Articles > Business > What Would You Do: Pay Changes From Salon Owner—Stay Or Leave?
January 4, 2018

What Would You Do: Pay Changes From Salon Owner—Stay Or Leave?

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Is this hairdresser being taken advantage of? One of our BTC members is navigating a pay change at a salon where she works as a commissioned stylist, and she isn’t sure how to handle the situation. We turned the question over to all of you—here’s how it played out!


I have been a very loyal employee for almost 8 years. I have sat by as the owner struggled for a good 5 years of that, and I did everything in my power to help maintain the salon while building my clientele. There were many days that I came in early and stayed late to help her build up the salon business. Now, she has hired more stylists as well as booth renters, which doesn’t bother me—really, the more the merrier. But, she came to me basically saying there was going to be some pay changes. I am a 50/50 commissioned stylist, and now she wants to take 20% right off the top of service sales and then I’ll get my commission off the 80% percent. My question is, how would you handle that? I have the potential to make more money because they will use that percentage for marketing and branding, but in order for me to get back to great paychecks I would have to stay later and work even harder to get a decent wage. In my eyes, I have already put more time and effort than I should have into a shop that isn’t even mine. I am at a loss. I love my job, but I can’t work for nothing. I was told I am their strongest asset, which is very true. I am the top stylist at the salon but I don’t feel worth anything to it after this meeting.”  


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Some stylists say honesty is the best policy and that you’ve been there for too long to just leave…

“Be level with her, say what you said here, and tell her taking a pay cut just isn’t realistic, if she wants everyone to pitch in quarterly to run an ad in the local paper, then she can make it a whole salon effort and everyone puts in quarterly. But, we all know the biggest advertisement we get is word of mouth (which speaks for itself) which seems to have already benefited you (so remember your efforts!). If she’s wanting additional money she’s either getting greedy and lost all sight or she’s in financial trouble.” — Amanda Nazer


“Call other salons and interview. You don’t have to take a new job, just see what your options are. Is a 20% cut the norm amongst other salons in your area? Then go back to your owner and tell her what other salons are offering and you need the same in order to stay. Or, if you have a great clientele and know how to boost your own business through social media, ask to be a booth renter.” — Jodi Shachar


“Honesty is always the best policy! Let her know that you care about her and the salon deeply, but you simply cannot afford a pay cut. If she remains firm, put in your two weeks and go work for yourself! You obviously have the passion and determination to build! Do those same things, only this time you will be the one who reaps the rewards of hard work!” — Molly Collins


“Sounds like you need to have a heart-to-heart with her. Lay it all out on the table calmly and rationally. If that doesn’t get you the change you deserve, it might be time to move on. Best of luck, I know it’s hard!” — @clineamanda


“Communication is the most important thing in getting people to understand your perspective. Prepare your thoughts and have a conversation with the owner. Be clear about your feelings but also about what compromise will make you happy. You know that service fee will help grow the business but ask how it will be used, ask if there is a task outside your job description that you’re already helping out with that you could make officially yours and get compensated for. Also, remember that the 20% is coming off the top, that means it’s before calculating your commissions so it’s actually 10% from you and 10% from the owner. Just remember people don’t read minds, and common sense isn’t common. So be clear, confident and open about what you need to give them the best out of you. You never get what you don’t ask for. Keep up the hustle.” — @mr.mattcouto


“I would sit her down and tell her that. Sounds like you have been together for a while maybe she will change it once she knows you’re not comfortable? I would change it rather than losing ‘an asset’ but everyone has to be the same which is hard sometimes. I do believe in helping out people who have put in hard work and time. Good luck.” — @mrs_kat_syrett



Some stylists say your boss might be in financial trouble and you should get out while you can!


“NOPE! She’s in financial trouble. She’s not going to market with that money. If her 50% isn’t enough to cover the salon expenses, that’s on her to adjust her budget. I own a salon. My stylists have the potential to make up to 60% on a sliding scale and are guaranteed 50%. My storefront is $3,015 a month, plus all utilities, $800 loan payment and I supply all backbar station products, literally everything. Our men’s cuts are $20 and women’s cut/style is $35. We do a lot of color which is usually over $150 however…we are NOT expensive. So, if I can budget that, with the insane overhead (yes I hate my landlord but the plaza is prime location) and she can’t keep afloat…she’s got a spending problem. You need to get out ASAP.” — Theresa Catherine


“RUN. Move on. If you’re the best person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Find a place that will embrace you, pay you fair wages and where you can learn from your peers.” — @akaeallday


“As a salon owner I would advise you to quit. This will be the beginning of the end. No business owner can justify a 20% overhead charge. 20% is INSANE. This sudden change might be reflective of some other issues—business failing or a new business adviser who’s dispensing poor advice—but regardless, leave ASAP. You will be fine at a different shop, and given your loyalty and your willingness to work hard you will undoubtedly be better off.” — Ryan Langman-Kirtley


“Tell her you will stay if you can booth rent. Having a hybrid salon is the worst idea, and she’s scrambling to save money somewhere. Most likely prices aren’t high enough and she doesn’t have enough commission people to make a profit. It’s going down in flames—you need to go, or go booth rent and keep all your clients.” — @danagarmon



Some stylists say you should seriously consider booth renting…here’s why!


“After all those years, why aren’t you renting?! Take the plunge. You’ll never regret it. From an owners stand point I can tell you that owning a salon is not lucrative. The overhead is high. Once you pay your employees, taxes, building rent, supplies, backbar, etc., there isn’t much left. Definitely not as much as most people think. The real money comes from behind the chair. Work hard, be awesome at your craft and the money will flow.” — @butterflyskinandbeauty


“Why are you commission and others booth renting if you’re the top stylist? You would make way more money as booth renter. She’s taking advantage of your dedication.” — Sarah June DiGregorio


“After working for her for 15 years, my boss started taking off $5.00 for each chemical service right off the top, even though I was at 55% and the 45% should’ve taken care of the products being used, which is how it always had been. So I moved into my own salon, I have a big enough clientele, but it was scary nonetheless. I have to tell you that even though I have overhead, I still make more going off on my own. I even charge a little less than before, but still make more. I say, you should go for it and be a booth renter…not right away, save up for a little while so that you can afford to come up with the products you need plus the insurance, then switch. You will be glad you did.” — Lisa Flansburg


“I’d change to booth renting. She knows you’re doing well and she wants as much as she can get out of you which is why she’s taken the 20% off the top. Booth rent. If that doesn’t work for her then find a new location and booth rent. Your clients will follow. I too say that she’s in financial trouble and she’s trying to make money off you.” — Nancy Des Jardin