The Pros and Cons of Booth Renting
by Lilly Rockwell on Tuesday, September 1, 2009
It’s a common crossroad for many established hair stylists: do I work for a salon or become a free agent?
It can be a tough decision for many hair stylists used to the guaranteed income, comforts and camaraderie that come with working at a salon as an employee.Those who strike out on their own by renting a chair from a salon instead will find greater responsibilities and, potentially, a bigger payoff.
The trend of booth renting has become one of the most contentious trends in the industry, with many salon owners citing it as the potential downfall of their industry.
“I think it has to go away,” Ron King, owner of Bo Salon in Austin, Texas, says of the trend. “It cheapens the business. They are one reason people don’t respect stylists.”
For those pondering becoming an independent contractor, there are a number of important considerations.
“Once you rent, you have to buy everything,” said Cala Renee, a curly hair specialist who runs her own salon in Beverly, Mass. However, “it’s a great start for somebody who might be interested in opening his or her own salon.”
By renting, stylists pay to use the chair and provide their own equipment. In turn, the stylists get the freedom of setting their own hours and keeping all the money that comes in for each haircut, plus tips.
Working at a salon means the stylist is part of the staff and paid on commission, typically between 45 and 65 percent of the cost of the haircut, plus tips. The salon pays for your equipment, training and provides personnel assistance such as a receptionist. A salon can also direct walk-ins or new clients your way.
Teresa Callen has done both, and recently opened her own boutique salon called Image Art in Menlo Park, Calif. She specializes in curly hair. The best part about working for a salon is “they do all the paperwork, they deal with all the government nightmare stuff and your taxes are incredibly easy to do.”
“It’s a form of hairdressing paradise if you’re a true artist; it’s fun to just show up and do hair,” Callen said. Still, Callen says she prefers renting a chair. Simply put, a stylist can make more money that way. “There is freedom — you can work whenever you want,” Callen said. But with more money comes more responsibility. That means providing your own tools and products.
“It can be a huge amount to take in,” Callen said. “You have to do everything.”
It can also be difficult to find the right salon owner to rent from.
“It’s very rare to find a really good salon owner that rents out independent chairs,” Callen said. “If you can find them, it’s paradise.”
Cristin Armstrong has worked as a hair stylist for seven years and currently works at New York City-based Takamichi Salon where she specializes in curly hair.
Armstrong recently considered renting a chair, and even found a suitable location, but decided working at a salon is a better fit for her.
“With chair rental it is basically a business-within-a-business,” Armstrong said. “The salon I looked at, the rent was really low.” This salon was asking for $65 a day in rent, considered a bargain for New York. Other stylists said rental fees vary from $850 to $2,000 a month depending on the location and size.
For single mothers or hair stylists looking for a more flexible schedule, booth renting can provide more flexibility as you can determine your own hours.
Working at a salon is best for anyone who is new to hairstyling, or anyone who wants to focus on cutting hair instead of juggling schedules and product inventory.
“For anybody starting out, definitely they want to go somewhere where they can make commission and then consider renting when they are more established,” said Tiffany Anderson-Taylor, who works at the St. Petersburg, Fla,–based Essentials the Salon. Working at a salon gives a stylist an automatic client base to draw from, and exposes them to more experienced hair stylists and training opportunities.
“I could easily look at that option (renting a chair) right now because I do have a big client database and I have a full book right now.” But her salon doesn’t offer booth rentals and she is “really happy” working there.
“The only reason why I’m an independent contractor is I’m a single mother of two,” said Callen, the owner of Image Arts Salon. “If I didn’t need to make more money, I’d love to just show up and cut hair. “
Marty Franco, the owner of Baltimore-based Manetamer Salon, said booth rental could be a financial boon for both the salon owner and hairstylist.
“If you are a stylist and you have a very big book, I recommend booth rentals,” Franco said. A hair stylist with a full book can make about $3,000 a week, he said. While you have to purchase your own supplies, much of that is tax deductible because it is a business expense.
But Franco adds that it can also be distracting for the salon owner and doesn’t make for a very cohesive team when hair stylists are working for themselves.
King of Bo, where two out of the 14 stylists are booth renters, is much more outspoken about the effect on salon owners.
“Independent contractors aren’t team players,” he says. “They all want this beautiful salon to work in, but they don’t realize what comes with it. They want all the profit, but they don’t want any of the expenses. They want to do what they want to do and come in when they want to come in. That’s why I got rid of almost all of them at my salon “
Many hair stylists are happier working in a salon even though they might be able to make more working on their own.