How to Build Hairstylist Clientele by Mastering Consultations

As a hairstylist, your first opportunity to build a relationship with your client is through a client consultation. Not only does this process provide you important information about the client, but it also gives you an opportunity to display genuine interest and let your client know they are in capable hands.

Keep in mind that your regular clientele can also benefit from consultations as well. After all, completing a consultation can be the difference between a bad outcome or a satisfied customer. Poor results are usually caused by poor communication. While hair school teaches you skills for cutting and styling, they do not really teach you how to build clientele as a hairstylist.

The following tips will explain just how important consultations are, and how to build hairstylist clientele by mastering them.

Use a Consultation Form

You may have learned this in hair school, but a consultation form is a document you provide to new clients to learn what the client’s needs are regarding hair treatments. Hairstylists keep this form on file and should review it with clients before every appointment to see if it needs to be updated.

Photography by Antonio Guillem

Most hairstylists work off a schedule, so you already know who you will be seeing on a given day. The best thing you can do is give the consultation form to the client before she ever gets in the chair. This will cut down on a great deal of chatter, and also help you have a plan in place before meeting her.

One of the best things about providing the form beforehand is that some questions contained may be difficult to ask in person, but a form makes it much easier. For instance, ‘Have you experienced any weight gain or weight loss recently?’ A person’s weight can affect their face shape and thus impact what styles work for them. Or, ‘Have you changed work recently or taken on a new lifestyle?’ This question is especially pertinent since the appearance of COVID-19. Hence, any ‘courage’ questions you have can be asked in a written format versus via verbal conversation.

Meeting Your Client

Greeting your client with a handshake helps establish friendliness and warmth. But, because of COVID-19, this may not be an option for the foreseeable future. However, there are other ways to be friendly. Be sure to always address the person by name, help them with personal belongings such as their coat, and lead them to the consultation area. Making an effort to use the person’s name throughout the conversation makes them feel valued and important.

Rather than standing behind the client, sit in front of them. Doing this is a more intimate, personal setting than the client viewing you through a mirror. As you go through the initial conversation, avoid putting a gown on the client right away. This strategy is beneficial as it allows you to watch their body language. You’ll find some clients are intimidated and nervous, so you’ll need to address this differently to make them feel more comfortable.

Photography by Matva

Speaking with Your Client

Though you should already have the completed form in hand, now is the time to listen to your client to give you a feel of what they really want. Vivienne Mackinder of HairDesignerTV suggests that you begin by determining how much of a change the client is ready for on a scale of 1-10. Many people are opting for a ‘quarantine hair makeover’ ever since the coronavirus sharply shifted new trends in cutting. Understanding your client’s goal is important, so keep the language simple and avoid overusing technical jargon.

Using visual aids such as photographic references is always a good starting point, but as Vivienne points out, the photos may not always be realistic. Keep in mind that photos can be manipulated and edited in Photoshop to make them appear more beautiful than they are. For example, in some photos, the back of the hair is not even finished, so the emphasis is on the front. Clients can also fall in love with certain looks for the face, rather than the style, that might not work for their face shape.

Asking the right questions and making sure you understand what the person wants based off the consultation form will help point you in the right direction. Be sure to get answers to questions such as:

  • What do they love most about their hair?
  • Have they fallen in love with, or out of love with their hair?
  • What restrictions do they have at work or home (i.e., health codes, grabby infants)?
  • How much time do they like to spend on their hair every day? On the weekends?


After you’ve had a thorough discussion with your client, it’s up to you as a professional hairstylist to inform your client of what’s achievable. Often you will encounter clients with unrealistic expectations. A good stylist will be firm and explain to the client why a color or style cannot be achieved or will not turn out as they expect.

While photos are great visual tools, as we mentioned, they don’t always work. Let’s face it, certain hairstyles are more flattering on certain face shapes, and so on. A hairstyle that works for one person may not work for the next. So, it’s important to focus your attention in the right places.

Hair by Simplicity | Photography by Roberto Ligresti | Makeup by David Maderich

Vivienne Mackinder’s consultation is unique due to the “3 wheels of fashion.” She designs from inside the head before she goes outside the head! This philosophy custom designs the style that fits her client’s personality, fashion, and lifestyle, while also factoring in the business world they live in. Then, it proceeds to their physical features.

In addition to matching a style to their lifestyle, your job as a stylist is to also complement the client’s:

  • face shape
  • hair texture
  • bone structure
  • body type

So, rather than designing to a photo, you must design to who is sitting in your chair.

Increase your Value

Ultimately, increasing your value is the most important thing when trying to figure out how to build a clientele as a hairstylist. Providing services that are well-thought-out and planned will gain you a loyal client, increase your value behind the chair, and increase your efficiency because you know what you’re doing and why.

Planning will also keep you from tunneling in your work. Hairstylists tend to get tunneled into what they’re doing, and when they look up, they realize they went shorter or bigger than they meant to.

The last thing to remember is that keeping clients happy by helping them discover their authentic self will result in higher retention and referral rates.

In the end, when determining how to build hairstylist clientele, you must remember to always make the client your main focus. Learning what the person really wants and figuring out how to achieve it together will not only increase your value as a stylist, but it will quickly help build your clientele.

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