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How to Open a Hair Salon

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Open a Hair Salon

Fast Facts

Investment range

$12,050 - $59,100

Revenue potential

$280,000 - $1,125,000 p.a.

Time to build

1 – 3 months

Profit potential

$55,000 - $225,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Full-time

Here are the key factors to keep in mind when launching your hair salon business:

  1. Good location — Choose a location with high visibility and foot traffic, ideally in an area frequented by your target demographic.
  2. Invest in high-quality salon equipment, supplies, and furniture.
  3. Hire experienced and high-quality staff — Hire experienced and skilled hairstylists or invest in their training.
  4. Register your business — A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple. Form your business immediately using ZenBusiness LLC formation service or hire one of the best LLC services on the market.
  5. Legal business aspects — Register for taxes, open a business bank account, and get an EIN.
  6. Manage your salon’s finances carefully — Budgeting, controlling expenses, setting competitive but profitable pricing, and planning for future growth.
  7. Online presence — Establish a website, invest in a booking (appointment) app, create a Yelp and Google Business profile, and encourage online reviews.
  8. Learn from real entrepreneurs who run a hair salon:

Set Lopez, Virtus Barber and Co., based in Dallas, TX

You May Also Wonder:

Are hair salons profitable?

Hair salons can be extremely profitable. The average salon haircut costs $45, and color treatments cost $75. The profit margin for a hair salon is strong, generally around 20%.

What kind of insurance does a hair salon need?

A typical hair salon needs general liability insurance, commercial property insurance, professional liability insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance.

Do I need a cosmetology license to open a hair salon?

Yes, you are required to have a cosmetology license to open and run a hair salon in all states.

How do I make my salon successful?

To make your salon successful, focus on providing exceptional customer service, offering high-quality and trendy hair services, hiring skilled and well-trained staff, maintaining a clean and inviting environment, implementing effective marketing and promotion strategies, and creating loyalty programs or special offers to attract and retain clients.

Can I offer additional services, such as nail care or spa treatments, in my hair salon?

Yes, you can offer additional services such as nail care or spa treatments in your hair salon. This can improve the customer experience, provide convenience, and attract a wider range of clients. However, make sure to consider the space, resources, and licensing requirements for offering these additional services.

How do I attract people to my salon?

Develop an online presence through a professional website and active social media profiles to showcase your salon, services, and client transformations. Engage with your audience, share valuable content, and respond to inquiries promptly. Utilize online directories and platforms specifically for beauty and salon services.

hair salon idea rating

Below you’ll find a detailed, step-by-step guide to starting a successful hair salon.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and Cons

Opening a hair salon has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s the right path for you. 

Pros

  • Creative outlet — Design your own salon concept
  • More money — Make more than you do as a stylist
  • Share your passion — Make your customers gorgeous!

Cons

  • High startup costs — Renting a space and buying equipment is expensive
  • Competitive market — Market is saturated with hair salons

Hair Salon Industry Trends

Industry Size and Growth

hair salon industry size and growth

Trends and Challenges

hair salon Trends and Challenges

Trends

  • Personalization and customization are becoming increasingly popular, and hair salons should join the trend by offering clients experiences based on their particular needs.
  • Mobile hair salons became popular during the pandemic and are continuing to grow as a segment of the industry. Mobile salons are either modified vehicles that have been transformed into salons or stylists that make house calls. 

Challenges

  • Hiring and retaining employees is a continual challenge for hair salons.
  • Many hair salon owners and stylists feel the need to price their services lower to attract customers, which often results in little or no profit.

Demand Hotspots

hair salon demand hotspots

What Kind of People Work in Hair Salons?

hair salon industry demographics
  • Gender — 90.6% of hair stylists are female, while 9.2% are male.
  • Average level of education The average hair stylist is high school educated.
  • Average age — The average hair stylist in the US is 40.4 years old.((https://www.zippia.com/hair-stylist-jobs/demographics/))

How Much Does It Cost to Open a Hair Salon?

You can start a mobile hair salon for about $12,000. Costs include your equipment, a down payment on a van, and van modifications. To open a physical salon, you’ll spend $60,000 or more to rent a space, prepare the space, and buy all the chairs and equipment. 

All US states require barbers and hairstylists to be licensed cosmetologists, certified by a state-approved program. If you’re not already licensed, you can train in about a year for about $15,000. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your hair salon, including: 

  • Chairs, shampooing bowls, towels
  • Hairdryers and other styling equipment
  • Shampoos and hair care products
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150–$200$175
Business licenses and permits$100–$300$200
Insurance$100–$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200–$300$250
Website setup$1,000–$3,000$2,000
Shop rental deposit$0–$5,000$2,500
Space preparation$0–$20,000$10,000
Chairs, shampoo bowls, other equipment and supplies$5,000–$30,000$17,500
Van for mobile salon - down payment$2,500–$0$1,250
Van modifications$3,000–$0$1,500
Total$12,050–$59,100$35,575

How Much Can You Earn From a Hair Salon Business?

hair salon earnings forecast

The average salon haircut costs $45, and the average color treatment costs about $75. Profit margins for hair salons after rent, overhead, and labor are about 20%.

In your first year or two, if you have five chairs, the average customer spends $60, and you have 15 customers a day six days per week, you’ll be bringing in $280,000 in annual revenue. This would mean more than $55,000 in profit, assuming that 20% margin. As your brand gains recognition and you begin to get repeat customers and referrals, you could expand to 10 chairs and have 60 customers per day. With annual revenue of $1,125,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $225,000.

What Barriers to Entry Are There?

There are a few barriers to entry for a hair salon business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • The high startup costs
  • Finding licensed stylists to hire
  • Standing out from the competition

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a hair salon, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect service. Conducting market research is important because it can help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an Opportunity

Research hair salons in your area (large chain salons, independent salons, and mobile or home-based hairdressers) to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a hair salon that serves wine. 

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as hair coloring.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Crafting Your Hair Salon’s Unique Services

Your services don’t have to be limited to just haircuts and color. You could also offer:

  • Hair up-dos
  • Nail services
  • Blowouts
  • Makeup application

How Much Should You Charge for Hair Services?

The average price for a salon cut is $45, and a color treatment is $75. Your ongoing costs will be for rent, overhead, and labor. You should aim for a profit margin of 20%.

Once you know your costs, you can use our profit margin calculator to determine your markup and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify Your Target Market

You can open a woman’s salon or a unisex salon. Either way, your target market will be broad. You should spread out your marketing to include TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. Make sure to post pictures of the great hairstyles that leave your salon!

Where? Choose Your Hair Salon Location

When selecting a location for your hair salon, consider the demographics of your target market. Look for areas where your ideal customers reside or work, such as residential neighborhoods or commercial districts with a high concentration of office buildings. This will increase the chances of attracting clients who are conveniently located nearby and are more likely to choose your salon for their hair care needs.

Visibility is key in the hair salon industry. Opt for a location with good visibility, preferably on a busy street or in a high-traffic area. A salon that is easily noticeable from the street can catch the attention of potential clients and entice them to step inside. Additionally, choose a location with ample parking or easy access to public transportation to make it convenient for clients to visit your salon.

You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices. When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed

Step 3: Brainstorm a Hair Salon Name

Here are ideas for brainstorming your hair salon business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “salon” or “hair salon,” boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for example, “Emma’s Hair Salon” over “Emma’s Bridal Salon”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Discover over 450 unique hair salon business name ideas here. If you want your business name to include specific keywords, you can also use our hair salon business name generator. Just type in a few keywords, hit Generate, and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the US Patent and Trademark Office website to make sure the names are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation.

Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Hair Salon Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive summary — A brief outline highlighting your salon’s mission, services offered, target market, financial projections, and growth potential
  • Business overview — An overview of the hair salon industry, your business’s location, the type of salon, and the unique value proposition you offer
  • Product and services — Details of the hair care services, such as cuts, coloring, styling, and potentially retail products you plan to offer
  • Market analysis — An examination of the local demand for hair salon services, customer demographics, and spending habits
  • Competitive analysis — Assessment of local competitors, their service offerings, pricing, and market position relative to your planned salon.
  • Sales and marketing — Strategies for attracting and retaining clients, pricing, promotions, advertising channels, and customer engagement tactics
  • Management team — Profiles of key team members, their roles, expertise, and how their experience supports the salon’s success
  • Operations plan — Day-to-day running of the salon, including hours of operation, supplier relationships, staffing, and salon maintenance
  • Financial plan — Projected financial statements, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, profit margins, and break-even analysis
  • Appendix — Supporting documents such as resumes, detailed financial forecasts, market research data, and any legal documents

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!

Choose Where to Register Your Company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to hair salons.

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind that it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.

Choose Your Business Structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your hair salon will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.

Here are the main options:

  • Sole proprietorship — The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General partnership — Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) — Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corporation — Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corporation — This refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just needs to elect to be an S Corp for tax status. In this business structure, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
types of business structures

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.

Form Your LLC

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number or EIN. You can file for your EIN online, by mail, or by fax. Visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind that, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship, you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund Your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans — This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans — The Small Business Administration can act as a guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants — A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and family — Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding — Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal — Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best options, other than friends and family, for funding a hair salon business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.

types of business financing

Step 8: Apply for Hair Salon Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a hair salon business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

You don’t need a specific hair salon license, but you do need to be a licensed cosmetologist in your state. State requirements vary.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your hair salon business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability — The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business property — Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment breakdown insurance — Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation — Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property — Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto — Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability — Protects against claims from clients who say they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP) — This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.

Essential Software and Tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as SalonBiz, Rosy, or Shedul, to manage your online bookings, appointment calendar, inventory of products, and payments.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, FreshBooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences of filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop Your Website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

However, people are unlikely to find your website unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Local SEO — Optimize your Google My Business and Yelp profiles, encouraging satisfied clients to leave positive reviews to enhance local visibility.
  • Website Optimization — Implement SEO strategies to boost your salon’s visibility in search engine results and improve client bookings.
  • Social Media Integration — Connect your website to social platforms like Facebook and Instagram for targeted ads and engaging different audience demographics.
  • Email Marketing — Send personalized newsletters and special offers to your client base to maintain engagement and encourage repeat visits.
  • Video Marketing — Produce and share entertaining or informative videos about your hair services to attract attention online.
  • Content Creation — Start a blog to share hair care tips and trends, distributing content across multiple platforms for broader reach.
  • Referral Programs — Offer incentives for clients who refer new customers to build a loyal client base.
  • Loyalty Rewards — Develop a loyalty program with unique rewards to encourage repeat business and customer loyalty.
  • Influencer Partnerships — Collaborate with micro-influencers to promote your services to their followers.
  • Local Business Partnerships — Create joint promotions with other local businesses to tap into their customer base and foster community ties.
  • Online Booking — Implement an online reservation system with reminders to streamline the booking process and improve customer satisfaction.
  • Eco-Friendly Practices — Highlight your use of sustainable products and methods to attract eco-conscious clients.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Today, customers are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your hair salon meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.

unique selling proposition

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your hair salon business could be:

  • Let us care for your most important accessory
  • Gorgeous hair that will make you a star
  • Affordable mobile hair services — at your service! 

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain, but your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a hair salon business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in hair salons for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in hair salons. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a hair salon business include:

  • Hair stylists — performing hair services
  • Counter clerks — greeting customers, taking calls, taking payments
  • General manager — scheduling, staff management, accounting
  • Marketing lead — SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.

Step 13: Run a Hair Salon — Start Making Money!

Running a Business

The hair salon industry is booming, and it’s worth $52.2 billion in the US alone. If you’re a master hair stylist, you could get a piece of that market with your own hair salon.

It takes an investment to start, but you can earn an excellent return on that investment, and eventually grow to have a whole chain of hair salons. You’re a business expert now, so style your plans and get ready to launch your new hair salon empire!

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How to Open a Hair Salon