How to Become a Barber

8 minutes • 14 May 2021

Barbers who’ve been in business awhile say they enjoy tremendous job satisfaction out of helping customers look sharp. Call it the shear joy of barbering, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Barbers tend to be sociable people who enjoy the camaraderie and casual conversation of the barber shop. Barbers meet new people every day and often make friends with returning customers. One of the defining characteristics of a successful barber is repeat business. Some customers return to the same barber for decades. And no wonder. Once you find someone who knows how to give a great haircut, there’s no reason to go anywhere else.

Barber shop pole on street corner

Barbers make good money and enjoy solid career prospects. It’s a growing field with demand for barbers expected to increase faster than other job sectors in the United States over the next decade.

In addition to making a nice income, barbers enjoy tremendous professional and personal satisfaction. The fundamental role of a barber is to help customers look their best with a sharp haircut. When people look their best they usually feel their best. And people definitely evaluate others based on appearance. Well-groomed individuals appear more confident and usually enjoy more respect. Barbers play an instrumental role in helping customers achieve and sustain that self-confidence.

Ready to make people feel good about themselves and get paid for it? Read on to learn what’s required to become a licensed barber and launch a new career.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How much money you can make 
  • Training and Certification
  • Professional Groups for Barbers to Join
  • Employment
  • Finding Clients
  • Helpful tips for new barbers
Barber using scissors to trim client's beard

How much money can you make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that barbers can expect to earn an average wage of $12.63 per hour. This translates to $505 per week, $2,020 per month, and about $24, 250 per year. Keep in mind that these figures include full-time and part-time workers, which can lower the average.

Barbering is an in-demand occupation. Employment of barbers is projected to grow 8 percent through 2028, faster than the average for all U.S. occupations. Population growth will lead to greater demand for hair care services.

If you own your barber shop or operate out of your home as a self-employed service provider, and are willing to put in the hours it takes to succeed – as well as sell grooming products to boost revenues – you can write your own paycheck. Newly licensed barbers generally start out working for an established barber shop where they can gain experience and learn how the business operates.

Training and Certification

As the BLS notes, all states require barbers to be licensed. To qualify for a license, candidates are required to graduate from a state-approved barber or cosmetology program and then pass a state exam for licensure.

Barber training typically involves 1,500 hours of courses and hands-on work. Most programs will take about 10 months to complete studying full-time. Costs vary by state and location, although the average tuition for barber school ranges between $2,000 to $4,000 with $11,000 being on the highest end of the scale.

The best way to choose a training program is to select one in the state where you plan to work – and make sure the program is accredited. You can search for accredited programs by state through the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences.

During training you’ll learn much more than how to give a haircut. You’ll learn how to do it with style. Techniques covered will typically include:

  • Texturizing hair layers
  • Clipper over comb. This is a shape building technique.
  • Scissor over comb.
  • Hair shaping.
Empty barber shop with chairs lined up

The coursework required to become a barber is sometimes offered within larger training packages such as cosmetology courses, as well as being offered as standalone barber training. Some states require that aspiring barbers complete certain mandated courses within a cosmetology training program as well as barbering, so research your own state guidelines. Regardless of the pathway you chose, barbering students are taught not only the specifics of hairdressing and all of its subcategories but will also train you in a range of hygiene practices to keep you and your clients safe.

Here is a selection of some of the best-known barber training programs.

The license exam fee also varies by state, but generally falls in the range of $100 to $150. License renewals are typically required by states every two years with a fee averaging $50.

Professional Groups for Barbers to Join

Joining a professional group shows you’re serious about your work, devoted to the highest standards and value the role of a barber in helping people look their best and feel great about themselves. Professional groups offer continuing education, forums for conversation about barbering tips and techniques, and valuable networking opportunities. Making professional connections in an association is a great way to learn about employment opportunities

Here are some of the largest and best known associations for barbers.

Barber brushing hair off of client's neck

Employment

Visiting local barber shops with copies of your certification, license and resume are a great way to get your name and face out there in front of prospective employers. Even if there are no immediate openings, many employers appreciate the initiative it takes to just walk in the shop and introduce yourself. It sets you apart from the many people who simply email their resumes and wait.

Online searches on sites such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter will also turn up job openings. Just keep in mind that different states have different licensing requirements and your credentials may not automatically transfer from one state to another. In moving to another state you may have to take that state’s barber licensing exam to keep working.

Also use the networking power of your professional memberships to find jobs. After all, other barbers will be the first to know about job openings in the shops where they work. You might learn about an opportunity even before it’s advertised.

Finding Clients

Business cards and a basic website should be part of your marketing toolkit. The website need not be fancy or expensive. Just attractively designed, with photos of your work, location and contact information. No need to include your pricing unless you know to a certainty that the amount you charge is less than what competing barbers are asking for a haircut. Posting prices is a slippery slope. Before you know it, you’re updating your website every other day to keep pace with the competition. It can turn out to be a fast race to the bottom. Instead, consider running a one-time special or coupon for new customers.

In addition to your business website, create an Instagram account to showcase your services. The idea is to post plenty of “before” and “after” photos with hashtags so that people looking for barber services can find you. Instagram is the #1 online venue for barbers to display their work. Be sure to get written permission from your clients before you post images of their faces. You can download and print free photo release forms here.

Other strategies for attracting new business:

  • Offer a one-time “introductory” discounts to new customers.
  • Create a referral program with discounts for returning customers who bring new clients to you.
  • Ask clients to review your services online. According to a recent survey, 90% of people say their buying decisions are influenced by positive online reviews.
Barber trimming client's hair

Good to know:

Barbers who thrive are often quietly pursuing strategies that set them apart from barbers who live paycheck to paycheck. Continuing education is a key strategy for those who want to stay current in the profession. Hairstyles and the techniques required to create them continue to evolve and change. When a customer plops down in your barber chair and asks for a certain style of haircut, how well you are able to deliver an excellent clip job will make the difference between serving that customer once and serving that customer for the rest of his life. As a result, word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied customers will being more people into your barber shop. Someone who sees a friend with a sharp new haircut is almost certain to ask, “Who cuts your hair?” This cycle, repeated successfully, can grow your barbering business exponentially.

On a related note, this is why staying active in professional associations is so important. You’ll be up-to-date on the latest styles and trends, while having a community of fellow professionals you can reach out to for more information and support.

If you enjoyed this article, check out some other PocketSuite.io content that can help you grow your career as a barber. Here’s a great place to start. You’ll also love our guide on how to generate leads for service businesses.

PocketSuite has thousands of business owners who all started where you are right now. Our community is always happy to help you ramp up, grow your client base, and achieve your income goals, both within the PocketSuite app and as part of our exclusive Facebook Community Group. PocketSuite’s vision is for any professional to be able to work for themselves and make a great living. It starts here. It starts with you. It starts today. Let’s get started, download PocketSuite now! Feel free to reach out with any questions (we’d love to hear from you)! Text us @ (415) 841-2300.

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