Taking The Leap to Become A Self-Employed Barber

Published 23rd Jun 2023 by Charlotte Grant-West

Deone Lewis had worked at a barbershop for two years when she felt the call to become a self-employed barber. We reveal her journey and ask if she has any regrets…

Two years into my time at Nu:Era, a barbershop in Walsall, I had a stable and growing client base. I toyed around with the idea of being self-employed, but just kept it as an idea because I was scared of the unknown. I was working long hours and late nights and I loved it – I still do. But being employed meant I was only getting the hourly rate and when you’re doing graveyard shifts, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it?

I spoke to one of my clients about becoming a self-employed barber and they kept telling me to go for it, but I was unsure. In lockdown I had seen how many people struggled with being self-employed, and it was a risk I wasn’t sure I wanted to take. But sometimes life’s all about risks, right?

At first I was scared to ask my boss (Hannah McKnight, owner of Nu:Era). I’m not sure why, but I felt like after being employed for so long it was rude of me to ask. It’s silly when I think about it now, but I asked the question with no expectations.

There was uncertainty on my boss’s part, as self-employed barbers haven’t always worked well in the shop. But as my employer, she trusted me and knew I had no ill intentions. The conversation went well, and we both agreed chair rent was the way to go.

Hannah supports me and we have a great relationship. I now rent a chair at Nu:Era, I work five days a week and have full flexibility and control of when I work. If I wanted to, I could work seven days from 7am-10pm. I look after my own wages, take days out when needed and I have more financial freedom.

Being freelance also means I can push my brand further. I can go to barbering events without worrying if someone can cover me and I can grasp any opportunity thrown at me with both hands, because it’s only me I have to worry about. Individually, my clients now have their own loyalty cards. It’s great being able to give back to clients, because they’re the biggest factor in making my dreams happen.

Of course, there are challenges to being a self-employed barber; I’m constantly checking my timetable to see how many bookings I have and questioning whether I’m going to have a good or bad week. The appointments always get filled, but nothing is guaranteed. And taxes equal stress but I’m learning as I go along. Being ill is also something you have no control over, and having to take days off and cancel, refund, and reschedule clients can be hard.

But I have absolutely no regrets, I did this at the right time for me in my career. You get to a point where you can’t physically grow much more until you take a leap. Since being self-employed I’ve attended and performed at multiple barber shows, I’ve been sponsored by a product company, who push and support me so much, I did my first-ever shoot with photographer Liam Oakes and I worked with The Lions Barber Collective which was on ITV news. I’ve had so many opportunities and can truly say that going self-employed was the best thing I ever did.

Are you also considering becoming a self-employed barber? Check out our guide on how to get rent-a-chair agreements right.

Charlotte Grant-West

Charlotte Grant-West

Published 23rd Jun 2023

Charlotte oversees the print magazine, website and social media channels at HJ. With over a decade of experience as a journalist, Charlotte was formerly Editor of Modern Barber and HJ Men, Social Editor at Netmums and Features Writer at Boots Health & Beauty magazine. She loves any products that make her hair bigger and more voluminous, and loves a behind-the-scenes peek at anything hair-related – whether it's a factory tour, BTS on a shoot or backstage at fashion week.

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