Despite The Negative Press From Within The Industry

Have you been told before that being an independent in a salon is a bad idea, or that renting a chair is looked down upon in the beauty industry? I’ve heard everything – independent contractors are lazy, or they’re not interested in education or keeping their skills up, to name just a few. The role of an independent can be very confusing and fraught with details, start up costs, regulations to be aware of, the perception in the industry, or salon owner abuses. However, there is always another side to the story. These 30 strategies on being an independent in a salon will help you be successful, should you choose to walk this path and despite the negative press from within the industry. They come from the experience of 28 years of being self-employed and 3 years as an employee.

Leaping Girl Bowman

There are many reasons to work in a salon with a group of people who you’ve identified as your tribe, and to be an employee with your needs taken care of and decisions made for you. But what if you are a self-starter, committed, and a team player? What if you have an entrepreneurial spirit? There are equally as many reasons to work on your own within a salon as there are to being an employee.



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

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

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

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




The Professional Beauty Association (PBA) states in their articleOther Factors to Consider: Are You Really an Independent Contractor?

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

A few factors to being truly independent include:

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

Fulfilling your obligations as an independent contractor means you will operate your business as a serious, professional business owner. You must abide by all the legal local, state, and federal tax regulations, report all income (including tips) and maintain the appropriate licenses as well as personal liability insurance for your independent business.”
It is rather difficult to monitor and regulate salons and their practices. Plenty of guidelines on renting a chair in a salon are available online. Beauty industry advocate Tina Alberino writes on her blog, This Ugly Beauty Business, in the article, The 20 Factor IRS Test For The Beauty Industry,

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


[tweetthis]”Let’s be clear, you are either an employee or self-employed in a salon.” REBECCA BEARDSLEY[/tweetthis]


These resources are important to read. They inform us of all the shades of gray in what should be black and white arrangements happening at salons. The situation should be like this: you are either an employee or you are self-employed. There are many situations to look out for, and to be aware of. If you are considering renting a chair within a salon, you definitely need to be clear about the details.



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

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


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


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

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


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