Everything You Need to Know about Renting a Chair in a Barbershop

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As an experienced barber you are entitled to your own territory by way of renting a chair or booth.

The barber chair has for centuries been the throne of masculine mystique, and has undoubtedly been the seat where revolutions have been born. The barber chair dates back to at least Bronze Age Egypt, where razors have been found among other relics. Today’s barbershops continue to serve as a meeting place for men and forums for discussing current affairs, just as they were for the ancient Greeks and Romans.

The Middle Ages brought a slightly different meaning to, “being in the barber chair,” as barbers of this era also specialized in the latest Gothic surgical techniques as well as bloodletting, tooth-pulling, leeching – and were even known to perform enemas. Though barbers of the Middle Ages actually earned more than surgeons in their day, be grateful that you’ll just be cutting hair– as opposed to anything else more, well … let’s say, “intimate.”

The Chair Rental Business Model

Simply put, for experienced barbers with an established clientele and high output, the chair/booth rental business model usually allows for greater profits than the commission-based or salary business models. By renting a chair in a barbershop, you typically pay a weekly or monthly fee to the shop owner and keep the rest of what you make.

The weekly chair rental fee usually starts around at least $50 and can increase dramatically depending on the shop’s overall rent. For example, a barbershop on 5th Avenue in Manhattan may have to pay $4,000 a month in rent. If the shop had four chairs that would mean a weekly chair rental of $250 just to break even on rent alone for the shop owner.

Deciding if Chair Rental is Right for You

Starting out as a new barber you probably won’t have many clients, so getting paid on a commission or salary is probably a better option until you build up your regulars. Making the transition to chair rental can be risky; if you have a slow week or month when you’re doing the rental model you could potentially dip into the red. However if you’re good at what you do and people like your style, you will get a feel for when the time is right to make the transition to renting a chair.

Knowing when you’ve reached this point is as simple as doing the math. Consider how much are you making each day or week, and how many days you will need to work to pay for your chair/booth rental. If you can pay off a weekly chair rental in about two days, or a monthly chair rental in a little over a week, then its time to transition to the chair/booth rental model.

Keep in mind that some barbershops simply don’t do the chair rental model. This can be because it is financially unfeasible, or because the owner of a shop simply doesn’t like this model. In any case, you may need to ultimately be flexible on your pay model and evaluate what is best for you.

Getting Your Business Started by Renting a Chair

Renting a chair likely gives you a higher level of freedom – you can make your own business cards, be selective about your clients, and pursue your own artistic style. However you should also know that if you decide to go with the chair/booth rental model, most city, state, and federal governments as operating your own business view it. As such, you will probably be responsible for paying taxes as an independent contractor, and assuming additional business responsibilities. For example, you may need to buy liability insurance and take care of funding your own healthcare and retirement.

For many chair and booth, renters however, this extra paperwork is well worth the freedom that comes with running an independent business. As an independent business owner, you may also be entitled to small business grants and other benefits through your local municipality.

What Barbers Themselves Have to Say About Chair and Booth Rentals

Hasheem Whitmore tells prospective barbers, “When you pay a booth rental, know that it’s on your ground, your hustle to get out there and bring those clients in … I always enjoy booth rent because I always felt that I can make the amount of money that I need to make. I don’t want to split, or have any money going towards someplace else – I’d rather pay a booth rent and keep pushing … A good shop, especially if you’re new to this game or new to the area, they’re going to gradually build you up until that, you know, if a booth rental is $175 a week, they’re going to stagger those payments and give you a little bit of time to get your clientele up, to get your name out there.”

Raymond Torregano explains, “More popular in the ethnic salon realm is booth rental. Now, I think that one of the reasons why it’s so popular … is because the supposed benefit is you get all of the money, or you can hold all of the money. Really, the exchange between you and the client, if you get a service that’s $40, you get the $40. You know, and as hard as you work, and as good as you’re able to generate clientele, then – at the end of the day this thing is about clientele – that’s it. That’s it. Everything else is, you know, a puff of smoke.”

Jay the Barber says, “If they [barbershops] do rent chairs, renting chairs is the best way to go because you make more money. But, if you’re just starting out as a barber you’re not going to have any clientele, then you obviously can’t pay rent for the chair.”

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