12 must-know things about starting a barbershop small business

To run a successful barbershop small business you need to be adept at the tonsorial arts

Thanks to men’s ongoing adoption of current hair trends that match their preferences for cleaner and more refined tastes, modern barbershops are enjoying thriving business. Suffice it to say, as of 2017, barbering is the fastest-growing profession in the U.S.

Men have another reason for going to barbershops — these places provide a sense of community and are venues for human interaction. This sort of atmosphere will most likely be available at a local barbershop small business rather than at the branch of a corporate chain, explaining one of the reasons behind the rise of the former.

Now is certainly the time to get into the barbershop business. Don’t worry about renting a premise; landlords love barbershops because they understand that this is one business that will never be threatened by e-commerce competition.

Speaking about business, barbershop revenues have been on the rise for several years, and this trend is set to continue into the future. Between 2012 and 2017 industry revenues were expected to rise by 1.9% annually to $3.7 billion.


So, here’s what you must know about becoming a barber aka a tonsorial artist:

A successful career in barbering is preceded by a period of training — learn as much as you can

1. This is obvious — you must become a trained, examined and licensed barber

There are three training options available to anyone who wishes to become a barber as follows:

a. Apprenticeship — While your exposure to actual haircutting will be rather limited, you’ll definitely get to know what makes a barbershop tick. The ideal age for someone willing to be a haircutting apprentice is 16–18 years old and this training typically takes 2–3 years to complete.

The prerequisites for this training include finding a barbershop that’s willing to take you as an apprentice, registering with a relevant college that will train you once per week over your 2–3 years training, and, of course, your time investment; there’s no monetary cost.

Your typical tasks in the first 6–12 months may include washing towels, floor sweeping, hair shampooing, phone answering, and generally helping around the barbershop. Opportunities to cut hair will be rare, infrequent at best, and you’ll also need to personally find models to practice your skills on. Don’t expect to learn much else except the techniques that particular barbershop uses.

Take heart though, much good can still come from your apprenticeship; Vidal Sassoon, one of the greatest hairdressers ever, learned his trade as an apprentice.

Before you get started, you need to find out what your state’s barber board requires for a recognized apprenticeship. For example, in New York, your apprenticeship must be at least 2 years long, and must be supervised and directed by a state-licensed barber.

b. Further Education College — At such a college you will be learning a number of courses, one of which is barbering. The cost is quite affordable and the fact that you’re most likely going to be taking evening classes means that you can have quite a flexible schedule.

On the down side, your barbering skills will be way below what the market expects of a professional barber; limited haircutting opportunities, exposure to very few haircutting techniques, and a general prioritization of book work over hands-on skills will be your main undoing.

You can enroll for a barber program at barber school or at a cosmetology school — it basically depends on what you have in mind for your career going into the future.

For example, Drew Danburry, of the Danburry Barber Shop, chose to go to barber school as he wanted to be trained by seasoned barbers skilled in the art of classic barbering. After getting his license he opened an old-fashioned barbershop that’s now renowned for its straight razor shaves.

Before enrolling you must ensure that an institution’s barber program is recognized or approved by your state’s barber board and/or meets the practice requirements the board has stipulated. This mainly has to do with the duration of the program, counted in hours. Also, depending on your institution, your qualification can be recognized with a certificate, diploma or associate’s degree.

The curriculum in a state-recognized/approved barber school will have both theory and practical components, and should cover the following:

    • Bacteriology
    • Hygiene
    • Sanitation and sterilization
    • Honing and stropping
    • Shampoo and scalp massage
    • Straight razors
    • Scalp and skin diseases
    • Physiology
  • State barber laws, rules, and regulations

c. Private intensive courses — This is perhaps the best option for anyone who wants to pursue a career as a professional barber. It’s significantly costlier but if you enroll at the best private academy you can expect to get optimal value for your investment after 2 months of intensive learning.

Unlike the two options above, private training will give you access to more seasoned trainers, increased individual support thanks to smaller class sizes, and more models to practice on.

Choosing the best academy is of utmost importance. The best place to enroll will typically be one where you’ll have pro barbers for trainers, a well networked academy that will assist you with job placement after your training, and one that has a solid reputation for good management.

It’s worth remembering that all states’ departments of barbering/cosmetology recognize the completion of a barbering program, others recognize the completion of an apprenticeship in lieu of a barber program, and others, like New Hampshire, require trainees to complete a barber program and then find an apprenticeship.

You should therefore base your initial training option on the requirements of the state you wish to get licensed in.

At the end of your barber training program your skills must be sufficiently impressive to earn you a barber license

2. Sitting for your barber license examination and getting your barber license

The successful completion of any of the above training programs will allow you to meet the requirements for barber licensure.

Barber license examination

To qualify for a barber license you’ll need to take a state license exam that has both written and practical sections.

Depending on your state, your examination’s written and/or practical components, or both in the case of Montana, will be offered through the National-Interstate Council on State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC).

Minimum requirements for licensure:

    • Depending on the state, you must have attained a certain age, e.g. 16 years old in Texas and 18 years old in Washington D.C.
    • In most states you must be in possession of a high school diploma or GED, or at least have completed tenth grade
  • You may also need to pass a criminal background investigation and a medical physical

What your barber license will allow you to do:

While each state’s professional barbering scope varies, you’ll generally be licensed to:

    • Shave/trim beards or mustaches
    • Cut/trim/shave hair
    • Give facial and scalp massages with lotions, creams, and oils
    • Singe, shampoo, and arrange hair
    • Apply hair tonics
    • Apply cosmetic preparations, powders, oils, antiseptics, and lotions to the face, scalp and neck
    • Chemically straighten or wave hair
    • Color or bleach hair
  • Cut, measure, and fit wigs, hairpieces, or head caps

Continuing education requirements

After being licensed as a barber you’ll be required to renew your license annually or biannually depending on your state. Additionally, in some states, like Connecticut or Illinois, license renewal will also require you to complete a number of continuing education credits.

Some of the areas of continuing education available to you include safety and sanitation, business practices, professional development, business management and marketing, etc.

3. How to proceed having gotten your barber license

There are basically two options for career progression that newly-licensed barbers can consider:

After getting your barber license you can get started in employment where you’ll get more hands-on experience

a. Employment in an established barbershop

Employment is the path that most newly-licensed barbers take.

As an employee the salary you will earn will be determined by your employer. It is however very likely that your employer will start you off on a commission basis until you’ve built up a clientele.

In this arrangement, the fee for a haircut will be split between you and the barbershop; 60/40 is the typical split, 40% for the shop and the rest for you.

After building a substantial clientele your earnings structure will likely be changed to the booth rental basis. This will see you pay a certain amount in ‘rent’ for a barber chair and keeping the rest of the money.

During this employment stint you should learn and practice as much as you can in readiness for your next career move.

You also ought to be putting away some money that you’ll use to fund the launch of your own barbershop. Alternatively, you can approach different lenders, inquire about their loan packages, and select one that can best work for you.

Alternatively, you can launch your barbershop small business immediately

b. Starting your own barbershop small business straight away

Not many freshly-licensed barbers take the entrepreneurial path right away.

Nevertheless, there are some who feel obligated to do so, just like Drew Danburry. In his case the motivations were the need for his own space and the urge to be his own boss.

Taking this step will require you to already have your startup capital beforehand.

(Typical costs involved in setting up a barbershop)

Before launching your barbershop you should scout the area and the find the best possible location for it

4. About choosing a location for your barbershop small business

For both a barbershop and a hair salon small business, the choice of location has a huge impact on whether or not the startup will be a success.

It’s not just location that you’ll need to think about though; you’ll need to think about a number of associated factors including:

    • Your budget
    • The dimensions of your proposed space
    • The neighborhood
    • Traffic patterns
    • Area demographics
    • Local zoning requirements
    • Parking
    • Physical characteristics, and
  • Lease terms

The location

Not any and every location will do for your barbershop startup.

In choosing where to launch, therefore, you’ll want to think about your target market.

The segment of demographic you are targeting should be comfortable with the idea of coming to your barbershop. Alternatively, you can be located in the vicinity of where your target demographic lives.

Related to this crucial requirement are the following:

    1. Whether or not you have the capacity to match or better your potential competition without overstepping your budget
    1. Whether or not the market size is big enough to accommodate you and the competition
  1. Whether or not your target customers in that area have sufficient purchasing power

Traffic patterns

You want to be located where there’s an abundance of both vehicle traffic and footfall.

This is why, for example, you’ll be better off in a place where there are other retail businesses nearby, but not in the vicinity of a regional airport or park.

A roomy premise will support your barbershop small business’ expansion later on

Dimensions of your proposed space

Perhaps the most significant questions related to the dimensions of your proposed premise are:

    1. If the internal space layout is appropriate
    1. The costs that will be incurred to ensure that the space is barbershop-ready
  1. If modifications will be required, and if so, what will these involve


The location you choose should have ample parking space for your customers as well as for you and your employees (when you get there). Additionally, the parking space should be well lit; the reassurance of safety and security is vital.

The competition

While it’s quite possible that yours will be the pioneering barbershop in your desired location, in many cases new barbershops launch in areas where there is some sort of competition.

You’ll want to know who you are up against. You can do this quite conveniently with the help of Google EarthMapQuest, and even the SBA’s free search tool https://www.sba.gov/tools/sizeup.

Physical visibility

Being well visible will ensure that your barbershop small business can attract attention, thereby encouraging people to want to pop in and see what you’re all about.

Great visibility will also complement your promotion and marketing efforts.

Barbershops are typically opened in freestanding buildings, storefront properties, and in shopping centers

5. Three types of establishments that can house your barbershop small business

A good space for your barbershop can be in one of the following establishments:

A freestanding building

Many barbershop owners prefer having their premises in freestanding buildings as these enjoy high visibility in the community. If you decide to buy or lease such a building you’ll enjoy the following advantages:

    • More leeway with regards to renovating and decorating decisions
    • Control over fixed costs e.g. overheads, utilities, and, to an extent, the mortgage terms
    • Exemption from paying common-area charges like snow removal, advertising costs, security fees
    • In case you buy the building you’ll enjoy the tax advantages of ownership
  • Leasing will get you some of these advantages except that you’ll have a landlord to contend with

Space in a shopping center or strip mall

Leasing space in either of these is another good idea as your barbershop will get good exposure, especially if the location is near a residential area.

Jimmy Richardson of Bladez Barber Salon strongly advocates for such a location.

For a strip mall, it’s very likely that your lease agreement will have a stipulation limiting the number of similar businesses that can set up in that mall. Nevertheless, you may have to contend with the substantial marketing and maintenance fees that are typically built into these lease agreements; confirm whether or not this is the case before you sign up.

A storefront property

You can also opt for a storefront property, more so if your target location is in a historical or renovated downtown area.

Unlike strip malls for which location restrictions don’t really apply, your storefront property will most likely be part of a business district. If you chance upon an available-to-lease storefront property in a bustling downtown area you really must do all you can to snap it up!

A former barbershop

One of these can become the perfect location for your new barbershop.

The pros of such a find may include the building likely having considerable infrastructure that you can use and which will be part of the asking price.

The cons may be that there are solid reasons for why the former barbershop closed shop, say, too much competition or perhaps the location is rather sleazy.

Whatever the case, it will be prudent of you to find out why the shop is on sale.

If, after knowing why, you still think you can set up there, take some time to compare the costs that will be required to remodel the premise against what it will cost you to start from scratch in another space.

Before renting a premise for your barbershop painstakingly review the details of your lease agreement

6. Considerations for leasing space for your barbershop small business

In view of the need to keep your barbershop’s fixed costs low, and the fact that rent payments will be a huge chunk of your monthly overheads, being well informed about how to proceed in leasing space will very likely ensure that your startup will have a good chance of becoming profitable.

In addition to refusing to be coerced into signing an agreement by a pushy agent, the following are the steps you can take to ensure leasing prudence:

a. Getting your lawyer involved right from the start — It’s usual for an agent to get a prospective tenant to agree on the main points in outline, i.e. Heads of Terms, before the lawyers of either side become involved.

In your case you’ll be wise to have your lawyer advice you on this; you can save lots of money by doing this considering typical lease length (3–20 years) and the financial commitment required.

b. Think hard about the length of your barbershop’s lease — In agreeing about the lease’s ‘Term’, i.e. the length of time the lease will be binding and for which you’ll legally be required to pay rent and other allied expenses, you need to think about how long you wish to remain in that premise.

Choosing too short a term may force you to incur hefty expenses when the time comes to relocate; too long a term may force you to contend with continuing in a tight space when you clearly need to take your bustling operation to a bigger premise.

Even in the event that you consider the premise to be ideal and somewhere you can be based for a long time, hedge your bets; agreeing a longer term and negotiating a ‘Break Clause’ should work well for you.

c. Understand how a ‘Break Clause’ can work for you — Basically, a break clause will enable you to terminate a lease agreement early, e.g. if your term is 10 years the break clause can allow you to terminate it after 5 years.

The trick here is to negotiate a ‘Tenant-only break clause’. This will allow you to terminate the lease early when it suits your purposes.

Resist attempts by the landlord to have this as a mutual break clause; this will give them the same privilege and they may try to enforce it just as your barbershop is really starting to thrive.

d. Find out if your barbershop’s rental will be subjected to VAT — This will require to find out whether or not your potential landlord is VAT registered. If this is the case you’ll need to add an extra 20% to your rent expense.

This shouldn’t be a problem if your new barbershop is VAT registered because you can claim the amount back when making VAT returns.

If, however, you aren’t VAT registered, your rent expense will increase by the said 20% and you won’t be able to reclaim it.

e. Get clarification about what other property outgoings you’ll legally be required to pay in addition to your rent — The lease will legally require you to pay additional expenses like utility costs, service charge and building insurance.

To be on the safe side, have the landlord provide you with accurate figures for these expenses before you agree the Heads of Terms. This will be very helpful, say, if your barbershop is based in a shopping center or mall — service charges here can be shockingly hefty.

f. Find out if you can pay a lower rent deposit — Since you’ll be starting out, it’s quite likely that the landlord will require you to pay a rent deposit or provide a rent guarantor.

The amount needed for your rent deposit may be equal to anywhere between 3 and 9 months; definitely a substantial sum that you can put to good use rather than it being held up for years by your landlord on your behalf.

As such, you need to try your best and negotiate a reduced rent deposit period, say, three months. You can go further and convince the landlord to agree to return the deposit after a certain fixed period if the amount’s use won’t have been required by then.

g. Learn about striking the best deal and saving money on your Rent Review clause — If your lease is longer than 3 years it’s likely that it will have a rent review clause. This clause allows a landlord to initiate a review of the rent amount at set 3 or 5 year intervals.


    • Push the reviews out to 5-year intervals so as to avoid 3-year interval negotiations
    • Specifically ask your lawyer to strongly focus on this particular clause with the aim of ensuring you get the best terms possible
  • On your part you should ensure that you fully understand the basis on which your rent will be reviewed. This can either be based on the ‘open market’ basis (comparison with similar properties in the area) or the ‘inflation basis’ (linked to retail price index)

h. Find out if you can legally use the premise as a barbershop — This is very important.

If the property can be used for a barbershop then all is well and good.

If not, you’ll be required to visit the local planning office and apply for a change of use, a process that’ll cost time and money.

Of note is the fact that your landlord’s consent will be required to effect this change — and that you will have to pay an amount to the landlord for this privilege.

i. Confirm who’ll be responsible for your barbershop’s building repair costs — Most business leases are ‘FRI’ i.e. full repairing and insuring.

You should be especially wary about this because the obligations can be extremely burdensome.

In most cases the Repair clause includes liability for a building’s structural state/repair. The impact of this can be extremely significant if your barbershop is in an older building; in a few years you may be required to pay a hefty bill for windows and roof repairs.

To prevent such from happening you ought to get your lawyer’s thoughts on the matter.

Perhaps the lawyer will suggest preparing a ‘schedule of condition’ — a text and photo description of the building’s state when you began your term.

Before signing up therefore, ensure that you are clear on the repair obligations and that your liability is limited.

It’s also advisable to convince the landlord to reduce your on-going rent or give you a rent-free period if at the start of your term you’ll need to have some structural work done on the building, e.g. plumbing and re-wiring works, in order to get your barbershop operational.

j. Find out if there are any hidden barbershop premises costs — In addition to meeting your own legal costs and any surveyor/architect costs, you may be required to pay the landlord’s costs for these services as well.

This is obviously quite disagreeable.

In this case you should:

    • Ensure that you strongly argue against this in favor of having each party settle its own bills
  • If this proves unsuccessful you should at least get the landlord to agree on a cap for their costs thereby sparing yourself any costly obligations later on

7. Obtaining the legal documentation and insurance coverage required for your barbershop small business

The next step in preparing to launch your new barbershop is to make a decision about the legal structure your barbershop is going to take.

There are quite a number of options here including sole proprietorshippartnershiplimited company limited liability partnership and corporation, and each offers distinct pros and cons that you can read about. If you are still not sure about which one to adopt you can consult a financial planner or an accountant and have them advice you accordingly.

After making your decision you can now take the next step which is obtaining and completing your business license. This license will be obtained from your city government or county government.

Completing this license’s application will typically require you to provide details about the address of your premises, the lease’s estimated cost, and the type of business you intend to open.

After this you should inquire about whether you’ll need any other licenses such as one that’ll permit you to play background music in your premise, or a health license to prove that you are knowledgeable about the use of clean shaving equipment.

Meeting the state board’s requirements

The process of readying yourself to satisfy your state’s board of barbering/cosmetology that you are ready to launch your barbershop may be one of the most rigorous procedures you’ll have to undergo.

Just that you know, the board may be accompanied by your state’s department of public health to conduct inspections and therefore ascertain whether you are ready or not.

For each state the requirements are different but will generally involve the following:

    • Completed independent barbershop owner application
    • Proof of ownership or leasing of a business address
    • Proof of a city or county business license
    • Proof that you are a licensed barber
  • Facility requirements like:

– Hot and cold running water

– Public bathrooms

– Drinking water

– Adequate square footage provision for each barber chair

– Containers for trash and soiled items

– Cabinets that close for storage of barbering tools and clean towels

Meeting the board’s requirements may therefore require you to spruce up your newly-leased barbershop if its present condition makes this necessary.

Here you may be looking at renovations, architect designs, plumbing inspection, electrician inspection, use-and-occupancy license inspection, a final health department inspection, as well as a separate fire marshal’s inspection.

If all is approved then you will be issued with a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) which will be confirmation that your premise can now be occupied. (Process of obtaining a CO).

To offset the costs you may want to convince the landlord to agree to reduce your on-going rent or give you a rent-free period (as described at point no.5 (i) above).

Insurance coverage

There are various types of insurance you may consider:

  • Insurance to protect your business and building in the event of fires, floods, etc

8. Purchasing your barbershop’s equipment, accessories and supplies

The following are the most important equipment, accessories and supplies that you’ll need to have before you can start serving your customers:

Electric clippers

a. Excellent quality powerful electric clippers — These will need to be high quality given that you’re going to be using them rather frequently. You will need to buy several pairs for backup.

When buying you want to consider excellent quality clipper models that will give you the sort of power you need for a professional setup like yours. The best models combine high quality, power, good weight and a suitable ergonomic design.

You will need three types of clippers:

    • Detachable blade clipper — To enable you to remove lots of thick or wet hair with a single movement. You will also use it to cut fade haircuts easier
    • Adjustable clipper — You will use this to cut tapered/faded hairlines
  • A trimmer — You will use this to cut outlines and shave neck hair
Barber scissors

b. High quality barber scissors / shears — You will use these when you need to get those fine edges just right. These are also what you’ll use for men who have a thing against having their hair cut with clippers.

You may want to consider cutting shears and thinning shears made of 420-grade stainless steel. Later on you can upgrade to scissors made with higher grades of stainless steel, or perhaps titanium.

Three types of scissor are recommended:

    • A smaller scissor (5”-6.5”) for cutting hair over your fingers
    • A larger scissor (6.5”-8.5”) for cutting hair with the ‘scissor over the comb’ technique
  • A longer scissor, the 40–44 tooth blending scissor. With this you can either blend or texturize a haircut for the best finish
A straight razor

c. Straight razors—This is what expert barbers use to give their customers the closest shave possible. Your choice of straight razor should feature an excellent quality of blade and a strong handle with excellent grip

d. Combs, hair brushes and hair dryers — With these you’ll be ready to serve just about any description of customer, including ladies who may pop up occasionally. There are various comb types including clipper combsscissor combsflat top combs and finishing combs

e. Enough mirrors — It’s advisable for you to have enough large mirrors and have them placed in a way that clients will be able to see the front and sides of their heads and faces

f. Capes and towels— Your clients will wear capes to keep hair and hair products off their clothes. Towels have various uses including drying hair, brushing away clipped hair, and even softening beards with hot water before a shave

g. After shave lotion and styling gel— A dash of styling gel after a haircut will definitely help to enhance your customer’s fresh look. You can stock some after shave lotion just in case you get a customer or two who need a shave

The barber’s chair

h. The barber’s chair — The right design of barbershop chair will allow you to:

    • Raise and lower it thus enabling you to trim a client’s hair easier
  • Tilt it back until the occupant can lie down and therefore give you the superb angles and access needed to get a good job done

i. The right furniture — When buying these you’ll need to ensure that your purchase choices will complement the sort of atmosphere you want your barbershop to convey. Your customers’ comfort and ease should also take priority.

A barber pole

j. Barber poles — Not only will these complete the look of your barbershop, they’ll let prospective clients know you are ready to serve them

k. Other accessories are: hair vacuumsprofessional massagersterilizerhot towel warmers, barber’s neck dusterbarber jackets and aprons, mats, spray bottles, etc.

Your barbershop small business must have an inviting atmosphere that clients will want to experience on a regular basis

9. Investing in making your barbershop a man-friendly space

After you have purchased all the equipment and accessories you need, you also need to think about your barbershop’s visual appeal i.e. the physical elements that will combine with your barber skills to create an unforgettable experience which your clients will want to relive every now and then.

Jimmy Richardson has a list of ten things that barbers must do to prep up their new shops; the first one is installing bug foggers, more so if the building had not been in use for a long time before your occupancy.

This looks like a Western-themed barbershop…

After taking care of the basics, you now want to think about the theme of your barbershop, an aspect that should blend well with your branding efforts. Whatever your theme is, you will be able to express it unmistakably with the right choice of décor.

For example, in this article, Garrison Neill who has opened two ‘The Parker’ barbershops in Louisiana and New Orleans has described Louisiana’s branch as having “old-world décor with a distinct apothecary feel” while the New Orleans branch’s décor and vibe is “more hipster”.

In this article you can read about a barbershop, Barber & Co.’s, in Toronto’s Ossington neighborhood, that offers a “barbershop/man-cave hybrid” experience for its customers. After closing time this barbershop transforms into a full-service bar.

You certainly don’t have to go to such lengths but you can at least make an effort to customize your barbershop by installing flat-screen TVs, a music system, investing in attractive furniture that will allow customers to wait in comfort, adopting an attractive color scheme, etc.

Merely depending on your signage won’t be enough; you must get people to really talk about your barbershop

10. Building your barbershop’s clientele with consistent marketing and promotion

In the early days after opening up your barbershop small business you may not get to serve as many customers as you’d like to. The good thing is that you have the power to change all that if you are willing to put in the effort.

Drew Danburry spends any free time he has promoting his barbershop online and strengthening its online presence. He also gives lots of free services to people who’ve never experienced a barber’s shave or haircut. Many of these people are happy to return.

Jimmy Richardson’s advice to a new barber who hopes to create a clientele list of loyal people is to start marketing seriously. Consistent advertising and ensuring that anyone who needs a haircut is aware of their shop is how to do it.

Here are a couple of tips from http://successfulbarber.com/category/attracting-clients/:

As a barber you should:

    • Adopt a ‘believe-then Do-and see’ mindset. After sitting for a while without a client you should go outside the shop and start promoting your service e.g. passing flyers or business cards. You should also promote your shop online
    • Ensure that your marketing materials are visually-appealing and that they also have details of your barbershops’ location and contacts
    • Take advantage of the internet through: having a website, social media, email (for connection and advertising), and blogging
  • Handle the issue of unfaithful customers by addressing the core reasons behind why these customers never return. (These reasons have been given as: barbers’ inconsistency, barber’s unavailability, and a bad environment)

To address this issue you should:

    • Treat a customer like royalty and spoil them the first time round, and then consistently offer this level of service every other time they come back
  • Reveal your schedule to customers thus letting them know whether or not you’ll be available on given days or during given hours

In addition you should:

    • Set rates that you are comfortable with and then be firm about them by offering value and letting them know that the experience can’t be had anywhere else
  • Not allow customers to control your schedule after you’ve built a decent list of repeat clients

Profitable barbershop clientele-building tips from Master Barber Greg Zorian:

    1. You should always look your best at all times — Good grooming is absolutely necessary, right from your shoes, to your clothes, and definitely your haircut
  1. Ask for referrals e.g.:
    • You can offer current customers 50% of their next haircut if they send you a new customer. You can also give the new customer a 50% discount.
    • Offering father and son(s) discounts can also work
    • Use social media to subtly ask for some help in building your business OR share pictures of your best work
  • Make the most of word of mouth and personal recommendations

Barbershop growth-hacking tips from Julien Le Coupanec:

  1. Identify and trigger new opportunities for your barbershop to be discovered. Find out how to create awareness for the barbershop.
    • Ensure that everyone in your social circle knows what you do and knows your barbershop’s name and address
    • Run highly targeted ads on Facebook for people living in a given target location
    • Effectively use your storefront as a marketing place
  • Use Adwords campaigns and ensure they are visible on Google Maps

2. Make the first experience an outstanding one by optimizing:

    • The storefront and interior design
    • The waiting time
    • The experience on the seat
  • The payment and last contacts

3. Create a habit and accelerate referrals

    • Ask satisfied clients to leave a review on a relevant platform
    • Give a customer a 10% discount voucher/offer if they tweet about their experience or review your barbershop on Facebook
  • Engage with negative reviews

4. Experiment with pricing and increasing revenue

Two other important things you should do are:

    • Establish a strong online identity for your barbershop — Do this by considering the environment inside your shop e.g. old-fashioned, modern, etc., and thinking about something unique that you offer. These plus your website, ads, and social media accounts should combine to create your overall online identity; it should be unmistakable.
  • Stand out from the crowd — This is about creating something unique that customers can only experience at your barbershop
A barber with a great personality will ably serve any customer who sits on his chair

11. How to hire barbers for your barbershop small business

Barbering is a style-based business; customers must be given a reason to return — a barber’s shaving prowess and personality are the two important factors in as far as running a successful barbershop is concerned.

In hiring barbers for your business, therefore, you have to consider an applicant’s mastery and personality; choosing a character will however ensure that you get the best of both worlds.

That being said, the most important things to look out for when hiring barbers are:

    • Personal hygiene — you want someone who can dress the part and also smell nice
    • Social skills — you want someone capable of making customers feel at ease and open to enjoying the experience
    • Confidence — someone who has faith in their technical expertise and social skills
    • Personality — someone who is vibrant and well capable of handling men, women and children
  • Emotional intelligence — someone who can read people and respond accordingly

More about an applicant’s technical skills — Your interviewing process should also consider the following:

    • Talent — You’ll get an idea of this by putting an applicant to the test. Give them the opportunity to handle clients and as they do so check how they handle scissors (and other equipment), how they handle clients, and how they behave around the clients
    • Review their qualifications — do a barber’s certification, licensing, and details of previous work experience show in the audition?
  • Also ensure that anyone you hire has high dexterity, good motor skills, and a good sense of aesthetics i.e. eyes that can see and then achieve the look that a client desires

The three ways to hire barbers:

There are three hiring arrangements you can consider. Each of these has its own tax obligations and you should therefore be aware of them.

    • Salary/Wage/Commission — Yours will likely become a non-competitive team environment where every barber will have his/her own clientele list
    • Renting barber chairs/booths — You’ll have the opportunity to focus on your own clientele and the privilege of expecting a fixed amount of income from each barber
  • Combination chair rental and commission — This structure will give the barbers optimal working options and they’ll most likely be sufficiently happy with the arrangement. Their satisfaction will also trickle down to the clients.
Clients are typically very particular about choosing a barber — Knowing what clients look for will work to your advantage

12. Understand what clients look for when choosing a barber

(The ideas in this section are adapted from this article: How to pick a barber)

As a barber you want to know what the thought process of a prospective client involves. With this knowledge you can create a personal cheat-sheet that you can then use to become “the barber that ticks all the right boxes”.

Before a client walks into your barbershop he will most likely have:

  • Asked for recommendations

Tip: ensure that your haircuts and shaves are recommendation-worthy

  • Made an online search and looked for barbershop reviews or names of barbershops in the area

Tip: ensure that you have an online presence (consider local) and consistently encourage satisfied clients to post positive reviews about your service online

After entering your barbershop the client will look for:



    • look clients in the eye, smile, and give them a firm handshake
    • confidently suggest what would work for the client based on his requests as well as face shape and structure
    • offer some suggestions to help guide the client to something that will be more suited for his face
  • if the client is still adamant about wanting his preferred “crappy” haircut then give it

Good grooming

Tips: Clients associate barbers’ who take their personal appearance seriously with superb shaving ability, attention to detail, and overall professionalism

  • Always be well groomed i.e. decent haircut and shave, clean and pressed clothing, etc

Your barbershop’s cleanliness

Tips: Clients expect that a barber’s premise must also look the part

    • Keep the entire barbershop in immaculate sanitary condition
  • Your equipment and accessories should always be well arranged, not all over the place

The right questions


  • Don’t ask clients obvious questions about what you should do; they are paying you because they expect to be served by someone with expertise in barbering

Feedback during the haircut

Tips: Clients expect a good barber to regularly pause during a haircut, allow them to look in a mirror, and then ask for feedback as to how the cut is proceeding. Doing this is a sure way of preempting a haircut disaster that may occur if a barber insists on going all the way without feedback

Satisfactory answers to ‘interview’ questions

Tips: Clients will normally ask questions that will help them make a decision as to whether you can be their go-to barber. The questions typically focus on a barber’s experience and personality

    • If you don’t have much experience give an answer that will reassure the client that you make up for this with your skill and talent
  • Understand that clients like to hear that a barber serves lots of clients daily; this reassures them that the barber must be good at his job

Good memory and consistence:

A client who has made the decision to have you as his barber of choice will henceforth expect you to remember how he prefers things to be done according to the shape/contours of his head and his type of hair. The client will also expect to get a consistent service — he expects that after asking for ‘the usual’ he’ll get exactly that every time

Mental notes that clients take:

If in your interaction with a client you come across as someone who is dealing with lots of personal drama, it is likely that the client will associate you with a tendency to cancel appointments abruptly and general unreliability

Ensure that clients can depend on your barbershop small business to give them the look they want

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