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Written by: Ali Davidson
You know this scene; I'm sure you've lived it at least once in your career, if not once every day.
A client sits in your chair eagerly prepared with an inspiration picture. They want their hair to look like celebrity X. "Just like her!" they say.
You look at the picture, "Oh boy, you're ready for bangs?!"
"Well, not the bangs part; I don't want to have to style them every day. And I'll need the curly version of this style for when I don't have time to straighten my hair either. Do you think this will look the same with grey hair because I don't want to start coloring? Oh and I'm still trying to grow out this one section so just don't touch that part at all."
"So what part of this hairstyle do you like?"
The client pauses while you hear the unspoken truth, "Her flawless skin, sparkling eyes, tight stomach, and if you could arrange a life swap — or at least a boyfriend swap — that'd be great, too." Upon consultation, it wasn't the hairstyle your client actually wants, it's just the perfectly composed picture that caught her eye.
The conversation sounds entirely ridiculous on paper but I know you've had a similar experience. A client looks at a photo and thinks they want the hairstyle but it's really something else they're after entirely. Or if they really do want the hair they actually only want aspects of it — which changes the look entirely — and they often aren't willing to put in the work or money to achieve even those pieces. They're never going to look like the picture (really in their brains they don't even want to) and comparing them self to a snapshot is just a gratitude-stealing disappointment.
You're probably ready to tune-out about now, thinking this is just another article about managing client expectations. It's not. This is about you. This is about managing your photo-induced career expectations.
We're all guilty of checking out another hair professional's Instagram thinking, "I want that." We look, we follow, we judge, we compare, we imagine, we dream, we lose perspective. But just as we attempt to manage our clients' hair expectations, we must manage our own career expectations. Let's do a consultation with that ideal inspiration picture you have.
"Are you sure this is what you want?"
Define what you want your career to look like before getting sucked into how good other stylists' careers look and thinking yours needs to be like that. Just because being an educator looks good on one stylist doesn't mean it will look good on you.
Are you prepared to put in the styling time to make that work? Just because you see a stylist that appears super happy as a suite renter or hourly employee or commissioned stylist doesn't mean your personality or hair type will fit that style. Break down each piece of a career path and make sure you want all the aspects, not just one filtered perfect image of what it could maybe look like in an Instagram post.
"This will take time. We aren't going to accomplish this all in one sitting."
We all know even just changing a haircolor often requires more than one appointment so what makes us think career success happens overnight? It is irrelevant and erroneous to compare your current career situation to someone else's fifth appointment status. Makeovers on social media quite literally only take seconds. Just think about how that time ratio equates to someone's career. Years of practice, trials, and investment are summed up in a couple snapshots. And we all know only the best pictures, that tell the story we want to tell, get posted.
"What is this style worth to you? An investment needs to be made."
No matter what you want in your career, it's going to cost you some lifestyle choices. An investment must be made and it's up to you to decide how much you're willing to invest. When a fellow stylist has tons of engagement and adoring comments on their social media account and you think you want that, weigh the value.
They also spend hours entertaining that audience, building their following, creating content, responding to messages, keeping up on social trends, etc. Is it worth that investment to you? When you see a fellow hairstylist posting pictures of themselves doing hair all across the globe and the travel daydreams begin you recognize this also means nights in strange beds, evenings with lonely dinners, strange foods that probably don't fit your current health regime, and time — lots of time — missing out on family moments and building relationships. Some clients are willing to invest the time and money into a triple-process blonde while some are far happier with a maintainable, gorgeous-in-its-own-way brunette.
Just as all hairstyles are incredible for their own reasons, so are each of our careers as hairstylists. Don't just pick a picture off social media and try to replicate it without giving yourself a thorough career consultation to determine what is best for you, acknowledging the time it will take, and weighing the investment versus perceived value. What will make you most beautiful?