-watching Netflix.