Many salon owners have some kind of a commission system in place to compensate professional employees for sales that they bring to the business. The exact nature of the commission system varies widely, with some salon owners going with straight commission compensation and others using a hybrid hourly or minimum salary plus commission system, but some reward for employees bringing business to the salon is typical in the industry.
Straight Salary or Hourly Pay
A few salons pay all employees on an hourly and salary basis, and offer no commissions. This is definitely the exception rather than the rule, however, as most salons at least pay commission on retail sales of beauty accessories. According to Modern Salon's Beauty School Advisor, it is more typical for salons to pay non-professional employees like receptionists or assistants on an hourly/salary basis and have some type of commission system in place to compensate professional employees like hairdressers, cosmetologists, estheticians and others.
Straight Commission Compensation
Some salons operate on a straight commission basis. According to Salon Owner's Blog, salon commissions typically range from 40 to 60 percent; junior stylists receive somewhat less on average, and commissions above 50 percent are usually only paid to senior employees who have brought in a lot of business over the years. However, a straight commission compensation system can make it difficult for new employees to break in and actually make a living, so most salons working on straight commission offer new employees a minimum salary or a bonus for the first few months of work.
Hybrid Commission Systems
Hybrid hourly/salary and commission pay systems offer employees both a guaranteed minimum income and an opportunity to make more money by bringing new clients to the salon. A sliding commission structure, in which senior employees are paid a higher percentage commission, is also typical for hybrid compensation systems.
Average Wages for Salon Workers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cosmetologists earned an average wage of $11.13 an hour including tips and commission as of May 2008. The middle 50 percent of cosmetologists earned between $8.57 and $15.03 per hour. Skin care specialists and estheticians earned an average of $13.81 per hour.