grow your salon, mobile hair salon, salon tips

The Ultimate Guide on How to Start a Mobile Hair Salon

Mobile hair stylist fixing a client’s hair in a hair salon

The hair salon industry has undergone a complete paradigm shift in the last two years (due to you-know-what). Numerous hair stylists have gone completely mobile or are, at least, opting for a salon on wheels as a side hustle.

This adjustment was propagated by the changing lifestyles of customers. Post pandemic, people have adapted to staying at home and having essential goods and services delivered to their doorstep. Now whether you call this ‘being lazy’ or ‘time-savvy’, it seems that this fad of mobile hair salons is here to stay.

If you are a salon owner or a hair stylist looking to open a mobile hairdressing salon, you have come to the right place. Our blog explores the various stages involved in the process and is tailored for you!

Here are the steps to start your mobile hair salon business:

Step 1: Planning your mobile hair salon
Step 2: Acquiring your license and registration
Step 3: Investing in your venture
Step 4: Planning for operations
Step 5: Getting the word out 
Conclusion: You are ready to roll 

Just dive right in!

Caution! Reading advised 

We just wanted to make sure you read our background information first 😁. So, before jumping into the planning, let us discuss the details of such an establishment.

A mobile hair salon is a setup where the traditional physical store is eschewed. Instead, the hairdresser(s) commutes to the client’s home or a particular locality.

There is one standout advantage for the hairdresser, that this setup can function as an addition to their regular business. But also noteworthy is that arranging your schedule such that you smoothly switch between your mobile option and traditional salon can be tricky. Luckily, we have a key ingredient mentioned in this blog that will help.

Happy reading!

Step 1:  Getting started with planning

Planning and documentation to open a mobile hair salon

The main aspects of planning for your mobile hair salon include deciding on your business model and finalizing your details for working.

A business model essentially means the company’s plan to gain profits. You pen down the answers to questions such as:

  • What services do you plan to offer?
  • Which area or locality will work best for you?
  • What are your financial goals?

Once you have the answer to these questions, we move on to the next part- choosing a business model. There are 3 common types of business models for you to choose from –

1. Completely mobile

If you are just starting out in the industry and have planned to set up a completely mobile workspace, this model is for you. 

Here you, i.e., the hairdresser operate out of a salon on wheels, usually, an RV remodeled to serve clients inside. The biggest advantage is that you will not have to incur any property rental charges. Although there remains the need to acquire and maintain the permits for mobile business.

2. Visiting clients at home

This is a different way of operating a mobile hair salon but it has been around for decades. Some clients prefer to get their hair done from the comfort of their homes and so the hairdresser commutes with a full hair salon kit.

An added advantage to this model is that any expenses for utilities required (water, electricity, etc.) will be borne by the customer. You will only have to bear the expenses for travel and the necessary equipment. 

3. Hybrid model 

This model might be preferable for you if you already operate a traditional hair salon and are looking to boost your revenue. Here, you would give your customers the flexibility to choose between visiting your salon for an appointment, or you visiting their home for an appointment.

A great advantage this model offers is widening your customer base and boosting profitability, compared to a traditional hair salon.

However, managing your schedule with both in-salon and at-home appointments can turn into a real headache. But don’t worry, this key ingredient (mentioned below) will come to your rescue!

Use a hair salon scheduling software, such as Appointy, to automate your booking process. It allows customers to book appointments with you round the clock and manages your appointment calendar, so you don’t have to!

Step 2: Acquiring your license and registration

Hair stylist talking to a customer before hair cut

Before starting any business, one must obtain the necessary license and permits as per state guidelines, to avoid any issues later. Any traveling hair stylist usually requires a cosmetology license. You will require an additional Employee Identification Number (EIN) that recognizes your business and allows you to pay taxes. 

In some states, an additional requirement for mobile hair stylists is relevant certification, to operate independently. And in most states, traveling hair salons require a separate vehicle permit as well, so be sure to check that out as well if you’re planning to open a fully mobile salon.

We advise you to research these norms from your state website and then apply for all the licenses.

Step 3: Investing in your venture

Once you are equipped with the necessary documentation, you can finalize the vehicle for your mobile salon. Of course, it is not a necessary step to become a mobile hairdresser, feel free to jump to the next step if it’s not relevant to your business model. 

A few options to operate your fully mobile hair salon are: 

  • Buying a brand new or second-hand RV 
    You can consider this an investment into your business equipment, just like your salon chair or a mirror. This mobile salon van (or the vehicle of your choice) will serve as a clean slate, that you can remodel to your liking.
  • Renting a trailer or RV 
    Many companies lease out such vehicles for mobile businesses, which is a cheaper alternative to buying when starting out. There are options out there to rent a fully furnished mobile hair salon as well!

Once you have finalized your vehicle, you can proceed to pick out the equipment you will require in your mobile salon. A few common items include:

  • Chair (if you’re furnishing your mobile salon from scratch)
  • Mini washbasin
  • Mirrors
  • Hair scissors
  • Combs
  • Spray bottles
  • Blow dryers 

Of course, the rest of the equipment for your portable salon will completely depend on the mobile hair services you plan on offering and the brands of your choice.

Decorate the small space 

Mobile hair salon equipment such as combs, spray bottle, etc.

While not a mainstream expense, the interior decor of your salon is definitely an important one. Your mobile salon will be the place you will bring your customers to, so make sure you jazz it up! 

Here is a tentative plan of action for you:

  • First and foremost, you will need to decide on a layout for your salon. 
  • Next, while setting up, think about where the basic furniture such as your chair, the vanity, or the mirror will go.
  • A quick tip here is to make sure you do not go overboard and make the small space feel crowded.
  • And lastly, focus on the lighting and other small decors(perhaps a plant or a picture) to bring the place together

If you want more in-depth information on decoration, you can check our blog: 8 ideas to decorate small salon spaces.

Step 4: Planning for operations

While your salon may be mobile, you’re not completely off the hook when it comes to managing various important aspects for it to run smoothly. 

Hairdresser blowdrying customer’s hair

1. Ensure you insure

Right off the bat, you need to ensure your vehicle’s protection. Surely you’ve invested a sizable chunk of your money into your transportation vehicle that doubles as your salon unit. Such a valuable asset must be insured, so you’re safeguarded against any unforeseen circumstances. 

The costs depend on your vehicle and your state, but plenty of options are available starting at nominal annual fees. Just make sure you check the fine print to ensure proper coverage for your vehicle. 

2. Everything comes at a price

Let us talk about a few common costs associated with starting your mobile hair salon business:

  1. Vehicle: While completely optional, an RV can be leased yearly or bought second-hand and refurbished to fit your salon needs. The latter can go for as cheap as $6,000 but the remodel costs can vary depending on your plan.
  2. Equipment costs: Basic equipment such as hair dryers or coloring stations can greatly add up your costs. And so, depending on the brand, your costs can range from $7,000 to $20,000. 
  3. Business license and insurance costs: While both of these depend on your state and whether or not you hire a lawyer, the cost of registering a business is a minimum of $50 and upwards. And insurance usually ranges from $500 to $2,000.
  4. Business cards and signage: We’ll elaborate on this in marketing, but business cards and any banners can cost you around $50. 
  5. Marketing costs: Another optional cost, but greatly beneficial if invested in. The marketing expenses range to be around $200-$300 and boost awareness among customers to draw them in.

Considering all the above expenses, the minimum cost to start a mobile hair salon amounts to about $7500. 

3. Time to earn

Enough talk about spending money, now let us talk about potential earnings. But before setting your prices independently, it would be wise to check out your existing salon competitor’s pricing. This way, you get a fair idea of current market rates and also what your customers are willing to pay. 

Next, compute your costs to run your business i.e., include the cost of utilities, gas, etc. in your startup costs. This is an amount you wish to break even in the first year. 

Now with these figures in mind, pull up your list of services from Step 1, and set prices such that you earn a profit with good enough margins and also stay within customer paying capabilities. Of course, you can mark up your prices to offer any opening discounts as well, it all depends on you!

If you want a more detailed blog that talks about the nitty-gritty of planning your prices, check out our Salon Pricing Guide.

Step 5: Get the word out

Person distributing flyers to advertise mobile hair salon

With the planning done, you’re all set to start marketing and bringing in new customers. It is a rather important part of opening a new business and we even recommended setting aside a certain budget for your marketing needs.

Our reasoning is that if you do not make people aware of your business, how will they come to visit you? And thus, you gotta market. The first step in marketing is working on your branding guide to set you apart from your competition. This will include-

  • Your brand values 
  • Any logo, packaging, and colors 
  • Business cards and signage 
  • Your USP

Once you have these base materials ready, you are all set to market! 

These days, thanks to the internet, many marketing channels such as Instagram, Facebook, or Tiktok have opened up, where you can create your business account for free. And unless you plan on hiring a team, posting on these social media channels will remain free.

Additionally, you can set yourself up for success by scoping potential clients and advertising directly to them. With a mobile salon, you have the advantage of catering to people unable to visit your salon such as nursing homes or any other such communities. So here you can:

  • Distribute flyers
  • Put up posters around promising areas
  • Set up promotional offers
  • Give your new customers a referral code (for additional discounts)

Apart from these conventional methods of marketing, you can also explore and see what works for you. For example, if your community is actively conducting events, you could join them as a speaker or put up banners there. The possibilities are endless, you just have to see what works for you!  

You can also refer to this article where Rubie Williams talks about her experience running a mobile hair salon.   

And you’re ready to roll!

While opening a mobile hair business may seem deceptively simple, as you saw, there’s a fair bit of effort and back work that goes into it. 

We hope you found our blog to be an informative guide on how to start a mobile hair salon. When you have a proper framework like this backing your business, your business will surely hit the ground running. 

We wish you the very best in starting your new venture!

About Appointy

We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, and resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day. 

If you have any thoughts on this blog or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below. 

We love a good talk!