Let me start by saying this: in my opinion, you can’t become a barber, you either are one or you’re not. Working in a barber shop is all about passion and craftsmanship and this is something very personal. Due to the hype that has emerged over the past two years, the art of barbering has become more prominent and it gets the attention it deserves.
Some barbers groom celebrities every day, and have become quite the celebrity on their own. Of course that’s great to follow but before you ditch your day job, know this: Not every barber has the life of a rock star. And to become successful, you have to work really really hard. Just getting trained at the right school alone can take up a couple of years!
So now that you’ve gotten a bit of a reality check – here are the steps you can take to make sure your barber career will be a fruitful one:
1. Do your research.
To decide if this is the right field for you, take the time to visit several barbershops that fit the image of one you want to work in. Be sure to make at least one visit during a high-volume time, which tends to be after school during the week, after 5pm on Friday, and late morning to mid-afternoon on Saturday. Keep your phone handy and use it to jot down notes on duties performed by the barber, the overall condition of the barbershop, and any other responsibilities/ details you may notice.
Also, take the time to speak with at least one barber. However, don’t expect him to do this while he is busy. It’s a good idea to schedule an appointment for your own shave or haircut. Use this time to ask about his experience, any problems he has faced, his professional thoughts, and anything else you think is important.
2. Think about the clientele.
It’s important to understand that you may not be able to attract your ideal clientele until after you’ve worked hard to build a name for yourself. (It’s also worth noting that your location will greatly affect your clientele.) Regardless of where you are working, every customer deserves the highest level of service. This will also help establish your reputation.
3. Consider your physical condition.
Barbers spent most of their time on their feet. Is this something you are able to do? Will you be able to maintain your skill and precision when repeating mechanical tasks, such as using clippers and scissors and sweeping? To succeed as a barber, you’ll have to be able to manage the physical aspects of the job.
4. Don’t forget about the social aspect of the profession.
Yes, barbers need the skills and knowledge to sterilize tools, shave and cut clients, and even evaluate certain skin conditions. Of course, this is all taught in barber school. What is not taught in barber school is personality, though it is a key aspect of the job. After all, barbers are expected to be friendly and personable, while also possessing great skills. If you aren’t certain about your social skills, you may want to rethink your decision to become a barber.
5. Get your high school diploma or GED.
Most states require that you have a diploma or GED in order to enroll in a barber program. Even if the state you reside in doesn’t have this requirement, many barber schools require this for admission.
If you are still in high school, you may be able to start preparing for work in the field. In addition to classes on hair styling, classes that focus on accounting and/ or small business management are likely to be helpful.
Check to see if your high school partners with any community colleges to offer courses intended for students who are interested in this line of work. If they are offered, try to fit them into your schedule.
6. Consider the cost.
While there are affordable certificate programs, others can be quite expensive. For example, some 6-month programs may cost as much as $3,000 at your local community college, while a 12-month, top tier program may cost upwards of $12,000. If you are considering an associate’s degree, which will take 2 years to finish, your cost will likely range from $6,000 to $26,000. You’ll also want to factor in the cost of owning your own barber shop if this is one of your future career goals.
7. Ask an experienced barber if you can assist them.
You may have to do this as a free internship or you may be able to find a barber who will pay you to work as a part-time employee. Explain what you want to get out of the position and commit to helping with anything that may need to be done around the barbershop, such as sweeping up hair. While completing your tasks, pay attention to his daily routines.
8. Graduate from a barbering program.
Take the time to find a reputable program that gives you the opportunity to learn about everything related to working as a barber, as well as the business side of things. In addition to learning how to cut shave, and style, you can expect to take classes covering:
l Safe and sanitary tools
l Facial hair care and conditioning
l Hair textures and weights
l Hair and scalp health
l Product knowledge
l Customer service
l Professional ethics
Most states require that you complete a certain number of practice hours before you can be considered for licensing. Your program will know exactly what these hours are and help you get the opportunity to complete them.
9. Learn about legal considerations.
Your program may cover some aspects of legal considerations, but in case they don’t, you need to learn what to do to legally protect yourself and your clients from any potential issues. Unfortunately, though rare, accidents do occur, which is why insurance is so important. Look into the cost of the liability insurance you will need to work as a licensed barber.
10. Get licensed.
Regardless of what state you plan to practice in, you will be required to take an exam to prove you are ready to work as a barber. Some states have created their own tests, while others use one developed by the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC). Still, others will combine the two to create a unique test. The written portion of the test will cover:
l Implements, tools, and other equipment
l Safety, including safety control and electricity/ lighting
l Skin histology
l Shaving procedures and facial hair design
l Hair care services
l Chemical services
Good luck, and happy barbering!