How Subrina Kidd Curated her Freelance Lifestyle
The road to freelance life isn’t always simple, we spoke to stylist Subrina Kidd about her journey to self-employment…
“I started off actually not wanting to be a hairdresser. But when I was 12-years-old my mum didn’t have a lot of money and I worked out that if I got a weekend job I’d have more pocket money. I started in a Japanese salon between the ages of 12 and 16 and I worked there as a Saturday girl.
During that time my relationship with my mum broke down and I ended up in foster care at the age of 15. So I moved in with my foster mum, a Jamaican lady called Mrs McDonald and I lived with her until just before my 18th birthday.
I set off to art college after I finished school but self-doubt crept in and I thought I wasn’t good enough and I ended up dropping out.
Mrs McDonald said, ‘Look I understand you’re really young and you don’t know what you want to do, however in this household you either work, study or you do both so you while you’re here you’ll get up at the same time as everyone else and you’ll do chores until you work it out.’
So I said, ‘I’ll do hair, it pays and I’m relatively good at it.’ At the time I would save my pocket money and go to Kensington Church Street to an outlet store to buy random things and I came across a TONI&GUY. I thought if I’m going to work in a hairdressers I want to work there because it looked really cool. So I went to meet the general manager at TONI&GUY Mayfair on Bond Street about an apprenticeship and I’d never been to an interview before so I brought all my art work. At the time I was the only black female to apply to work there – and I got the job. And for many years I was the only black female to work there.
I was an assistant for a long time and I was a bit of a little sh*t if I’m being honest. I wasn’t really focused and a bit of a hot-mess. When I started at TONI&GUY I wanted to do all hairtypes. I did my probation and they said, ‘We love you and we want you to stay on but we’ve got an issue – we have no one here that can teach you to do Afro hair.” My only thought was ‘I can’t do hair and not know how to do my own hair!’.
So I did a few sessions training at Pacifics Salon, an Afro salon in west London. Whenever I’d think of a predominately Afro salon I’d picture loads of people hanging around, no real customer service, but when I stepped into Pacifics it was incredible – next level professional. All the staff were black but they did all hair types. I’d never seen a professional black-owned business like that in my life. Doing some training there inspired me – It was the first time I’d seen relaxed hair, natural hair, all hair types, under one roof.
I continued to progress and I eventually told the team at TONI&GUY that I wanted to enter the British Hairdressing Awards. I made it to the final the first time that I entered and was amazed to be up against huge names like Errol Douglas, Sandra Webb and Desmond Murray in my category.
I went on from that to educating with TONI&GUY and shoots and travelling around Europe working and it felt like I was eating and breathing the job. I’d watch friends travelling and getting into relationships and I be like ‘I want that too.’ I just wanted to do it on my terms as well – ‘I don’t want to work hard,’ I thought, ‘I want to work smart.’
An opportunity came up to work with Aveda and I’m glad I took it because it was one of the best moves of my career. With Aveda, within 12 months, I was doing tutorials online and shows for them and VIP clients. I was honest with them when I met with the general manager and told her I wanted a work and life balance.
If you’ve been somewhere for a long time you can become scared to leave, because it’s familiar. For me that was the first move to combat the fear of the unknown.
I had an idea about how my life would be [as a freelancer] and it’s way better than that.
The biggest thing about going freelance is the fear that you’re going to fail. But even if doesn’t work out there is still a lesson to be learnt. I went for coffee with one of my longest standing clients and I told him I was scared to be fully freelance and I don’t know what to do. At the time I was 38. And he said, ‘Subrina with all due respect how old are you? You should do it before you’re too old.’ And he didn’t mean age, he meant in my mindset. Before you become too old and too rigid in your mindset that you can’t make the change.
I knew I wanted the freedom to do things as and when I wanted to do them. So the next stage was to go self-employed. My friend has a space in Marylebone called The Collective and she said, ‘Why don’t you come here and work.’
The Collective works in the way that everyone works independently within a small business. Karen Lambert and Richard Wall co-own the space and the business has a construct where people can earn a lot more money and have more freedom. Everyone has a key for the space and manages their own clientele. You can curate your day the best way it works for yourself and your clients. The freedom of it allows me to go off and do things like TV work and shoots quite easily.
I have some friends that have recently gone freelance and are looking at a similar step up to what we have here and they go to a space and like it but I’d say you need to go and meet the people it’s not enough that you’re looking at the aesthetic.
We’ve chosen to work together, you’re not thrown together. People often talk about office and work politics – there is none of that there. That’s what’s nice it’s almost like you’ve picked to work with your mates. I had an idea about how my life would be [as a freelancer] and it’s way better than that.”