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How much do hair stylists make? The salon compensation structures survey

From commission to salary, hourly, tips, and bonuses, we found out how salon and spa professionals get paid.
By Kayle Yanez | May 11, 2023
How much do hair stylists make? The salon compensation structures survey

There’s a good chance that if you’re here, you’re somewhere in the process of launching your own salon or spa business. If so, congrats! You’re in the right place.

One of the hardest parts of starting up a beauty and wellness business is determining the best way to pay your staff. How do most hairstylists get paid? What is the most common salon commission structure? How much do estheticians make? The list of questions could go on forever.

We get it. We did plenty of digging into these questions ourselves only to discover that there is painfully little information out there on the topic.

Seriously, there’s almost no data. It’s insane. That’s why we decided to find out for ourselves.

In an effort to provide beauty and wellness professionals with valuable insights about current industry trends on compensation, we conducted our own comprehensive beauty and wellness compensation study.

We surveyed hundreds of owners, managers, and staff across the United States and Canada to determine the most common compensation models, how payments and tips are handled, which commission structures are the most popular, and much more.

Want to find out how real salon and spa owners are compensating their staff? Check out the results of our survey below to see what pay models they're actually using most (and how well those methods actually motivate people to perform)!

About the Salon and Spa Compensation Survey

Data points are organized into sections that cover key findings like the most common spa and salon compensation models, priorities of employers and staff, additional relevant trends and demographics of survey respondents.

Top Salon and Spa Payroll Models

The four compensation models reported by respondents in this survey are:

  • Commission: Compensation based on a percentage of sales or the quantity of services provided

  • Hourly: Compensation based on a flat hourly rate and multiplied by number of hours worked

  • Salary: Fixed payment paid monthly or bi-weekly, based on a total annual amount

  • Booth Rental / Suite Rental: Staff pays a weekly or monthly flat rate out of their earnings to use the a space in an established business or property

The Most Common Salon and Spa Compensation Models

The majority of respondents reported that they use or are paid with a commission model. Hourly pay is second most common model.

  • Fifty-eight percent (58%) of respondents reported that they paid or received income via commission

  • Fifty percent (50%) of respondents reported that they paid or received income via a flat hourly rate

  • Twenty-four percent (24%) of respondents reported that they paid or received a salary via a fixed payment paid monthly or bi-weekly.

  • Eleven percent (11%) of respondents reported that they paid or received income via booth rental or suite rental

Payroll for Owners and Managers

Owners and managers were asked which compensation model or models they use in their businesses.

  • Seventy-five percent (75%) of owners and managers reported that they paid at least a portion of their staff via commission

  • Sixty-nine percent (69%) of owners and managers reported that they paid at least a portion of their staff via hourly rate

  • Twenty-five percent (25%) of owners and managers reported that they paid at least a portion of their staff via salary, paid monthly or bi-weekly

  • Seventeen percent (17%) of owners and managers reported that they receive payment from staff via booth rental or suite rental

Payroll for Salon and Spa Staff Members

Staff members were asked what the primary way is in which they are paid.

  • Forty-Two percent (42%) of respondents reported that they are paid via commission

  • Thirty percent (30%) of respondents reported that they are paid via hourly rate

  • Twenty-four percent (24%) of respondents reported that they are paid via salary, paid monthly or bi-weekly

  • Four percent (4%) of respondents reported that they pay booth rental or suite rental

Tips and Gratuity in the Health and Beauty Industry

Cash remains the most accepted tipping method in the industry, followed by credit cards, and apps like Venmo.

  • Ninety-seven percent (97%) of respondents reported that they accept tips via cash

  • Eighty-seven percent (87%) of respondents reported that they accept tips via credit card

  • Forty-five percent (45%) of respondents reported that they accept tips via Venmo

  • Twenty-eight percent (28%) of respondents reported that they accept tips via Cash App

  • Twenty-four percent (24%) of respondents reported that they accept tips via Paypal

  • Seven (7%) of respondents reported that they accept tips via other transaction methods

Cash Tips for Salons and Spas

Survey participants were asked when staff receive their cash tips.

  • Ninety percent (90%) of respondents reported that staff receive cash tips immediately / same day

  • Ten percent (10%) of respondents reported that staff receive cash tips in their next paycheck

Credit Card Tips for Salons and Spas

Survey participants were asked when staff receive their credit card tips.

  • Thirty percent (30%) of respondents reported that staff receive credit card tips immediately / same day

  • Seventy percent (70%) of respondents reported that staff receive credit card tips in their next paycheck

Health and Beauty Industry Bonuses

Performance-based bonuses are mostly paid to service providers and sometimes to managers or other admin staff.

  • Fifty-four percent (54%) of owners and managers reported that they offer performance-based bonuses to their employees

  • Twenty-five percent (25%) of staff reported that they are offered performance-based bonuses by their employer

Spa and Salon Positions that are Paid Bonuses

  • Ninety-one percent (91%) of owners and managers reported that they pay bonuses to service providers

  • Fifty-four percent (54%) of owners and managers reported that they pay bonuses to managers

  • Fifty-two percent (52%) of owners and managers reported that they pay bonuses to receptionists and front desk staff

  • Twenty-three percent (23%) of owners and managers reported that they pay bonuses to assistants

Compensation Satisfaction in Salons and Spas

Owners, managers, and staff members were asked about their overall happiness with the form of compensation they offer and receive.

  • Seventy-five percent (75%) of owners and managers reported being happy or very happy with their compensation model

  • Eighty-five percent (85%) of staff members reported being happy or very happy with their compensation model

  • Zero percent (0%) of owners, managers, and staff members reported being very unhappy with their compensation model

Owners and Managers

  • Zero percent (0%) of owners and managers reported they are very unhappy about their compensation model

  • Five percent (5%) of owners and managers reported they are unhappy with their compensation model

  • Twenty percent (20%) of owners and managers reported they feel neutral about their compensation model

  • Forty-four percent (44%) of owners and managers reported they are happy with their compensation model

  • Thirty-one percent (31%) of owners and managers reported they are very happy with their compensation model

Staff Members

  • Zero percent (0%) of staff members reported they are very unhappy about their compensation model

  • Three percent (3%) of staff members reported they are unhappy about their compensation model

  • Twelve percent (12%) of staff members reported they feel neutral about their compensation model

  • Forty-two percent (42%) of staff members reported they are happy with their compensation model

  • Forty-three percent (43%) of staff members reported they are very happy with their compensation model

Satisfaction Levels by Model

Overall, staff reported being slightly more satisfied with their compensation model than owners and managers, with the exception of booth/suite rental.

Commission

  • Sixty-nine (69%) of owners and managers are satisfied with the commission model

  • Eighty-eight (88%) of staff members are satisfied with commission as compensation

Hourly

  • Sixty-eight (68%) of owners and managers are satisfied with paying staff hourly

  • Eighty-seven (87%) of staff members are satisfied with being paid hourly

Salary

  • Eighty (80%) of owners and managers are satisfied with paying staff a salary

  • Eighty-seven (87%) of staff members are satisfied with being compensated with a salary

Booth/Suite Rental

  • Seventy-one (71%) of owners and managers are satisfied with booth or suite rental

  • Fifty (50%) of staff members are satisfied with the booth rental structure

Staff Motivation by Pay Structure

Staff members were asked if they felt motivated by their pay structure. Surprisingly, the results do not totally align with reported satisfaction levels.

The salary pay structure made staff members feel the most motivated, followed closely by booth/suite rental.

Commission was revealed to be the least motivating structure according to respondents.

This finding is somewhat unexpected due to the nature of the commission model, which allows staff to increase their earnings through more work and sales.

Commission

  • Forty-six percent (46%) of staff members reported that they feel motivated by being paid with a commission model

  • Forty-four percent (44%) of staff members reported that they feel neutral about being paid with a commission model

  • Ten percent (10%) of staff members reported that they do not feel motivated by being paid with a commission model

Hourly

  • Sixty percent (60%) of staff members reported that they feel motivated by being paid with an hourly model

  • Thirty percent (30%) of staff members reported that they feel neutral about being paid with an hourly model

  • Ten percent (10%) of staff members reported that they do not feel motivated by being paid with an hourly model

Booth/Suite Rental

  • Seventy-five percent (75%) of staff members reported that they feel motivated by their booth/suite rental model

  • Twenty-five percent (25%) of staff members reported that they feel neutral about their booth/suite rental model

Salary

  • Seventy-nine percent (79%) of staff members reported that they feel motivated by being paid with a salary model

  • Thirteen (13%) of staff members reported that they feel neutral about being paid with a salary model

  • Eight (8%) of staff members reported that they do not feel motivated by being paid with a salary model

Top Priorities of Spa and Salon Professionals

Owners, managers, and staff members were asked to choose their top priorities. The results show alignment between the two groups.

Owners and Managers

  • Forty percent (40%) of owners and managers reported that the stability of the business is their top priority

  • Thirty-seven percent (37%) of owners and managers reported that growing the business is their top priority

  • Twenty-three percent (23%) of owners and managers reported that maximizing profits is their top priority

Staff Members

Stability is the top priority reported by both owners/managers and staff in the beauty and wellness industry. This result is understandable and somewhat expected after the uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdowns that kept many wellness and personal care businesses closed for extended periods.

  • Thirty-nine percent (39%) of staff members reported that stable income is their top priority

  • Thirty-eight percent (38%) of staff members reported that maximizing earnings is their top priority

  • Twenty-two percent (22%) of staff members reported that maintaining flexible work hours is their top priority

Demographics

Services Offered

The beauty and wellness industry is comprised of businesses that provide a variety of services, respondents reported offering the services below.

  • Fifty-eight percent (58%) of respondents reported they offer hair styling services

  • Forty-six percent (46%) of respondents reported they offer waxing or threading services

  • Forty-six percent (46%) of respondents reported they offer facials or skincare services

  • Thirty-four percent (34%) of respondents reported they offer massage services

  • Thirty-two percent (32%) of respondents reported they offer barbering services

  • Thirty-two percent (32%) of respondents reported they offer makeup services

  • Thirty-two percent (32%) of respondents reported they offer lash services

  • Thirty-one percent (31%) of respondents reported they offer nail services

  • Nine (9%) of respondents reported they offer medical services

  • Eight (8%) of respondents reported they offer tattoo services

  • Eight (8%) of respondents reported they offer airbrushing services

  • Five (5%) of respondents reported they offer acupuncture services

  • Two (2%) of respondents reported they offer other services

Roles

Business owners and service providers made up the majority of the survey respondents with managers and assistants representing under 20%.

  • Owners represented thirty-six percent (36%) of respondents

  • Service providers represented forty-three percent (43%) of respondents

  • Front desk staff represented ten percent (10%) of respondents

  • Managers represented nine percent (9%) of respondents

  • Assistants represented two percent (2%) of respondents

Career Length

Most survey respondents have worked in the industry for five to ten years, followed closely by those with two to five years of experience.

  • Twelve percent (12%) of respondents reported they have been working in their career for less than two years

  • Twenty-six percent (26%) of respondents reported they have been working in their career for two-to-five years

  • Twenty-seven percent (27%) of respondents reported they have been working in their career for five-to-ten years

  • Fifteen percent (15%) of respondents reported they have been working in their career for ten-to-fifteen years

  • Twenty percent (20%) of respondents reported they have been working in their career for more than fifteen years

Locations

Survey respondents are primarily located in the United States. The majority are from California, New York, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

  • Ninety-two percent (92%) of respondents are located in the United States

  • Eight percent (8%) of respondents are located in Canada

Participant Percentage by U.S. State (Top 12)

  • Thirty-three percent (33%) of respondents are located in California

  • Eleven percent (11%) of respondents are located in New York

  • Seven percent (7%) of respondents are located in Florida

  • Five percent (5%) of respondents are located in Georgia

  • Five percent (5%) of respondents are located in Texas

  • Four percent (4%) of respondents are located in Massachusetts

  • Three percent (3%) of respondents are located in Montana

  • Three percent (3%) of respondents are located in Utah

  • Two percent (2%) of respondents are located in Illinois

  • Two percent (2%) of respondents are located in Oregon

  • Two percent (2%) of respondents are located in Maine

  • Two percent (2%) of respondents are located in Colorado

Race, Gender, and Age

Most survey respondents are white, Black, and Hispanic or Latino/Latinx. Seventy-five percent of respondents identify as female, while 46% are between ages 20-39.

Gender

  • Seventy-five percent (75%) of respondents reported that they identify as female

  • Twenty-four (24%) of respondents reported that they identify as male

  • One percent (1%) of respondents reported that they identify as non-binary

Age

  • One percent (1%) of respondents reported that they are under 20 years of age

  • Thirty-five percent (35%) of respondents reported that they are 20-29 years of age

  • Thirty-one percent (31%) of respondents reported that they are 30-39 years of age

  • Twenty percent (20%) of respondents reported that they are 40-49 years of age

  • Thirteen percent (13%) of respondents reported that they are 50 or more years of age

Race

  • Sixty-three percent (63%) of respondents reported that they are white/Caucasian

  • Fourteen percent (14%) of respondents reported that they are Black/African-American

  • Eight percent (8%) of respondents reported that they are Hispanic/Latino/Latinx

  • Three percent (3%) of respondents reported that they are Native American/Alaskan Native

  • Three percent (3%) of respondents reported that they are Asian

  • One percent (1%) of respondents reported that they are Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander

  • Five percent (5%) of respondents reported that they would prefer not to state their ethnic or racial identity

  • Three percent (3%) of respondents did not select a response

Impact of COVID-19

Impact of COVID-19 on Staff

Almost half of respondents reported that they did not work during the majority of the COVID-19 shutdowns during 2020 and 2021, but many were able to collect unemployment.

Ability to Work

  • Twelve percent (12%) of respondents worked from home or another personal space

  • Twenty-five percent (25%) of respondents continued working from the business / their regular workspace

  • Twenty-five percent (25%) of respondents continued working from the business / their regular workspace

  • Sixteen percent (16%) of respondents worked at a temporary job outside of beauty and wellness

  • Forty-seven percent (47%) of respondents did not work during the majority of the COVID-19 shutdowns

Ability to Collect Unemployment

  • Seventy-seven percent (77%) of respondents collected unemployment during the COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020 and 2021

  • Twenty-three percent (23%) of respondents were unable to collect unemployment during 2020 and 2021

Changes to Workplace and Location

  • Twenty-eight percent (28%) of respondents changed workplaces during 2020 and 2021

  • Ten percent (10%) of respondents moved to a new city or area during 2020 and 2021

  • Seven percent (7%) of respondents changed location and workplace during 2020 and 2021

  • Fifty-five percent (55%) of respondents made no changes during 2020 and 2021

Impact of COVID-19 on Employers

Participants were asked if the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to change the compensation model they use to pay their staff members

  • Thirty-nine percent (39%) of employers reported that they were forced to change their compensation model due to COVID-19

  • Sixty-one percent (61%) of employers reported that they were not forced to change their compensation model due to COVID-19

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