How to Build a Clientele: Tips from a Stylist Who is Always Booked
Check out Hollie's tips for building your brand, investing in good clients, and dealing with bad ones.
Hollie is a highly sought after hair-painting and balayage specialist. Her books are rarely open to new clients and she’s managed to keep a consistently full schedule by building and maintaining a loyal clientele. Check out her tips for building your brand, investing in good clients, and dealing with bad ones.
#1 YOU HAVE TO HUSTLE.
When I started my career, Instagram didn’t yet exist and Facebook was still just for college students. If you wanted to build, you had to hustle.
I did a lot of free or discounted work on service industry workers as long as they promised to tell people I did their hair.
I passed business cards out to everyone I knew or met everywhere I went.
I included hair in every conversation I had, and it was easy because I was so passionate about it.
What didn’t work:
Trying to bribe my clients to send me referrals by offering incentives. People who did come to me because of that only came once or twice because their friend made them.
Also, using programs like Groupon and LivingSocial did not help. It filled my chair in the moment for less than half of what I would normally charge, and I did not retain a single person.
I found what worked was investing in the relationship with clients who did return. Finding out more about them, remembering specific things to talk about at their next appointment, and problem solving for them whether it was hair related or not.
#2 ALWAYS GIVE CONSULTATIONS.
I treat every client the same, no matter what number visit we are on. I greet them with a handshake (or hug) and a smile, invite them to my chair, and ask them about their day with genuine interest before anything else.
I give every single person a consultation every single time.
My clients like how honest I am with them. I explain the science and work that goes in to specific requests (like silver hair.) I show them how certain requests can’t work for them due to skin tone, lifestyle, face shape, or maintenance and then I offer similar solutions.
I believe my genuine personality keeps them coming back. I don’t think I’m better than any person in my salon, or any stylist in salon anywhere, for that matter. I think you vibe with certain people, and as long as you continue to listen as a professional and grow as a stylist, they will stick by your side.
#3 A BAD CLIENT CAN BECOME A GOOD CLIENT.
I have a very short tolerance for client BS. I have very clear lines drawn in the sand and demand respect. I can’t go above and beyond for a client if they do not respect my business or my livelihood. But, a bad client CAN become a good client if you are clear and firm with them.
For example, I’ve had a client show up late, with coffee and kid in tow, and demand to be finished early, then ask if I can post date their payment for their next payday. I stood my ground, but was polite. I was firm, but respectful of her as a person with stuff going on at home. I asked her to reschedule when she had the money and a babysitter. I was also booked out 4 weeks at that point. I expected never to hear from her again. She’s been an every 6 week client for 4 years now, always early, brings coffee for the both of us, and leaves the kid at home! No stylist had ever showed her that her behavior was bad, they would just stop returning her calls after a while. Communication is KEY!
Some “bad clients” are just misunderstood. Sure, I have people I don’t exactly vibe with. They rub me the wrong way. But I treat everyone the same way I would expect to be treated if I was the client. If they never cross any of my lines, there’s no reason to end the relationship. Most of my “bad clients” are some of the most loyal ones I have. If I sent them packing, I wouldn’t be where I am.
#4 BE HONEST.
Don’t put something out on social media if you edited it. Post your best work, sure. Be super critical of the photos you take and pick the best one, but don’t edit it into something you didn’t do. The client will know. People who know that client will know. And when someone comes in wanting the fake image, how will you “recreate”?! It’s false advertising.
Also, be super gracious and humble in everything you do online. Potential clients are everywhere, and our online behavior lives forever.
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