How to Become an African Hair Braider

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Demand for skilled African hair braiders is only expected to grow in popularity as the United States population becomes more culturally rich and diverse.

African hair braider's client modeling work

African braids, also called canerows in Jamaica, are styled by braiding the hair close to the scalp, using an underhand, upward motion to make raised rows of hair. The style is also known as cornrow braids. Sometimes beads and other decorative materials are used in the hair braiding.

You’ll need training to offer African hair braiding services at a professional level, although whether you’ll also need a license depends on where you live. Some states specifically address hair braiding (Texas requires a license plus at least 35 hours of education) while others do not, and some include the practice under the umbrella of a cosmetology license.

There are 19 states that do not require any license for hair braiders. Requirements among those that do will vary from state to state. You’ll need to investigate the laws and regulations in your own state to determine the best training options. Check with your state’s board of cosmetology to learn about the laws and requirements where you live.

African hair braiding is an artistic endeavor in which your creativity can really shine while delighting your clients and making them feel great about their new look. The pay is good, too. Skilled African hair braiders with a few years of experience and a steady customer base can easily earn more than $100,000 a year.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How much money you can make as an African hair braider
  • The required training and certifications
  • Professional groups to join
  • Employment opportunities for African hair braiders
  • Finding clients
  • Plus helpful tips for new African hair braiders
African hair braider's client showing off new look

How much money can you make?

African hair braiders make good money. A hair braiding can cost anywhere from $100 to $300. It all depends on the look the client wants to achieve. At current prices, you can see that working with only 2-3 clients per day can result in a nice income.

This is also a growth industry. Employment of African hair braiders, who are grouped with hairdressers, hair stylists, and cosmetologists, 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 quality hair care services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

African hair braiders earn an average annual salary of $27,940. Beauty professionals earn more money in some parts of the country, for example, the average salaries for hairdressers and stylists are highest in Washington D.C., Hawaii, Delaware, Virginia and Washington State.

Training and Certification

Regulations governing African hair braiders vary widely across the country. These states do not require a license to practice African hair braiding: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Spotlight on African hair braider's client's new look

Among those that do require a license, the particular requirements vary from state to state. Your best bet is to contact your state cosmetology board to determine what requirements apply to you.

While training you’ll study more than African braiding styles and techniques. You’ll also learn the rules and regulations about sanitation and disease transmission, as well as hair types, human biology as it relates to the scalp and hair, and common disorders that can affect the hair. Look for a program that also includes basic business training so you can learn how to open your own beauty shop, market your services, consult with clients and maintain scheduling.

What you’ll learn in a quality training program:

  • Individual braiding with and without extensions
  • No-knot cornrows
  • Faux locs
  • Crocheting and yarn braids
  • Twist extensions

Pricing for these programs starts at less than $100 for an online course in African hair braiding. You’ll find complete 8-week courses with in-person training for about $3,000. A full cosmetology program will typically cost at least $10,000. Which one is best? Your personal circumstances and career goals will dictate the right training option for you. Some African hair braiders work out of their kitchen as solopreneurs offering this single beauty service. Other hair braiders may eventually want to expand their repertoire by offering more. Certification as an African hair braider can lead to employment in a spa or salon, where you can watch and learn from specialists offering different beauty services. Over time you might decide to pursue a full training program in cosmetology.

Search for hair braiding training programs by state.

Woman modeling work done by African hair braider

Professional Groups to Join

Here are some of the best-known professional groups that will be of interest to African hair braiders.

For Salon Managers: International SalonSpa Business Network (ISBN)

Professionals who own one or more spas or salons and want to network with others in the industry.

For General Networking with Other Professionals: Professional Beauty Association (PBA)

Students receive a discount.

Members can apply for affordable liability insurance coverage.

For Diversity Support: Professional Black Barbers Association

You can also find informal groups devoted to African hair braiding that you can join on social media sites such as Facebook.


Stop by local spas and beauty salons with copies of your African hair braiding certification, resume (and license, if applicable in your state). This is a great way to market yourself to potential employers. Even if there is no immediate opening, salon owners will probably appreciate the confidence and can-do attitude it takes just to walk through the door and promote yourself. This instantly sets you apart from the many people who email dozens of resumes and wait by the phone.

Child showing off new look done by African hair braider

Online searches on sites such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter will also turn up job opportunities around the country. Keep in mind that if you move to another state you’ll need to find out the requirements and regulations for African hair braiders where you plan to live. This is why it’s important to complete a good training program in hair braiding – you’ll be prepared to pass a licensing exam if you end up moving some day to a state that requires a license to offer braiding services.

Also leverage your professional memberships to find jobs. Network with other members. Ask them about any employment opportunities they might know about in their area. Other African hair braiders will usually be the first to know about jobs coming open in the shops where they work. You might learn about a position before it’s advertised.

Finding Clients

You’ll need business cards and a basic website to launch your marketing efforts. The website doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive, just attractively designed, with lots of photos of your work, as well as your business location and contact information. You don’t even need to include your pricing (and probably shouldn’t) unless you decide to promote a special.

In addition to your business website, create an Instagram account that showcases your work. The idea is to post “before” and “after” photos with hashtags so that people looking for African hair braiding services can find you. For example, using #AfricanHairBraiding as a hashtag will cause your Instagram page to pop up when people search for these hair styles using those keywords on the platform. Instagram is the #1 online venue for beauty professionals 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.

African hair braider's client modeling new look

Other strategies for attracting clients:

  • Offer an introductory discount to new customers.
  • Create a referral program with discounts for returning customers who bring new clients to you.
  • Ask clients to review your African hair braiding services online. According to a survey, 90% of people say their purchasing decisions are influenced by positive online reviews.
  • Ask all new clients to complete a simple form about their interest in your African hair braiding services. The form can include consultation questions such as the look the client wants to achieve. This saves you time. Also get their contact information on the form. This lets you follow up with clients and increase repeat business.

Good to know:

When you’re just starting out on your new career as an African hair braider, don’t overlook the value of ongoing training and staying current in the field. New techniques and braiding styles are constantly evolving. You can watch African hair braiders in action on YouTube, see what other professionals are up to on Instagram and find all sorts of creative ideas on Pinterest. And it’s all free for the taking. The more you learn and discover, the more you can offer your clients. That translates into more money in your pockets.

If you enjoyed this article, check out some other content that can help you grow your career as an African hair braider. 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.