July 27, 2023
If you love styling hair, and like to help people look fashionable and proud of their appearance, then hairdressing might well be the career opportunity for you. It gives you a chance to be creative, to work with like-minded people in a vibrant setting, and to put a smile on the faces of the people you treat.
It’s entirely possible to make a successful long-term career out of hairdressing, and to make enough money out of it to support your family and your lifestyle. However, earnings can vary substantially for a variety of different reasons, and it’s important to take these into account before you fully commit to the industry.
In this blog, we’ll answer the question of how much do hairdressers make in the UK. We’ll look at ballpark figures for full-time and freelance stylists alike, and explore some of the influencing factors that can improve or hold back your potential earning power.
According to the National Careers Service, the typical annual earnings for a hairdresser is between £14,000 and £30,000, depending on a range of factors that we’ll explore in the next section of this guide. Those rates, of course, apply to salaried employees working either full-time or part-time for someone else, most often in a salon.
For self-employed hairdressers, rates can range much more widely. Beginners may sometimes charge as little as £15 per hour, but with qualifications, experience and a growing reputation, these rates can grow significantly. Experienced stylists can attract between £40 and £80 per hour (bearing in mind that some of this may be lost to chair rental if operating from a salon).
Finally, it’s important to remember that hairdressing as a profession doesn’t have to be solely restricted to styling members of the public. There are plenty of businesses that need expert hairdressing services, too: advertising, marketing, modelling, fashion, TV, film and more. Indeed, at the very top end of the market, hair stylists working on TV or film productions can earn upwards of £300 per day.
Here, we’ll take a look at six of the biggest factors that can affect how much hairdressers get paid. Some of these will be easier to do something about than others, but nevertheless, you should still be aware of all of them so you can plan your financial and career future with confidence:
There are two different ways that geography comes into play when it comes to hairdresser earnings. The first is that some parts of the UK have higher average earnings than others: generally speaking, wages are higher in and around London than they would be, for example, in Scotland, Wales or Cornwall. The obvious solution to this is to move to a higher-income location to work as a hairdresser, but this isn’t really practical in most cases.
However, the second factor is that, even in areas of relatively low income, there are always more affluent parts of communities. In these areas, people generally have more disposable income to spend on beauty treatments like hairdressing, particularly from mobile stylists who are willing to deliver appointments from clients’ homes. It’s these parts of the world that can be particularly lucrative to target, and from where earnings can potentially be maximised.
Every hairdresser has to start from the bottom and work their way up to the top, whether that applies to their experience, skills, qualifications or their earnings. All those who have made hairdressing a lucrative career have put the hard work in to constantly improve their techniques and value, regardless of how much natural talent they may possess.
That’s why it’s so important to get a solid set of qualifications and credentials behind you. That way, hiring salons – or potential customers if you’re freelance – recognise the scale of your capabilities and pay you for them accordingly. If just starting out, then it’s definitely worth pursuing the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in Hairdressing to at least Level 3. Additionally, if you have time, you should also explore any other diplomas, courses or learning opportunities that might help you boost your skills even further.
As mentioned earlier, there is a huge range of different types of hairdressing for you to explore. If you want to work in a salon or focus on regular, public-facing styling, then that’s absolutely fine and can help give you a solid income and a regular rota of hours to work each week.
But if you want to be creative and have more of an entrepreneurial spirit, then some of the other opportunities like media and fashion are well worth exploring. And definitely don’t underestimate hairdressing for weddings: brides and bridesmaids are usually happy to pay top dollar to make sure they look perfect on their big day.
If you go freelance, you don’t have to be restricted to one type of hairdressing: it’s perfectly possible to work for different people on different types of styling one day to the next. If you have the skills and you’re willing to travel, it’s one of the best ways to take your earnings to the next level.
One of the biggest variations in how much hairdressers can make is the type of employment they pursue.
On one hand, you have being employed by a salon, either on a full-time or part-time basis. This does give regular income, but your earning power will be limited by demand for hairdressing jobs in your area, and how much your employer is willing to pay you. Additionally, it can be difficult for some employers to convince you to give you a pay rise as you grow your experience, which means you may have to switch salons in order to keep your salary moving upwards.
On the other hand, you can work for yourself as a freelance or mobile hairdresser. Theoretically, this means there are no limits to what you can earn, other than your talent, your business acumen and how many hours you’re willing to work. However, as we’ll cover in the next section, there are plenty of costs to take into account that can put a dent into your income.
For every pound that you earn as a self-employed hairdresser, you’ll lose a fair chunk of it to cover various costs that you’ll incur. For example, if you’re operating from a salon, then you’ll have to pay to rent one of their chairs: this can often cost as much as £20-30 an hour, depending on location and type of salon.
Then you’ve got your everyday running costs to consider: buying and maintaining equipment, transport to the salon or to clients’ homes, advertising your services, and obtaining hairdressing insurance. All of these are tax-deductible, but still represent a signficant outlay – as well your income tax and national insurance contributions. Read our guide to small business taxes for more information in this area.
There’s a similar divergence between employed and self-employed hairdressers when it comes to working hours and typical pay rates.
If you’re employed full-time or part-time, then you’ll be working to a fixed salary, or to an hourly rate which would mean your earnings go up and down depending on the number of hours you’re given. However, you may also find that you can earn more per hour by working shifts at less sociable times, such as at weekends.
If you’re self-employed, then it’s up to you how much you make, in terms of the hours you work and the rates you charge (taking into account your expenses as mentioned previously). You have total freedom to adjust these over time as you see fit, and to create offers and incentives that attract new customers and encourage repeat business: for example, offering a loyalty discount for your regulars.
Whether you’re just starting out in the hairdressing profession, or you’re an experienced stylist wanting to progress, the industry is full of rewards – but it’s full of risk, too. Even the best hairdressers in the world make mistakes from time to time, and in the worst case scenario, this can lead to customers putting in substantial claims for compensation.
It’s for this reason that any self-employed hairdresser should have full insurance cover in place for all their services and equipment. At Protectivity, we offer comprehensive hairdressing insurance, meaning you won’t end up out of pocket if you accidentally injure someone, a negligence claim is made against you, or if your or someone else’s property is damaged. And if you employ other members of staff, our cover can also include Employers’ Liability that safeguards you against any staff illness or injury.
Take a closer look at our hairdressing insurance today, including affordable pricing options that start from just £4.50 a month.