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Opening a salon | The ultimate checklist for success

Lachlan Ross

December 13, 2021

Are you sick and tired of working in someone else’s salon? Ready to be your own boss? If you answered hell yeah, you’re in the right place. Starting a beauty business is a mammoth undertaking and it can feel overwhelming. To help you tackle it one step at a time, here’s a comprehensive checklist with all you need to know about opening a successful salon. Read through the detail and then download the checklist to your phone so you can tick the tasks off as you go. Best of luck!

Steps to opening a salon

  1. Get your ducks in a row – business planning, research & finances
  2. Choose the perfect location
  3. Apply for licences, permits and insurance
  4. Establish your salon brand
  5. Develop your product and service offering
  6. Create your salon marketing plan
  7. Select your vendors and start buying
  8. Get your team in place
  9. Open your salon!

1. Get your ducks in a row – business planning, research & finances

With disposable incomes on the rise, the beauty industry is booming. Whether you’re thinking of opening a hair salon, nail salon, barbershop or day spa, the opportunities are abundant. Opening a salon is an exciting yet stressful time. Even if you have all the styling skills you need, starting your own business is next level. Being well prepared can make it a much smoother (even enjoyable!) experience. You’ll be investing a lot of time and money, so it’s worth spending time planning to give your salon the best chance of success. The costs of opening a salon shouldn't be underestimated.

Make sure owning a salon is right for you

First things first…are you cut out for this? Take our quiz to see if you’ve got the right skills and personality traits.
  1. Are you a people person?
  2. Do you handle stress well?
  3. Can you multi-task?
  4. Are you creative?
  5. Are you a good delegator (and not a control freak)?
  6. Do you have good financial management skills?
  7. Do you have salon industry experience?
  8. Are you a good planner?
  9. Can you solve problems on your feet?
  10. Are you passionate about helping people look and feel their best?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, it looks like you’re a good fit for opening a salon. And you can always hire people to fill in the skills gaps when recruiting your team.

Brainstorm salon concepts

Now’s the time to cultivate your vision. Do you want to start a hair salon or a nail salon? Will you offer cosmetic treatments or waxing? What special experiences will you deliver? Many salons supplement their core services with income from value-added services like tanning beds, massage or selling beauty products. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Choose a well-defined niche and focus on building a personalized client experience. Ask yourself:
  1. What will make your salon unique?
  2. How will you be better than the competition?
  3. Who are your target customers?
  4. Are you offering something people in the area want?
  5. What kind of services will you offer?
  6. What kind of atmosphere are you looking to create?

Do market research

Understanding the market is critical when deciding if your salon concept is right. Try these research strategies:
  1. Do a Google search to see who the competition is and check their Google and Trip Advisor reviews to see what customers think of them
  2. Use Google’s free keyword planner to check the demand for specific salon styles in different areas
  3. Visit salons in the area (and try a treatment or two) to check out the competition. Talk to people and ask them what’s missing in the neighborhood

Write a business plan

A salon business plan is your road map. It helps you envision each aspect of your business and make sure you’ve considered everything. It describes your proposed salon concept, details the market and showcases expected financials. It’s both the most challenging and important part of opening a salon.

Get funding

Now that you’ve chosen a concept and have a business plan that charts the road to success, it’s time to face facts - opening a salon is not cheap. You might be lucky enough to have the necessary funds, but if not, there are plenty of salon funding options available.
Opening a salon

2. Choose the perfect location

Your salon’s location is critical to its success. It will impact passing traffic and determine the demographics of your potential clientele. Thoroughly research different areas to check there’s a match with your salon concept.

Do your research

  1. Who are your customers? Older people wanting a weekly color and set? City workers wanting a serene escape from their busy lives? Families hoping to be in and out before football practice?
  2. Who are the competitors? Joining a bustling salon precinct can be good, or opening a salon where there are no others can work too
  3. What else is in the area and how can you capitalize on the surroundings?
  4. Is there public transport, good road access and plenty of parking?
  5. How busy is the area? Are other businesses well patronized?
  6. Are there population growth figures available from the local municipality?

Lease or buy premises

Once you’ve decided on your location, you’ll need to decide whether to lease or buy.
  1. Inspect lots of options to learn about pricing and availability
  2. A busy location in a prosperous suburb will cost more, but the returns can be significant. Consider the passing traffic, and install bright signage to grab their attention and boost sales
  3. Negotiate hard so you get the best deal
  4. Before you sign anything, seek financial and legal advice
  5. Just remember, if the lease or sale price looks too good to be true, it probably is

3. Apply for licenses, permits and insurance

You’ll need to research thoroughly what licenses and permits are required in your area for opening a salon. Check federal, state and local government requirements as laws differ. It also depends on your offering – a hair salon will need different licenses from a salon offering facials and cosmetic tattooing.
  • Licenses: business, food service, liquor license, music
  • Permits: food handlers, signage permits
  • Insurances: public liability, property, workers compensation

4. Establish your salon brand

Salon branding goes far deeper than choosing a name and designing a logo. It’s about carefully curating an image for your salon that differentiates you from your competition and connects with your customers. Good branding gets you noticed, builds loyalty and increases sales.

Document your unique brand position

With your vision, mission and target audience in mind, clearly define what it is that you’ll do better than anyone else. Think about the personality you want for your salon and how you want people to feel about it.

Choose a salon name

Naming your new salon can be tricky. Do some brainstorming or get help from a branding agency if you have the budget. Ideally, choose something that has a connection with your salon concept, is easy to spell and say, and stands out from the competition. Make sure the website url is available and that you don’t use an existing trademark. Pick something that will stand the test of time.

Develop your visual identity

It’s time to get creative and design your logo, fonts and color scheme. Depending on your budget, choose a low-cost option through sites like Fiverr, or seek support from a brand design agency.

Design the interior and exterior

How your salon looks has a huge effect on how people feel about visiting it. People should love spending time in your salon and come out feeling fabulous. Natural light and high ceilings make spaces inviting and the color scheme should match your branding. Consider using digital signage to keep your style recommendations up to date and inspire your customers to choose your more profitable treatments. Work with engineers, architects and interior designers to design the interior and exterior of your salon. You’ll need to submit drawings to your local authority for approval.

Install signs so people know you’ll be opening soon

As soon as you can, put up exterior signage. Digital salon signage works best because the eye-catching graphics and animations grab the attention of passers-by. You can update your messaging remotely in minutes and display a countdown to opening day to build excitement for your launch.

5. Develop your product and service offering

Now that you’ve nailed your brand, you can move on to creating your menu – that is, all the products and services that customers can buy. In a salon, it’s important to remember that you’re providing an experience, not just a service. That’s what will keep clients coming back.

Put together your offering

You’ll have a basic idea of the services you want to offer, now is the time to work through the detail. It needs to be tightly woven with your salon theme. Think through all the beauty services that your clients are likely to buy, as well as add-on products like face creams, hair straighteners and branded robes.

Design your menu

A salon needs a menu just like a restaurant does – people can’t buy things if they don’t know it exists. You’ll need to consider color, fonts and how you’ll communicate your offering to your clients. Technology like digital signage makes printed menu boards a thing of the past. Hair salons, nail salons, barbers and spas that use digital signage report their daily sales increased by 30%. Anyone in the business can easily create digital menu boards using drag and drop signage templates.

6. Create your salon marketing plan

Your salon marketing plan details your target audience and how you’ll reach them. It helps you be more organized and successful with your marketing strategies. Set a budget and plan for:
  • Advertising: online, social media and newspaper advertising
  • Promotions: schedule specials, referral deals and loyalty discounts. Partner with local businesses to develop cross-promotions
  • Events: schedule guest tutorials, Valentine’s Day pampering and Mommy/Daughter nights
Make sure you take advantage of the power of digital marketing.
  • Website: Opening a salon requires a website that shows your location, services, opening hours and reviews at a minimum is essential. A whopping 97% of customers search online to find local businesses. There are DIY options for website building, or you can outsource
  • Social media: Customers expect to communicate with you via social media and it’s a great way to reach more customers. Target the platforms your customers use, and if you’re not sure, set up Instagram and Facebook at a minimum. Images and videos work best for engagement. Ask your customers to follow your page to access exclusive updates and discounts. Before and after shots will encourage people to book in for their own personal transformation and foster a sense of community. Give away free merchandise then encourage people to share the snaps on their own channels for a (practically) free influencer program
  • Reviews: a massive 91% of people read online reviews before choosing a local business. Set up your accounts on Google My Business, TripAdvisor and Yelp so that you can keep track and respond to reviews

7. Select your vendors and start buying

You’ll need a lot of equipment to transform your empty space into a bustling salon. Mirrors, chairs, massage tables…the list goes on. Not to mention cleaners, security, and whatever else your salon needs. You’ll need to choose all your vendors carefully. Interview them as if you were hiring a staff member and generate some healthy competition for your custom. You’ll need to decide whether to buy or lease your equipment. Leasing enables you to keep refreshing your equipment and can include maintenance. It can end up more expensive in the long run, so run some numbers and get advice if you need it. It’s worth exploring and investing in salon technology. You’ll need systems to help you manage bookings, client follow-up, finances, stock inventory, staff, reporting and promotions. Innovative solutions like salon management software and digital signage have transformed salon businesses for the better. They streamline operations, enhance the customer experience and boost profits.

8. Get your team in place

Successful salons need to find and keep the best staff. Personality and attitude are the most important factors. Beauty is such a personal industry, so your front desk staff and stylists must connect to the salon's culture and be passionate about helping people. Being reliable, punctual and great team players is also critical.

Advertise and hire staff

Advertise everywhere. Digital channels like job websites and social media platforms will give you a big pool of applicants but don’t forget to use offline techniques. Job ads on your exterior digital signage could find great candidates who would value the chance to work locally.

Train your team

Salon clients rely on the expertise of staff for personal styling and care advice. Invest in their education to give your customers the best experience possible. You’ll also need to make sure they know the ropes for cleaning, payments and customer service. Plan a training session at the salon to bring their learning to life. You can demonstrate your expected behaviors and use your digital signage to deliver engaging training that enhances culture.

9. Open your salon!

After months (or years!) of planning, the time to pop the champagne- the time for opening a salon of your own is finally here.

Have a soft launch

A trial run with friends and family is a great way to give your staff some practice and iron out any kinks before opening to the public.

Have the grand opening

With a successful soft launch behind you, your team knows the drill and your venue looks impeccable. It’s time for the grand opening. Promote your opening day heavily on your window signage and social media channels. Offer discounts and specials and offer prominent local influencers free treatments in return for some love on their social media channels.

Good luck with everything

Opening a salon isn’t easy, but it’s hugely gratifying. You get to be your own boss and become an essential part of the community. Follow these steps to establish a thriving business, provide for your family and establish a career that allows you to help people look and feel great.
Lachlan Ross

Written by Lachlan Ross

Marketing Manager at Mandoe

I’m a SAAS-focused marketer with 10+ years of experience who likes to think I’ve got a way with words - thanks for stopping by and checking out this blog.

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