The Bridal Business Bible (Part 1)
Ever since you were a young beauty school student (and even before that), your dream was to be a bridal hair stylist. Ready to turn that dream into a reality? Here's our best advice for building a prosperous bridal business.
Photo courtesy of @annette_updo_artist
Ever since you were a young beauty school student (and even before that), your dream was to be a bridal hair stylist. You dreamt of helping women feel beautiful on their special day. You envisioned placing the veil on your bride-to-be right before she walked down the aisle. You imagined stepping in at the last minute to help with the bustle. And when your job was done? You’d be the one sitting in the wings as she walked down the aisle. You’d be choking up as the vows were exchanged. You would be filled with pride that you got to be a part of one of the most important days of her life.
If this sounds like you, then you’re in the right place. We asked seven successful bridal stylists to share their top tips on how to get your business up and running—and they weighed in on everything from how they manage their schedules, to social media tips, to how they price their services. Here’s their best advice for building a prosperous bridal business.
On building your portfolio…
The first step to attracting bridal clients? A beautiful portfolio. “This is the easiest way to book a client,” says Chicago-based stylist Annette Waligora (better known to her 23,000 Instagram followers as @annette_updo_artist). “Your clients need to see the work you can do—it helps build a level of trust, which will make it easier for them to commit to you.” Don’t consider yourself a photography pro? That’s OK! “All you need is your phone and a client,” says Annette. “90 percent of my photos are taken on my phone. The key is a solid, light-colored background and good lighting. Play around with different angles and positions. The best pictures are taken outside, but for indoor pictures, I use a ring light.” If you’re really not comfortable taking your own photos, consider partnering with a local photographer once a month for portfolio-building shoots.
“When I branched out on my own, the first thing I did was hire someone to help design my website,” says Melissa Brooke (@mbhairmakeupmaui), an on-location bridal stylist based in Maui. “I also hired a PR person who helped me brand myself—she created a logo, wrote some verbiage and made everything flow really nicely. She also gave me tips about posting on social media.” As a destination stylist, it was especially important for Melissa to have a strong web presence. “Because most people here are destination brides who are finding me from many miles away!”
On your website, be sure to include your portfolio with plenty of photos showcasing your work, the services you provide, your prices and a little bit about yourself. “Definitely include your prices on your website,” say Lauren Parker and Lorena Molano, founders of LoLa Beauty in Austin, Texas. “Before we listed our prices, we were getting twice as many inquiries, but from people who couldn’t afford our services. So we spent too much time having conversations with people who couldn’t afford our services.”
“A lot of brides will just skip over you if you don’t have your prices listed,” adds Minnesota-based Heidi Akpaette, owner and lead stylist at 139 Hair by Heidi. “Because as they’re planning their wedding, the first thing they’re looking at is cost.”
On building your network…
The number one thing you can do to help build your business is to reach out to other wedding vendors such as photographers, makeup artists, wedding planners, hotels and other venues and even other stylists in the area. After you research their work to make sure they reflect the level of quality that matches yours, offer to help promote each other’s businesses. And when you work together on a bridal party booking, be sure to cross-promote on each other’s websites. “Connecting with photographers is probably the most important,” says BTC bridal guru Stephanie Brinkerhoff (@hairandmakeupbysteph). “Your work will make their work look better, and their work will make yours look better, so it’s a win-win. Photographers are also very likely to send their clients your way because the more put-together their clients look, the easier their job will be.”
Annette, who is based in the Chicago area, has found that reaching out to vendors directly has brought her a lot of success. “I’ll email a wedding venue or even go into downtown hotels and introduce myself,” she says. “Give them your business card, talk about what you do, ask them to check out your social media sites—they’ll keep you in mind.” Melissa has a similar strategy. “It’s important to get in with wedding coordinators,” she says. “I make personal appointments with most of them. I share who I am and what I do, and a couple of them have even had me bring a model with me to demonstrate some of my looks. Then they put you on a preferred vendor list.”
Another good tip? Put yourself on as many bridal websites as you can. “So many bridal websites like The Knot and Wedding Wire offer free listings,” says Heidi. “And there are also local sites. I found it useful to conduct a Google search as if I was a bride. Pretend you’re looking for vendors, and see what pages you’re lead to.” Heidi is also the leader of a local chapter for wedding vendors and creative professionals, and she recommends looking up wedding networking events in your area. “There are plenty of them because most people who work in the wedding industry are freelancers, and they’re all looking for people to connect with.”
Lastly, Heidi has found that partnering with a local accessory shop that sells bridal hair pieces, among other accessories, has helped to build her business. “It’s been great because I give [the owner] business, and she refers business to me,” shares Heidi. “I keep her business cards with me, and she keeps mine. So if someone comes into her shop and they’re getting married, she can make a recommendation.”
Photo courtesy of Heidi Akpaette/Justine Louise Photography
On getting your name out there…
Here’s a great tip from Steph about gaining more exposure in the bridal community: write guest posts for wedding blogs. You can find a variety of blogs on sites such as weddingblogs100.com. Then just choose one that matches your style, and submit your work! “When you lend your expertise as a hairstylist to a well-known wedding blog, it will immediately make potential clients trust you as a professional who knows what they are doing,” says Steph. “Write up a blog post complete with pictures about something related to wedding hair and submit it to some blogs, making sure to link back to your site. It will give you more exposure and more credibility.”