Barbering as a profession can be immensely fulfilling, both creatively and financially, because of ongoing demand and steady work prospects. Add in the constant shifts and innovations in the fashion sector, and more and more individuals are entering the trade.
But what does it take to become a barber? Here’s everything you need to know.
Who can become a barber?
Generally speaking, anyone can become a barber, whether they are changing careers, beginning their first job after school, or starting a second job to make ends meet. However, you will need to have the drive, qualifications, and experience to be employed in a salon.
In addition to technical expertise, you should also have the personal skills — including good communication, listening abilities and time management — that are required to progress in this competitive and rewarding industry.
How do I qualify as a barber?
The minimal requirement to become a trained barber is a Level 2 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in Barbering approved by the Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT). This qualification can be achieved through two primary methods:
With an apprenticeship
Apprenticeships in barbering can take anywhere from one to two years and are normally geared toward students between the ages of 16 and 18.
An apprentice in England is required by law to spend 20% of their paid time “off the job.” This includes necessary training to develop the skills required for full-time work. Some salons will give in-house training, while others may collaborate with schools, universities, and other external providers.
With a private course
Private classes, if you can afford them, can be more convenient and speedier than an apprenticeship.
Private training normally costs between £2,000 and £6,000. However, low-income persons can benefit from reduced tuition fees, for example by participating in this programme from the Learning Curve, which is eligible for government funding.
How do I find a job as a barber?
Now that you’ve completed all the necessary training, the exciting part can begin: making your way up in the barbering world and starting your professional career. There are two main types of employment: freelance work and being hired as a permanent member of staff in a barbershop.
Freelance work will involve either going to clients’ homes or renting a chair in an existing salon. As you are essentially running your own business, you will be responsible for your own clients, equipment, and income. Additionally, you will have to pay your own income taxes, and contribute to national insurance.
You will also need to get your own insurance in place to protect yourself financially in the case of an accident, which happens more often than you may think. As Salon Gold reminds practitioners: “whether you are a freelance or mobile barber, or renting a chair in a barbers shop, […] uninsured stylists face risks. Without insurance protection, a compensation claim for a cut ear for example could cost thousands and you would be left to foot the bill.”
Freelancing requires discipline and planning, but it pays off in spades. All decisions regarding pricing, availability and services are entirely up to you, giving you more control over your work than direct employment in a barbershop might.
Employment in a salon
It’s true that many barbers work on a freelance basis, but it’s helpful to get some crucial experience (and clients) under your belt at a barbershop first, so the second option is to seek employment directly with a business.
To do so, the London School of Barbering advises to create a killer CV, then “walk into a barbershop/salon and meet the owner and employers face to face. This gives you a chance to sell yourself more and will give shop owners the opportunity to see you in action.”
If you are invited for an interview, the salon will want to see you demonstrate your skills and have you perform a trade test, an actual treatment on a model (or models). This can be a family member or a friend, or someone the salon has set up an appointment for you to work on.
In the trade test, you may be asked to perform any number of different techniques, such as a scissor-over comb, a hot towel treatment, or a semi-permanent colour. Don’t think of the test as merely a haircut; instead, embrace it as a platform from which you may demonstrate your experience, charisma, and enthusiasm for the role.
Barbering is a dynamic field of work with a constant stream of new techniques and trends to keep up with. You can expand your knowledge and gain insights from other experts by exploring blogs, workshops and seminars. This can help you build your professional network and improve your customer experience, and in time, you may even consider starting your own business. We wish you the very best of luck with your journey.