“I would never pay that much for a haircut!” exclaims the high-powered lawyer sitting next to me at the party.
I shrug and ask him,“How much do you charge?” I knew it was probably around $300 or $400 an hour.
He looks at me, incredulous,“That’s different."
I can see the wheels in his head are searching for the right answer, "I guess it isn’t.”
In the United States we spend a lot of time talking about money, but we get uncomfortable when the conversation is about us. We attach our own self-worth and value to how much money we make or how much we have, when our real value as a human being is immeasurable. My work is perhaps more valuable at this point in my career because I am more in demand and I have more experience, but the dollar signs attached to it are arbitrary. It’s what I want to get paid for a haircut and the value I attach to my time. However, I am no less valuable a person than I was as an apprentice charging $15 for a haircut.
It’s much easier to assign value to inanimate objects like a bottle of shampoo, a price dictated dictated by its manufacturer, but when it comes to labor, value becomes more subjective. Hairdressers even size each other up by the price of their haircuts as if there’s a right or a wrong way to price yourself, or that geographical considerations aren’t a thing. Someone charging $200 in Manhattan probably isn’t going to move back to their small, rural hometown in Nebraska and demand the same. More power to them if they do.
I always say that my clients aren’t paying me for what I do, they're paying me for what I know. With 26 years of experience under my belt, that’s a lot of blood, sweat, and yes, even tears, learning to make it look effortless, learning to give them hair that is beautiful and healthy, hair that makes them feel sexy, makes them walk with more spring in their step.
Value can’t be measured simply in money either. I worked at a salon in Atlanta where the team wasn't the highest paid in the city, but they were extremely loyal to the salon owner and the rest of the team. There was value in the owner’s commitment to the success of his team through skill development, marketing, and a constant drive for overall betterment.
Research shows that the more money we make, the more skittish we get talking about it, and the more reluctant we are to raise our prices. We become almost embarrassed about our own success. I am guilty. The little voice in my head says that I’m already charging a lot, I can’t possibly ask for more, even though I’m booked out nearly two months in advance, and all of my clients are wildly successful people who regularly get raises. Money somehow equals recognition too. Am I good enough for more money? I want to receive recognition for my work, but I am uncomfortable asking for it and I’m weirdly uncomfortable when I get it. As if I’m somehow undeserving, that I’m a fraud. Or maybe I’m afraid someone is going to come along and call me out. “Ha! You aren’t worth THAT much!” It’s all bullshit. I am worthy of success. I am valuable. And in more ways than just the price of my haircut or the experience behind it.
When it comes to pricing your services, we are probably actually doing our business a disservice by not charging more, and we are certainly doing a disservice to others in our industry. We need to lift each other up, support each other, value each other. Perception is truth. We assume that people who charge more are better, true or not. If you don’t regularly increase your prices, the perception is that the value of your time and your services is decreasing over time and that you are perhaps the cheap alternative. You may get more business, but is working harder what you really want?
I hate talking about money with my clients as much as you probably do, but it’s a conversation that usually only happens once a year when prices go up, or if there’s a new client. With my regular clients they never question the value of the price increase, they just want to know how much, and they almost never leave me over it. I know that they want me to be successful. I know that they like going to someone who is perceived in that way. And I always make sure they’re getting the best of me for their money, every time.