Booth Renters: Be Your Own Boss

“I don’t have a problem with entitlement. My problem is that I’m not getting everything I want.”

We all know some salon landords who want to “have their cake and eat it too.” They want to classify you as independent but treat you like an employee. That’s old news.

Something I don’t talk about often is about how some renters also like having and eating their cake.

Listen up, renters. It’s time for a reality check. You are considered “self-employed” for a reason. You are operating your business independently of the salon. The salon owner is just your landlord.

You are not entitled to walk-in or call-in clients.

In “blended” salons, you’ll find a renter working alongside an employee of the salon. I often get emails from owners who are frustrated that their booth renters expect to be put on rotation with the employees for walk-in or phone business.

Let’s make this clear right now: As a booth renter, you are paying for work SPACE; Not business.

You don’t pay for the advertising the owner may do so you aren’t entitled to profit from it. Because of this, you have no right to any clients who call the salon phone or walk into the salon unless they specifically request you. If you’re in a blended salon and no employee is available to take a walk-in, the owner may give you the client–but a smart owner will do it for a fee.

Salon owners who have employees also have a responsibility as their employer to make sure that their workers are busy and making enough money to survive. Booth renters generally enter lease agreements because they have already established a strong following and have no problem maintaining and building their businesses independently. If a booth renter needs to rely on walk-in or phone business, they weren’t ready for rental to begin with.

If you want to “be your own boss,” then be your own boss and accept responsibility for all aspects of your business, including client acquisition and retention.

You are not entitled to “free rent” for vacation time.

When you rent space in a salon or spa, you are considered a “commercial tenant.” It’s just as if you were to rent a building in a shopping mall. No commercial landlord–and that’s exactly what the salon owner becomes when they lease space–is going to offer you “free rent” so you can take a vacation.

The family who owns my favorite Italian restaurant closes up shop and flees the Florida heat to visit their family in Jersey from July to September. Does their landlord waive their rent while they’re gone those three months? Absolutely not. That space is sill occupied by them. That landlord still has a mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance fees to pay. Why on earth would you think that the owner of the salon you rent at should take a loss so you can have two weeks of vacation time?

You’re a business owner. If you want time off but you don’t want to lose your space, pay your rent like every other business owner in the world.

You are not entitled to free product–backbar or otherwise.

When you decided you wanted to be your own boss, you said goodbye to those days of having all your backbar provided for you. Those things are now your responsibility. You are not the salon owner’s employee.

The salon owners is not setting your prices to accommodate for your product overhead. Therefore, you and your product (or lack thereof) are not their problem.

Remember, the salon owner is your landlord. I don’t approach the property manager of the building my salon is located in and demand he pay for my metal foot files and autoclave bags, so why would you ask the salon owner to cover your business expenses?

You are not entitled to free reception or assistant services.

The receptionist is an employee of the owner. Her job is to answer the client calls to the salon owner’s business, seat the salon employees’ clients, and collect the salon’s cash. The owner pays for that receptionist with the money she’s made from the stylists that the receptionist is hired to catered to.

Unless your lease states otherwise (and charges you accordingly), your rent covers your space. That’s it. It doesn’t cover any support staff.

You cannot utilize assistants or receptionists you don’t pay for.

You field your own calls and collect your own money because you’re running your own business. If you want a receptionist or assistant, hire one and pay for them yourself. It’s not the owner’s responsibility to help you manage your business; she has her own business to worry about.

If you have a problem with any of these things, you were not ready to be your own boss, because you are still expecting others to manage your business for you.

Booth rental is small scale business ownership. It is a great way to see exactly what it’s like to run a business before you open up a full blown business. You can get a taste for what is required of a business owner.

  • If you’re having to poach clients from the landlord you’re renting from, you weren’t ready for rental.
  • If you can’t afford to (or don’t want to be bothered to) purchase your own products, you weren’t ready for booth rental.
  • If you can’t handle answering your own phone, collecting your own money, or cleaning up after yourself, you weren’t ready for booth rental.
  • If you didn’t understand that you weren’t entitled to “free rent” as a booth renter, you clearly have no idea what self-employment is and shouldn’t have signed a lease to begin with.

I’m not saying this because I have problems with renters–I’ve been one.

I’m saying this because I have a problem with renters who didn’t understand what booth rental involved. I have a problem with people in general (whether they’re owners, employees, or renters) trying to take more than they’re owed at someone else’s expense due to some false sense of entitlement.

Renters: You’re business owners now. Act like it.

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39 Responses

  1. Hello there! I work in a salon where I’m a booth renter. Recently things have been changing where I’m being but in awkward situations. I took on a second job, which works great with being a booth renter. But the owner will make me appointments on my book with out my knowledge and then get upset with me when I can’t make them. Am I by law suppose to mark out my book every second I won’t be there? I always contact my clients if things come up and prefer to book them myself. Secondly, I just purchased new business cards. I left off the salon name, and their phone number. I have my own business # for my clients. The owner has banned me from handing them out at the salon stating I’m trying to have a business in side of hers (isn’t that booth rent?). She even hides them from me and puts out my old cards that have an old # on them. I have to hide them and secretly hand them out to clients. Which is a pain in the butt.
    Lately, she’s established a new dress code. Absolutely no sweats/loungewear. It was down to where you could wear them one day out of the week but now I can’t even wear nice black yoga pants to work. I don’t depend on walkins and my clients wouldn’t care if I walked in wearing a Hefty bag! Any help and advice would be great!
    Thank you for your time! 🙂

    1. Oh my. So much wrong with your situation.

      1.) The owner can NOT make your appointments at a central reception desk. You are a business owner, that is your responsibility. She has no right to “manage” your book since she isn’t your employer. YOU are your employer. YOU set your hours and YOU make your own appointments.
      2.) As your own boss, you answer to nobody. Least of all your landlord, which is what the owner is. This means that you don’t have to mark a damn thing out on her “schedule.” You come and go as you please. Period.
      3.) You are running your own business inside her building. Think of it like a store in a mall. The mall does not manage the store or dictate anything to the store. You have your own business license and you run it as you see fit. This means that you are not “required” to have her business name on your cards. You absolutely do NOT give out her number instead of yours. That is your money, your business. In NO WAY does she deserve to profit off of your advertising money.

      Of COURSE you are trying to have a separate business from hers, you are a RENTER. Did she not understand what a renter was when you signed the lease?! What did she think a renter was? A person that pays for the privilege of being someone’s employee?

      Anyways, back to my list of things that are wrong in your situation:

      4.) You are NOT required to adhere to any “dress code.” You aren’t her employee. If she wants to control you, she can put you on her payroll and cover half of your employment taxes just like every other employer in the United States is required to.

      Read this:

      And this:

      All of these links:

      and all of these:

      Print those things. Print this comment. Bring it to her and ask her if she wants to get audited, reported to your local labor board, and sued in civil court for clearly overstepping the boundaries set by the federal government. I guarantee you the abuse will stop immediately. She is a classic example of a lawsuit and audit waiting to happen. She is someone who either isn’t intelligent enough to realize that she’s abusing her renters or is doing it intentionally under the incredibly false assumption that you are all stupid.

  2. Oh where do I begin!!

    Two years ago I opened my first booth rental salon. Twelve of us stylists left a salon that was going down… so my dream finally came true I opened a salon! Built it from scratch with the help of family and friends in a matter of two months. I also have my mom as the full time receptionist who has helped me so much I am so grateful for her. Now instead of being friends with all these girls I am the owner (landlord) ugh… I definitely feel I am being held hostage at times.. I feel I have gone about this all wrong.. I don’t want to piss them all off and have a walk out!!!

    To begin with I brought them all together and told them my plan and if they wanted to come with to my salon here is what I was offering..(of course I wanted them to all come with so I had to make it worth their while.) One week of no rent paid for vacation, back bar supplied (shampoo and conditioner,) a full time and two part time receptionists etc.

    The salon we came from the receptionists took all the phone calls, made all the appointments basically wiped all their asses, she was a unappreciated slave. We were all booth renters. Some of the stylists including me took our own appointments, did our own thing we were “independent.” At my salon I have computerized it so all the stylists have Ipads they do their booking on, (some still have paper books, they wont budge.) The receptionists does not do any of their booking.

    I also carry 3 retail lines and the stylists get a percentage of what they sell so that is rung up threw the front desk computer, almost all the stylists know how to use the computer some don’t and just expect the receptionists to do it. So I have 14 booth renters and 1 commission stylist. My stylists expect the receptionists to greet all guests, fold towels, clean and many more tasks…. and they get pissed if something goes wrong and I CANT STAND IT!!! My salon is about 2000 sq ft. It is nice to have a receptionist at the desk but that is my biggest expense.

    I opened this salon in a matter of 2 months time.. It happened very fast!!!! I absolutely love that I have this place but I guess my question is, is there no turning this around? I want them to be more independent, they sure are when they come and go, do their work and leave, no appreciation for what we do for them…

    I also am behind the chair full time but I want to step back and run my business! But can not afford to. I have a passion for this and I agree with what you said about booth renting and I believe I have gone about it all wrong but I do know if I would have done it how you said in the beginning none of these stylists would have come along and I wouldn’t have this salon.. Any suggestions would be great!

    Another thing id like to add is I have brought in lots of education for these stylists because I want this salon to thrive. I’d also like to advertise my salon but many of the stylists are content with the amount of clients they have, I am currently looking for a employee to help with taking new clients, maybe eventually have a blended salon..??? I just need some direction and I want to be successful!!


    1. You definitely can turn it around at any time, but you will lose renters. This isn’t a problem in my opinion, since these renters don’t seem to be the kind of renters you want anyways. You want renters who understand their role and your role–the ones you have do not. Not only do your current renters not understand their roles, they also don’t appreciate the fact that you’re greatly exceeding your own role to benefit them. If I were you, this would infuriate me and none of those renters would be offered a lease renewal.

      Honestly, it sounds to me like you’re better suited to own a legitimate salon with a staff of employees, but you’re scared to make that change so you’re keeping renters on because they’re guaranteed income. Blended salons are the ultimate nightmare clusterfuck and will bring you nothing but misery. Please, I beg you, do not subject yourself to that.

      I think you need to have more confidence in your ability to lead a team and you should value what your business offers to the people that work there more highly. You seem to think that if you refuse to make sacrifices for the renters that you wouldn’t have a business–and I don’t think that’s at all true. You’re clearly passionate about providing a great, profitable place to work and keeping the people in the salon educated. You want to do right by them, much to your own detriment. Based on what I’ve read, I think you sound like someone who would be fantastic to work for, but you definitely seem to think nobody would be willing to accept an employment arrangement with you. Some of the best owners I’ve trained had the same mentality at the start. If you were one of my clients, my advice to you would be to ditch the renters, staff up, and lead.

  3. Hey Tina, Luckily I don’t have any of these problems at the space I rent currently. We do things together but are completely separate. I have been presented an opportunity to purchase a building and my desire is to just booth rent. I really don’t want to manage employees. I do want to rent to people who are interested in working as a team to grow their businesses. Do you have a suggestion on how to do booth renting well and profitable? I am going to hire someone at least part time for upfront to start with and then in the fall one of my clients will be finishing her Esthetics Lic. She will becoming to apprentice, do misc chores and start taking new clients that I don’t have time to do. This actually will be more like a wellness center and not a salon. No Hair – I find that salon and more spa/wellness services don’t mix very well. Or at least that was my experience.

    Thank you

  4. Hi,

    Great article and we love your website – we are from Australia and run a salon with renters. We also offer by the hour and by the day rental with no lease commitment. Do you have that in the USA? Would that idea work?

    We still have renter/landlord terms and conditions (and fixed rent per hour/day), but the space is shared with many freelancers rather than one renter per space and the renter is not locked in to a minimum term.

    Just wondering if it would work in the US?

    1. I’m certain it would and I have actually brought the concept up to some of my clients before who own rental establishments. Why should renters have to adhere to a weekly, monthly, or annual lease? Offering hourly would be fantastic for renters who work freelance. It would keep them in compliance with state laws that prohibit on-location or home-based work, giving them the ability to work at their discretion in a professional environment.

      I think it’s a fantastic, unique approach to the rental model. Honestly, I don’t know why it hasn’t been done here before.

  5. HI Tina, thanks for the reply – we have also built a website to connect salons with renters and allow renters to book ‘salon time’ – however long they need. We would love to see if folks in the USA would like it. Do you think they would use it?

    1. I definitely think they would. There is considerable room for innovation where industry practices are concerned–tons of opportunities to shake things up and introduce new ways of approaching our business. With the growing popularity of microsalon ownership, the time to step in and establish yourself as a unique new way to maximize a renter’s profitability by offering them a way to minimize their overhead would be now more than ever.

    2. Hi Danny – would you mind emailing me your website? We’re a salon franchise in the US looking to expand into Australia and would love to chat with you on your booth rent knowledge.

      1. Hi Jason! Danny’s site is called Ninyo–it connects freelance professionals with salon spaces that rent by the hour or day. Currently, they only operate in Australia, but they’re taking steps for a limited US trial launch, which I’m quite excited about. 😀 Unfortunately, because the US states each regulate landlord/tenant conditions differently (and often each state cosmetology board regulates the rental arrangement differently), implementing the concept here will take a considerable deal of research and likely won’t be available in the two states that absolutely prohibit booth rental entirely (NJ and PA). Danny and I discussed the differences between Australia and the US (in terms of their approach to booth rental), and even though booth rental isn’t particularly popular in Australia, it’s not regulated in the same way as it is here–which I believe makes it a *fantastic* place to consider establishing suite businesses in.

  6. Hello im a booth renter and am half booked i seek new clients and work alot to gain more clients independently (i do my own leg work) im fully aware that this is my space i rent i feel as a renter i have to do more than just pick any old salon, its much deeper than that. As you are aware of im sure. Here is my “complaint, issue, problem” i need advice on like i said i have room to grow which is why i chose my salon i have my steady clients but do need to build more. Now i signed my lease and 2 weeks into it another girl was hired with NO CLIENTLE AT ALL she soley depends on walk ins i was fine with that and supportive of her. Well because of her lack of clients as she dosent go seeking and to the extent of reaching out as i do she is rather lazy well recently she became the receptionist AND a stylist now i dont think this is fair to everyone in the salon she hands out all the small money to the 10 of us and books herself for the bigger money clients ive notices this pattern today as she was up for rotation yet past herself up giving the bang trim at 7p.m. to me and directly after booked herself a “works” client. To top this off she has become rather close to the landlord and now us booth renters are being represented by a stylist whos favoritism is herself. I know what you said about how were not entitled to walk ins but all of us at the salon picked this location to build more to our clientele as the location is perfect and has tons of foot traffic. Walk ins and call ins have to go somewhere.
    I believe she no longer pays booth rent yet is still using her spot and booking her self. Can anything be done about this? In my contract lease i signed my rent included 2 free weeks, a receptionist, towel service, back bar, and 20% off apperal.
    Thank you

    1. I’m sorry, but because all of you are self-employed, you’re responsible for running your own businesses. You can’t dictate what the landlord allows or disallows other renters to do, nor do you have any influence over the terms of the other renters’ leases/conditions. Renters are not “hired,” they are given space in exchange for rent. The landlord doesn’t care whether or not this new girl has a clientele, she only cares that the rent is paid. The only person who can represent you or your fellow renters are yourselves. She is not the salon ambassador, and I wouldn’t allow her to act in that capacity if I were you. As for her operating as both receptionist and stylist, I’d protest against that as it is clearly a massive conflict of interest, but I’d do so with the understanding that my protests likely wouldn’t go far, as the owner of the salon has the final say in how the business operates.

  7. Hi Tina,
    I just rent a salon booth in the mall. I have been very busy with the cutomers thus I try to get as much time as possible to server. The question is Can I use the owner cashiers service ? Do I cross the booth renter boundary for using their cashier service ?

    1. I highly recommend against it. Square is a fantastic service, and I hear great things about Intuit’s mobile payment processor also. Without knowing the specifics, I can say that the more you separate your business from the suite business, the better.

  8. I love this! I think a lot of the entitlement comes from the fact that SO MANY booth rental salons offer things they shouldn’t offer as “perks” to attract stylists ie; shared bookings system they pay for, towels, backbar etc. I’d personally love to work for a spot where I was in charge of everything, my own everything and my salon is the closest that you can get to that without getting into a suite which makes me happy! But when talking to other rental salons, there are a lot of “landlords” that want to act like bosses instead. It’s a two sided coin.

  9. I am a booth renter and my question might be silly but does the ” manager” of a salon have any authority over me?

  10. I’ve been working at a salon for over a year now, on booth rent from last April. Recently the owner of the salon tells the 4 booth renters working at the salon that we need to be there from open to close everyday. Yet she, as the owner and hairstylist, leaves halfway through the day.
    We are also told to buy toilet paper, paper towels, washer detergent for towels, soap, etc. I’ve even bought new salon towels out of my own business account since the salon towels we had were getting dingy.
    Just wondering your comments on these few situations. And that’s not even half of what’s wrong in the salon to me.

      1. The owner of the salon also never had me or the other booth renters sign any kind of contract agreeing on a schedule or anything like that. We each have our own key to the salon but the owner is still insisting on telling us to stay the full hours of operation.

  11. Hi Tina!
    I am a booth renter and I have a question. I pay for full time booth rental but if I am not there let’s say taking the day off, on vacation or just coming in late our owner will let other booth renters use my station and charge them booth rent too! Is this legal? They are double dipping. I recently had an incident where I showed up to work and they had another booth renter use my station with out asking or notifying me. It’s really annoying that I pay FULL TIME rent and not be able to walk in and use my station any time. It’s also frustrating to know that I paid when I’m on vacation and they are having other booth renter use my station and are charging them booth rent too. There’s not enough stations for all the stylist we have so they let the renters who don’t have stations use renters who are not there at that time of day. I don’t see how this is legal but I’m not sure.

    1. It’s likely legal. Commercial landlord/tenant laws aren’t defined in many states. Most rely on contract law, so to protect yourself, you have to ensure your lease is written to protect your rights.

  12. I am a booth renter at a salon with commission stylists and other booth renters. I run my own books from my phone and have an online booking system set up. When you search online for the salon I work at, my page also comes up since the name of the salon is listed. The owner and manager have demanded that I remove it because I’m “stealing clients from commission stylists at the salon. ” I’m not! The system was set up that way and I wasn’t the one that linked it. They are saying that I can’t list the name of the salon at all on my site. I’ve been forced to disable it until I can figure out what to do. Help!

    1. Yikes! It sounds like their SEO isn’t as good as yours is, lol. They have control over their brand name, though, so they do have the right to require you to separate yourself from it (since it also puts them in that questionable legal gray area if you’re using it on your site). Personally, I’d remove it and just use the salon’s address under my own brand name. That way, they have nothing to complain about and you don’t have to worry about potential conflicts in the future.

  13. Hello! My name is Brandon and I was hired as a booth renter/independent contractor in Oct 2017, by the so called “manager” that most definitely wasn’t being paid hourly, so he’s booth rent too. I started at $65 a week since I’m new to nd, but right before thanksgiving and christmas raised it to $100 with no notice. Now he’s done the same thing, and has raised it to $150 with no notice. This has all stemmed from him getting FINED and caught by the board 3 times for having a non licensed stylist working(for 3 years) and so now suddenly this. I feel like I’m basically being made to pay the thousands of dollars in fines he has now. What do I do!?

    1. You need to contact an attorney with a specialization in employee defense (employment law) immediately. It sounds to me that you and your coworkers were misclassified. You cannot be “hired” as a booth renter and a “manager” isn’t a renter either. Read this, this, and this.

  14. What if your landlord chooses to close salon for renovations/repair during regular schedualed work days and you cannot work due to construction. Is this a situation that still requires booth renter to pay on days lost business due to salon owners choice?

    1. Unless your state has commercial landlord-tenant laws (most don’t), you’ll have to refer to your contract with the owner. I’d argue that periods of closure that are outside of your control aren’t ones you should be paying rent during. You weren’t given the opportunity to choose the contractor, to determine the length of time the facility would be inoperable, or whether to forego the work altogether. If you had, you would have been able to plan for the closure accordingly or have the work performed in a way that reduces the inoperable time. How are you expected to offset your personal and business expenses during this closure?

      I don’t agree that you should be paying rent during the renovations at all, but unless your contract has provisions against this kind of thing, there may be no recourse. If it’s just a few days, it may be better to let it go, but if you’re looking at extended closures it may be worth speaking to an attorney about the possibility of seeking reimbursement or getting the rent waived entirely.

  15. I have read this and I have a quick question.. you say that when we go on vacation time you should pay which I totally agree with.. but, how do you feel about maternity leave? Technically that is not a vacation that is a medical leave.

    1. Only employees are protected by the Family Medical Leave Act–and renters are self-employed. Just as a salon owner wouldn’t be exempted from paying their rent on their building during a medical leave, salon renters wouldn’t be either, as you have no legal grounds to expect it. (Typically though, a lot of salon landlords will temporarily suspend the lease in those cases. They’ll likely rent out your space to someone else in the meantime, but they tend to be more flexible than their own landlords are, especially if they want to retain a quality tenant.)

  16. Hi I am a salon owner, we rent booths, I have a booth renter looking to hire his own apprentice.
    I am inclined to prohibit this.
    Does liability fall on establishment or renter?
    In California

    1. As far as liability, you’ll need to refer to your state board guidelines and your liability insurance company. (Typically, liability falls on the renter, since they are self-employed and doing business under their own business license, but some states assign penalties from the board to the holder of the establishment license.) That said, I’m not sure you have any legal grounds for prohibiting them from hiring any employees they may require. The freedom to hire/fire workers without interference is a key factor that separates a self-employed person from an employee. Your attempt to prohibit that may be construed as an inappropriate degree of behavioral control.

  17. Im having an issue with an employee on commission which is my co-owner daughter. She wants to go on boothrent but she is not willing to pay for nail station that she uses.We only charge $125 week and asking $50 more for nail station. She says she will go buy a small nail table and do at her station. (I think she’s acting entitled and she says because she makes the salon money she’s owed this.) Or she wants an increase on commission if she stays on that. Her commission now is she gets 60% and we get 40% she purchases her own products. I’m at the end of myself because her mom never agrees with me but always sides with her. She’s requesting 6 weeks off work without pay for station. How do I go about all this if she tries to get a small nail table to use at her station?

    1. She is acting entitled. I wouldn’t compromise. Since you’re her employer, you have full control over what she does and doesn’t do at work. If she wants to keep pushing you (and your partner continues to allow it), I’d have an attorney write up a buyout agreement. If they want to run the salon into the ground, they can buy you out and make all the bad decisions they want, but there’s no reason your investment should be compromised because they don’t know how to treat the business like a business.

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