David Chilton’s The Wealthy Barber is a classic in Canadian personal finance literature. But what does the financial life of a real barber look like? On this episode of Ratehub’s Real Money Talk Podcast, Tyler and Ratehub Senior Communications Specialist Tara Bolger sit down with some guests to answer that question.
Shawnn and Dee are an engaged couple, both working in the haircutting world. Shawnn owns his own shop, The Pretty Rugged, and Dee is a stylist at Educo. They give their opinion on how much you should tip, if you should chat with your barber, as well as providing some insight into the haircutting industry.
Getting Started as a barber or stylist
Shawnn had a decent factory job until a change of ownership encouraged him to find a new career. He took advantage of a government retraining program and headed to hair school. “I was always into my own hair, [watching] trends, and always changing it.” After finishing his education, he started working at Educo, where he met Dee, before heading off to start his own shop a few years ago.
For Dee, hair styling was always a passion. “I was always doing everyone’s hair. (In high-school) I would cut my teacher’s hair, I was coming in early to blow dry my cosmetology teacher’s hair before class, I did everyone’s hair for prom, so it was something I got really into.” She went to hair school a few years after graduation. After starting a bridal company with a friend, she ended up moving to Educo, where she’s been colouring hair for seven years.
Misconceptions about hairdressing education
“A lot of people don’t realize how much education you have to put into being a hairstylist,” says Dee. When she went to hair school, the program cost $8,000. It has since risen to $16,000 for the tenth-month course. It’s not covered by OSAP or other government education funding programs.
Even if you want to avoid the full hair school program, new stylists have to mix apprenticeship and classes to get their certification. Around 200 hours of classes, an internship with a supervisor, and passing an exam are all necessary to become a hairstylist or barber.
Even with all that training, Shawnn and Dee agree that getting into a salon and working the real job is the most important thing. Dee believes: “The best thing to do in this industry, truthfully, is to go to the cheapest hair school and then go to a hair salon and get the majority of you training from a stylist. Because what you do in the salon behind the chair is very different than what you’re going to do at a hair school.”
The Day-to-Day life of a barber and stylist
During his day-to-do, Shawnn focuses on his clients as they come in. No other barbers are working around him. Owning his own shop, he has a little more control over what is going on. “I just need to be there, need to be ready to work, and at the end of the month, you know, pay my rent, pay my utilities, and pay the man, and pay myself a little bit, and that’s what it’s like.”
Working in a salon with 70 employees, Dee’s life is a little different. Everything is departmentalized, with each colourist having their own focus. She focuses on balayage and has anywhere from 5-12 people sit in her chair during a full day’s work. On top of the stylists and colorists who work at the salon, there are also assistants and receptionists making sure things run smoothly.
How much should you tip a hairdresser?
Both Shawnn and Dee agree that tipping is a must. There are many costs on top of just the product and rent related to haircutting or styling, which Dee believes makes tipping so important. “At the end of the day some hairstylists are getting paid less than minimum, which is insane. So the tipping portion helps to pay for the assistant that’s helping you, the salon, all of that kinda stuff, and the taxes that come off of it.”
If you’re going to a Salon, Dee also believes in making sure you tip your assistants. Most salons don’t automatically tip them, so be explicit about that when you pay the bill.
To chat or not to chat with your stylist
When it comes to chatting, both Shawnn and Dee agree it’s about the person behind the chair, and the person in it. Most will try to keep up a conversation if you do, some more able than others. Shawnn tries his best, but unless you’re talking about the Maple Leafs, he prefers to listen to focus on his work.
Dee loves to chat with her clients. “I can talk all day, and I feel like at this point some of my clients are like family, so it almost feels like we’re catching up after not seeing each other for a while… I’m always late for my next client because I’m talking so much.”
However, both Shawnn and Dee agree there are two rules when chatting with your stylist, colourist, or barber: “No politics. No religion. Just leave it alone. You don’t need to get into conflicts when you’re doing someone’s hair.”