Investing in Yourself: A Hair Stylist’s Journey from Home Depot to Creative Fulfillment

Fern the barber shares his best advice for controlling your fear.
Fern the barber @fernthebarber at Paul Mitchell School Costa Mesa.

In this interview, Fern discusses their journey into the hair industry, sharing anecdotes about their origin, transition, and investing in yourself. Born and raised in Orange County, Fern initially worked at Home Depot but sought a change to avoid being stuck in that job. They reflect on a turning point when contemplating a supervisory position in the store, fearing getting trapped in a life they didn’t want. The decision was prompted by a moment at a traffic light, where Fern noticed students from the former Paul Mitchell school, which led them to pursue a career in hairstyling.

Around 2003 or 2004, Fern enrolled in Paul Mitchell school and embarked on a path that eventually led to owning a private studio. While taking on clients, Fern concurrently engaged with the school’s educational endeavors. Their involvement included teaching classes, stage work, and demonstrations, often traveling internationally for events and product launches. Despite the taxing schedule of jetting across the globe and coping with fatigue, Fern’s motivation centers on leaving a legacy for their 10-year-old daughter. With no substantial assets, their name becomes the valuable asset to provide for their child’s future.

In terms of hairstyling, Fern prides themselves on adapting their approach to each client, enjoying the creative freedom given by most clients. They don’t restrict styles by gender, noting the growing trend of blending styles from a gender perspective. While charging the same for both men and women, the fee varies based on the complexity and time required for the cut. This inclusive and adaptable approach aligns with Fern’s appreciation for clients who want to explore diverse styles.

The conversation delves into the challenges of balancing work and family life, a struggle Fern acknowledges. Rather than seeking a one-size-fits-all solution, they emphasize being fully present during the time allocated for each domain. By optimizing the use of time and avoiding distractions, Fern maximizes their involvement in both professional and personal spheres.

Fern’s perspective on pricing is rooted in investing in yourself and setting a firm value. Rejecting the notion of discounts, except for family, Fern advises newcomers to the industry to set a price that reflects their worth from the outset. Starting at a lower price and eventually increasing it risks losing clients during the transition. Therefore, they encourage new hairstylists to begin with a rate they consider fair and justified for their skill and time.

In an exchange with an aspiring hairstylist, Fern advises against underestimating oneself when setting rates. By charging a rate that aligns with their envisioned future success, newcomers can avoid the pitfalls of starting low and having to rebuild a client base after raising prices. Fern encourages charging an amount that is congruent with their desired hourly worth.

In summary, Fern’s journey from Home Depot to hairstyling showcases a commitment to creative expression and personal fulfillment. Their dedication to their daughter’s future, innovative approach to styling, and firm stance on pricing all underscore their resilience and determination in an industry they are passionate about.

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