How to start a successful hair or beauty salon

It’s a sad fact of life but roughly 1 in 3 small businesses fail within the first two years.

I spend most of my working week meeting and mentoring salon owners, and when it comes to starting a hair or beauty salon there are certain key factors for success which crop up time and time again.

Learn from the mistakes of others.

If you’re thinking of starting your own salon or spa business here are:

  • 5 critical reasons many hair or beauty salons struggle in their early years.
  • How to avoid these start-up mistakes.
  • Some free salon specific marketing tools to set you on the right path.

#1. A great salon location is key to start-up success

Of course salons can, and do, succeed tucked away out of sight down a side street.

But why make life difficult for yourself?

If you want to greatly improve your chances of success then spend time choosing the right location. That’s one with plenty of footfall and passing traffic, easy access and, ideally, car parking nearby.

Don’t settle for second best. You’ll regret it later. Yes, you may have to wait longer to start your new business. And you may pay more rent. But your new salon will be highly visible and a real magnet for new clients and walk-ins.

Your new salon premises are one of your biggest monthly outgoings and a long lasting commitment. You can’t just shut the door and walk away if the going gets tough. This article looks at how to avoid the pitfalls and potentially costly mistakes when signing up for your new salon.


#2. Are you suited to running a salon business?

Just because you’re brilliant at your current hair or beauty job and love it, doesn’t mean you will become an overnight business success.

Becoming a successful salon entrepreneur is hard graft, involves long hours and calls for a different skill set to that of a stylist or therapist.

So before you rush to hand in your notice do your homework. Find out if you’re really going to enjoy being ‘the boss’.


  • Shadow an owner for the day.
  • Book onto a salon management course.
  • Speak to as many salon entrepreneurs as you can.

Not everyone is suited to running a salon business. You’ll find some useful pointers here to help you decide if you’re cut out to be your own boss. Just remember there’s absolutely no shame in deciding it’s not for you after all. Far better to stick with the job you love.

#3. Successful start-ups watch the pennies

Too often I see new salon owners overspend on the fit out.

Of course you covet a stunning salon with state-of-the art equipment. But ask yourself, do I really need to splash out on those fancy chairs?

Save them for when your business is flying. Saddling yourself with a large monthly debt payment when you’re just opening, and without clients, is a recipe for sleepless nights.

Strike the right balance. For the vast majority of start-ups you just need an attractive, spotlessly clean and tidy salon. Save your valuable pennies for promoting your start-up. What’s the point of a drop-dead gorgeous and super expensive refit if you can’t afford to invest in marketing your new business?

Your salon suppliers can be a useful source of help when you start your new business. Find savvy tips on squeezing the most from them (nicely, of course) in this post. And here are 25 hands-on tips for designing and laying out your new hair or beauty salon.

#4. Promote your new start-up salon

Opening your salon door and just hoping the clients will swarm in is a surefire way to fail.

You have to tell the world:

  • where you are
  • what you are
  • why they should visit you.

Clients are not mind readers. It’s essential to communicate with them clearly, consistently and frequently. A salon marketing plan is key to getting this communication right and is crucial to your success. But when you’re running round chasing up builders, speaking to your lawyer and recruiting staff ‘marketing’ often gets put on the back burner.

To help you, I’ve written a free step-by-step guide on creating your Salon Start-up Marketing Plan plus a ready-to-use 12 month Salon Marketing Calendar to get you off to a flying start.  Download them for free here.

Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that you need to get marketing early. Write your Salon Marketing Plan as soon as you have shaken hands on your new premises. For the best results you want to be promoting your new business hard for a few weeks before you open the doors.

#5. Leadership is fundamental to start ups

This is probably the biggest and most common cause of a start-up going pop. (And it doesn’t just apply to start-ups.)

If you want a successful salon business you have to work on it not just in it.

Too many salon owners, especially early on, believe they must be the main earner. They believe it’s their job to put the most money in the till each week, and end up working their fingers to the bone whilst their team stand idly around waiting for clients.

Stop standing behind that salon chair or treatment couch all day. Your most important task is to run your new salon business. Or it may become just another sad statistic.

Looking for more hair and beauty start-up marketing and business tips? Read our free specialist start-up section. Tons of practical tips and advice on setting up your new salon.

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