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A Day in the Life of a Hair Stylist

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Salomé de Wet: Hair Stylist

She’s hip, retro, and rocks a shock-yellow hairdo that you simply can’t miss.  Salomé de Wet  is firing up the Mother City with all kinds of trendy dos, and spends most of her time crafting away in the vibrant Scar Hair salon on Kloof Street. In an interview, Salomé chats to us about a typical day in the life of a Hair Stylist and what it takes to make it to the top in this increasingly recognised and admired profession.

Please tell us what a typical working day looks like.

Time of Day Activity Comments
05h00 Get up and hit the gym
07h00 Shower, get dressed and do make-up, and grab some breakfast Pack lunch to have at the salon
08h30 Arrive at work; do my own hair; get my tools ready and check my daily appointment sheet I check what to prepare for my clients that day
09h00 Start with first clients (cuts, colours, styling, treatments, etc.); train apprentices, educate clients on how to care for their hair at home; have some lunch if there’s time This goes all day until 6pm, and until 4pm on a Sat – I’m off on Sundays and Mondays
18h00 Drive home and do my tracking sheet; work out my targets for the next day
19h00 Take a shower, have dinner, and watch series or read a book I go to sleep around 21h00

How did you get into hair?
I was 15 when I was asked to be a hair model for a competition, and I just fell completely in love with the industry. I soon started working in salons during school holidays. It’s all I wanted to do after high school.

Did your family support your decision to become a hair stylist?
My mother was against it. She didn’t want me in the beauty industry at all. She saw me ending up as a small-time hairdresser. I understood some of her worries, for example the risk of only having work as long as you can stand on your feet all day, but it didn’t bother me much.

Where and what did you study?
I’d been quite academic at school, and my mother really wanted her ‘smart’ daughter to go and get a degree.  She pretty much ‘forced’ me to enroll for a degree in Education at Tuks, the University of Pretoria. It was horrible, and I hated every moment of it. I didn’t find it creatively stimulating. But more than anything, it was because I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing.  I’ve always known that what I love is doing hair.

I left Tuks after only 3 months, and started working and apprenticing at a salon for the remainder of that year. I then registered for full-time studies at La Louve Private Hair Academy in Pretoria. I completed my full year of studies, and then my apprenticeship. And from there, I started my own hair styling career.

How long have you been at Scar Hair?
I’ve been renting a space at Scar since I moved to Cape Town at the beginning of 2015.

How it works here is, you first come in for a practical interview, and then work on a 3-month probation. During that time, Scar emails all your clients for feedback, and reviews your work. If they’re happy, they employ you permanently, and once you have a really good client base, they may offer you the ‘rented chair’ system.

I thought it would take me 3 years to build up a steady client base, but it only took about 8 months. People in Cape Town are very fashion conscious – if they’re happy with something, they talk about it. Word of mouth is amazing. I also just hit the right target market with my style.

What is your style?
I like something that’s a bit different. In Pretoria there are lots of blondes, you know, poppies and jocks, whereas here, people really follow fashion trends. I love being on top of the trend, the thing that’s happening right now. I want to make people look fashionable and beautiful at the same time.

Do you need a formal qualification to be a hair stylist?
Yes. Definitely. If you rock up at a salon without having a good, basic knowledge of hair, you’ll just be sweeping floors.

It’s not where you study that’s important. The studies are necessary, but very basic. What’s really important is where you apprentice and work after your studies. Choose a salon that caters to your taste. It plays a huge role in shaping your unique style.

Please tell us what a typical working day looks like.
The starting out salary for an apprentice is really crappy, honestly. It’s between R2000 and R2500 per month.

When you start working on the floor as a stylist, you get a basic salary of about R6000. Once you double that, you start earning commission. It’s quite easy to do though, especially at Scar where we have a huge clientele. When I started working at Scar, I was earning around R10 000, and that was before I even had my own client base going.

Each hair stylist determines their own salary. It’s a reflection of how much work and effort you put in. You can make a lot of money in this industry, but you need to consistently put in the work, further your skills, and offer your clients the absolute best service.

How do you make sure you stay at the top?
When I started out, I entered lots of competitions, and did as many courses as I could. I still invest a lot in myself by going to courses or workshops, and by constantly updating my skills with the newest trends and techniques. If you’re serious about this career, it’s necessary. It’s an investment – a course roughly costs between R500 and R4000.

What is the best part about your job?
Truly making someone happy. In my every day salon life, it’s being able to change a client’s entire mood, and self-confidence. Some clients come in looking and feeling miserable, and if my work can make them really happy, I also feel good

And then there’s competition work. What makes me truly happy is when I get to work with hair and make-up art.

What about the worst part?
Client service can be tricky when you try to please people’s needs and work on your feet all day long. You have to give it your all every day, and be friendly and smiling. It can get draining.

But we all have good and bad days, and 95% of my clients are amazing and happy. That makes up for everything.

What does it take to be a great hair stylist?

  • Hard Work & Effort
    That’s number one. You absolutely have to work hard. You determine your own success.
  • External Education
    It’s not enough to just get your basic qualification. You need to do as many courses as you can. This industry is constantly evolving, and every six months there’s a new look, and you need to constantly be able to change it up.
  • Be Professional
    As a stylist, part of your marketing is yourself. You need to look the part, and represent your brand. In my case, I make sure my make-up and hair are always on point. No one wants to go to a stylist that doesn’t look the part themselves.
  • Do Your Market Research
    This is key. You need to do lots of research and figure out what clients want. Nowadays people come in informed, asking lots of questions, and you always need to be more educated than your clients.
  • Social Networking
    Get the hang of this, because it’s easy, free advertising. I post a lot of photos of my work on Instagram (@salomedewet), for example, which is a great marketing tool. It’s one of the reasons word about my work spreads so fast, and I was able to build up an awesome client base in just a few months.
  • Competitions
    Push yourself to do competitions. If you’re into that, you don’t need to continue doing it for a long time, but try to do at least one or two, especially when you start out – just to see what it does for your career.

A good resource is the South African Hairdresser Journal, since they often advertise upcoming competitions and other events. I follow all the big hair brands and salons to stay up to date about these kinds of events.

How true is the notion that “hairdressers are therapists”?
Very true! People trust their hairdressers, and touch plays an important role in that. When you touch a person’s hair, it immediately breaks certain barriers. And when you make a person feel great and beautiful, uplift their emotional state, and build a long-term relationship with them, it’s not unusual for them to share intimate and sometimes weird things about themselves.

What advice do you have for aspiring hair stylists?
Make friends with photographers, and other industry people. My best friend studied photography when I was studying hairdressing. I started assisting him with his fashion shoots, and he helped me shoot photos for my competitions. Over the years we’ve really gotten good at fashion photography and fashion hair styling.

Also, definitely try to job shadow in a salon for a few days and see what the industry is about. Scar is great with that, and is generally quite welcoming to students who want to shadow for a day.

The thing is, you either love it or hate it. It looks very glamorous, but it’s a hard and draining job at times. It’s certainly not ‘the easy way out.’ In all honesty, if you’re not willing to put in work and effort, rather don’t go into the industry. 

But, if you find you love it, go for it, and make sure you’re constantly reinventing yourself.

If you truly love it, it’s the most fun job in the world.

 EduConnect 2cents

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful”

– Albert Schweitzer

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