How to start a barber shop
Are you a skilled barber with dreams of being your own boss? There’s never been a better time to go for it! Get started with our guide to opening a barber shop...
The key steps to take when opening a barber shop are…
In a 2017 survey, Armour to Barber and The Bluebeards Revenge revealed that 83% of barbering professionals thought the industry was set to grow – and why wouldn’t they?
Recent years have seen an influx of style-conscious men opting to visit barber shops instead of hair salons; favouring tailored, male-focused grooming experiences over the unisex services of haircutting chains.
To the customer, there’s great benefit here – especially if their barber is a specialist in male hair and grooming, and can advise on products, styles and maintenance.
Moreover, this also means great things for the barber-come-entrepreneur. With demand for barbering at an all time high, there’s never been a better time to open your independent barber shop.
Of course, not just anyone can do it. You’ll need to be a skilled (and, ideally, qualified) barber with several years’ experience under your belt.
You should also be personable and friendly, and able to talk comfortably with customers about subjects that interest them. What’s more, you’ll need to be happy to spend long hours working on your feet without losing focus.
It may be worth considering seeing if you can get a Start Up Loan (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) to help you with financing, and mentoring to start this business idea. You'll also need to think about registering your business, either as a sole trader or as a company - if a company, then Smarta Formations (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) are an organisation that can help you set up.
So, do you want to get in on this booming sector? Read on to learn how to open a barber shop…
1. Business plan and earnings
Unlike a hairdressing salon, your barber shop should specialise in dealing specifically with men’s hair and possibly catering to a range of ages, from children to the elderly (unless you chose to target a particular audience).
With a focus on male hair in mind, the services you offer should at least include:
- Hair washing and styling
- Line ups
- Beard and moustache trimming and grooming
- Facial shaving (the luxurious hot lather shave in particular is considered to be the trademark of the barber shop; something you can’t really get anywhere else.)
It’ll also serve you well to have an encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of men’s hairstyles, plus the ability to recommend a certain cut to a customer based on their face shape, hair type and preferences.
Writing a business plan
One of the first things to do is start work on a business plan. This will help you to plot out things such as your business’ branding, your marketing strategy, your management plan, your cashflow and your earnings.
You can download a free business plan template, devised by the government-backed Start Up Loans Company, from our business plan guide.
Choosing your pricing
Of course, how much you do earn as a barber shop owner will depend on your pricing. In order to decide how much to charge for each of your services, consider the following:
What are your fixed costs and variable costs?
What you earn each month needs to be more than what you pay out. Think about the number of times you’d expect to perform each of your services in a month, and work out how much you’d need to take for each one to keep yourself in the black.
What do your competitors charge?
Examining what similar barber shops charge for their services should give you a good reference point for what your prices could be (but don’t feel you have to replicate them).
What are prices like in your town?
Barbershop prices in the south of England, for example, are often higher than those in the north.
Consider how much money locals tend to dedicate to their leisure time and hair and grooming regimes. How much might they expect to pay, based on local pricing, for a service like yours? You might ask local friends and family about this, or even hold a focus group, if you’re unsure.
What’s your brand image?
Do you want your barber shop to be the go-to for affordable grooming, or luxury experiences? Your pricing should reflect the impression you want potential customers to have of your business.
Remember, cheaper isn’t always better – for some customers, a higher price can indicate quality.
How experienced are you?
Why not make your prices a little higher if you’re confident you can offer a wide range of services at top notch quality?
2. Premises and setup costs
When it comes to opening a barber shop, location can be make or break. Even if your marketing efforts persuade customers to travel to you (see section five), if you don’t settle somewhere with decent passing trade, you’ll miss out on a lot of additional revenue.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to set up shop in an area of your town that’s almost constantly busy – such as the city centre, a bustling shopping street or a commercial or cultural hub.
Of course, rent in these prime spots can cost a lot more than in other areas. If you’re not willing to pay so much (understandable for a start-up business), there are alternative, cheaper locations that benefit from high levels of footfall:
- Next to office buildings or somewhere along a popular commuter route. Here you’ll attract custom from the local workers – though you may need to be prepared to take appointments before or after work hours. Bear in mind that you may not get a lot of trade at weekends.
- Next to student accommodation. Here, you can get custom from appearance-conscious students who are likely to tell their friends if they have a good experience with you. You might want to consider offering a student discount to really reel them in.
- In “up and coming” parts of your town. Can you think of a street or area that’s really on the rise? It may be that footfall is growing here but rental costs aren’t as high as traditional prime spot prices.
Of course, the building you’re based in is arguably as important as your location. You’ll need to find a place that has the right…
- Size: Will all of your equipment and staff be able to fit and operate comfortably?
- Layout: Are you looking for long and thin, or more of a square floorspace? Will customers and staff be able to move around easily?
- Structural quality: Are the windows and insulation energy-efficient? Is there any mould or damp? Might the building flood in bad weather?
- Amenities: Is there a decent staff room and toilet, and reliable plumbing, electricity, heating and air conditioning?
Taking payments in your barber shop
To take your customers’ payments, you’ll need an electronic point of sale (EPOS) system which includes:
- A cash register and monitor
- A barcode scanner (this is important if you decide to sell grooming products at your barber shop)
- A receipt printer
- In some cases, a credit and debit card reader. You can compare PDQ machines and their prices here if your system doesn’t come with one.
To run this, you’ll need EPOS software. While this will usually come in a package with your EPOS system, in some cases you may need to buy or rent it separately.
You can find and compare different point of sale systems for your barber shop here.
In order to process and accept payments, you’ll also need a business bank account and a merchant account.
3. Regulations and training
If you’re not already a qualified barber, it would be a good idea to earn a recognised barbering qualification – whether it’s a BTEC or an NVQ Level 2 or 3.
You don’t need to have a qualification to become a barber and set up a barber shop, but having one will show customers that you’re more likely to provide a good service, and studying for one might provide you with invaluable knowledge and experience if you don’t already have it.
Explore your local schools and colleges to find out whether they offer a relevant training course, or investigate specialist schools such as the London School of Barbering. You should also find out whether it’s possible for you to get financial help while you study.
You might consider undertaking a barber apprenticeship; earning a qualification while working as a barber in a shop and gaining hands-on experience. While an apprenticeship may take longer to complete than a training course, it might give you a more practical understanding of how a barber shop works.
In order to run your barbershop legally, it’s likely that you’ll need to register yourself as a barber and/or your premises as a barber shop with your local government authority, and possibly obtain a license from them too.
Each local council has different requirements, so get in touch with yours to find out exactly what you need to do. You can also check the cost of business rate tax with your council.
On a different note, if you’re planning to play music – or, in fact, any sound recordings – in your shop, you’ll need a licence from Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL).
Most local authorities will also have byelaws which require barber shops to obtain the right insurance, comply with health and safety regulations and undergo regular inspections…
As a barber, you’ll need insurance that will cover you and your business in the event that a customer makes a claim against you after having a bad experience at your shop – whether he’s suffered chemical burns from a dye, tripped over an exposed wire and injured himself, or received an inadequate service.
Remember, as the shop owner you’re liable for the actions of your staff too.
As a barber, you’ll want to look into getting:
- Public liability insurance
- Treatments liability cover
- Employer’s liability insurance (a must if you employ other barbers in your shop)
- Contents cover
You might also want to consider insurance that’ll cover you in the event that you have a personal accident or your business is interrupted by broken electrics, plumbing, phone lines or equipment.
It may be wise to look into getting an insurance package designed for barbers, which includes all this and more.
✓ Health and safety
With barbers bringing chemical substances and sharp tools into such close contact with clients, there are a number of health and safety issues to keep abreast of, including:
|Chemical safety||Make a list of all your products (such as shaving cream, dye and hair products) and obtain hazard sheets from their manufacturers to understand how hazardous they are, and whether they might cause conditions like dermatitis. Do your research and avoid any which may harm customers.
Brush up on the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations with regards to using and storing your products, and stock up on protective clothing such as aprons and gloves for your barbers if necessary.
|Electrical safety||Have any electrical tools and equipment that you use checked and maintained every two years by a reliable electrician.
Be sure to keep an eye on your equipment yourself too, making sure that you stop using any tools which have broken plugs or exposed wiring, or look faulty in any way.
|Premises safety||You’ll need to carry out a risk assessment of your barber shop, making note of all the potential hazards on your premises – note down everything from a rug someone could trip over to an extremely hot tap – and plan how to mitigate each one.
You should also make sure that you and your staff have a plan in place in case there’s a fire. Make sure everyone’s aware of where fire extinguishers, emergency exits and meeting points are.
|Hygiene||Hygiene is of paramount importance in a barber shop (the last thing you want is to give a client a nasty infection instead of a smooth, clean shave). Ensure all of your tools and equipment are thoroughly sanitised between each use.|
4. Attracting customers
It goes without saying that a barber shop is nothing without its customers – but how can you attract them? Try the tips below…
Launch a website
First thing’s first: your business needs a website. Your website should be sleek, professional, easy to navigate, and optimised for search. It must show your location and your contact details, as well as high-quality photographs of your shop and a list of your services and prices.
Building a website from scratch sounds a bit daunting – but there are a couple of ways you can go about it – including hiring a freelance web designer, or using a website builder. You can compare the best website builders for small businesses here.
With so many customers preferring to book online rather than over the phone, you might want to integrate a booking system and calendar into your website. This will help you to keep on top of appointments, too.
Make yourself visible on Google
When someone Googles “barber shops in [insert your town here]” or “barber shops near me”, you want your business to pop up in the search results. In particular, you want to appear in the Local Pack – where Google lists local businesses matching the search, along with their addresses, opening hours and review ratings (if they have them).
To be in with a chance of appearing, you need to first register with Google My Business (GMB). This is a free service, which lists details such as your address, phone number and opening hours. Even if you don’t make it into a Local Pack, your GMB details will show when someone Googles you – meaning customers can access the information they want much more easily.
Use social media
These days, social media is an invaluable marketing tool. With it, you can share images and details of your services, your shop’s environment and your barbers, giving potential customers a sense of familiarity with your shop and the experience they can expect to have there.
Maximise the power of social media by:
- Using a tone of voice, communication style, type of imagery and colour palette that’s consistent with your brand image
- Using professional, high-quality images
- Sharing popular hashtags that are relevant to your shop and the services it offers
- Staying engaged with your followers by responding to their comments and instant messages
- Experimenting with competitions and giveaways
Email your customers
Keeping in email contact with your regular customers is an excellent way to keep them engaged with your shop; especially if you’re sharing special offers and updates on your services and what the business is up to.
A CRM (customer relationship management) system will help to streamline this process, personalising emails and newsletters, automating sends, collating customer data and more.
Everyone loves a freebie! Get customers through your doors by offering the following…
- A rewards scheme, for example wherein customers get every fifth or tenth cut for free
- A referral programme wherein customers who introduce new customers to you earn discounts and rewards
- Discount codes for customers who book online
Provide an excellent service
Remember, barber shop customers tend to be loyal – if they have a good experience with you, they may well become a regular.
So, offer them a drink of water, tea or coffee when they come in, and make sure your barbers are friendly and seat them in a timely fashion. Your shop should be a welcoming and relaxing environment – it’s these little touches that really leave an impact.
Of course, you should also give them the best cut, style or shave possible to ensure they leave happy and secure that repeat custom.
5. Hiring barbers
So, you have a vacancy for a barber at your shop – but how do you get the word out there? Here are a few things to try:
- Advertise the vacancy in your shop; be it a notice on your reception desk or a poster on your walls or in your window.
- Post the advert online, both on your barber shop’s website (see section five for more on this) and on a jobseekers’ site such as Reed or Indeed.
- Ask friends and family if they know anyone who’d be interested in the job.
- Share the vacancy across your social media accounts.
- Contact local colleges which provide barbering training courses and see whether they can share your vacancy among their students and graduates.
- Consider hiring an apprentice, who’ll work with you alongside studying for a barbering qualification.
Of course, only you can know whether a particular barber will be a good fit for you and your salon. But, alongside how well you think you’ll work with them, you should also consider:
- Their experience. Do you want someone who’s fresh from college so you can teach them how to perform your services how you like them to be done, or someone who already knows exactly what they’re doing and can get straight into it? It’s your call – but either way, they need to be trained.
- Their appearance. Customers will feel better about receiving a cut or shave from a barber who’s clean, and obviously keeps his or her own hair well-maintained.
- Their social skills. In such an intensely customer-facing role, it’s important that barbers are friendly and understand social cues; knowing when to put a customer at ease by chatting to them and when to leave a customer to relax quietly. It might also help if they’re able to man reception and answer phone calls from time to time.
Paying your barbers
Unsure about what you should pay your staff? As a reference point, barbers who are just starting out typically earn around £14,000 per year, while those who are more experienced can earn £14,000 to £24,000. Highly experienced barbers can earn £30,000 or more.
Of course, this can vary greatly depending on a number of factors; including the style and branding of your barber shop, and the location in which you’re operating.
Remember, your staff’s wages should never be less than minimum wage.
Starting a barber shop isn’t easy, and you may be required to invest a lot of capital into it – but the rewards could be great.
If you’re passionate about providing an excellent customer service and feel satisfied when they leave happy, as long as you have skill as a barber and a little business nous you’re well-placed to succeed in this industry. Good luck!