Giving Up: Is it Time to Throw in the Towel?

Motivation and guidance for beauty professionals contemplating leaving the industry. Addressing feelings of disillusionment. Practical advice on evaluating one's career and making empowered decisions. A beacon of support for those facing professional crossroads.

I’m usually the one standing on a soapbox with a megaphone, screaming and ranting about the injustice that plagues our industry, but sometimes I like to step down to shake hands, kiss babies, and smell roses. This is one of those times.

As much as I fight against it, I know that 99.9% of salons are on a commission-only structure. I know a lot of salon owners take advantage of employees. I know plenty of employees bully owners. People in our industry can be catty and cruel. Clients can be vicious and cut us down.

I know it is hard to keep positive during the rough times.

It’s upsetting when readers email me about how disheartened and disillusioned they’ve become with the industry after suffering some sort of disappointment–whether it’s an employee mutiny, a bad experience with a terrible boss or a nasty client, or just a slow month.

I know what it’s like to want to give up.

Get your license away from that paper shredder. Make yourself a cup of coffee, sit down in a quiet room, take a deep breath, and read this post. I’m not here to downplay your struggles or your disappointments or to make you feel silly by “putting things in perspective.” I’ve been where you are more than once. I’m not going to feed you a bunch of empty motivational platitudes, encourage you to “keep on truckin,” or attempt to keep you from quitting. You’re going to reach your own decision about what’s best for you. This article will help you think through the static.

Hopefully, by the time you’re done reading you will feel empowered and at ease and maybe better equipped to make that major decision. Sometimes it helps to have someone tell you that you aren’t alone, you aren’t crazy, and you are capable of taking charge of your career.


Whatever situation brought you to this article, the following truths are universal:

1.) You are your own boss, regardless of your employment situation. A lot of salon owners feel like their business owns them (I know that I do sometimes). Employees feel like they’re at the mercy of their employer. This is not the case. You alone control your destiny.

You are the boss of you.

If the salon you own or work at is no longer serving your needs or making you happy, you have the power to leave, and if the place does not make you happy, you absolutely should. This goes for salon owners too.

2.) You owe nothing. I don’t care what contracts you signed or how close you are with your boss, your clients, or your employees. You don’t owe anybody anything–not your time, not your energy, and certainly not your unconditional loyalty. You are a free human.

Do not let others guilt trip you into giving more of yourself than you’re willing or able to give. You are nobody’s hostage.

3.) Standing up for yourself does not make you selfish. You are your own advocate. If something does not feel right or is affecting you negatively, you should absolutely speak in your defense and put an end to it. You have the right to be happy in your career and in your life overall. Don’t let others take that from you and don’t feel bad about defending that right.

Fight for yourself and don’t apologize for it.

4.) Stop making yourself miserable. Life is stressful enough. Don’t dwell on mistakes you might have made or regrets that you have. Learn from them and move on.

5.) Put your pride aside. It’s okay to admit when you’re wrong. Apologizing for making a mistake is admirable and may help relieve any guilt you may be carrying around. Don’t let pride hold you back from releasing negativity and anxiety. That behavior is counterproductive at best and self-destructive at worst.

Maybe you’ve felt helpless for so long that you’ve forgotten how powerful you actually are. Do you remember now? You’re an adult with free will who isn’t required to take shit from anyone. Now let’s figure out the nature of the problem and think it through.

Remember why you got into this industry. Most of us entered this industry so we could work with people, helping them feel better about themselves. That compassion drives us. Some of us are in it for the liberation that we get from being able to create all day long. That freedom of expression drives us. Whatever your reasons were, remember them now.

Really think about your reason for pursuing this career. Ask yourself if that reason holds true and if it’s enough to motivate you to stick with it.

(Hint: if your answer is “the money,” odds are that you got into this business for the wrong reason and are learning a harsh lesson.)


Identify what is compromising your happiness. What instigated this career crisis and can it be corrected?

  • If it’s a bad boss, find a new job.
  • If the salon you own is staffed with toxic people, fire them and re-staff.
  • If you have a few evil coworkers who seem hellbent on ruining your work life, either get it handled, handle it yourself, or go in search of greener pastures.

Remember the truths: you’re the boss of you and you don’t owe anyone anything.

Figure out what is killing your happiness and either correct or eliminate it.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Don’t be ashamed to take a break. Sometimes, a few days or weeks away from the job might help you remember what you love about it. Sometimes, the absence makes people realize that they’re better off pursuing something else entirely.

You owe it to yourself to find your own happiness, wherever that is. People who don’t understand or don’t support your right to find your happiness don’t matter.

Education often stimulates motivation. If you’re suffering from a lack of excitement and motivation, sometimes all it takes is a new product, a new class, or a trade show trip. Industry education has this magical quality that actually infuses excitement into your job.

If basic boredom is your issue, education may be your remedy.

You know what is best for you. You worked hard for that license you’re thinking about abandoning, but the choice is yours entirely.

Like I said–I’ve been there. It’s renewal time. The checkbook is sitting in front of me right next to my renewal forms. A $75 fee and a fifty cent stamp is all that stands between me and another two years of licensure. Am I sure I want to do this for another two years? If I let the licence lapse, I won’t have a choice in the matter anymore.

Even in my lowest career crisis moments, I always cut the check, paste the stamp, and send the form in…because you never know.

Do you know?

Maybe you do. Maybe there’s a feeling in your gut telling you it’s time to cut ties completely and walk away forever. Maybe you’re reconsidering and thinking that a career in this industry is worth fighting for. (Don’t worry, you won’t be alone. I’m fighting for you every day.)

Beauty industry attrition rates are exceptionally high for a multitude of reasons. This business isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Personally, it’s not a career I recommend unless you’re a special breed of crazy fueled by an intense, exceptional level of passion for the job. As far as I can tell, only about 3% of people who obtain licenses will stick with it for life, despite this industry’s many, many faults.

Think it through. If you’re going to give it another shot, kick in the doors and own it. Go back in with a plan. Evaluate your career and reconsider your approach. Don’t settle.

If you’re going to throw in the towel, do it right.
…Douse it in gasoline and light it on fire first.


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6 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for this post. Your website has been a god-send for me. I recently messed up on a service and had an unsatisfied customer that left me at a really low point and questioning my abilities. They asked for a refund and didn’t let me try to fix it. These types of things are so hard for me to move forward from, because I know that people talk and “spread the news” about bad experiences (especially when you’re in a small town like the one I work in). I’ve just moved from a commissioned salon and started booth renting a little over a month ago. Work has been slow and every little thing has me stressed out. I’m a little discouraged, and was even thinking about switching careers, but this post gave me the nudge I needed to feel like I want to stick around a little longer.

  2. I am so glad this helped you! Every one of us has been there before–multiple times, lol. I swear, the first three years we spend in the salon out of school is the absolute worst because it seems like every couple of weeks we either botch a service or make some kind of devastating professional mistake. Even after that, there’s always some experience that makes us think seriously about giving up and doing something easy, like office work, lol. I would have a career crisis about every 18 months, lol. My coworkers could practically mark their calendar. Once I started evaluating what was causing the problems, I could just work through them. I haven’t had one since.

  3. The day spa I’ve worked at for 6 years has come under new ownership. Things have become tense, rocky, and tumultuous. The place I once loved to be is now a place I simply go to, put my head down, do my job, and leave. Yes, there have been a couple of times in the past when I thought about leaving the industry altogether, but this is the first time that I have truly considered just walking away and trying something else. The words you have written in this article will stick with me during the meeting being held to discuss the changes in the very near future of the spa. I know who I am, I know what I will and won’t do, I know what my clients do and do not want. Thank you for your support, even though you’ve never met me and I’ve never met you this has been exactly what I needed from somebody in the industry. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I hope for some joy very soon.

  4. Hi Tina, need a answer, 8 Mos ago my past boss with held my pay ,soI went to the labor broad . 3 days ago I received a letter from IRS that I’ll be receiving a certain amount in regards to the info I’ve explained to you . The past boss called me ,to say she received a letter stating she had to pay them now she wants me to give her that money . I know irs had her to give give them then they in ture mail it to me. Help

    1. LOL, omg, are you serious? Your boss was charged with wage theft and then tried to extort the money from you? Don’t pay her. Send a copy of the letter to the state labor board. Seriously consider talking to an attorney about this harassment. It’s absolutely absurd. SHE stole from YOU. Not the other way around.

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