Hairdressing Career Advice From LEAF's Founder: Stephen McManus

Hairdresser in men's hair salon working on client using hairdresser career advice

We are excited to share with you an interview with LEAF Scissors’ founder, Stephen McManus. Keep on reading to get tips for hairdressers to help you excel in your career.

If you’re looking for hands-on video tutorials to improve your technical skills head over to the LEAF academy to get access to our classes. 

Starting From Zero - How Do You Become A Hairdresser?

Being a hairdresser is a technical job and needs an involved level of education, so it’s harder than most people think. To become qualified, you’ll take an NVQ Level 2 or 3. There are two main routes that you can consider taking to complete this:

Hairdressing at College

College will feel a little bit more like school and less like work. You’ll learn the theory in a formal environment. But you won’t totally miss out on the practice. As well as working on real clients, you should also have the opportunity to get work experience. Overall, this route is for those who want to stick to a school environment. And we understand: It can be daunting going straight into the working world.

Hairdressing Apprenticeships

An apprenticeship will give you more insight into the day to day at work. Steve believes that doing an apprenticeship is the best route you can take to become a qualified hairdresser. Whilst you are still exposed to lots of theory, you also gain the customer and team experience which is crucial. This will give you a much more in-depth skill set than college will. Remember, a great hairdresser has hard and soft skills.


“Take your time and really get a feel for what you want to do.”

What Are The Different Career Options in Hairdressing?

One of the amazing things about becoming a qualified hairdresser is that there is a multitude of career options out there. 

The obvious choice is to become a hairstylist and work in a salon, but even with that, there are so many possibilities. You can choose to specialise in cutting, colours or both and learn to build a client base. You can branch into management or even own your own salon.

Is salon work not for you? There is creative or editorial work, as well as jobs in film and TV. A big industry where you’ll also find an abundance of options is the fashion industry, or you could even become a celebrity stylist.

Men's hairdresser using hair cutting techniques on man

How To Gain Exposure As A Hairstylist

Gaining exposure as a stylist has never been easier. Before, the best opportunities were in big cities such as London, Paris and New York, but the internet has brought a spectrum of opportunity. The hair industry is up for grabs for all. 

Social media is your ticket to success; you can upload your best work to create a public portfolio, and network with stylists globally. Your work could fall into the laps of anyone, so it is well worth having an online presence.

What Is The Best Way to Set Up Your Own Salon?

  1. Start with an apprenticeship to build the relevant skills.
  2. Gain real work experience for 2-3 years, preferably getting into a management role.
  3. Take the time to decide to open a salon - you’ve got to really want it.
  4. Find your USP (unique selling point), what do you care about and how will you make a difference?
  5. Choose a great location.
  6. Consider your branding - what’s your business’ style/personality?
  7. Apply for a loan.
  8. Spend time to hire the right people.
  9. Ensure you invest in marketing.

Curious to learn more about setting up your own salon? Keep your eyes peeled for a course we’re working on.

The Advantages of Being a Hairdresser - What Do You Love About The Profession?

“I believe the hairdressing industry is unparalleled to any other industry. It is filled with unique, creative, passionate people with a willingness to wear their heart on their sleeve. The energy created by these people is outstanding. They are very caring and giving and genuinely care about their clients, and boosting people’s self-esteem. I couldn’t be more proud as an industry”.

What Is The Best Tip You’ve Ever Gotten?

“Education is more than teaching someone how to cut hair, you’ll give them a skill set that will provide for them for the rest of their lives”. 

There is a direct correlation between the education you provide and how successful they will be in life, so you should appreciate the opportunity you have to teach someone.

What’s a Tip for Hairdressers That You Wish Everyone Knew About?

“Never stop learning, you’ll never know everything and if you think you do then something has gone wrong. Education is what leads to growth.”

Steve’s top hairdressing tip is to write down one thing you have learned every single day. After a year, you’ll have a collection of learnings, whether big or small, to commemorate your hard work and dedication to your career.

Learn Even More with LEAF

Exciting changes are happening at LEAF, and we’re pleased to be bringing you educational content for hairdressers and barbers. From industry insights to cutting tutorials, we’re releasing an abundance of resources to help you be the best that you can be.

Sign up to the LEAF Academy to get access to expert hairdressing tutorials.


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