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How to Become a Mobile Hair Stylist
As a mobile hairstylist, you can offer all the same services that clients typically receive in a regular salon. Many customers appreciate the added convenience offered by a mobile salon.
Filling a Niche
Some mobile hairstylists established their businesses because they saw a need that wasn’t being met. In New York City, sisters Antonio and Abigail Opiah recruited a team of stylists who specialize in services for black women. They’re experts in creating braids, weaves and cornrows. They can also give advice on products and hair care. The way the sisters see it, they are giving women the confidence to embrace their unique style.
The senior market is another niche that mobile hairstylists can fill. They travel to clients’ homes or to residential facilities to provide the kind of services seniors were accustomed to getting in salons. Studies have shown that helping people look their best and take pride in their appearance is important to mental and emotional well-being. A hairstylist can help a senior feel like an individual, particularly for residents in care homes. Salon services make a person feel valued and cared for.
Hairstylists provide any combination of services to clients, including washing, conditioning, coloring, cutting, drying and styling hair. They use chemicals to curl or straighten hair. Stylists have the necessary training to assess a client’s hair and scalp and make recommendations for treatment of conditions such as dandruff or breakage. They must have excellent interpersonal skills to understand and interpret what the client wants.
Stylists are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting their tools and workspace. As a mobile stylist, you’ll also be responsible for the repair and maintenance of your vehicle.
Hairstylists must be licensed in the state in which they work. The first step toward licensure is completion of a cosmetology program at an accredited school. Hair care is only part of the curriculum. You’ll also need a minimum of 1,200 contact hours, including coursework in theory, hairstyling and conditioning, nail and skin care, and professional ethics. Cosmetology schools typically include classes in anatomy and physiology, hygiene, infection control and safety practices. Because cosmetology is a hands-on profession, you cannot earn an online certificate or diploma from an accredited school.
Renew your cosmetology yearly, every other year, or as required by your state. In some states, you’ll need proof of continuing education hours to be eligible for renewal.
Hairstylists can work full- or part-time. As a self-employed mobile hairstylist, deciding the location and time of your work is up to you. Hairstylists who earn the most work hard to accommodate the needs of their clients. You may have early morning, evening or weekend appointments.
Hairstylists typically spend most of their time standing. They may frequently have their hands in water and, depending on the services they provide, may be exposed to chemicals and fumes.
The Costs: Education and Setting Up Your Business
Before deciding to launch a career as a mobile hairstylist, develop a budget and a business plan. Know how much it will cost to get started. Research prices for mobile services in your area to determine how much you can charge. A local branch of the Small Business Administration can help answer many questions about starting your own business.
Here are some costs to consider:
- Cosmetology school: $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the school. Students typically spend $1,200 to $1,500 on books and supplies in addition to tuition and fees.
- Professional equipment and supplies: After deciding what services you will offer, make a list of the items you’ll need to get started. Professional-grade scissors are $300‒$400 or more. You’ll need towels, brushes, combs, dryers and other small equipment, plus renewable supplies such as shampoos, conditioners, color and styling products.
- Mobile Salon Truck: The cost of the vehicle will be your biggest expense. Consider whether you can provide mobile services by going into clients’ homes and businesses rather than providing a salon on wheels. If you do decide to purchase a mobile salon truck, it may require a significant financial investment. Rubie Williams, a mobile stylist in Washington, D.C., paid $6,000 for a used RV in 2015, then spent an additional $25,000 refurbishing it.
- Insurance: You’ll need to insure the vehicle and its contents. You want to be prepared in case of an accident or theft of the vehicle or its contents. You’ll also need liability insurance in the event a client is injured. It can be a trip-and-fall getting in or out of the vehicle or an allergic reaction to a hair product. Insurance protects you against the unexpected.
Build Your Business
Word-of-mouth is often one of the best ways a stylist can boost business. When someone comes to work or arrives at a social event looking great, everyone wants to know the name of the stylist responsible. But don’t rely on word-of-mouth alone. Have business cards printed and post them wherever others do the same: community bulletin boards, coffee shops and other small businesses.
Use one or more social media sites to advertise your services. Encourage new clients to book an appointment by offering special rates. Use printed media such as newspaper classifieds or paper placements in local restaurants to offer coupons to customers. A web-based coupon service such as Groupon can help you build your business while your customers save money.
Join local organizations. There are organizations for small business owners that provide support to start and build your business. Consider joining any organization that is of interest to you, even if it does not relate directly to the beauty business. Become a member of the high school’s band boosters, sing in a choir or take a cooking class at the community center. You’ll meet new people and extend your network.
Look to the Small Business Administration
Talk to a representative at the Small Business Administration (SBA) in your area. The SBA is a federally funded agency designed to give entrepreneurs assistance in planning, starting, managing and growing their businesses. They can tell you what you need to know about financing your enterprise. Local offices bring in area business experts to answer questions and give advice.
What You’ll Earn
As a mobile hairstylist, you’ll set prices that take your costs into consideration. After the initial purchase of a vehicle, you may find you can set prices slightly lower than what you’d have to charge to cover the expense of renting booth space in a bricks-and-mortar salon. Stylists who’ve established reputations at the top of their field can command higher prices for their services.
Check mobile salon prices in your area. Boston’s Mobile Cuts, which provides men’s grooming services, charges $40 for a style cut and offers elite and executive style services for $55 and $80, respectively. At Fort Worth-based Styles for Hair Mobile Salon, you’ll pay $25 for a kid’s cut, $38 for a men’s cut and $48 for a woman’s cut.
The job outlook for individuals in the cosmetology industry is strong. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a job growth rate of 13 percent through 2026 for barbers, hairstylists and cosmetologists, a rate faster than average compared to all other occupations. Mobile salons are trending right now because they’re convenient for clients and save time.
- Salon Iris: Salon News: Hair Stylists Going Mobile!
- Mobile Cuts: Services
- Styles for Hair Mobile: Services and Prices
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Barbers, Hairstylists and Cosmetologists
- Elle: This Black-Owned Business is Making the At-Home Experience More Inclusive
- Seniors Resource Guide: Mobile Beauty Services
- The Guardian: Golden girls: How Beauty Therapy Boosts Self-Esteem in Care Homes
- Groupon: How to Run a Mobile Hair Salon
- Small Business Administration: Start and Grow Your Business
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.