We’ve all heard it, and are probably guilty of it ourselves – salon owners and stylists complaining about diversion of their products: the fact clients can buy box colour from the supermarket or drugstore. Oh no, now they’re launching highlight kits, keratin smoothing at home…. when will it stop? It’s killing our businesses! (yes sarcasm) While all these things are not great for the industry, I feel we place too great an emphasis on the impact they have on our businesses.
Perhaps you subscribe to the belief that DIY hairdressing should be discouraged not because it harms your business, but because the chemicals involved have the potential to be dangerous. People work on their cars at home – shouldn’t we be more worried about someone driving several tonnes of machinery that’s not properly maintained than about someone dying their own hair? You don’t see mechanics trying to prevent the purchase of spare parts or oil and filters to the public. Sure they would like it if everyone went to a mechanic for all their car needs but you’re not going to stop people DIY-ing it. And thankfully for our industry we have the likes of Patrick McIvor who created this awesome rebuttal video of a girl who coloured her hair at home and got 1.2 million views. Coloured at home is probably being generous, she completely destroyed it and yes she was using professional chemicals but didn’t even bother to read the directions.
What concerns me the most is the people bastardising our industry. And that is most of us! Yes people can put a colour on at home, cut a reasonably straight line, they might even give highlights a go once in a while. But in 99% of cases DIY hairdressing is one dimensional. We on the other hand have the skill set to work in three dimensions. The greatest skill we have – the ability to cut, shape and sculpt hair – is the one that we charge the least for and yet it is the one skill that is in the greatest demand.
We can spot a DIY haircut a mile off. Especially if they have tried to do more than trim their ends or shorten their fringe. Our greatest advantage lies in our ability to elevate, overdirect and tailor the hair to fit the exact head we are working on. Look at some of the names of our industry – their haircuts are anywhere from 2 – 5 times the price of a colour in their salon. Now I am not saying we need to go out and start trying to get $500 – $1250 for our haircuts, but what is a $20 haircut saying about your skill? Does it give it value? Most trades I have investigated start charging around $120 an hour and yet our trade would be lucky to find the majority charging more than $30 – $40 an hour when it comes to cutting.
Should we be getting more? – YES. Are we doing enough to get more? – NO! Education is so lacking within the industry it is bordering on the pathetic. It is available from the very product companies we disdain for milking our reputation for their own gain, but it’s usually cheap or free and so we avail ourselves of it. But what is this free education worth? Well just like the name suggests, nothing. It’s not the best you can get, not even close. Sure there is some good stuff being shared for free but for the most part it’s not really good education.
There are of course exceptions to every rule – D.J. Muldoon from The Factory provides excellent monthly educational webinars that are free to attend and allow you to cut along in real time with him. You can investigate more about it here(weblink). And if you miss the live webinars then replays are available for $20 each.
So what is the barrier that stops us getting good or great education? The fact they want us to pay for it. Education is expensive. However, if we were maximising what we charge for our skills then the cost of education might not seem so bad. Good education is an investment. Yes we’ve all heard that before. but it’s true. It is the cornerstone of our inspiration, it keeps us current with trends and allows us to network with others and learn from each other. I truly believe that it is the lifeblood of our industry.
I myself don’t attend as much education anymore – not that I know it all, but I am selective about what I do attend; perhaps one or two events a year, sometimes more… I also invest heavily on DVDs and online education. I am not a big fan of trend releases from manufacturers as they are often about moving something within their product range rather than a skill update. I also avoid gimmicky education. You will find that most times it really is for show, which makes for great entertainment when you go to a hair show, but rarely translates into techniques that are workable in the salon on a daily basis. I also want return on my investment and I usually get it from solid core education, not tying hair to balloons or wildly shreding it with scissors in both hands. Remember that’s entertainment, and its great fun and has it’s place, but it’s not education. Finding the best education can improve your skill and speed and make you a better hairdresser – being faster and creating more repeatable work, you will be able to increase your haircut prices or at least increase the number of services you provide within a given time frame. Great education will give you skills that no DIY-er has, but that every hairdresser does or could have.
I have what I consider to be one of the greatest educational cutting DVD sets available for purchase on this site. Produced by Russell Mayes Modern:Classics gives you a solid grounding in haircutting for a small $99 investment. Online there is also great education available at myhairdressers.com, I have subscribed on and off over the years and find it great value for money at around $16 a month. Also check out The Factory TV – D.J. has various training available for purchase on DVD for $24.99 or you can rent it online for around $5.99.
I don’t want this to be about pricing. It’s a whole complex process in itself to correctly price your services. I want it to be about creating value for your client and realising that we do provide far more value than we give ourselves credit for. Thanks must also go to Alan Benfield Bush for inspiring this post. So next time you think your business is suffering because of diversion or home colour, I want you to think, “Am I maximising or bastardising my haircut?”