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Cosmetology Students: How to succeed at Cosmetology School

Sam Villa

Author Sam Villa | Founding Partner of Sam Villa


Becoming a Hair Stylist is unforgettable and filled with inspirational learning. You have the gift of a trade filled with endless opportunities!

The future is yours.

With so much excitement to get your hands in some hair, it can be challenging to get through the theory lectures in Cosmetology School.

Valuable words of advice: soak in as much theory as possible! Theory is based on principles which never change.

In this article we will unfold the secrets of how to succeed at Cosmetology School, gain the best experience, and prepare you to start building your dream career!

Read on for more Industry secrets to prepare you for the journey!

Index

The Cosmetology Exam

1

The Cosmetology Exam

Networking

2

Networking

Promote your portfolio

3

Promote your portfolio

Be Professional

4

Be Professional

Invest in the Right Tools

5

Invest in the Right Tools

Career Paths After Cosmetology School

6

Career Paths After Cosmetology School

Sam Villa: Roots and Journey

7

Sam Villa: Roots and Journey

Bonus Track: Industry Secrets

8

Bonus Track: Industry Secrets

 

1. The Cosmetology Exam

Once you complete the State required hours in Cosmetology School, the State Board Exam is the last step to becoming a Licensed Cosmetologist.

The last few months of school are dedicated to being on the floor prepping for the exam - be sure to take advantage of this!
Your instructors are a valuable resource: ask them to guide you, time you and provide constructive criticism while you practice.

First step? Go to your State licensing website and apply for the exam.

In most States there are two sections:

  • Written (approx 2.5 hours)
  • Technical (approx 3.5 hours)

In most states, 70 is a passing grade for both sections

It may take a few days for the application to be accepted. Once it’s approved, you’ll receive your scheduled date for the State Board Exam.

The Cosmetology Exam

The Curriculum graded is on the following:
  • Professional appearance
  • Professional work area
  • Preparation of client (mannequin)
  • Haircutting
  • Blow drying
  • Thermal curling
  • Roller placement
    • Permanent waves
    • Finger waves
  • Chemical services restructuring
    • Foiling
    • Hair Coloring
    • Chemical Restructure (Relaxer)

Be sure to look online, this will vary by State!

Tip!

TIP!

Once you receive
your License

  • Join your local Beauty Supply Store: Stores offer professional product discounts and classes from top Educators for an exceptionally reasonable price!
  • Sign up for Beauty Brands’ Professional websites for access to online education, special offers and professional discounts.
  • Attend Trade Shows for professionals. Get familiar with the newest trends and products!

 

2. Network

Even in our social media-driven world, word-of-mouth has shown to improve the marketing of businesses by more than 50%!
Networking is driven by shared interests and the desire to help one another. Connections formed this way have strong, long-lasting relationships which instills loyalty.

Leveraging the power of networking will also multiply your chances of growing a clientele. You have the ability to gain advocates in local businesses by collaborating and offering customer referral programs.
Referred clients have a higher retention rate - even more so when there’s an incentive involved!

More clients that are loyal? Now that’s living the dream!

Tip!

TIP!

Leverage the power of networking with a customer referral program

  • Make custom discount cards or place a sticker on your personal business card with a discount or incentive.
  • Hand these cards out to local waitresses, bartenders, nail technicians, baristas, personal trainers, etc.
  • When you hand out a card, have the person you hand it to write their name on the back. Let the person know that when they refer someone, they and their referral will both receive a discount!

Get out and about!

Conduct your own market research.
Schedule Blow Dry appointments for yourself at different salons in your neighborhood.

Here are some important things to pay attention to:

  • Did the receptionist greet you?
  • Did your stylist consult with you? Discuss products used?
  • Did you feel that your Stylist listened to you?
  • Was your shampoo service memorable?
  • Were you satisfied with your service?
  • Were you given a style how-to so you can recreate your look at home?
  • Are the stylists working as a team?
  • Are there Education Certifications or other Certifications posted up in the salon?

In order to be a successful Hairdresser, you’ll want to be sure you’re in an environment that will inspire you, provide education, empathize with clients and treat them with superior customer experiences.

After visiting a few salons, you’ll get a sense of the cultures that you connect with and where you see yourself working. A great way to be sure of the right fit is to shadow the Salon Owner and Stylists.

Immerse yourself in the culture to find your ideal salon!

 

3. Promote your Portfolio

Having a portfolio provides you with the ability to share your skills at any moment and gain your credibility. That leads to the Industry secret: build your hair portfolio by collaborating with other artists!

Each artist will offer their skills as a trade for copies of images. This eliminates the high-cost associated with photoshoots and establishes a network of people that can refer you and vice-versa.

Tip!

HOT TIP!

If you have a passion for Styling hair for magazine spreads, TV, runways etc: this is a great way to gain the experience. It requires different skills to do hair on the set of a TV show or backstage at a fashion show.
Volunteering for photoshoots can lead you to the right people and grow relationships for these opportunities!

Get social!

Social platforms give us the ability to market ourselves reaching millions of people at no cost! The power of social media is stronger than ever and with the forecasted growth rate, being well versed in these platforms will increase the awareness of your brand.

Each platform is valuable for different marketing purposes which means being involved in all of them will only bring more awareness to your brand!

Instagram
Instills inspiration and new ideas, showcasing products and services that feel authentic. The user-friendly platform connects you with a network of like-minded individuals and makes it easy to reach your target audience.
The algorithms allow you to build your brand by directing clients to your profile when they’re searching for specific looks. Additionally, you can post flash sales, incentives and events to keep your existing guests in-the-know while simultaneously growing your clientele!

Facebook
An excellent place for reviews from family and close friends. If someone is looking for a new Hair Stylist, Facebook will provide great value when a recommendation is needed or given. The more people you can reach, the better! Not everyone on Facebook is on Instagram and vice versa, so your ability to gain awareness is higher by utilizing every Social Media Platform.

Pinterest
Pinterest is designed to connect people to an interest. This makes it a great channel for clients looking for inspiration when they want a new look.
The layout of Pinterest portrays a wide variety of photo inspiration all on one page.
Have your clients create a “board” and share it with you prior to their salon visit. This a very valuable tool to start the consultation process.

Youtube
There’s a growing market for consumers searching for “how-to” videos. Clients want to be educated and know how to replicate their style hoping to look as good as when they left the salon!
Create custom content for your clients to establish client loyalty and build great relationships.
Youtube will also help raise your brands’ awareness and gain credibility with influential people in our Industry

Tip!

HOT TIPS to get your social-game strong

Come up with a brand strategy:

Who is your ideal clientele?
Post images of the clients you want to attract! (For example: Working moms, corporate workers, etc.)

What are you selling?
Are you an expert Colorist?
Are you a great Blow Dryer?

Why should they come to you?
Become an expert.
Find your unique offering
Excel in customer service
Build loyal local customers

 

4. Be Professional

Hair Stylists thrive on freedom of artistic expression. Art and Fashion inspire trends and techniques in our industry influencing clients and hairdressers to embrace change.
Staying current in fashion, hair color and hairstyles is key to establishing our expertise in our profession and gives us the ability to be our own walking billboard!

The key factor to cultivating professionalism is what sets you apart from the others: expert customer service.

Tip!

Industry TIPS for the ultimate Salon experience

Always look the part.
This will attract the clients that reflect your style and provides consistency- an important factor for building loyalty.

Be ready for your first client with an organized station, prior to their appointment.

Acknowledge if you’re running late.
It takes a few seconds of acknowledging your client to establish long term respect!

Consult! Whether your client is new or existing always provide the opportunity for change, and create a safe environment to discuss any concerns.

Take notes. Write down your clients’ partner and children’s names. Remember an event coming up or a special moment. Be sure to take out these notes at their next visit. This allows clients to feel special and will grow your relationship.

Offer styling tips and product recommendations to gain confidence in recreating their look at home.

Send thank you cards! A handwritten note will be a game-changer for a new client and remind your long-time client know how much they are appreciated!

 

5. Invest in the Right Tools

The tools provided by your Cosmetology School are usually for beginners. They are okay to try out for your first attempts on a mannequin, however the investment in professional tools holds as much value as your education does.

Keep in mind that we spend hours on our feet cutting, styling and coloring hair forcing strain on many different parts.

That’s why ergonomic tools are the most important investment you can make.
They will enhance your skill set and prevent injuries we are prone to as Hair Stylists.
Breaking down the cost of these tools, it will only take a few appointments to exceed your return on investment and with the quality of your service and the comfort you’ll immediately feel, you will have no regrets!

The investment in our tools is also an investment in our body.

 

6. Career paths after Cosmetology School

After graduating from Cosmetology School, there are many avenues to explore. Working in a salon at the start is a good choice for someone that needs a steady paycheck while simultaneously gaining experience and building your skills.

Many salons will pay hourly while you assist more established Hair Stylists and as you gain experience, you will start to take on clients of your own.

This is when you start “on the floor” and become commission-based or rent your own chair.

Career Paths Overview

Commission-based Stylists usually:

  • Receive a percentage of each performed Hair Service.
  • The salon is responsible for booking you and you may have access to an assistant.
  • The owner of the salon is responsible for buying the Color and Products.
  • The salon owner will be a boss figure to you.

Chair renters usually

  • Pay a weekly renters fee and keep all money from Hair Services.
  • Expected to buy your own product.
  • You will act as your own boss and schedule your own appointments.
  • There will not be an assistant.

Once you have built a Clientele

Suite owner

  • This is a great opportunity for someone who is well established and self-motivated and wants to be their own boss.
  • Usually a Suite holds one or two people so you are removed from a team-oriented environment.
  • Many brands won’t be able to offer Education to Suite owners, so self-motivation will be key to keep up with the trends.

Salon owner

  • Owning a salon can be extremely rewarding but it takes time away from being behind the chair.
  • Be sure to take business-building classes and speak to business owners for a full understanding of the responsibilities that come with owning.

Educator

  • Each Professional brand has a network of Educators. Be sure to find a brand you relate to and love.
  • This can be a great way to make additional income and grow your following.
  • Keep in mind that doing hair and facilitating how to do hair are two very different things.
  • Ask your salon to facilitate classes to the staff to be sure it’s something you want to pursue!

How much can I earn as a professional Hair Stylist?

With my experience in the Industry, I have been in hundreds of salons across the U.S.
The Hair Stylists that follow many of the secrets described in this article can make between $60,000 to upwards of six figures.
The opportunities are there for you, it’s up to you how successful you want to be. With patience and consistency, you will undoubtedly establish a lucrative business.

 

7. Sam Villa

“My Roots & Journey as an Educator”

Sam Villa sits down with his parents and shares his experience about how he got to where he is today.

Sam Villa Cosmetology School Experience

Andrew Carruthers Cosmetology School Experience

Anna Peters Cosmetology School Experience

 

8. Industry secrets to jump-start your dream career

  • Be a sponge! Soak in every bit of information.
  • Remain humble. You may have grown up around Hair Stylists or work in a salon while in school, but don’t let that deter you from asking as many questions as possible.
  • Start investing in your tools. Your tools will promote confidence and help adopt proper positioning.
  • Be open to mistakes. This is the time to take risks.
  • Take additional classes! There are some great influencers that offer business and social media classes. Trade shows also offer great education.
  • Save your tips! Start a continuing education fund for yourself.
  • Get friends and family to be your hair models. The more experienced you become, the better Hairdresser you will be.
  • Research different hair brands. Find a brand that meets your style. This will help you cultivate a network of Hair Stylists and influencers. Develop your own, unique approach.
  • Develop a relationship with a mentor to guide you through your journey.
  • Submit your work into competitions! Get yourself noticed. There are several hair schools and established companies that put on competitions for new Hair Stylists.
Summary

Now you are equipped with the Industry secrets to becoming a successful Hairdresser.
It is a journey and it won’t always be the dream life you envision in the beginning, but the reward of being a Hair Stylist far outweighs all of the struggles you face while you’re learning.
We have the power within our hands to make people feel their absolute best.

My final words of advice are to be patient, don’t give up or doubt yourself. Overcoming obstacles makes us a great Hairdresser and valuable team member.
Good luck on your journey through Cosmetology School!

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