Ken’s Clinic

Ken’s diagnosis:

Actually James this is a question that I am asked quite often by salon owners who struggle to find enough hours in the day to do what is needed to run a salon. Your added challenge is the fact that you are also doing session work which takes you away from the salon on a regular basis.

The first thing I would ask you is, where do you see yourself in five years? I understand that session work and editorial work can not only be fun but they are also extremely creative and must give you a lot of personal satisfaction. Session work however can also be extremely demanding. Often you spend more time in a studio watching photographers, make-up artists and stylists doing their work than you do creating your own masterpieces. Having done this myself I understand the process and the rewards. However, often the financial rewards do not justify the time spent away from your salon unless all of your session work is also promoting your salon brand as well as the brand paying for your session skills.

What I am talking about here is building your brand in consumers’ eyes and not those of your industry peers. I also understand that you are trying to build a new salon and that is a massive challenge in itself. For a stylist to build a strong clientele from scratch, ‘being there’ is vital. The more time you are out of your salon, the more time existing and new clients cannot book you. One thing I learnt in my own salons was that building a stylist who only works part time, is way harder that building a stylist who works full time. In fact, I never employed a new stylist on that basis. I only allowed a stylist to work part time once they had built a clientele.

If you are going to work part time then you need to ensure, if at all possible, that the days and hours you work are consistent and match peak client demand times. The challenge with session work is that it can be unpredictable and often take you away from your business at random times. I would suggest you use social media to keep your clients aware of what you’re doing and let them see how in demand you are as a creative. Your clients should appreciate this, and you should then become a highly priced, highly valued, and therefore rare, commodity.

Finally, I would ask you to think about your long-term goal. If your business is highly profitable with a strong and reliable team and can support you when you are not there, then congratulations. External work can enhance your brand but often it robs your team of your support and guidance and the role model that they need, especially in the early days of building the salon, the brand and its reputation in your town. There is absolutely no right or wrong, James, but there is a choice.

PS. I love the Brotherhood website and its Instagram. The imagery is brilliant and the concept of highlighting local businesses that you align with is an excellent idea.
I also think that if the website is any indication of the quality you’re offering, there is ‘headroom’ in your pricing, which I would be happy to discuss.

Ken West is director of business experts 3•6•5 – email him on


Ken West