Changing the Booth Rental Salon Structure Entirely: Don’t Be “Just a Landlord”

A few of my readers have expressed dismay at hearing that as owners of booth rental salons, they are “just a landlord.” One of them said, “I don’t want to run their businesses or have employees but I don’t want to be someone that just collects checks every week.” Oddly enough, a lot of the renters I talk to say things like, “I don’t want to work for anyone else, but running a business is a ton of work and sometimes I feel like I just can’t keep up.”

A mutually beneficial solution is right in front of your faces, you just aren’t looking hard enough to see it.

Owners: Don’t be “just a landlord.” You can do and be so much more.

Offer business services to your renters. In addition to providing them a space to work in, you can provide them with solutions that make it easier for them to run their own businesses. Everyone wins. You will get to do more than “collect checks;” you’ll be helping your renters succeed. You’ll get to supplement your own income with the money you make from the business services and as a result of using the services you offer, the renters will become better professionals.

So here are some ideas I would be implementing if I were the owner of a booth rental or salon suite business. As a renter, these are all things that I would have been incredibly thrilled to have available to me and would have been happy to pay for.

Training Classes: You can offer training classes to your renters for a fee. How you do this is entirely up to you. You can hire guest artists or educators to come in and teach the class or you can recruit one of your staff members to instruct for a discount on her rent that week. Since your renters are business owners, you have a huge range of topics to pick from outside of technical cut/color/product classes. You can have an accountant come in to talk about proper tax filing, you can have a small business adviser come in from SCORE (for free) and talk about how to budget.

Business Cards & Promotional Materials: A consulting client of mine is married to the owner of a printing business. Her husband’s company makes all of the business cards, flyers, and promotional materials for the salon’s renters and sells them to the renters at a reduced cost. The renters love it because the landlord’s husband is also a skilled graphic designer, so in addition to cheap business cards, they’re also getting logos and card designs for free!

Advertising: If your salon has a website, offer to sell a “featured” ad to the renters for a small monthly fee. It’s incredibly easy to do if you’re using Wix.

Reception Services: This area can be tricky, but if done right will not raise any issues with the IRS in terms of employee classification. A lot of renters do not answer their phones while they’re with clients since it is unprofessional, but their landlord wouldn’t let them use the receptionist since it crosses that employer/landlord boundary. The only time you cross that boundary is if you make it mandatory for the renters to book at a central location and have their clients pay at a central location. Offer reception and scheduling as an optional business service. Let your renters know that if they have a busy day, they can turn over their cell phones and individual appointment books* while they’re working on their clients. For a fee (per call, per day, it’s up to you), you can answer their phones and book their appointments for them.

Mailing List Management: I’m a big fan of newsletters. MailChimp is the service I use for mine. If you’re good with computers and with writing, offer to compose newsletters for your renters for a fee. They would maintain their own account, you would just write up their newsletter for them. They could proof it and send it out themselves once you’re done. If someone offered this service to me, I would gladly pay an extra $20 a month. I love the newsletters, but I hate writing them.

Portfolio Development: Creating a network of photographers and models willing to produce excellent images for free is as simple as joining Model Mayhem and sending a few messages to other professionals that share your creative vision and work ethic. If you set up your own network of reliable professionals, you could easily offer portfolio development services to your renters.

Web Design: If you know how to drag and drop, you can design a website. There are tons of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web building services now, but Wix is my favorite. If you’re good enough at designing pages that you think you can charge for it, offer it.

Supply Purchasing & Delivery: Booth renters are working owners. Finding the time to run to the supply store can be hard when you’re busy running a business and managing a clientele. Offer to purchase their supplies and deliver them…of course, for a fee.

These solutions are great ways that you can make some additional money and make life easier for your renters. Instead of being “just a landlord,” you can be an incredibly useful asset. These services are things that go largely ignored by busy booth renters but desperately need to be addressed regularly in order to ensure that their business continues to thrive.

Help your renters thrive.

By doing so, you’ll also ensure the continued happiness of the clients and the continued success of the salon overall.

I never include footnotes, but I have to here. Do NOT use a central phone line or central appointment book. It must be their phones and their books. Not yours. It must also be an optional service.


I don’t want ANY emails that start with “…but what if I..?” There is no room for that here. It has to be this way or NO way. Otherwise, you cross that employer boundary and may whatever god you worship have mercy on your soul, the IRS certainly won’t.

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Tina Alberino
Tina Alberino
Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and Salon Ownership and Management: A Definitive Guide to the Professional Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.

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    • I highly recommend against following any templates. Each state is different, each business is different, and if you aren’t a lawyer with a specialty in contract law, you have no business drafting your own contracts. They’re very important documents, so it’s worth it to pay the $500 or so to have them done correctly. However, I can tell you what your lease needs to have:
      * Lease term
      * Option to renew
      * Rent increase/escalation provisions
      * Inclusions (don’t nickle and dime people–clarify what rent includes and what it doesn’t)
      * Restrictions
      * Assignment clause
      * Security deposit and conditions for return
      * Modifications and equipment (specifying what you as the landlord will cover and what you won’t)
      * Repairs
      * Termination and eviction provisions
      * Proof of license and insurance (Keep copies on file)
      * Termination without penalty (allows the tenant to terminate without penalty if you fail to meet your responsibilities–for example, if you stop paying rent and the salon gets locked up)

  1. I apologize for confusion. I am a booth renter of 14 years. The salon/station “contract” is an antiquated format the owner pulled from NailPro magazine 18 years ago. She keeps adding pieces to the point this “contract”, from what I’ve pulled from various articles, could not be Inforced and clearly violates current IRS Booth Renter definition.

    My hope was to provide a format for her to, as you recommend, take to her attorney for proper development. At the very least, to show her what needs to be removed. To complicate it further, she does not own the building but herself rents the space and has a month to month so should she throw in the towel, there’s nothing (in my contract) that states how much time she must provide me before vacating the premises. All very muddy.
    Any advise to offer?

    • Yikes! You definitely need to have a proper lease written, but that has to be her cost to bear. It’s in her best interest to consult with a lawyer to have it done, because she’s at a sever disadvantage right now. If her contracts aren’t enforceable, they aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, and that could introduce a serious problem for her in the future.

    • That’s an area that’s way too gray for me to ever advise either rental salon owners or microsalon owners to even consider. I’ve lost count of the number of times a renter contacted me, panicking, because their landlord stole their book and locked them out of the system until they pay some kind of arbitrary fine to get it back. (That’s extortion, btw.) I don’t advise it. Everyone should keep their own books. If the landlord wants to offer reception/appointment setting, it needs to be optional, charged separately, and the person doing it needs to be using the renter’s phone and renter’s books.

  2. Tina….here is our situation!
    We are a salon now of 9 stylists, 1 nail tech, 1shampoo tech and receptionist. We are commission based salon of 40 years in which the majority (including receptionist have been here for over 30 yrs). We are very tight group of women stylists (with clientele) with most of us being late 40’s and 50’s. We have lost several in the last few years to suites and booth rent and they were never replaced…empty chairs =no revenue.
    Our owner (whom we all love greatly) is choosing to close our salon for personal reasons. We have 3 months to pull together a plan.

    So now what…a couple of us are trying to open a salon in the same area with a fresh look and new name (but marketing the legacy of our former salon) and move into booth rent! Our stylist minus only 2-3 have a large business so we feel it’s a win for both.
    We will do a booth lease and provide laundry and back bar for our renters. We all work well together and truthfully have had a lot of freedom in our past salon so not a huge change there. Actually a lot of excitement as we feel we are prepared for this next step in our careers. We want to stay together!
    Our receptionist and salon phone number are very well established with our clients…..scary to consider it without those 2 ingredients. However, my present owner has paid our receptionist very well as she was more of a salon coordinator in all honesty. We can’t afford what she was being paid. So debating whether she can afford to work for less with less responsibilities and the affect to our long standing clients who know our number by heart and love our receptionist who knows their needs!
    Several of us are so busy and don’t want to field calls and appts so want someone to do that for us…hoping it can still be her. But a few want to handle their own books/calls???
    Any thoughts for us?

    • Well, you can offer the use of the receptionist as an amenity and include her salary in the overall rent, or as an a la carte amenity as outlined in this article, but I’m confused as to why you think you wouldn’t be able to afford her between the ten of you renting. If we assume she was making $55,000 a year and divide that by 10 renters, that’s $5,500 per year each. Divided by 12 months in the year, that’s $458 per month, or $114.58 per week, per renter–a small price to pay for the convenience of a receptionist, especially one who will most certainly be greeting and directing the clients, serving them beverages, and doing all the other tasks a career coordinator would very likely feel compelled to do after doing those tasks for so long. (I don’t think it’s incredibly likely that she’s going to be content with doing less work, or that the renters won’t expect her to handle all the same responsibilities she handled previously. I think you’re both likely to find that she’s far more valuable than you may have realized when you made the decision to reduce her responsibilities, lol. This shift may cause resentment on both sides.)

      I’m in the process of creating a new downloadable that would be super helpful to you right now, but it’s not done yet. It includes a spreadsheet that allows you to work your numbers and generate potential rental rates, and another sheet that allows you to price amenities like those outlined in this article. However, I see no reason why you can’t structure your upcoming venture to allow you to retain her at the rate she’s been paid. The solution may be to find a building large enough, or configure the unit you choose, to accommodate more renters–driving the per-renter cost of the coordinator down. If you were to divide that $55,000 between 12 renters, for example, the cost would be $95 a week. Between 14 renters, it would be $81 a week.

      Great coordinators are really hard to find. It would just be such a shame for all of you to lose her. 🙁

  3. Hi Tina!! I am an independent contractor in Oregon. I have a few questions….

    1. Can the salon owner charge a Towel and Cape fee as well as a fee for drinks and etc for clients in addition to our rent? Or is this what rent is supposed to cover? I’ve only worked in a couple of other salons previously and these were always included.

    2. Can the salon owner not let us sell our own retail? According to our contract we are not allowed to carry retail, this doesn’t seem right as an independent contractor??

    3. Can the salon owner have us purchase retail product, then buy the retail product from us and then just pay us commission when we sell it? She ends up getting 90% of the retail price this way.

    4. Can the salon owner make us all have the same business cards? She wants us to all have uniform business cards and gets upset when we use OUR business cards designs versus HERS. This is also in our contract and she says we have to use her design and printer because it’s in the contract. Help!!

    • Your rent should include those fees unless the contract states that they’re charged separately. Generally, you have to agree by the terms you abide by, so if you agreed not to sell retail, you’ll have to stick to that agreement (since most states revert to contract law to enforce commercial landlord/tenant arrangements and don’t have specific laws governing those relationships). Regarding the retail product–no, she cannot require you to buy product and sell it to her and pay you after the sale. That’s insane. At that point, you lose incentive to sell at all. If I were you, I’d be opting out of that whole thing, lol.

      Regarding the business cards–no. You cannot be required to use her branding and she cannot exercise control over your marketing materials. For more information, read this post, and this post.

      • So with the retail….here’s what’s going on….I have an account with a product brand that I use for my services. She wants to now retail them. The only way for her to get those products is through me. So she wants me to order them for her, she then wants to buy them at cost, retail them and then if I sell them, get 10% commission. I’m trying to figure out if this is normal or what I should do.

        • LOL! Not only is that not normal, it’s a ridiculous arrangement. She wants you to serve as a distributor to her, PAY COST, and then pay you just 10% for what you retail?! LOL. Yeah, it would be a no from me. It would be one thing if she were securing the product and stocking it, but to expect you to supply her at cost and then pay you a 10% retail commission is just–it’s absurd. Seriously.

  4. Hi Tina,
    Can the salon owner charge the chair rental in the form of x% commission of the service instead of flat fees from the stylists ?. Salon owner is already aware of the ABC test and abides by that.


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