How to Make Extra Money as a Cosmetologist

The Financial Reality Of Being A Hairstylist

Becoming a hairstylist is a very exciting and diversified career choice and while it can give you a tremendous amount of artistic freedom, it does not always result in financial wellbeing. The average stylist in the United States earns between $40-50 thousand dollars a year which is an average of $4,000 a month.
There are expenses and overhead costs that need to be taken into account, however, and there are exceptions where some stylists earn way and beyond this. Generally, they are in exclusive areas such as Beverly Hills, Manhattan, etc. where they can charge a substantial amount more per service, however, this is traded off for much higher costs of rents and living. 

As we are all aware, cosmetology school is not cheap with the average cost to become a licensed cosmetologist ranging anywhere between $20,000-$35,000. The general rule of thumb thereafter is to enlist as an apprentice with minimal pay for 12-24 months to become more efficient in the industry. The challenge, therefore, is to find a solution that allows you to create extra revenue wherever possible and the obvious is to perfect extra skill sets such as partaking in color courses, cutting techniques, styling, and the like.


The Hair Extensions Opportunity

Studies show that one of the quickest money producers is to become proficient in and offer hair extensions in the salon. Surprisingly over 70% of cosmetologists do not offer this extra service. Stylist and salons that add extension services see an average increase of at least $23,000 per year, now giving you the stylist a MUCH more lucrative return on your investment. Therefore the objective of this report is to give you a detailed description of just how easy, enjoyable, and rewarding both financially and emotionally this arena can be. 

As with any new technique, skill is going to take both practice and dedication and hair extensions are no exception. The beauty however is that, with today’s modern systems, they are relatively easy to become well versed in particularly if you have the right company providing the education.



The two systems that are by far the most popular is I-tip and Tape extensions. So you need to look for a company that will be offering you only the best quality products, giving you the confidence that the hair will always be premium quality, ensuring your clients enjoy long-lasting, reusable, luxurious hair. In addition, it should also offer the best education available, so coupled together you are in good hands to maximize this opportunity.

The goal has always been and always will be Beauty, Confidence, and Happiness, and if you offer an excellent service to your guests, you will be rewarded in so many different ways. If your client looks good, they automatically feel good therefore giving you the confidence to achieve your ongoing goals.

Where Does The Money Come From?

When it comes to pricing, it is important to keep a few things in mind. Your time and expertise are valuable, your years of experience and location will play a factor in how much you charge however following a few simple guidelines will assist you in maximizing profitability. When quoting your price always keep in mind that the majority of the revenue will come from the maintenance and always remember that the more affordable your initial install is the more clients will be able to afford it.   



Typically I-tips start at 20” or longer and each bundle consists of 25 individual tips and the Tape extensions should only come with 10 strips (5 sandwiches) thus giving you a wider palette choice as opposed to limiting your client to only two colors. In each case, the general rule is 4-5 bundles of both I-tip & Tape. Prices can vary with an average price per bundle for I-tip being anywhere between $80-100 per bundle and Tape anywhere from $90-120 as Tape is usually slightly heavier in weight.

The Importance Of Hair Quality

One of the most important aspects to remember is that quality should never be compromised so when sourcing an extension supplier be prepared to pay a little extra for elite quality. One point of view is to not be fooled with glib marketing as the most important requirement when looking for extensions is to ensure that they are 100% full cuticle. This ensures that the cuticle is intact which not only gives longevity to the extensions themselves but makes them far more versatile as they can generally hold color, moisture and do not become dry or start matting. To guarantee that you prevent these concerns all the hair needs to be lying in the same direction and only a limited amount of companies can offer this guarantee.


Another advantage would be to source an extension supplier that does the minimal amount of chemical processing to the hair. Chemicals will ultimately strip/damage the cuticle which will also give a limited lifespan of the extensions with performance falling off rapidly resulting in disgruntled guests.
It is an established fact that most of the hair extensions in the USA come from India (one of the major sources of hair extensions worldwide) but Indian natural hair being black requires a lot of bleaching to lighten. Irrespective of how gentle the bleaching process is it will still compromise the integrity of the hair with most extensions, therefore, lasting 4-6 months.
With the correct choice of supplier, the extensions can and should (with the correct maintenance) last anywhere from 12-24 months that is why your initial research is so important. While it might be difficult to locate a hair supplier that offers a warranty on the hair this is the ultimate find, as any company that is prepared to offer a warranty on their hair is a clear indicator that they have confidence in their product. Now while some suppliers will offer you a warranty this is normally at an added expense and you have to ask yourself why? This added expense ranges from 15-20% of the initial cost so be cautious because now when you go to check out you will see that your cost for the extensions has gone up dramatically which reduces your bottom line.



While a supplier that offers a warranty at no extra expense is a rare find, we suggest you take the time to diligently research your supplier because truth be told, you are creating a form of partnership with this supplier and you are looking for a long term relationship. Bear in mind, that an unconditional warranty does not exist in the industry and there will be some limitations such as typically chemical treatments or coloring will void most warranties, which is understandable, considering stylists of all levels of expertise will be installing these extensions. So, the time you put into your research now to find the “ultimate supplier” will pay huge dividends down the road and ensure you will have ongoing success with satisfied clients.

Pricing Strategies

We have already established that good quality extensions will cost you an average of $90 per bundle for I-tip and $100 per bundle for Tape and typically a standard full head will require 4-5 bundles of each. A good indicator would be one bundle representing one row so a full head of I-tip should cost you anywhere between $360-450 and Tape costing $400-500. NEVER pay for the extensions out of your pocket directly, ALWAYS ensure your clients’ deposit covers the cost of the hair. Taking our recommendation above we suggest you should price to be comparable to your location but even then do not overcharge for the installation. Ideally, you should charge 75-100% mark up with the top end being $900 for I-tip and $1,000 for a full head of Tape taking into consideration that the I-tip installation (depending on your skillset) takes between 60-90 minutes and Tape 40-60 minutes. However, never rush your installation and always make sure that you prepare your station in advance of your client’s arrival. 

So now that you have doubled your investment it is advisable to offer a complimentary wash and blow out a day or two after the installation for a variety of reasons: 


  • Very few installations are perfect on the first round and more often than not your client would like a few extensions moved as they adjust to the feel.
  • This will give your client the opportunity to see how easy it is to handle them while washing and blow-drying and you can give them added instruction/tips such as never blow-dry the hair in an upside-down position, etc. as during the installation process it is a lot for them to take in during the initial fitting.
  • It will also reassure your client that you are there for them should they need you and establish a long-term relationship, which will give them the confidence to refer you to friends and colleagues.

The Creative Part Of Hair Artistry

As with any business practice, the more clients you attend to the more you will grow in confidence and down the road, once you are well versed in this art, not only will your installation time be reduced but you will have fun by becoming a little riskier in your approach. This will open up a whole new world of creative thinking. You will have the opportunity to move with existing trends or create new ones exclusive to your signature style.
As stated above if your extension supplier has an excellent quality, you will find yourself creating incredibly exciting new color trends and be bold enough to start introducing vivid colors to clients who otherwise would have been concerned about putting their own natural hair through this process.
A note to consider that when doing color on any extensions it is always advisable to always start with a lighter shade on the spectrum and deposit color rather than starting with a darker shade and trying to lift.
The lighter shades have already gone through their lifting process and if it is 100% cuticle hair then depositing the color you will be sure to have very little fading. In true form, the color molecular will be trapped in the cuticle, such as with naturally growing hair giving longer-lasting results.

On the contrary, when starting with a darker shade and trying to lift it you are going back to the old added problem by using bleach and this will ultimately strip or tear the cuticle thus reducing the hair life expectancy.
So why take the risk when the factory has already done all the work for you if the hair is good quality? Furthermore, extensions can be used not only for adding length and volume but replace the harsh effects of chemicals by using them for high lighting and low lighting.

The Hair Maintenance

All clients that have extensions installed will need to return regularly to their original stylist for what we refer to as a touch-up or move up and this is the real “meat on the bone”. The ideal time frame is to coordinate this service with their regular coloring which typically is every 4-6 weeks. While the guest is in the chair having their color processed it gives you the opportunity to do the extension adjustment which in both systems is approximately 45-60 minutes and herein lies how lucrative the extension world can be.

For example, a standard price for an adjustment would range from $100-150 and therefore if a client returned every 4-6 weeks for a fee of $125. Тhis will result in a gross return of $1,500 per year with very little out of pocket expenses so now you will understand the suggestion of making the initial expense more affordable as the maintenance provides an ongoing revenue stream. It is unlikely that any guest that has extensions installed that are well maintained will ever have them removed. So the objective would be to acquire a minimum of one new client per month and before you know it you will have 10-12 new clients in the first year rendering you $15,000-18,000 extra annual revenue.


Additionally, most stylists have reported that once they have achieved a certain level of expertise their clients actually become “a walking talking billboard” on their behalf promoting their work to family and friends and it should be expected that you will receive at least one to two referrals from every good installation (price-dependent). 

Marketing For Hairstylists

From a marketing perspective with your clients’ permission it is always suggested to take a before and after of every installation and as your portfolio grows so will your examples of your work. Social Media is your friend here and a good supplier company will also have marketing tips included in their education. If you have truly put time and dedication into your skillset it will not be long before you start seeing more and more people reviewing your work, which will ultimately result in more clients. Stylists who have dedicated their time to becoming a specialist in hair extensions have found their revenue increase many-fold and they become the salon of choice in their area. 

In conclusion, we hope that this has been informative and the “smart money” says that those that take advantage of this opportunity will become part of an incredibly lucrative sector of the hair industry and will be sure to acquire newfound wealth.