Independent cut and colour expert Vanessa Koeb asks whether stylists should put up a boundary against clients oversharing
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash.
I have been in the industry for 18 years, and never have I had a moment when I felt overwhelmed by a client opening up about their personal life. I’ve always been proud to be an open and inclusive hairdresser, and love sharing conversations with the people in my chair.
Through the years, I have met extraordinary people from all over the world, each one of them with an incredible story that I got to know because of their extremely personal confessions. But without realising it, I was pushing the line a bit…
Since becoming freelance, a lot has changed. Most of the changes are positive, I am basically the chief executive of my own business. The major switch from being employed and only having to worry about customer care is that now I have a lot to think and worry about. For example, how to manage money, pay taxes and related expenses, trying to keep a busy column and creating social media content daily. The worry I feel when the weeks ahead aren’t looking busy, thinking about marketing strategies, the list goes on. But I bet that every freelancer can relate to this list of concerns.
On top of all that, we have to be present with clients, be professional, great executors – and therapists too? Isn’t that an obsolete stereotype that hairdressers are also therapists? Another big change I have seen has come from the pandemic where clients have realised our value and how much they need us, because we make them to feel good. So, once they got back in our chairs, they couldn’t help but open up, and we needed that too. But we are three years on from the first lockdown, and we need to reassess boundaries.
Having conversations with other freelancers made me realise the weight of responsibility that comes from having our own businesses, which makes us aware that we are not equipped for oversharing with clients and dealing with their personal problems too. It is intensely overwhelming and completely knocks out the focus we have when we are colouring or cutting their hair. It also leaves us drained for days.
I am forever grateful for my clients’ support and loyalty, however I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best for me to have a kind chat with them at the beginning of their appointment and let them know my goal is to make them to feel good by giving them the best looking hair possible, explaining that I will be silent while focusing on the application/cut but will still be detailing every step I take, giving them the best product recommendations for their hair. This boundary allows me to execute a great hair look while protecting my mental health and my client’s.
Of course, I still have regular clients that I have been doing for years, with whom I don’t need to have this approach. I guess the whole point is my realisation that I do hair, I want to be good at doing hair, and I want to make people feel good because of their hair. Nothing else.
Vanessa is a freelance stylist at The Hair Salon in Hove