Are you planning on opening a salon?
What will it be? A hair salon, nail salon, barbershop, or maybe a full-service beauty salon or spa?
I’m so happy that you landed on this article.
This is going to be an important read for you.
If you’re looking for a checklist on how to start a salon business, you’re exactly where you need to be.
Despite the inflation in 2023, the salon industry is on a rise. People are spending more and more on beauty and it’s never been a better time to start a salon than now.
But let’s talk straight here.
Many salon businesses still fail.
And the main reason salon startups fail is not because of lack of money or poor services.
It’s because of poor planning.
This is why this article is so important to you.
In fact, this is why TheSalonBusiness.com, and all the resource I publish here, even exists.
Today, you’ll get a complete “opening a salon checklist” with all requirements for opening a salon.
If you’re on a tight budget, I’ll even show you how to open a salon with no money.
It’s quite a long article. But probably the best investment of time you can make today.
Pin it to your Pinterest board or bookmark the page so that you can come back to it later.
Are you ready to realize your dream?
Let’s go through how to start a salon business.
↓ Pin it for Later ↓
Hear how My Erlandsson Started her Salon Business and Opened her Two Hair Salons
We’ll soon dive into the opening a salon checklist, but if you want to hear the full story of what the experience of going through this is like, watch the video below where I’m interviewing My about how she went from idea to building two thriving hair salons.
How to Open a Salon?
There are 29 actions I strongly recommend you take when opening a hair or beauty salon. Below table is an opening a salon checklist you can follow to ensure you cover all you need to get done. I will go into each one in detail in this article.
|Get Your Mind Ready to Start a Salon Business|
|1. Build your salon business knowledge & experience||Gain the practical and theoretical skills needed to start a salon business.|
|2. Get a salon mentor||Seek advice from someone who’s already been through the journey|
|3. Articulate the vision for your beauty business||Get clear on what a successful salon business is to you.|
|4. Decide the type of beauty business to start||Decide on if your salon should be a hair salon or beauty salon – a home salon, mobile salon or a salon suite.|
|5. Define who your ideal salon client is||Understand who it is that your salon will serve.|
|6. Study your competition||Learn about competition in your area so that you can adapt your point of difference.|
|Plan and Setup Your Salon Business|
|7. Start drafting your salon business plan||Get your plan on paper with a one page salon business plan.|
|8. Define your salon start-up budget||Understand how much money you have to invest so that you put them behind the right things.|
|9. Find a way to finance your salon||Secure the salon loans and other funding you need to set you salon up for success.|
|10. Decide on the salon business structure||Decide if your salon should be an LLC or Sole Propretorship.|
|11. Come up with a salon name||Choose a name for your salon that reflects you.|
|12. Register your salon business||Make you new business official.|
|13. Obtain required beauty licenses and permits||Ensure you have a the required licenses and permits for your salon.|
|Build Out Your Salon Location|
|14. Find a good salon location||Understand which city, area, and facility that will fit your salon and go on a hunt.|
|15. Protect yourself, your employees, and your salon with the right insurance||Register for the insurances you and your salon need.|
|16. Design your salon layout||Optimize the layout of your salon for your operations.|
|17. Order the salon equipment and tools you need||Get the necessary equipment to perform your services.|
|Create Your Salon Brand and Offer|
|18. Create a salon logo||Design a logo and brand tagline that fit your salon.|
|19. Decide on the visual identity for your salon||Select colors, fonts, and visual language to use consistently on all touch points your salon will have with the outside world.|
|20. Create a strategic salon service menu||Design your salon menu in a way that attracts the right clients and get them to spend more with you.|
|21. Decide on your salon retail assortment||Pick a retail offering for your salon that help increase the client spend with you.|
|Setup the Salon Business Support Needed|
|22. Get a good salon software||Get a system that help you manage clients, bookings, finances, inventory, staff, and business reporting.|
|23. Register a domain name and setup your e-mail||Get you own address on the Internet|
|24. Create your salon website & e-mail address||Get your salon visible online in the right way with the right information.|
|25. Setup your salon’s social media||Build out your salon’s social media strategy and presence to allow effective marketing of your salon.|
|26. Order salon business cards and branded material||Get stationary, marketing material, and salon staff clothing that reflect your salon’s brand image.|
|Scale Your Salon Business|
|27. Build a salon marketing plan to accelerate your business||Build a plan with strategies and tactics to help you attract new clients and grow existing ones.|
|28. Hire salon staff & motivate your team||Get the right people on your team and build a plan to ensure they stay motivate and skilled.|
|29. Review & adapt your salon business plan||When you have your business running, come back and update your salon business plan with what you’ve learnt to grow further.|
These actions are relevant independently on if you’re planning to start a hair salon, nail salon, barbershop, tanning salon, beauty salon or spa.
Before we dive into each item on the opening a salon checklist, I just wanted to tackle the question I often get: How much does it cost to open a salon and can I open a salon with no money?
Get Your Mind Ready to Start a Salon Business
You’re embarking on an exciting journey.
But it will not always be fun and easy. Opening a salon comes with responsibility and hard work. And it will be challenging at times.
This is why the first part of the opening a salon checklist is focused on what you can do to prepare yourself.
1. Build Your Salon Business Knowledge & Experience
Maybe you’re currently employed in a salon. Or you’re still in school.
Independently on where you are, your focus needs to be on learning the art of running a salon business now.
Obsess about learning.
The more you learn, the more you earn, when it comes to running your own business.
Getting a Cosmetology or Beautician’s degree is just the start. In fact, most schools don’t cover the business side of things as well as they should. That’s in fact why I created this blog in the first place.
And the beauty is that there’s so many places where you can learn today. Just the fact that you’re reading this post right now tells me that I don’t really need to convince you about that 🙂
You’ll need a mix of both practical experience and theoretical knowledge.
Gain Practical Salon Business Experience
Getting some practical experience before you start your own salon can save you a lot of expensive mistakes later.
So if you’re not working in a salon already, get a part time job after school (or wherever you spend your days). Get out there. Listen to what people ask for. Get a feel for how the salon business works.
You can learn tons from just being in a salon and looking at what’s happening in the salon. And now that you know you’ll be starting a salon yourself, you’ll observe the world through a difference lens and see things other people not planning to start a salon will see.
Learn the World of Business
There’s blogs, YouTube, podcasts etc. you can subscribe to for free. Well, I don’t really need to tell you that since you’re reading this now :).
I publish a ton of free blog posts, videos, and courses to support you.
Here’s a few resources I recommend you start with:
- Download my PDF guide to building a thriving salon business
- Sign-up for any upcoming live trainings
- Subscribe to my YouTube channel
That’s probably enough for you to start with 🙂
2. Get a Salon Mentor
You’re not the first one to start a salon.
Many people have gone through the same journey. So why not learn from them?
A mentor is someone you can meet on a regular basis to discuss the challenges and ideas for your new business. Someone who have the experience to guide you and give you perspective on what you’re going through.
I would never have been where I am today without my mentors and I strongly recommend that you look in your network if you know someone with the right experience that you can reach out to.
3. Articulate a Vision for Your Beauty Business
You cannot build a house without having first a clear vision and drawing of what that house should look like.
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that if you start building a house without a vision and plan, you’ll end up with a strange and random structure that probably never will be finished.
The same goes for your salon business.
All things are created twice; First mentally; then physically. The key to creativity is to begin with the end in mind, with a vision and a blue print of the desired result.Stephen R. Covey
You need to have a clear and vivid picture of what your salon will look like to be able to get at least close to it. Try to really envision what it will be like when you’ve opened the doors of your new salon.
What type of clients will you meet in your salon?
What will the salon interior look like?
Will you have staff working for you? If so, what will they be like?
You don’t need to get rational here. Don’t start writing bullet point lists of everything you’ll have. Instead, picture yourself visually in your salon. Try to feel now what feeling you’ll have when you’re there.
This might sound fluffy but it is proven that having a clear and vivid picture of what your future looks like significantly increases your chances that this is how your salon will end up.
4. Decide the Type of Beauty Business to Start
I’m sure you already have an idea about if you want to start a hair salon, nail salon, barbershop, beauty salon, spa or something else.
But there’s many different types of salons you can start.
Salon Business Types
|Traditional Salon||Where you own a building where you house your salon. This gives you the full freedom of doing what you want in your salon.|
|Salon Suite||When you rent a salon studio. This gives you the freedom of controlling your own salon location without the risk and expenses that come with owning the building.|
|Salon Booth Rental||When you pay someone to rent a booth, styling station or other space within an existing salon suite. You have your own business but it’s still similar to being employed in a salon. The benefits are your independence and higher earning potential. The drawbacks are that you cannot control the salon as it it was yours (interior etc.) and you don’t get the same employee benefits as if you were an employee.|
|Commission Based Salon Employee||Now you’re in fact not a business owner at all. But you can directly influence your earnings by providing more services and selling retail. This gives you a bit more freedom than as a tradition employee but with lower risk than having your own business which is why this is a model that many stylists like.|
|Home Salon||Here you’re running your own salon business from your home. This comes with obvious benefits desirable at certain stages in life. But it’s at the same time hard to “leave work”. Depending on where you live, there can be different requirements you need to be aware of (e.g. the need for a separate entrance).|
|Mobile Salon||Running a mobile salon means you’re visiting your clients, instead of the other way around. You can attract a new audience in your area with a mobile salon.Those who have little time and want their service at home and also people with disabilities who cannot travel easy themselves. This is a good option to start with if you want to open a salon with no money. As you’re travelling, equipment will be kept to a minimum and you can charge your clients a premium as the fact you’re going to them is part of your service.|
|Franchised Salon||This is when you run a salon of an existing brand – like Supercuts. You’ll get support with marketing and training by the franchising company. Making this a good option if you don’t like to focus on marketing and building your own salon brand. On the other hand, you’ll have royalty fee costs on top of your rent to take into account as well as less flexibility when designing your own salon experience.|
These are some of the common types of salon models that you should consider when starting your salon business and there’s also variations to each model that you’ll discover.
Try to get clear on which model that resonates best with your budget, risk acceptance, and desire for freedom.
5. Define who your Ideal Salon Client Is
Starting your own salon business means you’re the boss – right?
Well, yes and no..
In fact, it’s more as if you just got a new boss..
You might know her, she’s called your client 🙂
So who do you want as your boss?
Your salon exists to serve your clients. If you serve your clients well, you’ll also be rewarded. But all people do not want the same thing. Some have limited budget, some value going to a know salon name, some want a pampering experience, and some have limited time and want a fast service.
This is why it’s important to, already now, decide on who your ideal client is. This way you can design everything about your new salon in a way that speaks to her.
Because you cannot be attractive to everyone.
When you speak to everyone, you speak to no oneMeredith Hill
Get as clear as you possibly can about who your ideal salon client is. Picture her in front of you.
I want you to see her.
She can be a person you already know or a fictive character that you just make up. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have a vivid picture of who she, what she likes, and what problems she has. The persona is someone you should have in your head as you make the thousands of big and small decicions about your business over the coming months and year.
There’s a few questions you can ask yourself as you define who your ideal salon client is.
Who do you want in your Salon?
Maybe the most important one. You’re going to spend a lot of time with your client, so it better be someone who you actually want in your salon or it will be difficult to serve her well in the long run.
How Big is the Market?
It’s good to get detailed in the definition of your ideal client. The more specific you are, the more she will feel like your salon is exactly for her. But, at the same time, you need to make sure there’s actually a sufficient amount of people in the area that fit with the description of your ideal salon client or you may be niching down your salon too much.
You’ll learn more about how to define your salon’s target market as you create your salon business plan.
How Profitable can you Make the Target Salon Client?
You can make most salon clients profitable. However, your choice of salon client will influence your salon’s business model. For example, you can go after the cost-conscious client with low prices and make that profitable. However, your operations will need to follow. Meaning, shorter appointments, basic services, and less attractive salon location potentially. This is why you need to have the overall salon vision in mind when choosing the client to go after.
Does she have a Problem you can Solve?
Finally, you should think about how you deliver value to the target client. And you do that by solving her problems.
Understand what her problem is and how you can solve it. Your solution will often be part of the salon services you offer but it can also be how you offer them. For example via attractive prices, a rich experience, or convenience.
6. Study Your Competition
Competition is a good thing.
You shouldn’t be scared just because you see other beauty salons in the area.
The opposite actually.
I would get more suspicious if there weren’t any other salons in the area as this may be a signal that there’s no need for one.
The fact that there’s competition proves there’s a market.
But you should stay close to the competition, understand what they are doing, and what’s working and not working for them. This way you can avoid making expensive mistakes yourself. In fact, coming in later to a market gives you an advantage. You have fresh eyes while they are, in many cases, locked into how to do things which makes it more difficult for them to be innovative and come with new thinking. This is what you will do and that will give you an edge over them.
But how should you study your competition?
Do a Google Search
One of the most common ways that people will find your salon is via search. Having your salon showing up at the top of the search result page will be crucial for your success. So you should check out who’s currently owning that space in your area and study that salon.
Have a Coffee Outside the Salon Near You
Just spending a few hours looking at what their clientele looks like, how they meet their clients, and what they offer them can give you a lot of insight into the positioning of their salon and what clients they serve.
Follow them on Social Media
Like with search, social media is an important marketing channel for salons. You want to see how they use it and if they have an engaged following. Following them will also give you more insight into what they are doing in the salon and any salon promotions they are currently running.
Browse Other Salon’s Websites
You must go over the websites of all salons in your area. Here you can make note of salon services offered and their pricing. Note all this information down in a spreadsheet or document as you’ll need it when you’re designing your salon offer.
But you shouldn’t only look at salons in your area. In the end, you want to be different from them. Spend some time also going over other salons’ websites and make notes about their salon branding, marketing, price list, and offer. To help you with this, I’ve pulled together a long list of nail salon websites, hair salon websites, and beauty salon websites here.
Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.Mario Puzo
Create your Blue Ocean
The competing salons in your area will influence how big share of the market you can get. This is something we’ll go into in more depth as we start writing your salon business plan.
However, the size of the market is not definite. You can make the market bigger. When you know what competition is up to, you can focus on how you can be different to them. And how you can add additional revenue streams to your salon that they don’t have.
You can create a Blue Ocean to compete in.
The concept of Blue Ocean Strategy was coined by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne in their book with the same name. In the book, they make the distinction between a red ocean and a blue ocean where the red ocean is where traditional business compete for market shares. While businesses with a blue ocean strategy go and increase the size of the market by being different from the other.
I’d recommend you to look at competition with that lens.Think about how you can make the market bigger vs. just eating share from your competitors.
Plan and Setup Your Salon Business
It’s time to build the platform you’ll launch your salon business on. In the coming steps, you’ll be creating your business plan and complete all the requirements when opening a salon.
7. Start Drafting Your Salon Business Plan
Opening a salon is a big project.
And the journey to getting there can seem overwhelming in the beginning. Where do I start and what do I do next?
You need a plan.
And I suggest you start drafting one already now. It doesn’t need to be perfect from start. But it will help you ask the right questions when you move forward with your salon business setup.
Let’s cover an overview of the key components of your business plan.
What is a Salon Business Plan?
A salon business plan is a summary of how your salon business will function and clarifies why it will be successful. It provides a roadmap with goals and milestones to lead your salon to success.
Why do You Need a Salon Business Plan?
The primary reason you need a salon business plan is for you to get in control of your beauty business and to enable the right decisions up front.
A well laid out plan gives you a clear path to follow as you set out while it also helps spot weaknesses in your salon business early. You also need a salon business plan to communicate with others.
If you need to raise money, the bank or investor will want to see your salon business plan before issuing any funds.
Tracking your Progress
Any plan you build is useless unless you’re able to measure and track how you’re living up to the plan. To enable this, you need to get a salon software with strong reporting capabilities that allow you to understand the numbers.
The tool I use and recommend is Mangomint. Not only because of all the powerful reporting features (as shown in the video below), but because it’s simply a pleasure for you, your team, and your clients to use.
What Should a Salon Business Plan Include?
|1. Salon mission statement||A short summary of why a salon exists, what the goal of the salon is and how this goal is achieved.|
|2. The problem the salon solves||The unresolved problem that your customers face that your salon will be addressing.|
|3. Solution the salon offer||How your salon business addresses the problem and creates value for your clients.|
|4. Salon revenue model||The different income streams (ways of making money) your salon will have.|
|5. Salon expenses||All costs associated with starting and running your salon.|
|6. Target client & market||Your ideal salon client and size of the local market.|
|7. Salon competition||Competitor salons in your area and their activities.|
|8. Salon marketing activities||How you will attract new clients to your salon and get your exiting ones to come more frequently and spend more at each visit.|
|9. Salon employees, partnerships and their roles||Your salon staff and business partners that will help you achieve your plan and their roles.|
|10. Major milestones||Critical achievements and targets that you need to complete or reach by a specified time for your salon to be successful.|
To learn more about all the parts you need when creating your salon business plan, I’ve put together a step-by-step salon business plan guide here.
8. Define Your Salon Start-up Budget
One of the biggest worries for new salon owners is money.
You likely have bills to pay mouths to feed. And it’s hard to predict exactly how much your salon business will generate when.
But you can mitigate this stress through proper budget planning.
How to Create a Salon Budget
The easiest way to plan out your salon expenses is to create an expense forecast in Live Plan. This allows you to automate the whole process.
If you’re good in Microsoft Excel, you can use that as well of course.
What’s most important is that you get a realistic budget in place that you can update and maintain as you move forward and learn about what the actual costs are.
But what you you include in your salon expense list? Let’s go over what the common costs are.
Salon Start-up Costs List
Common costs when starting a salon are:
- Rent deposit
- Buying out previous salon owner
- Leasehold improvements
- Salon equipment
- Initial supplies and inventory
- Certifications and licenses
- Salon insurance
- Salon launch marketing
- Legal fees
Your expense forecast should also include the going costs your salon will have.
Monthly Salon Expenses List
The biggest monthly expenses a salon have are:
- Rent and utility bills
- Product purchases
I’ve also put together a salon cost guide that I recommend you go through which covers the topic in more depth. This guide will help you identify the costs you need to include as well as give you some assumptions that you can work with.
Access the article here: How much does it cost to start a salon?
9. Find a way to Finance your Salon
If you’ve completed the previous step, you should now have an idea of much money you’ll need to start your salon business.
Hopefully you have some money saved for you new venture. But chances are you’ll need more money than that to set your salon venture off to a successful start.
There are of course ways you can get additional funding for your salon start-up. I have summarized the options you have here. Needless to say, you need to use caution and conservative business assumptions when you’re raising capital from other sources than your own. This comes with additional risk which you need to be conscious about.
1. Get an Overview of the Money You Already Have
The best is if you can fund part of your salon using money you already have. Consider what you have on your savings account, if your have any stocks you can sell, if you own a property you can draw credit from, or if you have things you can sell like jewellery or cars.
2. Let Family and Friends Invest in Your Salon
You may have people around you who believe in your venture and are ready to support you. The benefit of this is of course that it eliminates credit approvals and bank fees. However, you want to make sure that you’re not putting your relationships at risk. Thus, I would really only consider accepting friends and family support if you are confident you can return the payment.
3. Use Credit Cards for Short Term Financial Help
Credit cards are commonly used when starting up a business to get short term funds for investments. This can be a great help for your cash flow but you of course need to be certain that you’re able to pay back after the short payment period.
Interest rates for credit cards after the payment period can be high so if you’re not using it safely you can end up in a bad place that you want to avoid.
4. Get a Bank Business Loans for your Salon
There are providers that specialize in small business loans. A popular place to turn for loans is Fundera. They compare different loan providers for you so that you can find the best solution for you.
It can be difficult to get a regular loan from providers if you’re just starting out and don’t have and proven business performance to show. This is where SBA financing comes in.
5. SBA Financing for Salons
If you’re not able to get a regular bank loan you may still be able to get an SBA secured loan. What this means is that the U.S. Small Business Administration guarantees the loan for you. This reduces the risk for the lender and in turn the cost of the Loan.
To find out who offers SBA secured loan, you can compare SBA loan options at Fundera. You should be prepared for that the application process for these loans to be long even if the cost of the loans are typically lower than traditional bank loans.
So you should apply for your SBA loan as soon as you know you need one.
It’s not as easy to get good financing when you’re starting a new salon business as when you have a well-established salon and just need additional funds to grow.
You can always check what loans you can get at Fundera. They also have a proven track record of being able to find solutions to new business where the traditional banks have said no.
Even if you can get a loan, you still want to make sure you do not take too high risk yourself. You want to be confident in your ability to pay it back. What will help you get that confidence is a good salon business plan. This is also something that bank will want to see to give you a loan.
10. Decide on your Salon’s Legal Business Structure
You’re making good progress!
You’re starting to get a log of the foundations in place to launch your new salon business. So it’s soon time to officialize your new business!
But before you do, you need to decide what legal structure your business should be.
What Legal Business Structure should a Beauty Salon Be?
Salon owners can choose from five possible legal structures when starting a salon business: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), S Corporation, or C Corporation but an LLC is probably your best option.
The choice of business structure affects how much taxes you’ll pay, your liability, how much administrative work you need to do as well as your ability to get loans and raise money.
An LLC business setup protects your from personal liability. It’s really only the money that you put into your business that you have at risk. This is the main reason you should consider an LLC vs. a Sole Proprietorship.
LLCs are also flexible. They don’t require share holder meetings, a board of director and other formalities that a corporation does. On top, there’s also more flexibility when it comes to taxation.
However, the right legal structure could be different for you. There are services like Zen Business that can help you here.
11. Come up with a Good Salon Name
You have reach the exciting (or daunting in some cases) part of your opening a salon checklist.
It’s time to come up with a name for your salon.
There are four questions I recommend you as yourself as you start brainstorming on good salon names for your business.
A) Does the Salon Name Reflect You and Your Salon?
Your salon’s name should be unique and distinct to you. In order to land on the right name, take 2 minutes to think about how you’d like your salon to be perceived (e.g. classy, creative, or cool) as well as what it is that makes your salon unique. This can be the specific services you offer or the story about why your hair salon exists in the first place.
B) Does the Name Make it Intuitive that it is e.g. a Hair Salon?
You will be using your salon’s name in all your future salon marketing activities. And in many cases, you only have a split second to communicate who you are.
This is why it’s vital that people immediately understand what type of business you run or you’ll lose their attention. So if you’re using a more cryptic but cool name, you might want to add “Salon”, “Hair”, or “Nails” to the name so that people understand what you’re about.
C) Can you Find an Available Website Domain Name?
Soon after you’ve locked on your salon name, you’ll need to create your salon website and business email addresses. To do that, you need a domain name (e.g. examplesalon.com).
As all businesses are increasingly moving online and the cost of a domain name is low, the number of available domain names are becoming fewer. This is why it’s good to do a check already now to see if the name you want is available or you might want to adapt your name.
The easiest way of doing this is by using Namecheap. They allow you to search for names and generate more ideas. If it’s busy, you can try with appending your “hair”, “salon”, or your city to the name. When you find something good, you can grab it at a low price with Namecheap to ensure no one else takes it.
D) What will the Name Look Like as a Hair Salon Logo?
Your hair salon name not only needs to sound good. It needs to look good.
You don’t necessarily need to finalize your logo at this stage but it’s a good idea to at least test what it could look like when you turn it into a logo. As you do this exercise you might realize that certain letters would be better than others which could influence your final hair salon name.
It’s really easy to do this test with Canva. Canva is a free design tool that most entrepreneurs use to design things for their businesses. They also offer a free 30 day trial of their paid plan which gives you access to great logo assets. Thus, I’d suggest you get on the free trial to generate your logo ideas (which you can complete in less than the trial period).
E) Brain Storm Name Ideas
As I get a lot of questions about name ideas, I’ve put together this enormous salon naming guide. It’s a PDF that contains thousands of name ideas while walking you through a process to help ensure you decide on the right name for your business.
Download the salon naming guide PDF here.
12. Register your Salon Business
It’s time to get your business registered with the state.
How you should register your business is determined by the business structure and location. But you’ll likely need to get a tax ID first as well as required licenses and permits for your salon.
This is not difficult but to make life easy for you, you can use a service like Zen Business to set up the business for you.
You just need to select the desired business structure and fill out a simple questionnaire.
This will save you time that you instead can invest into getting your new salon up and running.
13. Obtain Required Salon Licences and Permits
There’s a few licenses and permits you’ll need when you open a salon.
We should be thankful that this is the case as it ensure professional knowledge and service quality which protects salon clients. It also keeps unserious players away from our industry.
Let’s go over what the common ones are.
What Licenses do I Need to Open a Salon?
The licenses and permits you need to open a salon are:
- State Cosmetology or Beautician’s License
- Salon Retail Seller Permit
- Salon Business Operation License
- Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Certificate of Occupancy
On top of the above, you’re (in most states) also required to have a salon insurance. I’ll cover what salon insurance you need later on in this guide.
To learn more about the licenses you’ll need when opening a salon as well as how much you should expect your salon licenses to cost, you can read my complete guide on licences for beauty salons here.
Build out your Salon Location
Your physical Salon is at the heart of your business. In the coming step, we’ll go through how you find and set up your salon facility.
14. Find a Good Salon Location
Location, location, location.
These are the three most important things for a salon or spa business.
But is the salon location as important as it used to be?
If your salon has a strong presence on social media, you’ll not be as dependent on street traffic as in the past.
Your salon gets visibility and attract clients online instead. This is why I thought the quote from Jeff Bezos was fitting here.
The three most important things in retail are location, location, location. The three most important things for our consumer business are technology, technology, technology.Jeff Bezos
But even if you build a strong online presence, the location of your salon remain important.
Where you’re located says a lot about you.
And it needs to be convenient for your target client to get to you.
Salon’s based in an area with a high amount of people walking or driving by also need to invest less in marketing their salon. They get that for free thanks to the location.
But picking the right salon location comes down to much more than street traffic and the convenience for clients to get there.
In fact, in my guide to choosing a salon location, I include a checklist with 21 things that you must consider before signing your lease agreement.
15. Protect Yourself, Your Employees and Your Salon with the Right Salon Insurance
Running a salon comes with risk.
Things will go wrong.
A client could slip and break an ankle. You could accidentally give the wrong advice to a client that causes them injury. One of your staff could get injured. Or you could spill out chemicals during a mobile salon home visit.
These are just some examples of things you’re liable for as a salon owner. And just some reasons why you need to ensure you have the right insurance policies in place for your salon.
It’s natural to look for savings opportunities when starting a salon, but don’t let your insurance be one of them. This could cost you a lot down the line. Some insurances are also required in most states.
Below are common insurances you’ll need even if it can differ depending on the salon type.
|Insurance||What it covers|
|General Liability Insurance||Protects against claims caused by bodily injury, property damage, and personal injury that arise from your salon business operations.|
|Commercial Property Insurance||Covers costs associated with repairs as well as the loss of income due to damage to building and salon equipment.|
|Professional Liability Insurance||Protects against claims that your professional advice or salon services caused a client financial harm.|
|Workers Compensation Insurance||Covers your employees lost wages and medical treatment in case of injury. Mandatory in almost all states.|
You can combine some policies to help you save money. I explain more about that in my guide to salon insurance that you can read here.
16. Design Your Salon Layout
This is the most important thing when people walk into your salon. The experience people have when they arrive is what will set the standard of what type of salon you are and if your salon is right for them.
Your salon is also the workplace for you and your staff. And it’s not laid out in a way that is practical, you’ll soon go crazy.
So when you create your salon layout, you need to balance the appearance with the practicality.
How exactly to layout your salon will, of course, differ depending on your salon dimensions. You can learn more about the recommended common salon room dimensions in my other article.
I have put together a list of salon decor and design ideas that you can check out for inspiration. For more salon design and decor ideas, I think Pinterest is the best platform for free inspiration. I try to pin nice ideas that I come across on my Pinterest board here.
Your salon lighting also plays a massive role in your salon’s appearance. Check out my article about salon lighting design to learn about lighting fixtures and options for salons.
Below are some specific salon design ideas to have in mind as you layout your salon.
Small Salon Design Ideas
It’s natural that your first salon will be smaller which means optimizing the space will be crucial to you. Here’s some small salon design ideas:
- Make the most of salon daylight. A brighter salon feels more spacious.
- Use a mirrored wall as this creates a perception of larger space.
- Consider to island styling stations vs. against the wall to create more space
Read my article on small salon design ideas for more inspiration here.
Salon Reception Area Design & Layout
The salon reception and retail area should be the first thing clients see as they walk into the salon.
You want to keep your reception tidy and clean. This is a working space for making bookings, answering phone, and in many case other administrative tasks. But you need to be careful that it doesn’t end up looking messy with paper a stationary lying around.
Don’t hide your retail behind the reception desk. Your client need to be able to pick up products during check out without the receptionist having to give it to them. You can also make room for promotional display and impulse purchase products at the check out.
The reception waiting area is a good place to promote your services and products. Make sure your retail is visible from the waiting area and have your salon service menu available to people as they wait.
As a rule of thumb, the amount of chairs you need in your waiting area is about half of the number of styling stations you have. Let’s say you have eight styling stations, in that case it should be sufficient with four chairs.
Get more inspiration for salon reception designs here.
Styling Station Area Layout
This is where your clients will spend the most time. Privacy is important here. Your clients need to feel comfortable. It can be tempting to add in more styling stations to grow revenue but you need to consider the space for your clients and also staff working around the chair.
Allow at least 40 inches between salon chairs to avoid that clients sit on each other. And ensure there’s sufficient working space around stations and behind the chair.
Make sure you have good styling station lighting so that your staff can work effectively and the result on the client looks as good as possible.
Get more ideas for styling station designs here.
Salon Backwash Area Design
The backwash area is not just a place to wash hair. It’s a place where you provide a client experience. It’s also one of your best opportunities to upsell your client on care treatments and talk about the products you’re using to increase sales of retail.
Try to separate out backwash area from the busy salon space. This should be a calm and relaxing area. Allow for 32 inches left to right for each shampoo station and 36 inches behind the station for the stylist.
As a rule of thumb, you need a shampoo station for every three styling stations. That is, if you’re a large salon with 15 styling stations, you should be ok with 3 shampoo stations.
17. Order the Salon Equipment and Tools you Need
Salon equipment is a big expense when you’re just starting a new salon. So you want to get this right. The best place to find salon equipment, at good price, is on the web.
Most salon equipment manufacturers are now present on Amazon. And this is also where I’ve found the best prices for salon equipment and accessories.
But before you go shopping for equipment on Amazon, you should setup your Amazon Business Account. This is completely free but gives you access to business exclusive prices, tax benefits, and more.
It can take a little time until your account is ready, so request it now so that you have it next time you need to get something for your salon.
Equipment Needed for Hair Salons
Some of the large equipment you need as you start out your salon are:
These will be your bigger expense items. But on top, there’s a number of other things you’ll need like cutting shears, combs & brushes, styling tools, carts, and service accessories.
To help you build a check list of the things you’ll need, I’ve put together a complete list of recommended hair salon equipment here.
This list includes cost estimates for each items to help you build a budget. I’ve also included recommendations for the best equipment as well as low cost alternatives if you’re just starting out.
Another helpful place to go to get ideas for what equipment you’ll need for your salon is Amazon.
Check out my recommended equipment for hair salons
Create Your Salon Brand and Offer
You should now have your salon location and all the requirements to open a salon in place. Awesome!
But what should you offer in the salon? What’s your salon’s value proposition?
This is what we’ll work on next.
18. Create a Salon Logo
Your logo is a core asset of your brand.
You’ll use it everywhere: social media, website, business cards, and more..
So you want to get it right.
There’s two ways that you can go about creating your logo. Either you hire a salon marketing agency to do it for you or you do it yourself.
Using a salon marketing agency will cost you a bit more but ensures you get a perfect result. However, you don’t actually need to be a photoshop guru today create a professional logo.
You can use Canva to generate a logo for you in just a few minutes using their online service.
For logo inspiration you can check out my list of salon logo design ideas. In the video below, I’m also walking you through some good principles to consider when designing your logo.
19. Design the Visual Identity of your Salon
Your salon brand is much more than just your logo.
There are several visual components that make up the look and feel of your brand.
- The colors you use
- The look and feel of images
- The font(s) you use
- The way you write and talk
How you put this together is crucial for your brand. You need to do it in a way that resonates with the target client. If you know your target salon client is old men, you probably would not use bright pink colors and pop music in your salon. You’d probably go for a more traditional, dark color, approach.
Your salon software should allow you to customize the booking experience and client interactions to fit your brand colors.
Below is an example using Mangomint for online booking where you can see how big the difference is when you customize the booking experience to your brand.
You need to be consistant here.
The colors you choose should be reflect in your salon decor, your social media, and your website.
People should feel that they are in contact with your salon even if they don’t see your name and logo. The visual identity should be enough.
This is how you build a strong connection with your client.
This is how you build a brand.
Let me tell you more in the video below.
20. Create a Strategic Salon Service Menu
Your service menu is at the core of any salon business.
In fact, what you list on your menu and how you use it can make a massive difference to your business.
An issue I see all too often is that salon owners irrationally discount their services. It’s as if they “want to be nice” to their clients and don’t think they can charge full price.
This is one of the biggest issues in our industry.
It comes with several negative consequences. It’s the start of a negative spiral where salon owners aren’t able to pay competitive wages, which in turn leads to high staff turnover, which in the end can lead to burnout of the salon owner.
This needs to end.
And a simple way to deal with it is by being disciplined with your service menu.
Take the time you need to build your menu and set your prices.
If profitability is important to you (which I hope it is), you will price your services differently depending on who delivers the service. You may even offer different prices depending on if the service is booked at peak hours or not.
To be able to support a more sophisticated price list like this, you’ll need an intelligent salon software. Below is what it looks like when I’m setting up service in Mangomint.
This platform allows for a lot of flexibility when it comes to pricing and managing your services.
Let’s go through some more principles when building a strategic price list.
Designed with your Target Salon Client in Mind
All your services are there to serve your target client. If you’re not sure what she wants, ask her. She might not know what it is that she wants but as you get to know her better you’ll spot ideas that you can add to further strengthen your offer.
The Role of Core Services
You’ll have two types of services on your menu. Your core services and your add-on service.
The core services are your bread and butter. This is the hair cut, basic color services or the standard pedicure or manicure. These are the services people would call and book even if they had not seen your menu.
There’s a natural demand for these services and it’s typically what a first time client would come in for.
You should avoid discounting these services unless for a special, tactical promotion. But it’s risky. Instead, you should benchmark prices for these services closely with competition in the area. I’m not saying you should have the same price. But if you go higher, you should have a reason why. And the same if you go lower. These are the prices that your client is most aware of when comparing you to other salons.
For more examples of hair salon core services, check out my separate article with a list of salon services to consider for your hair salon menu.
The Role of Add-on Services
Add-on services are different. As the name suggests, these are additions or upgrades to a client’s visit. It could be a premium version of your core service. Like a balayage color instead of a regular color service. It can also be a care treatment that you add to the appointment.
These are powerful tools to increase the client spend per visit. Some of them will have to be pre-booked, but others can be added on during the visit.
For ideas on add-on hair salon services, check out my salon price list guide here.
Promoting your Services
There are many ways you can run promotions on your services.
And service promotions can be a very effective tool to drive and grow your business. But you don’t want to do it in a way that undermines your prices. And there’s strategies to enable this.
To learn more about how you can create salon promotions without undermining your pricing, you can read my salon promotions guide here.
Keeping your Salon Menu Up-to-Date
Maintaining an up-to-date service menu should be part of your service strategy.
This is how you keep clients for long. You’re their go-to-person for beauty trends and they expect you to bring what’s new to them. By continuously updating your menu you’ll explore new ways of growing your business – you remove what doesn’t work and build on what’s working.
21. Decide on Your Salon Retail Assortment
Retail sales is a powerful profit driver in your salon revenue model.
Income from retail is typically split 50/50 between you and the brand where you part adds directly to your profit as the costs associated with retail sales is low. It doesn’t take up extra time from you to sell a product with the service and you only need a small area at your reception with some shelving solution do so.
But what retail products should you offer?
Let’s go through a few principles to have in mind when designing your salon retail assortment.
Figure out what your Client Want
Like with many things in this opening a salon checklist, designing your retail offer start with understanding your target client.
What type of brands is she looking for? What products complement the service offering you’ve designed for her?
By talking to her you’ll get insight into what she’s looking for. Listen and test things out to see what works.
Don’t Offer Products that Compete
There’s little point having many similar products from different brands. Unless you have a very large retail area and your strategy is to be a one-stop-shop for all retail, it should focus on fewer brands that complement each other.
For example, let’s say you’re a hairdresser, then you could have one good base styling brand, one good base care brand, and one electrical styling brand. On top of that, you’d have specialized brands. For example, a haircare brand for hair loss, or a vegan brand if that’s a feature desired by your client.
Research shows that too many options lead to people not making any choice instead (Psychology Today). Your sales of one brand will just cannibalize on the other similar brand so you don’t necessarily make more sales but just need a larger retail area and more brands to be trained with your staff.
Start with a small core brand offering and then expand. Having fewer brands looks more professional and it’s also easier to upsell a client to a product within the same brand than to recommend products from two different brands.
Working with one product supplier also means you’ll purchase more from them compared to if you were shopping from multiple suppliers. This typically enables you to get more favorable terms with them.
Get the Support Needed to Get your Salon Started
Your new salon is starting to take shape. But you’ll soon realize that you cannot do everything yourself. You’ll need good support systems and partnerships to effectively run your salon business.
In the following section, I’ll cover some of the foundational things you’ll need to get your salon setup.
22. Get a Good Salon Software
The right salon software can be your best friend when starting and running a salon business.
It can drive your business forward through built-in salon marketing features. It gets you in control of your business through the right reporting. It takes care of the mundane tasks you shouldn’t really be wasting your time on – like appointment and inventory management.
Before you open the doors to your new salon, you need to have a good solution in place.
Some of the things a Salon Software will help you with are:
- Online Booking
- Client Management
- Automated Text and E-mail Messages
- Inventory Management
- Payroll Management
- Point of Sale Checkout
- Credit Card Payment
I’ve mentioned Mangomint a few times already in this guide. This is the most sophisticated and well designed platform available today.
This thing is beautiful, super intuitive to use for you, your staff, and your clients. It also leverages smart automations that allow you to run your business with much less friction compared to other platforms.
Below is what the Mangomint calendar looks like.
I strongly recommend you give this a try. In fact, it’s free to create an account which you can play around with for 30 days before you need to decide.
If you want to learn how Mangomint compares to other options available, I recommend you go through my list of the best salon software in 2023.
23. Get a Domain Name and E-Mail Address for your Salon
Few things look as unprofessional than businesses with a Hotmail or Gmail address. Wouldn’t you agree?
When you start your salon you want to make sure you also register a domain name that reflects your business. A domain name is your address on the internet e.g. “yoursalonname.com/.ca/.co.uk”. Registering a domain like that allows you to have it pointing to your website using “www.yoursalonname.com” as well as for your e-mail “[email protected]”.
The cost of a domain name is very low. This is why all businesses have them. It also means it can be difficult to find one that is available for your salon. Especially if you want a .com address.
However, given your salon is most likely a local business that only exists in your country, you should register a domain for your specific country. For example, if your salon is based in the UK, you should register a “.co.uk” domain.
Even then it can be difficult to find a name that fits your salon. So you’ll probably need to try a few variations. Let’s say you’re starting a nail salon with the name “Infinity” and you’re based in London UK. You’ll need to try some variations of “Infinity.co.uk”. For example “Inifinitynails.co.uk”, “Inifinitylondon.co.uk”, or “Inifinitynailslondon.co.uk” etc. until you find something that works for you.
Check what domain names are available using the search bar below.
24. Setup your Salon Website
All salons need a website today.
There’s no getting around that.
This is the hub of everything you do. This is where all your salon marketing activities points to and this is where clients get to know you before they book their first appointment.
Your website is often the first impression people have with you.
So you want it to be a good one.
And it’s critical that the salon software you choose to go with allow you to integrate online booking on your website. Not all salon sofware does this but forces you to link out to a separate website that they control for clients to book.
Not great for the client experience.
Below is how Mangomint solves this. Independently on how you website is designed, the booking widget fades in on top of your website so that people can book, purchase gift cards etc. without leaving your website.
You have a two options when it comes to creating your salon’s website:
You can hire a salon marketing agency to create the website for you or you can do it yourself using a salon website builder.
It’s not difficult to create website today. You don’t need to know any coding to do so. So if you’re on a small budget, this is certainly an option today.
Independently on how you decide to go about this, I recommend you go through one of the lists below to capture some ideas and inspiration for your website.
25. Setup your Salon’s Social Media
I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise to you that social media is important when you’re opening a new salon.
This is where your clients are and this is how you get your new salon visible in front of them. So you need to start setting up your new salons presence on social media immediately.
But where should you start?
I understand this can feel overwhelming at first. And you need to be smart about how you use social media for your salon.
It’s very easy to spend a lot of time posting and interacting with others on social media without it really leading to new clients for you.
This is why I’ve put together a complete guide to social media for salons here.
This is a good place for you to start when your building out your salon’s social media strategy and setting up your account.
26. Order Salon Business Cards and Branded Material
Now that you’re starting to approach your salon opening, it’s time to order some branded material to use when promoting your salon.
Branded material includes Business cards, salon menu, promotional signs, clothing, etc. All the help bring to life a consistent picture of your new salon brand.
I have compiled a list of salon business card ideas that I recommend you go through for more inspiration.
Scale Your Salon Business
Awesome! Your salon business is setup.
It’s now time to move from being a new salon into a profitable and growing salon business. The final part of this open a salon checklist is focused on accellerating your salon business growth.
27. Build a Salon Marketing Plan to Accelerate Your Business
Now that you have your salon setup, your focus should shift to growing it.
You’ll need more clients through the doors and you need each client to spend more with you.
In fact, the reason I write on this blog is to help salon owners start and grow their business. So you’ve certainly landed in the right place. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you sign up for one of my free courses that’ll give you more ideas on how you can grow your salon business.
But let’s already now build a plan for how you can grow your salon business.
How do you Grow a Salon Business?
There are 7 ways you can grow a salon business:
- Grow your salon clientele
- Get your existing clients to visit your salon more frequently
- Sell more services/products per salon visit
- Sell more expensive services/ products during each salon visit
- Reduce your salon operation cost
- Add additional, non-traditional, income streams to your salon business
- Scale up your salon business
You can read my article on how to grow your salon business here. In this article, I break down each driver of salon growth which will help you define how you should measure and track your business to ensure you focus on the right things.
What Activities can you do to Grow your Salon Business?
Now that you know what you need to focus on an measure to grow your business, what activities should you fill your plan with that will get you there?
Only you can decide what activity is right for you. It all depends on the specific challenges your salon business has.
To get your started, I’ve curated a list for you with the most effective salon marketing ideas here. I recommend you go over the list and pick a few that you’ll focus on over the coming months.
28. Hire Salon Staff and Motivate Your Team
You’ll not be able to make your salon successful without a strong team to support you.
And to scale your business you’ll need to shift your focus to hiring talented staff to grow the business together with you.
But you cannot only focus on hiring new salon staff.
You also need to make sure that the team you have in place enjoy their work and perform their best.
Salon staff turnover is a big concern for many salon owners. The cost of hiring and re-training staff is high.
There’s several strategies you can implement to keep your salon staff motivated.
In fact, I’ve put together a complete guide for you with 13 ways to motivate salon staff that I strongly recommend you read as you start to grow your team of salon employees. Check out my article “13 Highly Effective Ways to Motivate Salon Staff”.
29. Review and Adapt your Salon Business Plan
If you’ve followed the opening a salon checklist outlined in this article, you should have a salon business plan in place now.
But your salon business plan is not a document you create ones and never touch again.
It’s a living document that you should revise regularly to set new goals for your business and incorporate all the learnings that you’re making on the way.
Because you’ll learn a lot as you open your salon.
But it’s easy to lose the big picture when you’re busy dealing with the next issue ahead. You need to make sure you find to work on your business and not only in the business.
Take a step back regularly to look at what is working and not. Double down on what’s working and drop the things that didn’t go as expected.
This is an ongoing process.
And this is the art of running a successful salon business.
You made it to the end of this article. Well done!
I told you at the start that reading this through would be the best investment of time you can make today. I hope I delivered on that. If I did, I would be very grateful if you wanted to share this with friends using the social buttons on this page.
We’ve covered the list of 29 steps to open a salon.
It was a long list. But starting a salon business is also a long journey.
You’ve taken an important first step on the journey today. But there’s more to come. Let’s stay connect on the way. This website is packed with resources to help you along the way.
I’m really excited for you now.
All the best on this new and beautiful adventure!
Common Questions & Answers
How to Open a Salon with No Money?
To open a salon with no money you need to create a detailed salon business plan in which you minimize up front salon equipment investments, are highly prudent about all salon operation costs, and enable smart loans and investments into your business. Below are specific tactics you can implement to enable a salon start without money.
- Build a one year “salon bootstrap plan”: Start with a low cost salon business model (booth rental, home salon, or mobile salon) that carries minimal cost but allow you to build up capital and experience to open your ideal salon.
- Borrow salon equipment: Build a plan for what equipment you need to buy when and borrow tools in the beginning until you’ve built some capital.
- Get a full view on how much you can self-fund: Identify any savings accounts, real estate, pension accounts, 401k, that you can use as security for a loan. Also turn to friends and family for capitial support. Self funding gives you full control of your business but you also carry all risk so you need to be careful and seek personal financial advice first.
- Get venture capital from investors: Give a share in your salon business to an investor in return for up front capital.
- Apply for an SBA backed loan: When banks thinks your business is too risky to lend money, the U.S. Small Business Administration you can agree to guarantee your loan. You can compare SBA loans at Lendio.
I’ll go into more detail on salon financing options in the finance your salon section of this article but these are some of the common ways to get support if you want to start a salon with no money.
How Much Does it Cost to Open a Beauty Salon?
The cost of opening a beauty salon is around $62’000 for a good but basic setup in your own physical location. Nail salon start up cost is typically lower than for hair salons or barber shops. Cost can be significantly higher ($500’000+) but there are also ways you can start your salon business on a much smaller budget ($2’000).
Common salon startup costs are:
- Rent deposit
- Buy out of current salon
- Leasehold improvement
- Salon equipment
- Initial supplies and inventory
- Certifications and licenses
- Salon insurance
- Salon marketing
- Legal and consulting fees
For a full break down on salon startup costs, you can read my article here