If you are not going to hire employees for your salon, there are a few tips I would like to share with you. We always want to avoid potential pitfalls when you staff your salon with independent contractors. As someone who has worked as a salon employee, independent contractor, and salon owner, I have a few pointers for those evaluating their options!
Ironing Out Legalities
First of all, meet with your tax professional to review the guidelines the IRS puts out concerning independent contractors. You have to be very specific in the verbiage in the rental agreement. Unless you have had extensive experience with independent contractors, always consult a tax professional. They can help you draft an agreement that has clear language on what responsibility you have within taxation guidelines. It also clearly states the responsibilities of the independent contractor and their tax obligation.
It’s always best when things are put down in writing and everyone involved is aware of their individual contractual commitments. This keeps business professional and not personal. Over time we can get very familiar with the people we work with, so having a written agreement keeps everything clear and concise, keeping our personal feelings out of the equation. Having a written document to refer back to has saved me so much drama!
What do you do if your independent contractor wants to use an inferior product?
This is a tough one. One of my most challenging situations was with an independent contractor who was a nail tech. At the time, I had 6 nail techs, and all but one used the same product. This was very helpful for them when they covered for each other. These salon professionals valued consistency, and using the same product was great for the clients and important to the techs as well.
There was one tech who was extremely frugal, for lack of a better term, and she didn’t want to spend her hard-earned money on the “professional products”. She purchased her supplies at the drug store. The other nail techs were very gracious to this woman’s clients when they would ask for the “good stuff." While asking to borrow products when you are in a pinch is acceptable, taking advantage of a team's generosity can cause many issues. This tech would ask to borrow product on a regular basis.
The other booth renters were getting frustrated. They didn’t want to seem callous to her clients, but they were fed up. My hands were tied, as I could not require her to purchase a particular product. With independent contractors, there is very little that you can require. The idea of filling your salon with rent-paying independent contractors is great, but you sacrifice most of the control of your business. You can't dictate how things operate.
This isn’t always a bad thing however. I have seen salon professionals who have worked together as employees before leaving to rent a suite together. They have a flow and work together like a well-oiled machine. To work independently and have a fellow salon professional around for companionship and creative encouragement contributes to a happy environment.
Keeping It Clean
Cleaning is another subject that is extremely important when you have independent contractors.
I believe this is where I received my biggest surprise. In my state, the person whose name is on the business license is totally responsible for state board inspections. Imagine my shock and surprise when the state board inspector showed up on a day I wasn’t working. They conducted their inspection and found a violation in the station of an independent contractor. Because she didn’t lock her cabinet, the inspector opened the drawer and found soiled brushes. The salon professional was given verbal instructions on how to clean and store her soiled tools. I was told that I could have been fined and given a blemish on my salon record for this infraction. Fortunately, the situation was resolved with just a discussion of the proper storage techniques from the state board inspector to the salon professional who needed clarification. I dodged a bullet on that one. The potential fines and the ding on my License would not have been acceptable.
When you have independent contractors, you can’t just go and start rifling through their belongings. However, you are on the hook for ensuring that they operate at state board standards.
Our last topic is about handing over a copy of the keys to your business. Turning over the keys to your business to a complete stranger can be bit nerve wracking at first. I have done it many times. In the beginning, it was awkward, like waiting for your teenager to come home after their first date. I was anxious, a little nauseous, lightheaded, and had visions of things going south. I had to snap myself back to reality and realize that this is the price you pay when you turn over your keys. If you are a control freak, then staffing your salon with key-holding independent contractors may not be your thing!
These topics should give you some things to think about. As you are planning the future of your business, keep these pointers in mind, have a game plan on how you are going to handle conflicts that will pop up along the way. Good luck on your journey!
Maryann has an accomplished, 30+ year background in the beauty industry. As a cosmetologist she opened her first salon in ’83. She has specialized as an educator since 2006. Maryann knows what it takes to create successful salon businesses and is here to share her experience with you.