How to Open a Barber Shop in 7 Steps (2023)

  • Brandon Boushy by Brandon Boushy
  • 4 weeks ago
  • Blog
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Start a $130K per year barbershop

Do you have a passion for cutting hair? If you’ve ever wondered how to open a barber shop, you’re in the right place. Bernard Franklin started Busy B’s Barbershop, and now it makes $130K in revenue per year. Get ready to learn how to start a barber shop.

Bernard grew up around barbers before joining the Navy. After the Navy, he went into network marketing before going to Bellingham Cosmetology School. He’ll share how military and marketing experience made starting a barber shop way easier. Bernard has also won two awards for his community leadership. 

We’ll share Bernard’s strategies and tips on:

  • Getting started as a barber
  • Leading a team
  • Customer service
  • Marketing
  • Customer retention

Get ready to learn how to open your own barber shop business.

What Is a Barber Shop?

A barber shop is a salon competitor focusing on cutting and trimming men’s hair, necks, and beards. A barber shop owner will normally be male-dominated and focus on providing quality haircuts to men. At the same time, a salon tends to focus more on women’s styles, hair dye, and eyebrow waxing. Bernard told us:

If you do a good job and have a great personality, you’ll do well….My biggest mistake was I didn’t do it earlier.

How to Open Barber Shop

To open a barbershop, you’ll need to:

  1. Learn About the Industry.
  2. Write a Business Plan.
  3. Get the Funding for Your Business.
  4. Get Your Inventory and Equipment.
  5. Register Your Business.
  6. Rent a Barbershop or Barber Station.
  7. Start Marketing Your Barbershop.

Step 1. Learn About the Industry

We’ll cover:

  • Do barbers have to go to school?
  • How much do barbers make?
  • What are barber shop business models?
  • Who are the major players in the industry?
  • How much does it cost to open a barber shop?
  • Do barbers need a license?

Are barbers required to go to school?

Male barber holding a scissor

Every state has requirements for a barber to get a cosmetology license or hair-cutting license. In most states, you will have to go to a school and meet a minimum number of experience hours, but some states allow you to do an apprenticeship under successful barbers. Check your state’s barbershop requirements. 

How much does a barber make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average barber makes $35,700 per year or $17.16 per hour. Top barbers often make over $53,260 per year in wages. The average small business owner will also get an extra $7,446 in profit. That means when you start a barbershop, you should expect to make between $42,000 and $61,000 take-home pay. Based on what Bernard told us, he makes around $54,000 after taxes running at 50% capacity.

Assuming his chairs are rented year-round, his maximum income would be around $80,000 without expanding his offerings.

Which business model is best for a barbershop?

When you consider how to open a barber business, there are three primary business models:

  1. Rent a chair in another barbershop business.
  2. Open your own barbershop.
  3. Buy a franchise.
  4. Start a barber school.
Rent a chair in another barbershop business

Most barbers start by renting a space in a successful barbershop business. This route has lower business expenses because you only have to pay a weekly shop fee to the shop owner. Bernard told us he rents out chairs to other barbers and explained:

Space rent is $40 per day and paid weekly.

That converts to $280 per week or $1,200 per 30 days. 

This business model is good because you’ll save money on logistics like getting a cash register, marketing strategy, creating a business website, and other aspects new business owners aren’t familiar with yet. You can focus on developing your skills and getting new clients.

Unfortunately, the monthly chair fee from a single chair is basically paying Bernard’s rent. If you have run a business before, this might not be the best strategy for you because you could be making that extra revenue.

Open your own barbershop

Bearded-man-barbershop-barber-work

Barbershop owners who are more familiar with aspects like business licensing, marketing, and complying with state and local laws will probably want to start a barbershop with multiple chairs. These barbershops have the potential for much more income because you can rent the chairs out to other barbers. Bernard told us:

I have five chairs in my barbershop business. My monthly costs are $3,000. $1,500 of that is my lease.

Effectively, that means he is making $58,400 in revenue per year just from renting seats. After subtracting annual expenses, he has nearly $22,400 from renting chairs to barbers. Plus, he has all his income from haircuts, fades, and products. 

Buy a barber shop franchise

Franchises you can buy in the barbershop business are plentiful. Consider buying a franchise from SportsClips or Regis Corp if you are prepared to invest $100K or more. Buying a franchise is a great way for first-time business owners to learn how to run a business because the franchisor has already figured out how to make the business profitable. You just have to follow their policies.

Start a barber school

Screenshot of beautyschoolsdirectory website

This is the highest cost and most difficult barber business to start. A school will need its own building. It will also need to comply with state regulatory agencies for barber shops and cosmetology schools. These schools make money in a few different ways:

  • Tuition including financial aid
  • Product sales
  • Hair cut charges

These can be highly profitable because barber school tuition is between $10K and $20K according to Beauty Schools Directory. It’s a lot more work because it requires employees.  Also, you’ll need to comply with the Department of Education if you want your students to be able to use Pell Grants and student loans. (You do because it opens up the number of students who can afford your school).

Who are the major players in the barbershop industry?

There are no major barber shops, but if you expand your competition to include hair and nail salons, you will be competing with:

  • Regis Corporation: The owner of Supercuts and other franchises has more than 5,700 locations and brings in $297 million per year with a 9.1% operating margin.
  • SportsClips: This franchisor is similar to a barbershop. It has more than 1,900 locations and makes about $138.3 million per year with a 4.63% operating margin.

Fortunately, both of these lag behind small business margins for barbers. You can check out the statistics from IBIS World below:

Regis CorpSportsClipsBarber ShopsHair & Nail Salons
Revenue$297,000,000.00$138,300,000.00$4,500,000,000.00$72,674,000,000.00
Profit$26,900,000.00$6,400,000.00$811,700,000.00$6,000,000,000.00
Profit, Revenue9.06%4.63%18.04%8.26%
Employees2,4463,900136,0001,818,523
Businesses5,7001,900109,0001,378,467
ModelFranchise locations including SupercutsFranchises and Corporate StoresMixedMixed

What is the industry outlook?

The barbershop industry is expected to grow 1.3% per year between now and 2026, which is slower than Hair and Nail Salons at 2.5%. Barber shops may see profits decline some, but with an 18% profit margin, they will fare much better than hair and nail salons which are in a period of declining profits. When classifying your business, you will have better loan opportunities if you classify it as a barbershop.

How much to open a barbershop?

You don’t have to invest a lot of money to start a barbershop business. Bernard told us:

I started Busy B’s with $15,000.

He went on to explain where the money was spent.

  • Attend Barber School: $10,000 to $20,000, but some schools accept financial aid. You can start a barber shop without this, but you cannot be the one to cut hair.
  • Barber Chairs: $900 to $2,500 each. He has five.
  • Mirrors: $700 each. He has five.
  • Rent: $1,500 per month. You might need the first and last month’s rent. Busy B’s ongoing monthly expenses, including rent, are around $3,000.
  • Business Structure: Under $1,000. This will vary by structure and state.
  • Barber Shop License Cost: Under $1,000. This is your license to cut hair, and it varies by state.
  • Barber Shop Business License: Under $1,000. This is the barbershop license to operate a business. There may be state and local licenses.
  • Barbers Shears and Trimmers: Under $1,000. Barbers need to bring their own tools.
  • Sales Tax Permit: Normally free. Local barber shops often sell customers the products they use in their barber shop set up.

These come out to somewhere between $20,100 and as high as $79,000 if you want to have the money to make it through the first year. These numbers are higher than his $15,000 because he saved money on school as a veteran and also rents the barber stations. Both scenarios save money. Despite his savings, Bernard told us:

It took about five years for me to really break even.

How to open a barbershop with no money?

Screenshot of studentaid website

While you can’t start a barbershop without money, you can go to barber school on a Pell Grant or student loans. Go to studentaid.gov to learn more. You might be able to cover the costs of your equipment, barbershop licenses, and permits if you are frugal. You aren’t really supposed to use the financial aid for anything except for school and living expenses, but your barbershop setup might qualify as a school expense.

Does a barber need a license?

Yes, all 50 states require a license to cut hair. You can learn more about your state’s barber’s license at nacams.org. Most states include the barber license in the cosmetology license, which allows you to cut hair, style, dye, wax, and do other jobs that help people create looks they enjoy.

Can you open a barber shop without being a barber?

Yes, owners can get business licenses and permits to open barber shops. But, you can’t cut hair without a barber’s license. You’ll have to hire a licensed barber to actually operate.

Step 2. Write a Barber Business Plan

A business plan is beneficial for a barber shop opening. At a minimum, you’ll want to plan for startup costs, ongoing costs, marketing, and managing the operations. Check out our blog about one-page strategic plans, or watch the interview with Mike Andes about writing businesses.

Keep reading for templates and resources for business plans.

Templates and resources

We’ve gathered templates to help you develop your business plan. Here are some of the best:

Step 3. Where to Buy Your Barber Shop Products and Equipment

Before barbers open their doors, they will need equipment. Bernard suggests getting at least the following equipment:

  • Edger: $100
  • Shears: Good ones are $250
  • 2-speed trimmer: $250
  • Detachable blades: 25-50 each

He also suggests buying Ander, Oyster, or BaByliss brand tools.

Step 4. Funding Your Barber Shop

Screenshot of learn sba website

Most business owners will use one of the following strategies for opening a barbershop:

  • Using personal funds or personal assets
  • Borrowing from family or friends
  • Finding a business partner
  • Seeking government grants or loans

Check out free courses on financing options and funding programs from the Small Business Administration. 

Alternative sources of funding include:

Step 5. Naming Your Barbershop

UpFlip business name generator

You’ll need a barbershop name before you open your doors. Make sure your business name is:

  • Easy to remember.
  • Not creating weird acronyms.
  • Is available as a domain name. 
  • Not taken on social media.

Try our business name generator. When you find a name you like, just click on it to buy the domain on Namecheap.

Step 6: Get Your Barbershop Business Legal, Licensed, and Insured

Now that you have a plan and name for your barbershop business, you need to establish the legal structure. You might want to hire a local attorney to help you with:

  1. Your barber license
  2. A limited liability company or corporation
  3. Employer identification number
  4. State business licenses and permits
  5. Tax filings and withholdings
  6. Work posters
  7. Unemployment insurance

They’ll help you get your business started quickly so you can focus on how to start a barbershop.

Each location has different licenses, permits, or tax forms required. Use the SBA License and Permits page to identify what your barber shop or hair salon needs. Let’s look at each of these so you know what to expect.

Your barber license

To become a barber, you’ll need to get the barber license which typically requires:

  • Proof of completion of school or apprenticeship
  • 1000–4000 hours of experience
  • Passing written and practical exams
  • Registration fee
  • Background checks (sometimes)

Form a business entity

Screenshot of nolo website

Owning a barbershop means you’ll need to form a business. There are a few ways you can go:

  1. Limited liability company (LLC): As long as you keep your business finances in a separate bank account from your personal finances, an LLC will provide liability protection when opening a barbershop. Just register on the Secretary of State website, file the Operating Agreement, and pay the fee. This is the least common route unless you plan on owning a barbershop that becomes a franchisor. 
  2. Corporations: For those who wonder how to start barbershop franchising companies or schools, you may want a corporation. They have advantages in the type of funding you can pursue because you can sell shares. They are far more complex to set up and comply with state and federal regulations.
  3. Sole proprietorship: This is the easiest way to start a barbershop, but the structure doesn’t protect the owner from personal liability. If something goes wrong in the shop, your personal assets are exposed. To start a sole proprietorship, fill out a special tax form called a Schedule C. Sole proprietors can also join the American Independent Business Alliance.
  4. Partnership: If more than one person will own a barbershop, you might want a partnership if you couldn’t get a limited liability company.

Check your state requirements for LLCs.

Apply for an EIN

Every business entity operating in the United States needs an employer identification number. You’ll use it to apply for business loans, bank accounts, and business credit cards. Plus, it ties your business payments to the employee and independent contractor state and federal taxes. Apply for it on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.

State business license and sales tax permit

Most states require business licenses and sales tax permits, and you need to adhere to their requirements. The states that don’t have sales taxes are:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon

Local governments can also levy a sales tax. You may have other taxes that you have to file such as state income taxes or higher property taxes. Avalara has a guide on sales taxes. Check it out, but remember that the best person to talk to about taxes is a local accountant that specializes in business taxes.

Make sure to find out if local businesses need any licensing from the county or municipality as well.

Tax filing and withholding

Screenshot of irs website

Federal and state tax filing requirements apply to new employers. You’ll also need to maintain your records for four years or more.

Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered! Check out the IRS guide for employers.

Federal employment and labor law posters

All employers must display Workplace Posters.

Other requirements include:

  • Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9)
  • State’s New Hire Program
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance
  • Disability Insurance—varies by states
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Unemployment insurance

Screenshot of uschamber website

If you wish to hire barbers (or other positions) as employees, you’ll need unemployment insurance. Most people don’t hire barbers when they open a barbershop because renting a barbershop set up to independent contractors increases revenue without increasing the expenses much. If you hire additional barbers, they become an expense. You have to pay them to pay taxes, cover their equipment, and more.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a ton of information on unemployment and also offers links to each state agency that handles state unemployment.

You’ll have to pay around $420 per employee on a federal level plus any state UI.

Now that you are familiar with the legal aspects of starting a successful barbershop business, let’s look at some of the things you’ll need to do before you start servicing customers.

Step 7: How to Start Barber Shop Operations

Before you open your barber shop to customers, you’ll want to:

Let’s look at each of these.

Get a business bank account

You’ll find it much easier to run a successful business if you have a separate business bank account. The bank account in your business name will make it easier for you to separate your personal and business finances, which is required for liability protection under an LLC or corporation. It will also make it easier to get business credit.

Consider getting a business bank account with a small bank or credit union because they tend to have the highest credit approval rates. Learn more about the different business bank accounts available.

Apply for business credit

Screenshot of nationalbusinesscapital website

If you want business credit, consider talking to National Business Credit. Most of their loans are available with six months in business and $100K annual revenue, but they also offer some loans you can get immediately. This can be particularly helpful if you are buying a building and all the equipment. The best part is you don’t have to guess which loan to apply for because they’ll help you choose the best loan for your scenario.

Get business insurance

Businesses have a lot that can go wrong, so be sure to protect your investment with business insurance. You’ll want at least general liability insurance, but you should consider other ones like a professional liability. Check out Hiscox business insurance for barbers. 

Start business accounts with supply stores

You can get most supplies for a barbershop on Amazon, and they even offer special pricing for businesses. Most hairstylists I know suggest going to Sally Beauty Supply if you want the best products for a barbershop business quickly. They even have an affiliate program where you can earn 5% on each sale to your customers.

Find a business location (and remodel it if necessary)

Bernard told us:

If people love what you do, your location will not matter, but it has to be safe and nice.

There are a lot of ways you can find a space, depending on whether you want to rent a chair, a barber suite, or an entire commercial space. We’ve provided some ideas for each of the spaces in the table below:

Find a Barber Chair Find a Barber SuiteFind a Barber Shop
Facebook GroupsHigh-End SalonsUpFlip Businesses For Sale
Craigslist AdsFranchisesBusiness Brokers
Local Barber ShopsBusiness BrokersCommercial Real Estate Agents
Nail SalonsFacebook GroupsFacebook Groups

The National Association of Barbers has a great blog about choosing locations and negotiating rental costs. As you look for places, don’t forget that you’ll have to abide by building codes, which will add to the price of the location. Construction costs can add up quickly, especially if the local government authority has building and health departments you must comply with.

Grow through marketing

Cartoon graphic of people relaying messages

You’re going to want to market your barber shop, and there are a ton of approaches to take. Bernard likes the old school, word-of-mouth marketing, but he also uses other marketing strategies. 

You’ll want:

When he first started, he would give each of the barbers 25–50 business cards to hand out. They offered a free clip for every person who referred five appointments. He called it “Armed and Dangerous.”

Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is simply a strategy for how you will drive more customers to your store. Market research helps to establish:

  • Your target audience.
  • Good channels to reach customers.
  • How you’ll communicate with potential clients.
  • How you’ll manage customer services.
  • Ways to turn first-time customers into return customers.
  • How to convert your best clients into referral sources. 
How do I establish my target market?

A barber’s profits directly correlate to how well they understand their target market. To identify your target market, you’ll want to do market research, but we’ve done some for you. Bernard told us:

I do other stuff besides fades and men’s hair cuts since I’m licensed to do cosmetology.

Most barbershops are looking for customers who:

  • Are male and over 18
  • Live or work within 10 minutes of your location (30 minutes for returning customers if you move).
  • Are a business owner, actor, model, salesperson, real estate agent (good professions to target)
  • Follow fashion and beauty brands
  • Get their hair cut 9 to 26 times a year. I’d personally research Eric Lahr (from the reference link) for frequency of cuts and create a customer profile based on what you can learn about him through social media.
  • Household income around $74,000 to $160,000. Check the visual below for how I came to those numbers. Lower income might be less frequent haircuts and more advertising costs, higher might expect additional services you may not be able to offer.
Target Market Financial Targets
LowMediumHigh
Frequency917.526
Amount Spent$25.00$42.50$60.00
Annual Hair Cut Budget$225.00$743.75$1,560.00
Cuts Come to 1% of Income$22,500.00$74,375.00$156,000.00

To learn more about a target market, check out some of these articles from top bloggers on target markets.

  • Caroline Forsey: Writes for HubSpot and WPfixall. She has driven the fourth most value to companies through her target market blogs, according to ahrefs. Her articles on marketing goals and target audiences are useful.
  • Debbie Farese: She wrote the HubSpot Market Research Guide, which has been quoted as a resource by over 2,000 other blogs.
  • Christina Newberry: This author writes for Hootsuite. In addition to her blog about how to identify a target market, she also has blogged about how to communicate with them.
Get Some Business Cards

Screenshot of canva website

Business cards are a critical role in every small business. Some ways you can use business cards include:

  1. Give them to customers.
  2. Hand them out to people you meet.
  3. Most restaurants have drawings for free meals.
  4. Businesses often allow other small business owners to share their cards to grow the community.
  5. Place magnetic cards in strategic places.

Canva is a really easy way to design and print business cards. You can even add a QR code that sends them to your website or booking page.

Launch a Website

An attractive and functional website tells people who you are and that you are a capable option. Make sure the website has payment and booking functionality to make your life easier. You can also sell your products on your site to make it easier for customers to restock on products they like.

Check out our blog about building a website, then start a website on Shopify or WordPress. I prefer Shopify because I find it easier to work with. Shopify also offers:

  • Business bank accounts
  • Discounts for using the bank account for business expenses
  • Point-of-Sale (POS) systems
  • Marketing automation 
  • Lots of free and paid apps
  • Merchant cash advances
Marketing with Social Media

Vintage barber tools

Something we didn’t talk about in the video with Busy B’s is social media, but he’s got it rolling. It’s an important part of your marketing mix. Let’s talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:

  • Facebook: Right now, many professional marketers encourage Facebook groups because it is lower competition. Many business owners have moved to other platforms, which makes Facebook low-hanging fruit.
  • Instagram: Everyone is here. It can be highly profitable, and you can link Instagram and Facebook to share or advertise on both channels, but the competition is high. Cut hair, take a picture for your client on their phone, and ask them to tag you. Boom! You just got free marketing, built your authority, and potentially earned new customers.
  • Twitter: If you are community-oriented, this site might be the place for you.
  • LinkedIn: You can meet a lot of business professionals on LinkedIn. If you are skilled at what you do, it’s not hard to get major players in an industry to network with you. You just have to be nice, interact in discussions, and give them a reason to want to respond; more often than not, they will. Send them unsolicited marketing and they’ll ignore you amongst the ridiculous number of automated messages they receive.
  • Medium: This is a neat trick. Write a blog, post it on Medium and link back to your website. Guess what? It has a 94 authority score. If it’s not your highest authority backlink, please let me know what is.
  • Linktree: Here’s another neat trick. Use Linktree to share all your socials and web assets. It’s free, or you can upgrade for advanced features. Best part? It has a 93 authority score. 

Those last two tips are so good that even Google Podcasts, AOL Search results, and city governments don’t have as good rankings. Here’s proof:

Screenshot of- ahref website

That’s right! I am the three highest ranking backlinks to UpFlip. Even our YouTube channel isn’t considered a more trusted source about our site. It’s a flaw in Google that I hope they won’t catch.

Grow your email list

Customer data can help you stay in touch with your clients and potential customers. To accomplish this, you’ll want:

  1. A form or online booking system to collect data for the business online.
  2. An email address.
  3. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to keep track of clients’ phone numbers, emails, and frequency of booking.
  4. An email and SMS automation system to help you send standard emails (e.g., “Thank you for booking…”) and confirmation text messages. 

Sendinblue and ActiveCampaign are both useful email marketing CRMs, but there are many more. In addition, you can combine most marketing automation with Monday.com and other well-liked CRM.

Running Your Barber Shop Business 

You’ll spend most of your time managing your barber shop. Your three main focuses will be:

  1. Finding new customers for your business
  2. How to retain customers for your barbershop business
  3. Renting space to other barbers

Finding New Customers

In addition to the marketing we discussed earlier, there are a variety of techniques you can use to get more clients. Bernard told us:

Give people 25 cards and tell them that if they send five to ten referrals, they’ll get a free haircut.

He said that worked really well. He also told us his participation in the community helps spread business awareness.

Bernard also tried a grocery cart campaign for $650 but had not yet decided if he liked the results from it or not. Chris Bossio reviewed our interview with Bernard and was skeptical. He has some great insights. Check out his review of the interview below:

Check out his other videos about barbershops too.

How To Retain Customers For Your Barber Shop Business

Bernard shared tips on how to retain barbershop customers including:

  • Consistency is what’s important. Make them look good. Speed will come.
  • Holding yourself and others accountable is important.
  • Remember their names.
  • Take appointments. [I started taking them] because there were long lines during the pandemic.
  • Build Experience. It’s an Art. The better you get, the easier it is to retain customers.
  • Conversations are great but not important for retention. Each person is different. Give them what they want.

Most importantly, he explained how to handle a customer complaint.

How to handle a customer complaint?

Occasionally, a customer won’t be happy with their haircut. It’s not very often, but when it happens, Bernard suggests:

Resolve it. Fix it. Don’t argue about it. You’re pleasing a client or losing a client.

Renting Space to Barbers

A barber shop makes additional revenue by renting stations to barbers. This business structure makes it so that you don’t have employees. To rent stations, you’ll need to:

  1. Open a barbershop.
  2. Be sure to have additional spaces available.
  3. Post the opening on sites that list spaces for rent.
  4. Sign a contract.
  5. Collect daily, weekly, or monthly rent.
  6. Add it to your income.

Based on the $40 per seat a day Bernard charges, he covers his normal business expenses if 11 out of 16 weekly spots are filled each month. It should be noted that there are variable costs that increase, including water, electricity, hair products, and payment processing fees.

How many spots does Busy B’s need to rent to cover $3,000 monthly expenses?

Renting space to barbers table chart

Top Influencers

One of the best ways to become a more successful business is to learn from other successful business owners. Some of the best in the barber shop biz are:

  • Chris Bossio: Check out his YouTube or Tomb45, where he sells his own products and courses.
  • Sofie Pok: Check out Sofie’s socials on Linktree. Don’t forget to start yours today.
  • John Mosley: He won the 2022 Educator of the Year from the North American Hairstyling Awards. Check him out!

Check out other awesome influencers.

How will you start your own barber shop?

We’ve shared the information for you to open a barber shop, including advice from multiple barber shop business owners who are already making great livings. We hope it helps you in your goal to become a barber.

Are there other aspects of barber shops, the beauty industry, or other related subjects you’d like to learn more about? What are they? 

We’re here to serve you. Let us know how we can help!

Join The Discussion

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