Employment Contracts: Non-Solicitation Clauses

Client loyalty tends to be directed toward individual service providers rather than to salons. If a service provider leaves a salon, his or her clients will frequently follow. This post will include information for both owners considering non-solicitation clauses and employees who are planning on (or have already) signed one.

In the event of a termination or resignation, oftentimes both the service provider and the salon owner scramble to gather the clients for themselves. Who do these clients belong to? What can you do to protect yourself? Continue reading to find out.

Salon owners can encourage client loyalty by:

  • having an attorney write an ironclad employment contract and employee handbook,
  • consistently delivering amazing customer service by hiring stellar support staff (receptionists and assistants),
  • keeping the salon environment inviting and accommodating (beautiful atmosphere, complimentary snacks & beverages),
  • aggressively marketing (newsletters, advertising, hosting highly publicized high-profile events like charity cut-a-thons),
  • keeping employees trained and educated. Clients even if their staff member leaves or is terminated, your remaining staff members are more than capable of delivering the same quality of work they’ve been accustomed to)

All of these things make clients want to be a part of your business. Keep in mind though, that it may not be enough. Most clients will follow their service provider to the end of the earth. Let’s face it, a really good service provider (stylists in particular) can be very difficult to find.

But what do you put in your contract? How do you word it to protect your business without being unreasonable or driving away potential employees? It’s simple: be reasonable.

Keep in mind that a professional’s established clientele is their livelihood. They worked hard to bring in business and to retain that business. They’re not going to forfeit their rights to contact those clients, nor should they. Many salon owners post job offers with the statement, “Must have clientele.” If the employees are bringing clients with them to your business, you have no right to claim those clients for yourself. To do so would be unethical.

Your concern should be with protecting the clients your business has brought in and the future clients that are earned through your own marketing efforts, not the acquisition of clients that were never yours to begin with.

So, write a clause that’s fair to both of you. The terms of my non-solicitation agreement are:

“Employees with a clientele must provide all client contact information to prior to their start date on Attachment A. These clients will be flagged in our system as belonging to the employee. During the course of your employment with Unvarnished, Unvarnished will add these clients to our promotional mailing lists. Upon resignation or termination, all clients will be notified of your departure. All Attachment A clients will then be dropped from our mailing lists after this initial notice. 

Should these clients choose to remain customers at Unvarnished, they will become salon clients again and will rejoin our mailing lists, but will continue to be exempted from the terms of our non-solicitation agreement.

All other clients obtained during the course of your employment at Unvarnished are property of Unvarnished. Employees may not take any client’s contact information for any reason and are absolutely prohibited from contacting or marketing to these clients in the event of termination or resignation.”

This clause is fair to my business, the employee, and most importantly, the clients. It’s my personal belief that the clients deserve to be given their preferred professional’s contact information if they ask for it. Refusing to give the client the information they ask for will cause them to lose respect for you and the way you do business. They definitely won’t appreciate it. Additionally, you’re likely to lose them if you lie to them.

Take the high road and give your clients the information they request.

You may lose the client, but you’ll have their appreciation and the appreciation of the ex-employee. Don’t burn bridges. You don’t want to be seen as stingy. Some of the departing clients may not like the ex-employee’s new place of business and may choose to return to your business. Separate with them on positive terms so they feel welcome to return.

It’s wrong to market to clients that do not belong to you, regardless of which side of the business you’re on. If a professional joins my team and exposes my business to 50 or 100 of her clients, I should be grateful. I express that gratitude by making sure the contact information for those clients is either marked or stored separately from the salon’s clients and respecting the fact that those clients are not mine. Those clients will be telling their friends about my business and I may gain more exposure as a result of that. I didn’t build their book for them.

They worked hard to build their clientele and it’s not our place to claim it as our own.

This agreement also protects my interests. Once the professional has signed the contract, they agree that clients obtained during the course of their employment belong to the salon. They waive the right to contact those clients. Salon owners (myself included) spend a good deal of money on advertising, so it is only fair that we protect that investment.

As a business owner, you should be encouraging client loyalty through your own actions, not by locking employees into a contract that strips them of the book they worked so hard to build.

Professionals can encourage client loyalty by:

  • providing superior service.
  • ensuring that their skills are up to date by taking continuing education courses and learning skills that other service providers in the salon are not trained in (for example, an esthetician can gain a certification in eyelash extensions or permanent makeup).
  • maintaining a professional portfolio website (pro tip: use your name as the URL). This makes it incredibly easy for clients to find you if you are fired or resign from your position. Your website should be the first thing that appears when people Google your name.
  • Dress and behave professionally at all times.
  • Deliver consistent services.

If you’re in the process of obtaining employment somewhere and the salon owner wants you to sign a non-solicitation clause, evaluate it thoroughly. Make sure it is very specific and that it is fair to you. If you’re unable to fully understand it, call an attorney, explain the situation, and have them evaluate it.

Some professionals don’t like to sign a non-solicitation clause under any circumstances and if you’re not comfortable signing it, don’t do it.

Never completely surrender your clientele to anyone.

However, be understanding of the salon owner’s desire to protect their business as well. If the owner is spending their resources on bringing clients in the door or if the business is in a high-profile location that attracts a lot of traffic, you need to understand that those clients belong to the business, not you. Yes, that includes referral business. (For instance, a walk-in client comes in, loves your work and sends a friend to you. Both of those clients belong to the business, even though it was your superior work that drew the referral.)

Not all owners are awesome, considerate people. It is rare to find an owner that will honor an agreement to provide your forwarding contact information to clients that inquire. For this reason, it is important to keep an online portfolio and let clients know that it exists. If something happens and they want to follow you, they have the ability to find you without ever having to contact the owner.


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12 Responses

  1. I have a, AFTER 2 stole a butt load of my business! My covenant was written by a lawyer that wrote the briefs for our State’s supreme court when it became an issue a few years back. NOW my butt is covered…Stylists have no idea what ‘goodwill’ of a salon really is….the MAJORITY of what I paid for my salon was goodwill: The clientele. Definitely not what was IN the salon, physically.Hell most of that had to be thrown out or remodeled. It makes no sense that I should spend tons of money promoting and educating ANY employee, keeping the salon that they bring ‘their’ clients to looking great, having the best products for the stylist to use on ‘their’ clients, and when the stylists DOES leave they can take ‘their’ clientele with them! Those clients stayed that stylist’s clients partly BECAUSE of what I, the owner, provided. Stylists don’t think that way though…ANY other business does though!!IF a stylist does bring clients, (BUT like you said before, IF they have a FULL clientele they would rent instead), but since they don’t, I, the owner, am providing them with everything so they can KEEP ‘their’ clients. That’s NICE of you to do that but I don’t think you’re being fair to yourself as the owner.My husband has 7 patents and he didn’t get ONE penny for them because he invented them on COMPANY time with COMPANY money and COMPANY materials. Same thing as a salon….Those clients may have came with the stylist but they are SUPPORTED by the new owner..who paid the stylist education to keep them updated and ALL of the products used to keep them that way. I would NOT let that stylist take those clients if he/she left…

  2. OK, if a stylist brings THEIR clientele to YOUR establishment, then, for whatever reason, LEAVES your establishment, THEIR clientele that THEY brought with THEM to YOUR establishment that THEY WORKED for, goes with THEM. Period. You don’t get to stake claim on clients that don’t belong to you, no matter how you try to justify it, i.e. “paid the stylist education to keep them updated and ALL of the products used to keep them that way.” You paying for their education/products did not help them build a clientele. THEY did that themselves.

  3. I 100% agree with that. Unfortunately, too many stylists don’t protect themselves. They’re out there signing contracts they don’t agree with, hoping blindly that nothing will ever go wrong (or that if it does, the owner won’t actually enforce the contract). Best practice is to avoid non-solicitations like the plague, or at least amend them to serve the best interests of your clients and yourself.

  4. I hired a new stylist recently who brought a fair clientele with her. She immediately began advertising MY salon on HER facebook page and mentioned having personal flyers printed to distributed in MY salon. I told her all advertising is done by me and that the SALON and SERVICES are advertised, not INDIVIDUAL STYLISTS. She is a nightmare!! I have another stylist on medical leave and the new one is underhandedly trying to steal her clients. We are all working together to cover the leave and keep the clients, but it is understood that we are not assuming those clients permanently. When the other stylist returns, they are still her clients. This is a small salon and we don’t operate like that! Now, I hear her asking clients to LIKE her personal facebook page. I feel through all those facebook contacts she is creating a complete client list. Now she is posting before and after photos of clients to her personal page, saying personal message me for details. Can I prohibit her from taking photos in my salon? Doesn’t she need written consent from clients? I hired her on a 90 day probationary period and did not have her sign a temporary employment agreement. But I think she can cause serious damage before the 90 days are up!

    1. Yeah, that’s a huge problem. It seems like she has some healthy hustle in her, and she’s doing what she can to build her own book, but at the same time, she’s being a little too aggressive. You should have her sign a non-solicitation agreement ASAP and include social media solicitation. If she’s your employee, you can prohibit her from taking photos. You can also fire her whenever you please–all states except for one (I believe Montana or Wyoming) are at-will employment states. She seems a little cutthroat, which could cause problems for everyone in the long run.

  5. Hi Tina, I left this same message but it was meant for you although it is applicable to the person it was left for as well. Is it possible for me to get a copy of your non-solicitation contract to edit for our spa? We are a very small boutique that is growing but want protection. Thanks.

    1. Hi! I don’t share templates or samples simply because I really don’t want anyone writing their own legal documents. (I live in Florida, where we have basically no employee protections. Other states aren’t near as lax as mine, so what’s legal here likely won’t be legal virtually anywhere else.)

      Find an employment law attorney in your area who is familiar with your salon’s needs and your state laws and pay them to write something binding. Before you do that though, put together a rough outline, detailing what you’d like the contract to include. They’ll be able to tell you whether the terms you want are allowable in your state/city or if they need to be altered or omitted.

  6. How is this applicable to an Independent contractor? Can the salon owner make an IC sign this clause ?

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