Over time, being 100% commission-based has changed my relationship with money.
Before doing hair, money was about doing things to buy things. Making more money at a given job meant nicer apartments, nicer cars, nicer clothes, and less worry. It was transactional. It was also something you wanted to be able to anticipate and depend on into the future.
That is not how money works behind the chair.
Money is an *objective* measure of how much *subjective* excitement a hair stylist is building within his or her clientele. Imagine having 300 bosses. They all get to rate you separately; your performance is re-evaluated after every task you complete; and their average thrill-level determines your average paycheck. They don't rate you on a set of technical or even objective criteria, either. There is no sure way to impress across the board. Technical or artistic prowess might help, but their rating ultimately depends on how much you delight them.
The amazing thing is that the more passion and commitment you bring to the chair, the more your income grows - and there is no limit! The intimidating thing is that you need to Bring. It. Every. Day.
Someone recently told me he was thinking of giving up on hair because he couldn't get up to a stable income. This is someone who wants tit-for-tat. He wants to work a little, make a little money...work a little more, make a little more...etc. This industry doesn't work that way, because it is built too directly on face-to-face human relationships. If you want to build a book, you have to commit up front and do nothing halfway. If you want an eventual payoff, you have to forget about a payoff anytime soon and remove that as a factor - because it's holding you back from giving your all. This is not a 9-5 job and it is not a secure job. Your hundreds of bosses can individually fire you whenever they want, for any reason, so you have to hook them again and again over time.
In this rather intense situation, forgetting that money buys things and treating my numbers like grades is how I grow. Grades are tools for learning and that seems less high-pressure than focusing on money as income and the determinant of my quality of life. Every day something reminds me that I'm not entitled to any set income, because every penny comes from creating delight. No amount of technical skill will necessarily secure my future...but I get to spend 40+ hours per week working with my hands, creating art that moves and lives and is on exhibit 24/7, and making people happier with themselves. I focus on all this as my payment, let the fluctuations in my numbers steer me, and trust that with them as my guide I won't end up a starving artist. So far, it's given me a more appreciative and respectful relationship with money than I had in my cushy office job. If it's sometimes less comfortable to see my livelihood fluctuate, there is a truer safety in not taking finances or status for granted.