Rent a Chair or Hire Employees for Your Salon?

Rent a chair
Alex Davies-Parmenter
Product Marketing at Timely
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A growing salon needs to make a decision around staff. Should you rent a chair out to contractors, or employ stylists to become a part of your business?

If you’re the owner of a growing salon or spa, you’ve likely faced (or are about to face) this decision. Should you rent a chair to freelance stylists, or hire your own stylists as employees? Naturally, both paths have their pros and cons. Take time to consider the benefits and drawbacks of each to ensure that you make the right choice for your business.

Positives of chair rental

Salons can save money

When you rent your booth to an independent stylist, they’re paying a fixed fee for your space. This means that you’re both making money off the deal and saving time because you don’t have to worry about marketing to find clients for that particular chair.

On top of that, the renter is their own independent freelancer. You aren’t responsible for dealing with sick days, maternity leave, paid time off, insurance, etc. which could save you a lot of money in the long run.

Employment law

Freelancers often aren’t protected by employment laws. This means they aren’t entitled to minimum wage, holidays, or other employment rights. This can save you from a lot of headaches in the long run.

It’s important that you research the employment laws in your area. If you are considering renting your salon chairs, you’ll need a good understanding of what contractors are entitled to.

Freelancers bring clients

Just because their clients are coming in for them, doesn’t mean they can’t be your clients as well. There’s nothing stopping you from marketing separate products and services to your freelancer’s clients. They’re already in your salon, you’d be silly not to take advantage of that.

Obviously you don’t want to be off-putting, to either the clients or your freelancers. Approach the opportunity with a bit of subtlety. Making sure your products and treatments are well displayed around the salon space is a good start.

Negatives of chair rental

Freelancers work on their own terms

Although this isn’t always a bad thing, you can bet there have been many instances where:

  • The freelancer decided to not show up, despite having a booking.
  • The freelancer chose to leave much earlier than they perhaps should.
  • The freelancer tried to steal your other clients for themselves.
  • The freelancer tried to persuade another stylist to come work for them.

You have to be very careful selecting freelancers to rent a chair to. Remember, a freelancer is running their own business. All of the above can do serious damage to your business, and your brand. Clients don’t always understand, or care, that the freelancer isn’t an employee. They’ll refuse to come back regardless.

Impact on your brand

A freelancer is free to work as they see fit. They can dress however they want, carry themselves however they’d want, and say what they want to clients. Freelancers aren’t always going to comply with the image you want your salon to portray. You can ask them to work in accordance to certain ‘salon rules’, but freelancers are generally freelancing because they don’t like working by other people’s rules in the first place.

If you have a strict set of standards that you’d like all of your stylists to adhere to, hiring your own employees will give you a lot more control.

Impact on your team

Your crew of stylists feed off each other’s energy. If there is even one ‘bad apple’, they can ruin the atmosphere of the entire salon. This is why you have to be extra careful about who you rent your chair to. If a freelancer has a bad attitude and gives off a lot of negative energy, then they can cause a lot of problems when trying to build your team.

Freelancers are only responsible for themselves, and they’re often strong willed (hence why they work for themselves). If you’re considering adding another freelancer to the salon, or incorporating a freelancer into an existing team of employees, you have to be certain they’ll be a good fit. Consider a trial period for any newbies so that you can be sure.

Rent a chair pros and cons

Positives of hiring employees

Stable brand reputation

When you hire your own stylists, you have the freedom to manage your brand’s reputation. You can have employees dress a certain way, or even give them uniforms. This gives your brand more consistency and allows you to make your clients feel a certain way when dealing with employees. It can also provide a more professional nature to your business. Sure you can try this with freelancers, but you’ll never have as much control as if they were actual employees.

Train them as you please

If your stylists were all employed by you, you can be assured that they were all trained in your own unique way. You don’t have to worry about someone working in your salon on an ad-hoc basis, doing things completely differently. Your regular clients have certain expectations when they come to visit, and a freelancer can sometimes shake this up.

Employees are invested

Employees have a vested interest in seeing the business succeed. Their job depends on it! Freelancers often jump around from salon to salon, and are less likely to go the extra mile for you, the owner. A permanent employee is more likely to increase revenue by upselling, go out of their way to make clients feel comfortable, and make the salon a better place in general.

When you own the salon and employ all the staff, the profits are yours. If you hire and train well, you’ll have clients coming in to see specific members of your team. This can translate into huge profits for your business. If they were freelancers they’d keep all the profits, but as employees the profits go to the business.

Negatives of hiring employees

More costly

When you employ your own stylists, you become subject to employment law. In most countries this means you are responsible for managing annual leave, sick days, maternity leave, insurance, etc. When this is multiplied by 2-10 staff, it’s going to cost you a lot of time and money. Hiring permanent employees is literally an investment in your business.

We mentioned you have to be careful hiring freelancers. It’s just as important, if not more so, to be careful when hiring permanent employees.

Marketing responsibility

When you rent a chair, the freelancer pays for the space, and they have to fill it. If they don’t bring in clients, you still get pai. If you own a salon and employ all the stylists however, then you’re the one responsible for marketing. You need to be constantly bringing in clients to fill up seats, otherwise your employees are costing you more than you make.

If you need help with marketing, read our guide on ‘Marketing Strategies for Salons & Spas‘.

Risk factor

The flipside of investing in employees, is that if you’re not careful they can be a bad investment. If a freelancer slacks off, they’re the only ones losing out. You still collect the chair rent. If an employee slacks off however, you as the salon owner are footing the bill. Again, this comes down to the all-important hiring process.

Ensuring employee wellness and motivation is a great way to mitigate the risk. Read our guide on ‘Wellness in the Salon‘ for some great tips.

So, rent a chair or hire employees?

If you decide to rent a chair to freelancers, it’s important to write up a service contract for them to sign. This will give you a little bit more control, and draw a line in the sand that you are both clear on.

If you decide to hire employees, make sure you put time and effort into them. They’re an investment in your business and could make or break your success in the industry.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to weigh the pros & cons. Hopefully this article has helped you decide which is the best move for your salon.

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