Barbers become barbers for various reasons — perhaps they’re creative, enjoy the work hours, or embrace the overall social experience. Whatever the motivation, they also want to earn a living via their chosen trade. So with the number of barbers and hairdressers going up by 19% this decade, it raises the question: exactly how much do barber shop owners make?
Industry • Perspective
How Much Do Barber Shop Owners Make?
With more barbers training in the United States, it’s essential to ask: How much do barber shop owners make?
How much do barber shop owners make?
The short answer is $29,000 on average, but that figure is deeply misleading.
The challenge is shop owners don’t use a traditional business model that we can quickly analyze to make a reasonable estimate. Most owners don’t even hire salaried employees — their staff are independent contractors who rent out chairs and equipment weekly. Finding consistent numbers between rental agreements, commission payment structures, and client visits is almost impossible.
For example, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the median annual wage for barbers at $29,000. But if you take a closer look at the numbers, barbers make anywhere from $22,000 to $53,000, so the mean average is $35,700. And income for barber shop owners can be even more variable.
The good news is we do know what strategies barber shops use to reach those higher income tiers, even if it’s hard to settle on an exact number.
Managing overhead and expenses
The most obvious lesson of business management is that companies profit when their revenue is higher than expenses. For barber shops, that means understanding all of your finances and overhead — not just in terms of rent but also supplies, insurance, and utilities. Keeping track of regular and irregular costs can be complicated, especially when figures vary by state, neighborhood, or building. But it’s an essential process if you want your shop to succeed and grow.
When starting a barber shop, the key is to have a big picture view of expenses and services so you can set prices and growth goals. Salon management software like Boulevard can help by offering in-depth reporting tools that account for all possible variables. Meanwhile, services like Boulevard Payments make it easier to balance client transactions, merchant payouts, and everything in-between.
Picking the right location
Location is everything in the barber shop biz. An owner opening a store in a low-income district might charge $10 per haircut, but a high-income neighborhood might earn $30 to $40 plus tips. And that’s before we get into utilities, rent prices, and local foot traffic.
For our purposes, let’s focus on pricing strategies. In the US, the average men’s haircut costs $28, which sits comfortably between the two extremes described above. Discount chains like Supercuts generally offer low prices but make the difference by operating in high-traffic areas like malls. Meanwhile, urban chains specializing in unique atmospheres, meals, or drinks might charge up to $55.
The vast majority of independently-owned barber shops will fall within the $10 to $30 range based on location, local demographics, and expected foot traffic. The perfect barber shop location would have a low rent, high-income environment that lets barbers keep costs low while getting the most from each client. Unfortunately, these opportunities are rare, so new owners will likely need to base prices around local competitors as they establish a brand.
Diversifying your services
The easiest way to boost a barber shop’s bottom line is by offering a diverse range of services. While the classic haircut and shave is a great start, additional options will bring more people in the door and create upselling opportunities for clients:
The straight razor shave: No Sweeney Todd jokes, please. In the right hands, a straight razor provides the closest and cleanest shave a client will ever receive.
Beard and mustache treatments: Why stop with a trim? Apply conditioner and oils to soften coarse hair and vitalize a new look.
Hot towel massage: Yeah, sex is great, but have you tried a hot towel massage on your face? It moisturizes the skin, tightens pores, and is simply refreshing.
Custom designs: Barbers are known for to-the-point trims, but there’s no reason they can’t offer a variety of unique styles. Beard shaping, braids, and other eye-catching designs will attract more clients and create opportunities to experiment with new looks.
Offering chair rentals
So you’ve got a great location and various services, but you’re still struggling to keep ahead of your expenses. What now? Thankfully, not all revenue must come from cutting hair or trimming beards. The most common example is chair rentals, where shop owners offer their spare chairs to available barbers. As a result, they get a workplace while maintaining their independence, and you get additional income to help pay the bills.
Let’s say you own a small barber shop with three available chairs. If you’re seeing clients personally, you can rent the remaining two to local barbers. Some owners use a commission arrangement, a weekly fee, or some combination of the two, but we’ll assume it’s a fixed rent of $225 per week. During the average month, owners will collect $1800 across both chairs, putting a significant dent in overhead. Ideally, this rent lets owners save money from their own clients, which can be invested in additional chairs or a more valuable location.
While barber shops are primarily service businesses, some clients will happily purchase hair care products to take home, such as shaving cream or beard oil. These items can be a promising opportunity if your shop needs another revenue stream. Just remember that product sales require different skills than managing a barber chair — you don’t want to go overboard with products that clients aren’t interested in!
The best option is to start small, offering a limited selection of shop recommendations that customers can take home. These should be items you’ll use with clients so they can see the benefits firsthand. Then, as these products sell, owners can analyze sales data to measure trends and order enough replacement items to meet demand.
So is owning a barber shop profitable? The most accurate answer is that owners get from their shops what they put into them. Barbers that put in the effort to choose a good location, diversify their services, and create multiple revenue streams are far more likely to drive higher profits while working a job they love.