The role of time in organisational and relational development remains an understudied component of work and employment. In response, this article draws attention to the ways that temporality informs relations between workers and clients in service work. Drawing on data from interviews and observations with hair stylists in salons located in the North East of England from 2016 to 2018, we provide a nuanced account of emotional service work by considering the role of the temporal dynamics of recurrence and experience. Describing that which we label ‘relational trajectories’, we show the role of time in developing more authentic service performances. We conclude that acknowledging time allows for a more refined conceptual understanding of how emotional labour is performed based on an appreciation of how relations develop and change. Emotional labour is positioned as highly nuanced and adaptive in its responses to the specificities of relational trajectories that unfold over time.