13 Questions With Harriet Stokes

We caught up with hair stylist Harriet after she took the plunge to go freelance and also start a new business helping to educate others in the industry post lockdown!

First off, how are you and how is your 2021 going?

I’m good thank you, my 2021 is going well so far, different to what I thought but that’s not a bad thing. The last 6 months I have worked much less and made more time for myself which has been awesome. Now I’m throwing myself back into work for the rest of the year but still with a good balance!

Can tell us about your hair journey, and how you got into the industry?

Sure, I’ve been hairdressing for the last 12 years, I started out when I was 14 years old when my school opened a hair salon so students could have an insight into other industries while doing their GCSE’s. I totally fell in love with it and coming from a family of many hairdressers I was kind of always going to end up being a hairdresser too.

I worked my way up in my first salon from the Saturday girl to the senior colourist then upped and moved to London when I was 20 years old where I studied to become a colour specialist and over time learnt how to become an educator. Throughout the last 12 years I have been on many different hair teams, entered lots of competitions and taken part in anything and everything so I could continue learning, meet like-minded people and build my profile. In May last year, I took the plunge into being my own boss and have since opened 3 small businesses.

Your Instagram is packed full of tips and tricks, when did you start creating content online?

I have been posting my work on Instagram since August 2013, at the time I had just qualified and was looking to build a clientele so I started sharing my salon work and very quickly I built up a strong base. I started treating Instagram more like a business when I moved to London over 5 years ago, again sharing my work to attract clients and to show brands what I was up to and eventually changing the direction of my page slightly to attract students for the education I was teaching. In the last 18 months, I would say I have become more focused on creating content to grow my businesses as the online world has very much gone that way. Social media has played a huge part in my career, I’ve made friends and connected with people from all over the world and it’s helped to open many doors.

The beauty industry has a reputation for having long days and few days off, how do you work hard whilst still keeping your mental health in check?

At the start of this year I decided this year was the year that I was going to focus more on myself and for the first time ever start actually looking after myself by creating healthier routines, learning to cook and being kinder to myself….. I’ve always wondered when I would become a yoga person haha. In my previous job that I was in for 4.5 years I worked 6/7 days a week for most of the time I was there and I don’t regret doing so because of the experience and growth I gained career-wise but my mind and body massively suffered.

The hair industry can be bad for that, young stylists thinking they have to work every hour under the sun to get somewhere. Well, I believe that things have changed and especially since covid-19, everyone’s starting to appreciate and respect self-care more and wanting a better work-life balance. Throwing myself into work had always been my survival mode which I now realise since taking time out, I also started seeing a therapist at the start of this year and it’s the best thing I have ever done. I’m finally looking after myself properly, eating the right things, exercising, not overworking and now in turn I’m performing better in my work life. Mental health should be spoken more openly about online and when I’m ready I will share more about my journey and what I’ve learnt on my platform to hopefully help towards taking that sigma away in the hair and beauty industry.

How did you take the leap to go freelance as a hairstylist and what tips would you give someone looking to do the same?

Last year I had originally planned to take a complete timeout from the salon life, to travel on the way to Australia and then settle there for a year or two. I wanted to work for a salon that potentially specialised in cutting and take things in a new direction; yes, I love colour, I really love colour. But my cutting had taken a backseat in London, and I wanted to refocus on that again. Covid-19 was a complete curveball, as it was for everyone, but I had to change all my plans – change literally everything. I hadn’t yet reached my final day in my old salon, and actually went into lockdown employed. This gave me space, and obviously financial security being furloughed, which meant I was able to spend time really thinking about where I wanted to go next now that everything had changed. If I’m honest, I was actually completely burnt out going into the first lockdown. Having that downtime, for the first time in 10 or 11 years of being in the industry, forced me to pause and really acknowledge the effect that working so hard had had on my mental and physical health.

Having that downtime, for the first time in 10 or 11 years of being in the industry, forced me to pause and really acknowledge the effect that working so hard had had on my mental and physical health. Harriet

It gave me time to think about moving forward, but also about how I could continue at a pace that was good for me. That’s how the decision to go freelance came around; I realised that I need to be more in control of my own life. I already knew that I wanted a big change, having planning to move countries, so the scariness of going freelance probably didn’t hit quite so hard. My advice to anyone considering going freelance would be to really do your research into everything involved, not everyone is ready for freelance life and it’s definitely not as easy as you think. Firstly, you need to be a well-established hairdresser at the top of your game with a clientele and secondly, there is soooo much admin involved, but I must say there are more pro’s than con’s and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. My friend has actually just written a book all about freelance life and everything you need to know, it will be released soon so keep an eye on her Instagram @freelancer_beauty_book_ to find out more!

Obviously, the last 18 months had been really tough on the industry, how did you manage not seeing clients for so long, and what kept you going?

What a crazy crazy time the last 18 months has been, I still don’t think it has actually sunk in what we are living through. Our industry has taken a real hit and in the first lockdown, it kind of felt like a break for everyone for the first couple of weeks before we realised that our industry wouldn’t be opening for a really long time. As I’ve just previously mentioned I went into the first lockdown employed and came out self-employed so that time for me to plan my new business was what kept me going, knowing I was working towards something exciting and towards seeing my clients again!! Then in October 2020 myself and my business partner Anneliese Hesse started our own hair academy – Humankind Hair which kept us insanely busy over the following months and lockdowns!

Can you tell us about the Humankind Hair Academy?

We have a mission:

For humans in our industry to be treated equally, with kindness,

consideration and respect. We adapt everything we teach to suit all

hair types for all humans. Our courses are for kind humans.

Be human. Be kind. Be both.

Myself and Anneliese Hesse have been friends for years, have worked together previously and both love education, we are literally the opposite of each other but that’s exactly why we work so well. The real idea behind Humankind for both of us was creating something really special, and offering the kind of education that we have both always believed in. We launched in October 2020 and within 36 hours, our courses were completely sold out. Crazy, I know. Sadly for us, lockdown intervened and restrictions meant that we had to rethink our whole business plan, and make the terrifying decision to take Humankind Hair online into total alien territory.

The real idea behind Humankind for both of us was creating something really special, and offering the kind of education that we have both always believed in.Harriet

We invested what money we had into studio lighting, webcams, Zoom accounts and all the equipment we needed to make it as good as we wanted it to be – the phrase ‘all the gear, no idea’ springs to mind! But jokes aside, this in itself was a massive risk, as a new freelancer I fell through the gaps of government funding, so I had to give this absolutely everything I had. We spent hours getting techy and learning about online education, as well as practising the colour too, so we could offer a higher level of education.

Now we are back to running our education in person, online and in salons around the UK which is a dream. Myself and Anneliese are huge fans of travelling and once the world opens back up again properly we plan on taking Humankind Hair Academy overseas to anywhere that wants to host our education and at the same time we plan on taking time out on those trips to explore ourselves, experience different countries and cultures. 

Congratulations on your recent win for the ‘IT Girl’ award at the creative head mag most wanted awards, what would your top tips be for the other stylists wanting to get their name out there and network?

Aww thank you so much, winning ‘IT Girl’ was 4 years in the making and a lot of hard work went into not only writing my entries but also into every aspect of my career to have something to write about. My biggest advice would be to throw yourself into everything you can, take up every opportunity you can, enter competitions, audition to be on teams and just surround yourself with like-minded people. Lastly, remember that success doesn’t happen overnight, you do need to work really hard but at the same time make sure you enjoy the journey!

What are you currently working on or whats next for you??

I’ve got a really busy couple of months ahead with education, which feels like life is getting back to normal as we’ve been limited to teaching online for so long. We have just launched a new course with Humankind Hair called ’The Science Of Curls And Coils’ in collaboration with expert and trichologist Tatlyn Grant, which we are really excited about, it’s going to be amazing. I’ve also got some really exciting education dates coming up teaching for L’Oréal Professional up and down the country, as well as lots of projects with BaByliss and BaByliss PRO. The plan is to keep splitting my time between looking after my gorgeous clients in the salon, educating and having time out for myself.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Well, my favourite day of the week is most definitely Sunday so it needs to be done right. Starting with a lazy morning in bed, followed by spending time with friends or family exploring somewhere new. If I’m in London then I do love visiting Brick Lane market and Columbia Road flower market, which is such a typical East London Sunday. Then I’d be ending my weekend with a face mask in the bath for the ultimate chill, you just can’t beat it!

What do you always carry with you?

I’m totally guilty of styling my hair on the go, especially on long train journeys so I always have my BaByliss cordless straightener with me!

What would your last ever meal be?

A roast dinner with a huge Yorkshire pudding and lots of extra gravy. I’m actually allergic to gluten… it makes me fall asleep so I would happily have anything gluten for my last meal!

What Is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?

There is nothing more powerful than believing in yourself, go out there and do whatever makes you happy!