Almost to the day exactly, it has been a year since I first went into business for myself. I’ve learned a lot already, but I feel like I still have a long way to go.
Some people spend years dreaming about their business – planning, prepping, saving money. I had about a week. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve daydreamed about opening my own salon pretty much from the day I started beauty school. But I thought about opening an entire space where I would hire other stylists – I had a ton of great ideas about how I would want to run my business and treat my employees, largely influenced by the 6 years I spent managing someone else’s shop.
Managing a business without owning it is largely thankless, or at least it was in my case. You try to make changes where you can, but your hands are often tied by the owner’s vision, finances, and their own ideas about how a business should operate. You try to maintain great relationships with your crew, but you’re often stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to being the go-between from them to the owner – often you can see both sides clearly, while each side seems incapable of seeing the opposite side’s point of view. So, my management experience taught me a lot, but was also incredibly frustrating and stressful. But that frustration was one of the main motivators for me to open my own shop – I wanted to finally be able to run things MY way, to test my theories on how things SHOULD work and see if they really did.
I pictured opening my own salon in 10 years, if I was lucky. Then the shop closed. The owner gave me about a week’s notice – the rest of the staff had about 4 days notice (another decision I would have made differently were it solely mine to make). I’d already been thinking about transitioning to another salon – I didn’t think I had enough of a clientele built up yet to lease a chair of my own (when we closed, I’d been cutting for about a year and a half). But suddenly I was out of a job. And I wanted to maintain what clientele I did have so I needed to move fast so as not to cause a huge gap in service. I needed to stay nearby, too. A friend of a friend was looking for someone to share her small studio with part-time and I seized the chance without really allowing myself to stop and think about it enough to really let it scare me.
But it has been scary. The first two months I only had my part-time work at the salon studio, and it wasn’t enough. I was able to cover my chair lease, but not much beyond that – this was going to be untenable in the long term. To make matters worse, my husband and I decided to get a divorce during this same period. We had never truly shared income, we kept separate accounts always, but he had certainly been helping me since my job loss. It became even more imperative that I find some other source of income since my business just was not capable of growing that much that quickly. I lucked out and found a well-paying part-time administrative job with an amazing company where I’ve been ever since – I love it there, and it’s allowed me to continue doing hair on my own.
As an independent contractor, I have to handle all aspects of my business, the day-to-day stuff and the bigger-picture stuff, too. Taxes are something I am still figuring out. I’ll know more about where I stand soon. I recently figured out that, while I didn’t make much from hair last year, I did turn a profit. While I couldn’t survive on doing hair alone, many small businesses are not profitable until their 2nd or 3rd year – so I’m still proud of what I have achieved.
This year, I am focused on growth. Last year was so much about learning how to run my business, and basic survival. That was true in my personal life, too – I had to learn how to be “alone” again (even though I am with an amazing man now, this is still something I am working on – the ability to be self-sufficient and self-contained when needed). It was such a big, difficult year for me, emotionally (and actually!) – I spent a lot of time just treading water, trying not to drown. Now I am ready to swim.
I want to establish more cohesive branding. I want to create new logo work to use across my marketing materials and a website with a portfolio of my work and descriptions of my philosophies toward hair. I have a goal of trying to attend at least one class/workshop/show each quarter – with a special focus on sharpening my color skills. I’d like to upgrade my equipment, and look into switching or adding to the product lines I offer my clients. I’ve already added an additional weekend day a month and am looking for other days when I might offer more appointments to my clients. Overall, I want to see if there are ways I can add value for my clients, whether that means complimentary add-ons, more availability, or something else entirely.
It can be hard to find the time and energy to make these changes, but in my mind I’m committed to another year, this time with more concerted effort to do more than just survive. I want to thrive.