One of the best parts about becoming a hairstylist is that it opens up so many doors. I thought when I joined the industry as a hairstylist, graduation meant you were a stylist for a while and then you opened a salon. Once I got into school, I realized there are a million different ways to be a stylist.
There's no one thing that you should be looking to graduate to or to aspire to do. If education is calling your name, we'll talk through how to become a brand educator, what the experience will be like and how to maximize your time educating with a brand so you can get the most of it.
People choose to be educators for a lot of different reasons.
To give back because they feel like they learned so much and want to share that brilliance.
Some feel this rush when they watch that light bulb that pops up over a student's head when they finally get it for the first time.
Others like the idea of traveling and want to be a platform artist someday.
If any of those resonate with you, that's a sign that being a brand educator might be a good thing for you.
How to Become a Brand Educator
Tip #1: You've Got to Be Obsessed with the Brand
Brands want someone obsessed with their products and works with it daily (not all brands hold that requirement, but the vast majority do). Don't just pick one because they're hiring. Really make sure it's something you're willing to love like it's one of your kids.
Love it or hate it, you're going to be really deep into that brand and their business. And if you don't like it, it will become a problem. You don't want to be in that position. It'll be difficult to stand in front of a classroom preaching about how much you love the brand because if you actually don't, it's going to be a huge disconnect sooner than later.
Tip #2: Ace the Interview
You found that brand that's the love of your life. What's next? Generally, there is some sort of interview application process. A lot of these either color or hair care companies have the application available online. You would submit all of your information and, particularly if it's a color brand, then there's some kind of evaluation (usually there's an audition tape or an in-person audition).
Usually, the audition is what makes people change their minds brand education. Let me tell you something: if that sounds terrible, can I tell you how much more terrified you're going to be when you become an independent educator? Because you're going to be doing the same thing but with zero training.
I understand that filming an audition tape sounds weird. And standing in front of a room of 15 panelists watching you teach is intimidating. But that's what it's going to be like when you teach, so you might as well get used to it.
A lot of people get scared because they want to teach, but have never done it before the audition? The secret's out because you're auditioning. They know that you're newer to this. So it's okay. That's what they expect from you. Just show up with your passion and do your very best.
Tip #3: Know the Costs
Remember that often when you become a brand educator, you're a contractor, not actually their employee. But it's not like a traditional job where you show up on your first day, ready to start. There is a financial investment, usually when you step into the branded education realm.
Because you're a contractor, often the bill is on you if you're required to go to a training. There are always caveats to that, but often there is quite an upfront cost, usually somewhere between $1,000 and $3,500 to get started. Be ready for it, so you aren't sticker shocked or think it's crazy.
Occasionally a hotel stay here or there is required, but if it's a bigger brand where they have quite a few educators, they're not going to fly you from Delaware to New York to teach a class. They have educators in New York. But if you're in a state that's more spread out, there will likely be more hotel time but within your state or general region, so take that into consideration.
Travel is really exciting at first, but over time, it starts to feel a little bit different. Really think about your life and family dynamic. Does it make sense for you to be in a hotel a few weekends a month? For some of you, it's going to be great, but for others, that's a little bit more challenging. Know that would likely be a part of being a brand educator and really think about if this is a good fit for your lifestyle.
Tip #4: Employee or Contractor?
If you choose to educate as an employee for a brand, you're their person. If they called you today and said, "Hey, we need you in Seattle for tomorrow. Our educator bailed out." Figuring out who's going to pick up your kids? Not their problem. They need you up in Seattle and your flight's at 6:05 tonight. Be there.
Being an employee comes with stability and security, but there is a trade-off of a contractor's freedom and flexibility. There are perks and benefits to both. It is important to research the structure of the company you're going to educate for to decide if it's right for you.
Tip #5: Ask About Commitment Levels
If the brand you work for puts on their own event a couple times a year or every other year, you will likely be working it beyond the in-salon, SalonCentric, Cosmoprof classes you'd teach.
If it's a large scale event, they need hundreds, if not thousands, of helpers to make it happen and you'll be one of them. You'd likely get a free ticket, be able to see bits and pieces of the event when you can, but you'll also fly in a couple days early help to set up and stay a couple of days late to help break down.
You're a piece of the puzzle now, right? They need all the pieces there if the puzzle is going to be complete. Know there will be commitment expected from you beyond just teaching classes on Sundays and Mondays and it might be a little bit more than what you're assuming on the surface level.
In the interview process, ask what the commitment level looks like or ask other of that brand's educators what their experience has been like.
Maximize Your Time As a Brand Educator
When you join a brand as an educator, give it at least two years because the brand's main objective is to make you the best possible representative of their brand, so they're going to give you tons of education. They're putting their name on you, so it behooves them to go above and beyond to make you a stellar educator. So you are getting the best of the best education when you learn how to educate for that brand.
You've got your education, you're getting out there, you're teaching the classes. How do you make the most of the two years that I'm asking you to commit to being a brand educator?
There are three things you'll want to make it on your own as an educator or if you choose to become a platform or independent artist.
Plenty of experience
Find your superpower
It's important to get these things while you're working as a brand educator. You can absolutely do it without tarnishing or cheating the brand in any way. It can be a real mutual win-win.
Tip #1: Get Your Experience
A brand will train you, push you out of your comfort zone, and network you so you don't have to do it yourself (which P.S., networking and growing a brand is incredibly difficult. It can be done, and you can totally do it, of course.) If you're already a stylist, wouldn't it be great if somebody just handed you classes, so you got that experience without killing yourself to run two separate Instagram accounts, two websites and all of these things?
The other thing that's nice about starting with a brand to get experience is you can cut your teeth and make some mistakes without tarnishing your own brand. When you start teaching, it's not going to be super great. There's going to be hiccups and bumps. You're going to teach some topics that you don't want to teach ever again. It's best to learn those things working under another brand's umbrella than destroying your own brand for two years.
It buys you a little bit of time to find what makes you special and what you really love before you shoot off into outer space and grow your brand yourself.
Tip #2: Find Your Superpower
As you're spending those two years getting all of that experience that this brand provides by scheduling classes and training you, you're going to find your superpower.
Often when we start teaching, we've already decided what we want our superpower to be, and we're aiming for it. But when you become so hyper-focused on whatever superpower you've already predetermined for yourself, you don't realize you have something else going for you. Then maybe there's something that your audience resonates with more, but you're not seeing it.
When the brand is putting you in salons three times a month to teach classes, your superpower becomes real clear because the volume is there. You have so much experience and your being so well-networked that you can't help but figure out what you love and what you don't, what jokes hit and miss. You can't help but learn how to answer that question in a way that doesn't just make you sound smart but easy to understand.
Get the experience that the brand provides and use it to hone in on what makes you special and unique. When you've done the self-reflective research and figured out actually resonates with your students, then you can take it to that next level, like whether you want to be more of a platform artist or go more independent.
Tip #3: Network fiercely
A lot of brand educators see each class as a one-off job. It's been pre-assigned to them. They'll take it for the networking. They go in, shake hands and kiss babies and think it's going to be great.
Nope, that's not how you do it.
You want to create a buzz with every single class you teach. You want that social share-ability. I understand you're representing a brand. You have to go through the slides and show what they're telling you to. But it doesn't mean you can't add on your own special layer as well. You need to bring that human being element if you're going to be a successful brand educator.
Make it fun and engaging. Tell students how excited you are to be there and that at the end of the class, you'll choose the Instagram story, and they'll win a hair-care bundle worth $100 or some kind of incentive to make it fun. Take photos the entire time to share on your Instagram story with your brand's hashtag.
Do you have your own Instagram, private Facebook page, website? Are you telling students that you have a private Facebook group for everybody who has taken your classes? Give them the URL and tell them what they'll find: maybe a bunch of support information, weekly blogs sharing pro tips and a video every month.
Are you doing that kind of support content for the classes you teach as a brand educator? If not, why not? Are you asking for referrals? Don't let the relationship to die as soon as you walk out that door. Build your reputation, build your brand, make it work. You need to create a buzz around yourself if you ever want this to go anywhere beyond, "Oh yeah, that so-and-so, I think she's one of our 250 West Coast educators."
If you're cool being that lady, then you don't have to do any of this. You can just show up, do your job, collect your paycheck, go home, totally cool. But if you want to make something of yourself, take it to the next level.
I hope you are feeling really fired up about brand education because being a brand educator is a phenomenal opportunity for anybody who wants to teach. The problem is a lot of stylists don't see it as an opportunity but as this gig that gets boring. Use it to learn how to teach, to build your network, for everything that it's worth.