Real Work, Real Life

Hair Stylist and Salon Owner

August 09, 2023 Emily Sampson Episode 24
Real Work, Real Life
Hair Stylist and Salon Owner
Show Notes Transcript

On this week's episode of Real Work, Real Life, I’m talking with Carley, a hair stylist and owner of Revive Salon and Spa, located in Falmouth, Maine.

Building a career as a stylist can be great for someone that is creative, entrepreneurial, and enjoys building strong relationships with clients and fellow stylists. Much like building any small business, there are plenty of upsides, like the ability to create a positive and supportive working environment for yourself and your employees, some aspects of flexibility, and the potential for growth. Of course, it also comes with some downsides, like managing your own retirement and healthcare and other benefits that you might receive through full time employment.

To find out more about Carley:
Revive Salon:
Instagram @colorebycarley or @revivesalonandspame

If you like the show, please rate and review on iTunes and Spotify  (linked below) and please share with a friend! You can also follow the podcast on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Tiktok. And if you’d like to be interviewed here, or there is a particular job you’d like to learn about, please reach out at


Transcripts are now available here:

Carley Hair Stylist

[00:00:00] Welcome to real work, real life, where I talk to real people about what they do for work and what that means for their lives. Today, I'm talking with Carly, a hairstylist and owner of revive salon and spa. Located in Falmouth, Maine. Building a career as a stylist can be great for someone that is creative, entrepreneurial and enjoys building strong relationships with clients and fellow stylists. 

Much like building any small business. There are plenty of upsides, like the ability to create a positive and supporting working environment for yourself and your employees. Some aspects of flexibility and the potential for growth. And of course it comes with some downsides, like managing your own retirement and healthcare needs and other things that might be provided at other types of full-time employment. 

So let's get into it. 

Emily: Thank you so much for being here, Carley

Carley: thank you so much. I'm so glad to be here. Emily.

Emily: So what do you do for work?

Carley: So I am a hairstylist and a salon owner, so I kind of run two businesses. I have been a [00:01:00] hairstylist for 10 years now and a salon owner for four.

Emily: Oh wow. So how did you get into it? What interested you about it Initially, I.

Carley: You know, it's funny you asked that question because I didn't have much interest in being a hairstylist when I started. I was actually exploring the option of becoming a teacher, but I couldn't decide on where I wanted to go to school. So my thought was is if I went to cosmetology school, I'd be able to work while I went to college.

It turns out I'm pretty good at doing hair. So um, the passion kind of grew once I was in the industry.

Emily: I. I mean, looking at your hair, I can tell you're very good at doing hair, so that makes

Carley: Thank you.

Emily: So can you talk a little bit about how you got there, what the certifications are required, how long it takes, how much it costs?

Carley: Yeah, so things have definitely changed over the last 10 years, and there are Several ways that you can become a hairstylist. The way that I went about it was I went to a school a cosmetology school [00:02:00] that I had to interview and then be accepted in to take the program. The way that cosmetology school works is based off of hours and it's 1500 hours, which breaks down to full-time for about 10 months.

So that's one avenue. Another avenue you can go down is doing an apprenticeship, which I don't have much information on. But that is like you were working under a licensed stylist and you are learning hands on, but it does take longer. And all these numbers change state by state, but that is the state of Maine regulation on that.

 So when I went to cosmetology school, it was about $15,000. When I started it was, like I said, I had to be accepted in, so it was more of like a private school. By the time I had graduated it was more public, so they were offering financial aid. And the interesting thing about cosmetology school is the only requirement to attend is you have to complete.

Freshman and [00:03:00] sophomore year of high school and then be at least 16 years old. So it's a really great option for a lot of people. But I now I was talking to some of my other stylists. It sounds like the going rate is about $25,000. And I would assume that financial aid is still available for that, which makes it a lot more doable.

Emily: Wow, so I suppose you could pursue it as a teenager then if you could some somehow find a way to make it work. Oh, that's interesting.

Carley: and I'm not sure exactly how it would work, but I think maybe you could even do it at the same time as you were in high school, you could probably take some night classes. It would definitely take longer 'cause it's hour based. But I'm sure you could do both.

Emily: it's hair, does it cover any other services as well? Or are you just focusing on hair when you're doing that, that period of time?

Carley: It focuses on just about anything in the industry. So we learn how to do nails, makeup, facials a little bit of massage, but it's definitely heavy on the hair education. There [00:04:00] are also silly classes like electrical and that segment of class is like, don't plug your curling iron in and throw it in the bathtub.

It's like, got it. you know, it's all those things that they have to teach you.

Emily: But honestly, you are dealing with a lot of electrical tools all the time. I mean, do they teach you anything about business ownership and business management?

Carley: When I went to school, they did not when I went, the main focus was to be able to perform services without hurting yourself or hurting your client.

Emily: Key.

Carley: Yep. Very straightforward. And also to, to pass the state boards. 'cause once you graduate cosmetology school, you graduate with, I believe it's a six month temp license.

Then you apply to take your state boards which is a written test and a practical exam.

Emily: what is the kind of pass fail rate on that? Do you have a sense? Do many people fail and aren't able to pass?

Carley: it's pretty straightforward if you, take it fairly soon after you graduate, it is so [00:05:00] fresh in your mind. Because it's very rigid. there's one way of doing something and it's a lot of memorizing 

Emily: Yeah. Oh, that's good to know. So what kind of personality do you think would do well in this job?

Carley: So my personality has changed quite a bit throughout my 10 year career being a cosmetologist. I would say I was pretty introverted when I started, but I found this confidence being behind the chair and really having this one-on-one conversation. And I would say definitely over, over the last several years, like during the pandemic, I have been able to have some really valuable heavy conversations with some of my clients.

And I think if you're able. To open up and be a bit vulnerable. It's very easy to connect with your clients, but you also you have to advocate for yourself and you have to market yourself. Because you are your own boss in a sense where even if you [00:06:00] are an hourly stylist, commission booth, rent, it is still your responsibility with that client who is in your chair. So you have to have some compassion. You have to have some.

artsy aspect about you? A creative

Emily: sure. creative Yeah, absolutely.

Carley: I wouldn't necessarily, you say you have to be outgoing I, think that there are so many people out there with heads of hair that are looking for their person. They're looking for a safe space to go somewhere that they can just kind of escape and really enjoy their time with you.

Emily: Yeah. Oh, that makes a lot of sense. what you said some of different. Types of stylists. Can you talk a little bit about that? Like most stylists that are working out there, are they sort of their own entity, even if they're within a larger salon or are they W two employees employed by a salon?

Carley: there are so many. Different types of stylists out there that you could probably have this interview with 10 [00:07:00] other stylists and get 10 different answers. I would say kind of where you start off with your career, if you're going to go to cosmetology school, if you're gonna take that route and you're gonna graduate you're probably gonna get into an hourly based salon.

And that is a lot of. Observing and just like you're a sponge and you are trying to absorb as much information as you can and ask as many questions as you can, and then you're either going to, you're gonna stay at hourly for a little, bit of time or you're gonna kind of jump into being in a commissioned situation, and that is where you're gonna need that little bit of a drive.

To go out there and hit the streets and hit social media and market yourself and really put yourself out there to get the clients to come in because you can determine how much you make if you're putting yourself out there and you're getting the clients in [00:08:00] and you're gonna make more money.

And then, From there, you kind of go to booth rent. So this is when you have your solid core clients where you, you know, what type of color they do. So you're not stocking every color under the sun. you're really running your own business. Yes, you have a salon owner who is taking care of the front of the house.

But. In a booth rent situation, you typically, you pay a weekly or monthly rent, you buy all your own products and you do your, all your own scheduling and it's very predictable.

Emily: wow. That's amazing. So you're your own small business at that point. so did you go from there to salon ownership?

Carley: So I actually was. A commission stylist and I had, left the salon I was at and I was a booth renter for a little while. And I will be completely honest, I failed at it. I was not ready, I was not ready to be my own boss. 'cause I didn't really know what it, meant. So I [00:09:00] ended up doing that for six months.

I ended up going back to the salon that I was a commission employee at. And then a couple of years later I was presented with the opportunity of opening revive. And I have been both a salon owner and kind of like a booth renter at the same time where I have been scheduling my own clients, managing my own books ordering my own product, and then also running the salon and promoting the salon.

Emily: Oh, that's so interesting. And sometimes the answer it depends, is really valuable too because it means there's a lot of options for people in the field, some fields there aren't really options. So that's interesting to know. So what do you make and what do your other benefits look like?

You know, if you have them through salon ownership or your work.

Carley: Yeah, I think. Each bracket, each type of stylist, you, you have your own, your own benefits and drawbacks. Where [00:10:00] I am at right now, being a cosmetologist of 10 years, I make roughly 85 to 90,000 a year. that is just from being a stylist. that is not my income from being a salon owner as well.

I think that that's Pretty average for where I am, my salon is, located in Falmouth, Maine. So it really is going to determine where the salon is that you work at. If you're up in Northern Maine, you're not gonna make, you're probably not gonna make that much. And I'm sure there's areas that, that you could make more.

Emily: right. I'm sure probably the closer you get to an urban area it could be more depending and your specialty. Right. Some specialty. if someone was graduating from cosmetology school today in your area?

What might you say? Yeah, you could probably earn this a year if everything goes well. 

Carley: Personally, when I, graduated, I was making about 30. And that was as a commission stylist, right out the gate. I would say that that's probably, you could expect between 30 and 40. But it [00:11:00] all depends on how eager you are to build your books. The more time that you commit to that you will see growth.

But you really have to humble yourself and in your first year or two, you're taking the kids cuts. You are doing the little old lady roller sets. You're doing all of it just to get your hands moving and make those connections.

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. So for things like healthcare and retirement, is that all on most stylists to manage themselves? Or is there any way of, are there any sorts of companies that will provide healthcare, provide something like a matching retirement plan?

Carley: Not really.

That is, that is one thing that this industry is really lacking are those benefits? Personally, I'm 29, so I am no longer on my mom's health insurance. And what I do is I have a friend of mine who is a direct primary care [00:12:00] physician. She actually opened her practice the same time I opened Revive, and she does like a monthly fee.

Monthly patient fee, which is much more manageable

Emily: Yeah.

Carley: than outsourcing health insurance. And she has just started working with a new type of health insurance that includes the direct primary care. And You pay as you go

Emily: Yeah.

Carley: where you're not submitting to insurance. So there's all these ways around it, but You either need to find people that are gonna help you find that information or you need, to be that type of person that is gonna be able to go sit down at your computer and just find the information yourself.

Emily: Yeah. I'm glad to hear that there are more models of healthcare and benefits like that out there for people because there's a lot of jobs that don't offer that W two full-time all the benefits. It's nice to know that there's other options out there. That's really cool.

Carley: my husband and I, we are both [00:13:00] self-employed, so there are no benefits there and I've actually known a lot of hairstylists that have left the industry to go to a job either at a bank or the post office somewhere that they can give benefits.

Emily: Yeah, I can understand that. I wish it was easier to, it feels like it would really support small business to have more options out there for people. But,

Carley: Absolutely.

Emily: So what are your hours like, and do you feel like you have a good work life balance?

Carley: So currently I am behind the chair Tuesday through Friday. I work roughly 10 to five. I will be honest and say that is a little bit too much time behind the chair with also being a salon owner.

Emily: Right.

Carley: burnout is such a real thing in this industry. So when you start feeling a little overwhelmed, it's like, okay, I need to start reevaluating my hours.

So personally, my books are booked out I'd say about eight weeks in advance. So anything I'm doing, I am [00:14:00] planning Two months out.

Emily: Wow. So some flexibility in that. You can choose those days, but once they're booked, you don't wanna get in the habit of rescheduling because, and I'm sure that counts for sick days or last minute days you wanna take off and, and all that stuff. Oh wow. That's interesting. It's its own kind of flexibility sort of

Carley: One of the great things is that you, you can make your own hours, but there's no, there's nobody to do your work if you, if you get sick and there's definitely no working from home,

Emily: Right. 

Carley: which, which is good and bad.

Emily: right. Yeah, it has its benefits, I suppose. So walk me through your average day, your average work day.

Carley: , I get to the salon about a half hour before my day starts, so around nine 30. kind of just do a once over the girls are typically already here at about between eight 30 and nine. I do a once over the salon. I prep my station for my client to come in. And how I schedule my books is I book my clients one after another.[00:15:00] 

I've been doing this for so long, I have my timing down that I know how long something is going to take me. So I am on my feet on the floor from 10 to five Tuesday through Friday.

Emily: Wow. What do you wear for shoes?

Carley: Currently I'm wearing sneakers. 

Emily: feel like my feet would be very tired.

Carley: Yes. That's one of the things when you first graduate school, you're like, wow. Yeah, it's really hard to find cute, comfortable shoes.

Emily: right.

Carley: One of the things I did when I was designing my salon was I bought a type of flooring that it's all foam backed,

Emily: Nice.

Carley: so it's like it relieves a little bit of the knee and the back pain.

Emily: Yeah, that's working smarter, not harder, right there. 

Carley: I will also say that I have finally caved and started using a stool and oh my gosh. It is life changing.

It's incredible. 

Emily: lot of sense. I think that's, I think that's wise for the long

[00:16:00] term 


Carley: it sooner. 

Emily: Yeah, So how do you view the prospects in the field right now? If someone is coming outta school, are there lots of opportunities for them? Or do you find the market is somewhat saturated?

Carley: It is very saturated, but there is always room for more.

Emily: Right? If you're good at your job, there's always room for more. I think 

Carley: Absolutely. I will say for people coming out of school, Do your research I think there's something to be said for a salon with an incredible Instagram and that does all these events and marketing, but the dark side of the industry is that it can be a very toxic environment.

It's predominantly women. And if you get 5, 10, 15, 20 of us in a room we're also talking opinions that is what our industry is about. I've had numerous clients sit in my, chair with blonde hair like I do, and say, I see red. And [00:17:00] there is not a lick of red on your blonde head. But it's all opinions and we all have them. And like I said earlier, if you were to have this interview with 10 other stylists, you get 10 different answers.

So you have to really ask the questions and do your research. And if you get into a salon where you are, cup isn't filled, and you are dreading going in, find a new salon.

There's no shame in that. There's absolutely no shame in that, and one of my biggest things that I have, done with REVIVE is really create a safe space for the clients and my girls. 

Emily: So important. 

Carley: I've had the girls come up to me, they're like, this is just this, it's so nice to be at a place where you feel valued and heard.

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. I, think it feels fairly recent in our society that we've cared a lot about making the workplace safe and A meaningful place where you spend your days. And I just think it's such a [00:18:00] great thing that people are putting so much attention on it so that you can just enjoy your working life as much as possible.

Carley: What a concept.

Emily: What a concept too new.

Carley: Who knew? 

Emily: it leads to all these other things. You know, I'm sure your clients feel it, it leads to better employee retention. You know, it has all these benefits that you can't see right away, but are so clear over the long term. What are some things you love about your job?

Especially if it's something you think people might not expect? 

Carley: I would say the connection that I have made with a lot of my clients

and the safe space that I have been able to create for them. And the salon, yes, the salon as a whole, but also in my chair. I value the time I have with every single one of my clients, and that's one of the things that has prevented me from backing down my schedule is, these have been my friends over the last 10 years. the connection paired with the creativity where I have gotten to the point with a lot of my [00:19:00] clients. They sit down and I try to have a consultation. They're like, Carly would do whatever. Do whatever you want.

I trust you. 

Emily: That's 

Carley: love that. 

I love that trust.

Emily: Oh, that sounds great. Is there anything that's tough about your career that you either didn't expect at all or you didn't anticipate how challenging it would be?

Carley: Yeah, sticking up for myself.

Truly. I think that that advocating for myself and if you were to talk to a lot of other stylists, like just for one little snippet, is our pricing. , we determine how much we make, but we will set our prices. But when you have these clients that feel like you're friends, it's really hard to be like, I just enjoyed the last three hours with you.

Oh, and by the way, you owe me $250.

Emily: Right. Oh, I 

think that would be so hard. But it's your time and you are

valuable and I think a lot about how we don't necessarily expect services to increase. I. Along with the speed of everything else, like if you think about the [00:20:00] inflation over the last few years, of course, services should also be going up at roughly that amount or more.

But mentally I can see how people get into this habit of thinking like, well, this was always this and now I'm surprised that it's more. And I bet that's really hard.

Carley: Yes, I mean, we have product, we have overhead, we have all of these things that we have to pay for. And not to mention our home life and our mortgages and, and groceries and things like that. Yeah, I would say really creating some strong boundaries and sticking to them that has been tough.

I think something a little bit more broad that a lot of stylists would agree with me on is the toxic traits of a lot of salons. And I am really encouraged to see that that's changing. But that's tough. If you were to find stylists that have been in the industry 5, 10, 15 years, We are all gonna agree that our first salon jobs, second salon jobs, they were just not good.

And we felt like we had to do that because we were, you know,[00:21:00] paving our way and, and it shouldn't be like that.

Emily: It shouldn't be like that. and also I think a lot of times your first job or two in an industry will be rough, and it's worth knowing that coming right outta school, that if that first job is rough, it doesn't mean all your jobs are going to be rough. You might just be needing to find your right spot and keep looking for it.

Carley: absolutely.

Emily: Yeah, that would be tough. I'm both sorry to hear that is how it was in the past, and also glad to hear that it's changing as the years have gone along.

What do you hope to be doing more of in the next five to 10 years? Do you have any sort of goals or things you're working toward, or are you happy the way things are going?

For the most part,

Carley: Yeah, the girls and I have actually been doing several runway shows one was a wedding show, another was a breast cancer awareness fashion show.

Emily: Amazing.

Carley: We had so much fun, it filled all of our cups. I wanna be doing more of that. I want to be able to get out from behind the [00:22:00] chair a little bit and be able to have a little bit wider reach and really support my girls and be more of a salon owner for sure.

Emily: Oh, I love that. I think that's a great goal, and it's so fun to mix up what you're doing so it's not kind of the same day after day.

Carley: Absolutely. And revive is structured as a booth, rent salon. So we are all independent contractors, but my biggest drive has been to create a team.

And we all run our own businesses, but we really support each other. We are just, the other day, one of the girls had a client that she's like, I need some advice.

And all of us, we all flocked around and we were throwing ideas around and we all walked out back. It's like, wow, that made us sound really smart. We're throwing around formulas and calculations and all these things

and we we love it. We love working together as a team and there's absolutely no competition.

Emily: that's gotta be the key, right? That's great to hear. So this is the last question I have [00:23:00] for you, and then I wanna leave time at the end so people know where to find you. What's one piece of advice generally about work that you would give your younger self?

Carley: I would say trust yourself. And also this too shall path it's really easy when you're learning something new, to get down on yourself very quickly about that and not understand why you're not doing celebrity hair. You know, why doesn't mine look like that?

But you just keep, you keep going and you keep learning and keep experimenting and I'm very thankful that I, stuck with being a hairstylist. I, love the life that I've been able to create for myself and my family. And I'm so thankful that I have revive and I have the girls here. it's incredible.

Emily: that's amazing. Well, Carly, where can people find you? Do you have Instagram or do you wanna just share the name of your salon?

Carley: Yes, it's revive Salon and Spa. We are on Route one in Falmouth, Maine. Our website is [00:24:00] And the same with our Instagram. It's just revive Salon and spa me.

Emily: Well, thank you so much for joining me, Carly. I just really appreciated talking to you.

Carley: Thank you so much. 

 Thanks for joining me. If you liked the show, please rate and review on iTunes and Spotify. And please share with a friend. You can also follow the podcast on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or ticktock. And if you'd like to be interviewed here or there's a particular job you'd like to learn about, please reach