From the financial crisis of 2008 to the more recent COVID-19 shutdown, history has given plenty of reasons not to believe the common misconception that the beauty industry is recession-proof. Cosmetologists, like everyone else, occasionally experience lean times during which business fails to boom.
The good news is that economic downturns offer plenty of opportunities to invest in yourself and your career, so you’ll emerge stronger and more prepared when the sun comes out again.
Research and Examine Trends Online
When business is slow, you have to keep up with trends in the industry to adjust and adapt. During the COVID-19 lockdown, for example, cosmetologists who Googled “cosmetology economic shutdown” would have learned about a loophole that allowed beauty professionals to continue to work on media production sets even as salons and spas sat empty. They could have then sought gig work in that niche or adjusted their marketing strategies accordingly.
You can use Google Alerts for free to make sure you never miss important updates about the issues driving the slowdown your business is experiencing. Just add a keyword or phrase, and you’ll get an email alert when an article, post, video, or any other relevant piece of content is published.
You can set up more than one Google Alert. If you’re a stylist experiencing a slowdown that’s part of a larger recession, for example, you might set alerts along the lines of: “recession cosmetology,” “recession salons spas,” and “recession economy stylists.”
Information is vital when business is slow, so you shouldn’t limit yourself only to Google searches. Look up local and specialized beauty organizations and get active. Make it a habit to visit and even to join the groups that deal with your specialty. Check back often to find out what’s driving slowdowns, who prospers, and how other professionals are coping.
There are also trade publications, many of which showcase free digital content online. Academic research and writing services firm IResearchNet maintains a list of major beauty, salon, and spa trade journals. They’re written for industry professionals, not consumers. They examine the issues of the day as they affect the business side of the industry, and they’re among the most complete and accurate sources of information you can find in terms of cosmetology’s driving trends.
Staying up to date with the issues that are squeezing your industry during a slowdown is a great place to start. One of the best ways you can spend your newfound free time, however, is to take a deeper dive into professional betterment by pursuing continuing education.
Pursue Continuing Education
There are a few different ways to approach continuing education (CE) and an equally broad range of potential benefits. First, you can use slow times to satisfy the CE requirements you need to keep your license or certifications active and in good standing. At the same time—or separately—you can use CE courses for personal and professional development.
Before you dive in, however, make sure you have a strategy. Learn about online cosmetology classes, how long they last, what to expect, and how to make sure the one you pick is reputable. Find out how to get the most bang for your buck out of continuing education, which programs to choose, and how to succeed.
Before you commit to a continuing education class, take advantage of resources like free webinars, which you might use simply to learn more about what’s causing the slowdown in business and how best to cope. Salon Today, for example, offers its webinars on-demand. During the COVID-19 shutdown, they produced informative webinars with titles like “How to Stay Strong During the Salon Shutdowns.”
Modern Salon also offers webinars on-demand. “Preparing Your Business to Weather the COVID-19 Crisis” was among the titles they added to the series during the most recent downturn.
You can also use free webinars to identify areas in which you’re not as competitive as you could be. That could steer your decision-making about which online classes to pursue—and you have plenty to choose from.
The Association of Cosmetology Salon Professionals (ACSP), for example, offers a variety of exciting CE courses, including “Branding and Bro Maintenance” for barbers, which is just one course in the three-part “Cosmetology (HAIR) Courses” package. There’s also the “Nail Technician (NAILS) Course” and “Esthetics Course.”
Organizations like ContinuingCosmetology offer CE courses that have been approved by state boards that issue and renew licenses. Just choose your state from the dropdown menu and find a board-approved course that fits your budget and your interests.
Bolster Your Marketing Strategy
Marketing is critical and can be complex. Consider taking a comprehensive small business marketing course to learn more about it now that you have empty hours to fill. Even if you don't want to take a marketing course, a slowdown could be a perfect time to research and revise your current plan. No matter what caused the downturn in business, one thing is certain—you’ll want to have a clear and manageable marketing strategy in place when things pick back up.
Fit Small Business profiled several leading marketing professionals and cosmetologists who discussed their winning campaigns. Among them was Bernhards Ziverts, the owner and master stylist at Matii Salon, which installed a selfie station complete with a company logo and stylist area for sharing on social media. Larry H. Oskin, the president of Marketing Solutions, discussed creating unique promotions around “hair holidays.” WordStream content marketing senior manager Mary Lister talked about rewarding customers who give referrals.
But how do you turn great ideas into actionable marketing steps?
A great place to start is with a visit to resources like The Salon Business, which created a comprehensive tutorial of cosmetology-specific ideas and strategies for marketing, advertising, and promotions. It touches on everything from getting listed high in Google search results and website building to email marketing and social media branding.
Whether you’re marketing your services as a cosmetology professional or advertising your very own salon, no slick promotional campaign will ever work without the most basic foundational building block of marketing: a portfolio that represents the work you’re capable of doing.
However, you can check out examples of some of the digital cosmetology portfolios it has built—along with exactly how they made them on DIY platforms like Squarespace—for free.
Create or Revise Your Portfolio
Whether you’re looking for a job or marketing to new clients, you'll want to have an up-to-date portfolio to showcase your most exceptional work. Many schools build marketing and portfolio creation into their training programs, but others offer insider tips and tricks for free. Salon Success Academy, for example, offers a free how-to tutorial on starting your business, but many of its suggestions could be applied to revising your existing portfolio.
Among the basics are to include 10 to 15 before-and-after photos of actual clients who you transformed. Categorize your picture displays by section—a few for hair, a few for nails, a few for skin, etc. Also, let potential employers or new clients one-stop-shop by including your resume, licenses, and certificates directly in your portfolio.
Your resume should be flawless, free of any typos or grammatical errors, and up-to-date. Your licenses and certificates should be active and in good standing.
Include any awards you’ve received, as well as clippings from any articles, blogs, interviews, podcasts, or other media appearances. Finally, outline any activities or projects that you’re proud of, volunteer work you’ve done, or any special promotions you spearheaded.
You should maintain and periodically update both a physical and a digital version of your portfolio. Although there are infinite possibilities for getting creative, something as simple as a small three-ring binder will suffice for face-to-face presentations. A digital copy, which you’d include as a link or attachment, could be a simple PDF, but you might also create a more professional digital portfolio using a website builder like Squarespace or WordPress.
Fix8 Media is a professional company that builds websites as a service. However, you can check out examples of some of the digital cosmetology portfolios it has built—along with exactly how they made them on DIY platforms like Squarespace—for free.
Record Online Classes of Your Own
As previously discussed, you can maximize your time during a business slowdown by educating yourself and taking classes online—but you can also create, record, distribute, and even sell online classes of your own.
By creating online classes, you can position yourself as an authority in the industry and give a nice boost to your resume, portfolio, and marketing efforts. You can improve your brand and give potential employers and clients a reason to believe you’re more than just a cosmetologist looking to make a few bucks.
You can use online classes to inform and educate colleagues and industry insiders as well as students and those considering a career in the field. During times when cosmetologists are struggling, you can tailor your classes to touch on the hot subjects of the day—which you can find by researching current trends as described previously.
For example, when the COVID-19 shutdown forced salons and barbershops to close, cosmetologist Rebekah Buck created a 31-minute, nine-section SkillShare course that dealt with subject matter that was highly sought after by homebound hairballs starved for cosmetology services. It is called “Haircuts at Home: Gentleman’s Haircut.” She followed it up with a course called “Haircuts at Home: Fundamentals of Women’s Haircut.” (sic)
This level of production might be intimidating for you, particularly if you don’t have a background in content creation. That’s natural, but also possible to overcome—there are plenty of resources to help you get started in recording an online class.
Foundr, for example, provides an in-depth tutorial on how to create professional and potentially profitable online courses, just like the ones it offers the entrepreneurs who frequent the Foundr site. YouTube provides detailed instructions on how to record a course once you’ve created it. Online learning platform Udemy sells access to an instructional presentation on how to design profitable courses. Udemy also provides a space for those who created cosmetology courses to sell them to the public.
Host Live Events
The COVID-19 crisis made hosting in-person live events an impossibility—but thanks to live-streaming technology, you can host events in real-time while still maintaining social distancing rules. Even after the pandemic passes, hosting live events in real-time on a remote platform is an excellent way to communicate your ideas, network with other professionals, build your brand, boost your marketing, and connect with potential clients or employers.
You might interview a guest, demonstrate a product, perform a technique you developed, or explore an emerging trend. The options are nearly as limitless as the platforms available to make it happen. Among the most trusted and highly rated platforms for hosting live events are Facebook Live, Vimeo, Instagram Live, Periscope, and YouTube Live.
Explore them all, learn the pros and cons, and determine what tools, equipment, and makeshift sets you’ll need. Practice with the technology, rehearse, and do a dry run before you go live. Invite your current network of co-workers, friends, and industry professionals, advertise your event on social media, and let your clients know what you have planned.
While live streaming is perfect for relatively small and intimate events like those organized by Confessions of a Cosmetologist, the sky is truly the limit. Business Insider recently profiled the top beauty channels on YouTube, where live events help the cosmetology pros who produce them earn millions of dollars for their efforts.