Stylist Q&A: Olivia Halpin on Changing Her Career Path & Staying Motivated
When it comes to all things hair, who better to consult than the professionals themselves. They know all the in’s and out’s on hair trends, what works best for each individual hair type and can offer advice on the looks and hair care that best fit your unique lifestyle.
In this series, we chat with our favorite hair professionals to learn just that. They talk to us about hair tips that really work, the advice they give their clients and their career journey.
Meet Olivia Halpin: Independent hairstylist based in New York City who specializes in styling her clients hair for weddings, private events, red carpets, and just for fashion!
When did you first know you wanted to become a hairstylist?
I started doing my own hair when I was about four years old. My mom will always tell everyone 'at four years old she was doing her own ponytails,' so she knew then. I had always loved it, but it wasn’t until I was studying finance in college when I realized ‘okay I think doing hair, I’d be a lot happier,’ so I made the change.
Having a great deal of experience as a hairstylist, what's the best advice you can give to someone starting out in this industry?
It takes a lot of work. You always have to be willing to say yes. At the beginning, especially as a freelance stylist, there's a lot of paying your dues to make the connections that you want to make and to learn as much as you can. There really is just a lot of paying your dues and it takes some time, but the reward is definitely there in the end.
What are three of your favorite styling tools?
As an independent hairstylist, what keeps you motivated?
A big factor that made me unhappy while working in salons, was the lack of control and flexibility over my schedule, like not being able to travel or have time off when I wanted. When I started my own business I had goals in mind and I always have the mentality, ‘If I work this much, then I can take this much time off.’ Having that work-life balance and being able to travel is really important to me. I always tell myself, ‘Alight, do all these jobs, say yes to all of these, and then you can take this vacation or afford to have this time off.’
Which celebs are your ultimate hair icons?
I’m sure everyone says this, but Kim Kardashian always has amazing hair. Her hair team is unreal and whether it's a simple beach wave, something more glamorous, or something really out there, she always looks amazing. I also love Kate Moss and just how absolutely effortless and sexy she is.
Let's talk hair tips! What are a few tips that could help other stylists, women and men looking to expand their hair styling skills?
When dealing with flyaways, spray hairspray on a toothbrush and then lightly comb down on your part to get rid of any flyaways without ruining your volume. Also, sleeping with your hair in a loose top knot on a silk pillowcase will elongate your blow-out.
Who wouldn’t want healthy and smooth locks during the summer? Any tips on keeping hair healthy this time of year?
I think in the summer there are many environmental factors that are damaging to your hair, including exposure to the sun, so investing in quality shampoo, conditioner, and mask is really important. Just like when you go out in the sun and use SPF, moisturizer, and an entire skin care regimen, doing the same thing to your hair is super important. If you are going to be at the beach, I think putting a mask in your hair and tying it to a low bun is a great way to protect your hair from the sun and you also get a conditioning treatment out of it.
Read more about environmental factors and hair aggressors that could be causing unwanted damage to your locks here: 5 Ways Pollution Affects Your Hair and Scalp Health
What is your consultation process like in order to ensure a satisfied client?
When I start a consultation with a client for an event, I rely on communication and I try and get an idea of the entire beauty look so that I can give a recommendation on what hairstyle would best fit the whole aesthetic. If they have something in mind already then that’s great and I can execute it. Photos are always really helpful, because words can mean something totally different to different people. For instance, to some people straight is pin straight, and for others straight is straight with a little bend on the end, so using visual cues are definitely helpful. I also like to confirm - if a client says they want their hair curled then I’ll use a few different words to describe what curly means to me, so that we’re on the same page. Once I start styling, I do a piece or two and have them check in the mirror and ask them ‘Is this what you were imagining?’ Once I’m done I always ask and make sure it came out exactly how they were expecting.
Each month you style hundreds of clients hair, what is the most common concern they express?
Usually, I’ll hear, 'My hair is so flat,' 'so dry,' or 'it's not growing.' I think it's because people don’t really think of taking care of their scalp and their hair like they would think to take care of their skin. We all know that if we want healthy glowy skin, we have to do all of these steps to nurture our skin and achieve that, but most people think 'oh it’s just my hair I could just use whatever, get my haircut once a year, and use any shampoo and conditioner,' but that's not going to give you healthy, growing, shiny hair. Having a regimen for your hair and scalp plus frequent haircuts is so important to keep it healthy.
How do you maintain relationships with your clients and grow your clientele?
A lot of it is word of mouth; that's the best advertising that you can do for yourself. I rely on social media and client referrals. Client referrals are huge! Aside from doing great hair for your client, developing a personal relationship with them and going above and beyond to offer a service that's not just showing up to blow dry their hair, but really genuinely caring about them and their life is important. Instagram is great for finding new clients and allowing new clients to find you, so posting high quality content and work that really suits who you are as a stylist - never posting just to post, making sure that every photo really reflects who you are as a stylist, your business and your personal brand.