Getting your hair done has long been considered a communal ritual within the Black community. You walk into the salon greeted by a palpable warmth and sense of belonging, even if it’s your first time stepping foot into the salon.
The creation of apps like Instagram and TikTok, however, spurred a subgenre of Black entrepreneurship, serving as a platform for seasoned but most notably new stylists to broadcast their work and build their clientele. On its face, this change was amazing. Stylists no longer had to worry about the overhead cost of operating in a salon, and their prices reflected that (at first), and potential clients were able to see the quality of the stylist’s work before booking. Amazing, right?
But somewhere along the way, things have gotten blurry with many women explaining that these stylists are now charging more than traditional hairdressers, requiring deposits that are often non-refundable and imposing a list of rules and requirements needed to book. Some even charge extra for those with coarser hair textures. This has led many Black women to speak up about their dissatisfaction with this new practice, prompting them to blast these stylists online.
In response, some of these stylists now find themselves returning to a traditional 9-to-5 workday to make ends meet, and they are sharing how disheartening this process has been online.
This has been met with mixed reactions, and as someone who has received my fair amount of “Hey Boo!” cancellation texts after booking an appointment, I would still never wish against the progress of anyone’s creative or professional pursuits. However, there is something to be said about the shift in dynamic when these stylists began treating the services they provide as a favor versus an optional service that clients have complete autonomy and reason to opt out of if their needs are not being met.
Being your own boss is a noble path forged by many Black folks, largely out of necessity. And, of course, one of the highlights of being the captain of your ship is that you get to set your schedule and rules.
What many stylists are starting to realize, though, is that the absence of a traditional boss positions them to be at the mercy of their clients. The clout and reach afforded by social media have saved many stylists from reconciling with the fact that they do have to answer to someone. But with growing concerns regarding the cost of living, those chickens are coming home to roost, and clients are being especially choosy when it comes to where they spend their coin. And honestly, that’s more than fair.
Maybe returning to a traditional job setting will equip these promising young professionals with the customer service skills needed to build a dependable client base.