Many people dream of running their own beauty or hair salon – maybe hairdressing or beauty therapy has been your passion since you were young; or perhaps it was a creative pursuit that turned into a business on the side, and then into a fully-fledged way to make a living.

That jump from ‘gig on the side’ to sole income is a tough call to make. Often the start-up costs require the investment of a good portion of your life savings, so how can you assure your salon’s success so you can continue to pay the bills? While nothing can guarantee success 100%, you can put your best foot forward with these insider tips.

Choose your location wisely

Aside from your manpower costs, your salon location will likely be your biggest overhead cost. But a good location can make or break a salon’s success. So while it’s tempting to opt for a lower-cost setting, it’s important to get the benefits of having the right location.

When hunting for a commercial lease for your salon, keep in mind elements like:

  • Foot traffic – a lot of eyes on your front door doubles as a strong marketing channel after all
  • Proximity to a potential client base – possibly close to an industrial centre (for after-work or lunch-break appointment) or a residential development (for weekend appointments near home)
  • Hidden costs associated with the lease – such a local council fees or fees payable to the shopping centre if the location is within a shopping development
  • Parking and transport – is there ample free (or at least cheap) parking available for clients and staff? And if not, what public transport routes are nearby?

Learn the business ropes or get some help

The importance of this point cannot be underestimated. Hair styling, nail art or massage techniques might be your passion and your forte, but when you’re turning your passion into a business, you need to get to grips with the business side of things too. This includes things like paperwork and compliance, accounting, payroll, marketing, HR and rostering to name a few. This is a wide skillset and a steep learning curve – many people spend years at university learning the ropes of just one of these elements – so how can you be expected to get it all right from the offset?

Chances are you won’t be able to hire an accountant, a marketer and a HR head in your first months (or even years!), so how can you ensure you don’t drop the ball on these important building blocks for success? Luckily there are some avenues for assistance. You can use freelance sites like Fiverr to find experts all over the globe to help with elements like your logo design, website build and even some basic accounting, often for comparably small fees. There are cloud accounting tools you can use for things like payment tracking, payroll and invoicing. But the best advice is to invest in business management software that can help with most of these elements all in one place – and even better would be dedicated salon management software. These solutions give you the tools and the power to manage virtually all element of the business – from accounting and payroll to appointment booking, staff rostering, marketing and even customer loyalty schemes.

Invest in your staff

An important part of the salon experience for your customers is the social aspect of the visit – getting out of the house and chatting to their hairdresser or nail technician – so you need to view your staff as one of your core assets. More often than not, if they go, many of their customers go along with them. So it’s vitally important to your business to ensure your staff are happy and fulfilled in their roles.

This can include simple things like ensuring their input is taken on board (as much as possible) when drawing up rosters; and if any roster changes are made, ensuring they are notified as early as possible. It’s also empowering to incentivise good client relationships with commissions for repeat bookings. Again, good salon management software will include a customer relationship management (CMR) function which will enable your staff to quickly make and check notes about each customer before and after every visit, enabling them to provide a personalised experience each time.

Bear in mind too that it costs more to replace a staff member than to keep one happy. So as your company grows, it’s also wise to put aside some time and financial investment for ongoing staff training. Not only will this keep staff happy and fulfilled in their roles, but it will also keep your salon ahead of the curve with all the latest beauty and styling techniques. So in time, this investment will more than provide you with a profitable return.

Spend money to make money

When money is tight at the beginning of a start-up, it can be daunting to start splashing the cash on marketing your business without knowing what channels are going to pay off. But the old saying ‘you have to spend money to make money’ has been popular throughout the ages for a reason – it’s 100% accurate! You just have to find the right marketing channels for you.

Social media marketing is a godsend for small businesses – it’s personal, scalable and relatively inexpensive to dip your toe in the water to see if it’s right for you or your campaign. Facebook advertising in particular allows you to inexpensively target people in your local geographical area, even drilling down as far as people in the area with an interest in their appearance, with promotions and ads tailored to them.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Snapchat and email marketing are two other highly successful channels for small business. Check out these really useful marketing guides written specifically for salon owners for more ideas to get your clients flowing in.