How To Start a Mobile Hair Salon or Mobile Barbershop Business That Gives You Flexibility Without Compromising On Profitability
The coronavirus pandemic has brought many changes to the way we work. A lot of us are forced to find new careers, while others have to find ways to adapt. While most people could take their work home, barbers and hairdressers—small business entrepreneurs like you— don’t have that luxury.
So what can you do? One solution is to start a mobile hair salon or a barbershop. In a world where it’s encouraged to stay at home and minimizing contact is all the rage, this can be an excellent idea to supplement your existing business or start something new.
Not sure where to begin?
In this post, you’ll learn at length the following:
- What is a mobile hair salon or a barber shop
- How to operate a mobile hair salon or a barbershop: 3 crucial points to know
- How to market a mobile hair salon or barbershop business
So let’s get to know the ins and outs of starting a mobile salon or mobile barbershop business and how it can add to your bottom line, providing you more flexibility and opportunities to grow.
What is a mobile hair salon or barbershop?
A mobile hair salon or a barbershop is a setup where the hairdresser or barber does not just work in a traditional physical store. Instead, they operate in different locations, usually commuting to the client’s homes or nearest address for the service.
There are a couple of ways in which a mobile hair salon or a barbershop can pans-out:
- A fully mobile salon or barbershop that operates out of a trailer or a van—this works best when you don’t want to invest a large sum in rent, but still need a setup to handle client appointments.
- Visit a client’s home, on a call basis without having to invest in a van or trailer or pay rent—this works best for freelance hair or beauty stylists or barbers who need flexibility but don’t want to tie themselves to a brick and mortar set-up.
- Operate through a brick and mortar store as well as run a mobile service business on the side— this works best for small businesses entrepreneurs who want to continue servicing their clients from their salon or barbershop, but also want to make more money and reach out to clients who value their services but can’t visit the business due to age factors, mobility issues or time constraints.
How to operate a mobile hair salon or a barbershop: 3 crucial points to know
While the basic services stay the same, there are some intricacies that make running a mobile operation slightly different. Here’s what you need to know in advance to operate a mobile hair salon or barbershop.
Step 1- Come up with a business plan
Just like any other business endeavor, starting a mobile barbershop or hair salon requires a business plan. The only difference between this business model and a traditional one is that you won’t necessarily have a permanent business address, but other than that, everything else is very similar.
This means that you should put all of your numbers on paper. What type of services will you be offering and at what rates? Which areas will you be covering? What type of financial goals do you want to set and when do you plan to achieve them? Put your thoughts on paper, validate your ideas with a seasoned shop owner or a consultant, and get to work.
If you want to work on a hybrid model of brick and mortar store + a mobile shop, make sure to count in all of the expenses related to your vehicle and commute. On the other hand, going fully mobile will lower your rent and utility bills but your vehicle and related costs will go up as well.
Think about your location options
When you work from a single location, you’re pretty much tied to it. Being mobile has its own advantages, but the freedom that you get also means that you have to decide where and how you’re going to work. Using public transportation can be an option for some beauty businesses such as nail art, but for hairdressers and barbers, it’s best to get your own vehicle for all the equipment you’ll need to haul.
As a mobile hairdresser or barber, you have three major choices: working from home, visiting clients at their homes, or renting a chair in an existing salon or barbershop.
If you work from home, you have the benefit of not having to drive anywhere. You’ll spend less money on the commute and you’ll have more control over the hours you want to work. However, you’ll get the negative side-effect of remote work – your work and your home are the same and you may end up feeling like you’re always at work, even when you’re not seeing clients. Financially though, this is the best aspect.
The second option is commuting to see clients in their homes. The major benefit is being able to see many clients at once – imagine cutting hair for an entire family or a senior home. You could also get hold of clients who may have never visited your salon because you’re just too far away. On the flip side, you have to factor in the costs of commuting. You’ll not only have to pay for your equipment and gas, but you’ll have to factor in repairs as well. Also, you may not feel like carrying around your equipment all the time.
Finally, there is the option of renting a chair in your preferred hair salon or barbershop. The biggest benefit is not worrying about having a proper location to meet your clients. In general, they will be more trusting of you and your business when they see you’re working out of an actual salon. However, there are some downsides too.
You’ll have to pay a certain fee for renting a chair in a salon, which may end up costing more than commuting in your own vehicle. The second problem is that even though you’re in their salon, you’re still in charge of finding your own clients.
Whichever option you choose, know that there is no perfect solution. The great thing is that as a mobile hairdresser or a barber, you can try out different models to see what works best for you and your clientele and you can even mix and match different locations as you please for maximum flexibility.
Carefully consider your working hours
When you’re working from a salon, you usually have set hours that you’re going to work, which could be one of the main reasons why you want to go mobile. The thing is, that very freedom may not be what you had hoped for before you start out.
You will get the convenience of working really early mornings or in the evenings, which some of your clients may actually prefer because they can’t make it to a salon during regular hours. However, you are also setting yourself up for trouble if you don’t set strict hours from the very start.
For example, you may want to take a breather and you’ll get a client calling you up to do their hair at 7 PM, while you’re all about working mornings.
The point is, although flexibility is necessary, it’s also a great idea to set some boundaries. Otherwise, you’ll end up booking time slots you don’t want, especially if you’re having a dry spell and you need the money.
One way to counter this through having a robust calendar management and appointment booking schedule in place. And having an online booking software is your best bet. A tool like Genbook, for example, can help you offer waitlist bookings and take better control of your bookings. You can also use the Buffer feature to space out appointments when traveling from one location to another.
The best bit is the consumer app that allows your clients to book, cancel or reschedule appointments with ease.
Finally, be aware that although you may work the same 8 hours as you would in a regular salon, you’ll spend less time actually working. Depending on where you live and work, you’ll have to spend quite a bit of time every day commuting from client to client, so factor that into your schedule.
How to market a mobile hair salon or barbershop business
Salons and barbershops are traditionally walk-in businesses. While there are regular clients, a lot of marketing comes from the very location and signage in front of the store. The location is actually one of the strong points of having a regular business and as a mobile hairdresser or barber, you need to work twice as hard on your marketing to get similar results.
Here are a few tips:
- Be intentional and consistent with your branding. Make sure that your vehicle (if at all) and all of your marketing materials state who you are, what you do, and how you can be found. If they can’t find your salon’s address, they can and should remember your car/van branded with your name and logo.
- Make full use of social media marketing. Besides the obvious, it’s a great idea to run geo-targeted social media ads in the areas where you intend to work. With the right combination of ad copy and visuals, you’ll be able to attract the right audiences on Instagram or Facebook. A lot of people are still careful about visiting salons and going out and about and giving them a choice to get their hair done at home could be just the right marketing angle to choose.
- Consider approaching businesses and organizations to offer working as a preferred partner. One-off clients are great but having a wedding planner or something similar to work with can give you a bulk of clients at once.
- Don’t shy away from using traditional media such as leaflets, using newspaper ads on local radio or getting on to local business directories. In the very beginning, you’ll need to invest more in this type of local business marketing, until you can get by with word of mouth advertising.
While running a mobile hair salon or a barbershop is a unique challenge, it has a lot of advantages. In an age where social distancing is becoming the norm and where clients demand more flexibility than ever, this can be a great way to supplement your existing business or launch a completely new, profitable operation.
And if you are looking to stay organized and have full control over your appointment bookings, Use an appointment booking software. This is a great way to get clients even when you’re not open and working because you can get bookings 24/7. Not only will you have a better overview of your upcoming clients, but you’ll also decrease the number of those that don’t show up. The software sends automated messages to the client to ensure that they don’t forget their appointment. You will also prevent double-booking and you can offer incentives and loyalty bonuses for repeat clients.
Genbook offers all this and more! You can sign-up for a free 30 day trial and see how it can help your mobile salon or barbershop business grow.
Editor’s Note:This is a guest post by Petra Odak— Chief Marketing Officer at Better Proposals, a simple yet incredibly powerful proposal software tool that helps you send high-converting, web-based business proposals in minutes. She’s a solution-oriented marketing enthusiast with more than 5 years of experience in various fields of marketing and project management.