Articles > How New Stylists Can Find a Salon that “Fits”
April 11, 2013

How New Stylists Can Find a Salon that “Fits”

BTC member and soon-to-be graduate Cori Lynne Dudley found herself in a situation that most new grads find themselves in—where do I go from here? “Hey BTC—I want your opinion on something!” she said. “I’m about to graduate beauty school and I’m starting to look into salons to go work in. What is your advice for a fresh new stylist that doesn’t know much about the salon life? How do I find the ‘right’ place? Is going straight into commission a good idea? Any advice would be awesome! Thank you!” Cori posed her question to our amazing Facebook BFFs looking for answers, and boy did she get them! Here’s a selection of the advice our Facebook Fans had to offer.

Teachers/students: Want even more advice on this topic? Read all 300+ comments to this Facebook post HERE!

Apply for an assistant’s job at a salon with a great reputation. Be a WONDERFUL assistant. Watch, listen, and learn. Work HARD. Attend classes. View professional DVDs and read industry books and magazines. Sign on to behinthechair.com all the time. And make the person you assist think you are the very, very best.
As an owner, I am looking for extreme motivation. You are only worth your weight when you can carry your weight. Does that make sense? I find paying stylists hourly often makes them unmotivated to work hard to build their business, so instead I will pay for education and have competitions for them to win shears and other pro tools that can be quite expensive. I knew nothing about the salon industry when I started out. I watched stylists that I respected and learned their techniques and built from there. I knew the money would come from hard work. No matter what job you start at, private or corporate, set yourself apart by working hard and serving others and you will propel yourself forward, always. Ultimately this industry is about our creativity and pleasing a client, so create awesome environments with your own attitude and doors will open if you end up in a place that doesn’t fit you. No boss should touch you, disrespect you, or treat you as insignificant even if you are in an assistant position.
—Stephanie Price Jordan

Find a salon that fits your style and personality then ask for a tour of the salon. Interview them—how many walk-ins do they get? Do they have assistants? Do they have a continuing education program? That’s key! Then think location, location, location—how far away is it? Traffic? Good area for walk-ins? Finally, make sure they are there to build you into an artist not a robot!
—Jared Joyner

Don’t go into your first salon expecting it to be the perfect fit for you. It might take a while. For example, I worked at about four or five salons before I found the right fit. Make sure you are good at your speed and technique and connect with each guest. Never have an attitude—unless it’s a good one!
—Lindsay Minturn


You will starve on straight commission. I would suggest a base salary to start and then move to commission once you’re established. Look for a strong education focus where you can build your skills and more importantly, ask to shadow for a day or two when it’s busy to see if the culture fits your needs. Remind yourself often that you are new, look at every interaction as an opportunity and read David Wagner’s Life as a Daymaker book. It will change your career and your focus on why we do what we do.
—Daniel M. Lynch

This is important: Don’t call and ask a salon if they are hiring. Dress professionally, go into the salon on a slower day, and give them your resume. If you call when it’s busy, it’s easy to get blown off.
—Linda Welsh

I started off at a place I knew I didn’t want to retire from. It was in a great location for walk-ins and I was able to build enough loyal clientele there that when I did go to a nicer, privately owned place (making commission), I had a full book. It took me four years to build that clientele and it’s still growing. It was good for me just leaving school because I was guaranteed a pay because of the volume of people through the door and I always had a pocketful of tips—I never suffered bad pay on my way up. Some friends of mine who began as assistants complained they were still treated as an assistant long after graduation. If you do it this way, just be careful that you are not taken advantage of!
—Maggie Taylor

Hey! I’ve been licensed for seven years now and while that seems like a long time, I feel I still feel like the new kid because, for me, every day is still exciting. I love hairdressing more than life itself. I believe this is due to how I began. I started as an assistant at TONI&GUY in Dallas, TX. I was immersed in a salon full of talented, passionate hairdressers who have inspired me to this day. Although I have moved to Kansas, I still feel the way I did the first day I walked into that salon, because of the people I surrounded myself with—people I aspired to be like, because I wanted to one day inspire others. Immerse yourself in as much education as you can. Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be the best hairdresser you can be. This career can take you anywhere you want to go. Fall in love with the art of hairdressing! That’s the best advice I can give you. A huge shout out Anthony Mascolo and the whole TIGI Haircare family for inspiring me to fall in love with hairdressing every single day!
—Kalvin Pugh

Going straight to commission is rough! Unless a salon has a really high rate of new clients, or return non-request clients, it is going to be really hard to build your book unless you can bring in your own clients.
—Tara Lizabeth

Find a salon with an associate program and train under a stylist that is also an educator. Any Summit Salon with have that program—it’s Redken endorsed! That will help to bridge the gap between school and real life. You will start out hourly and work your way to commission and it’s built on a career path level system. Good Luck!
—Kati Hill

I really recommend applying at high end salons first. Right out of school, you just don’t know enough and a lot of high end salons want to take on newbies so they can train you their way. That’s what I did and it’s worked out great!
—Jess Handt



I think every stylist is different, as is the school they attended and their learning experience, so I can only offer my own experience as advice. I assisted a popular double booked stylist with 20 years of experience. I learned everything I know now from that foundation. Completely invaluable!
—Ashlee Joy Sundblad

Don’t be afraid to go straight to a high end salon but know that you will have to deal with crazy diva stylists and catty shampoo people, and crappy duties will be piled on you. You need to smile through all of it. Keep your mouth filled with kind words and don’t ever hesitate to pick up the broom when something is on the floor. When preparing formulas ALWAYS write them down with a notebook that you keep in your pocket. This way you will have some to work with later when you’re on your own. Make sure the salon offers training on everything and take all of the classes because they are free. Think ahead—does the client need coffee? A magazine? Don’t ever talk about your personal life—just ask about theirs. Poof! You can now work in Beverly Hills! : )
—Maria Murillo

My salon started me on a salary and I was there 40 hours a week. For six months I was only training, but had one-on-one classes with my boss weekly. Once I had completed necessary training and felt confident, she started sending all new clients my way. Once I could consistently beat my salary in service dollars for three months (to be sure I could maintain my income), she put me on commission. We also have retail commission put away monthly for education trips—local and international!
—Molly Fay

I would recommend touring salons—as many as you can! Just call up and ask the owner or manager if you can get a tour, meet the staff, see the salon traffic, and ask as many questions as possible. After touring salons you will have one that stands out to you to pursue working for.
—Ana Sinohui

Don’t sign a non-compete! If you end up at an awful salon and don’t realize it until later, you could totally screw yourself. If you do sign one, make it for six months at a time AT MOST. My friend signed a three-year one and couldn’t work at another salon within sixty miles for three years. She had to quit doing hair after she left there.
—Tiffany Beavers Busby

If you’re interested in a particular salon, go there for a shampoo and style. While you’re there, evaluate how the stylists interact with each other, the level of service that you receive and the overall atmosphere.
—Sunny Lea Weaver Resmondo

It can be discouraging for a new stylist to start in a commission-based salon if they don’t have a clientele. Switch when you have the client following along with steady money. It takes time, but with a true passion you WILL be successful! Don’t get discouraged, never stop learning—there’s always somebody you can learn from in the business and the closer you stay/keep up with your fellow cosmetology students, the more options you’ll have down the road. Good luck! There’s nothing else I’d rather do!
—Cassaundra Lynne