I feel as though soon after just flirting with the idea of a career in nails , the envisioning and daydreaming begins. I myself remember daydreaming about having a personal retreat area by nature where I would take clients by appointment only, and just this very serene place. I still have the vision in my head about what I wanted that to look like.
I actually never really daydreamed about a little room or posh studio. For me an open-to-nature concept was what I dreamed about, and although it is a pretty memory I’ve moved past it now, clearly as I am 5 years now retired from salon work.
But coming straight from nail school to being an independent stylist, I had a reality check and found out all the real details that entail being in the business of nails. Overall, I enjoyed and am so thankful for my salon career in nails but today, I want to give you some real expectations if you’re considering going pro as a nail tech.
Generally, going into business does not require too much:
You will have to ensure that the place you work in is zoned for your business. There’s typically an establishment or business license requirement, and of course, you need to be professionally licensed, and then some form of business insurance is highly recommended.
However, for more information on what you need exactly, I would recommend you go in the order of what is needed in your county, then town or city, then state, and then the federal government. You’ll ensure all of your i’s are dotted and t’s crossed by going at it from this hierarchy.
If you are considering becoming a nail tech, here are some things to consider:
Expectation #1 Will you work for yourself or independently?
Most newbie nail techs will be offered a commission-based opportunity at a salon. But for years and years, there have been issues with this structure. Usually, a business does this so that they can always have someone available for walk-ins, but if the salon is not busy, you’ll be doing a lot of waiting for very little pay. Do some research and find out if the salon you’re interested in is in that high of a demand for you to earn a living wage each day as a commissioned stylist.
Or you can go independently as your own boss. I understand this is frightening for so many new nail techs; believe me, I understand. I went solo with just one client, and yes things were slow, very slow the first few months.
But I have good news for you, remember that coaching program I mentioned earlier in today’s video… MGN PRO? Well, using the exact strategies in that program, I have now helped students get booked out within 6 months of going solo. I’ve learned so much about what really works in getting booked relatively quickly, and I will have an interview available next month on this channel about one of my star students, who achieved great success just within 5 months of nail school. Stay tuned, and make sure you’re subscribed with notifications to the channel on.
I truly believe going solo makes sense for 98% of nail techs graduating nail school and that is why I created the MGN PRO Coaching Program… because all you really need is a little guidance. And I’d love to be that guide.
Expectation #2 What will be your specialty & main products?
This is soo important. When I finished nail school, I was not coached to specialize. Not all and that is why I offered it all, and I was a master at nothing. The idea of not listing a nail service which I was taught in nail school was scary to say the least. I thought, If I learned it, I must offer it.
Expectation #3 What light source will you use?
Now let’s get into our desk area. This one is a funny one because back when I used to rent a space in a salon to do nails, I thought I could go after hours and do nails, but I forgot to think about my lighting situation, I didn’t have a desk lamp! I know. I was so embarrassed. So, will you have a desk lamp with a base (that will take up space on your desk) or one that clamps to the nail desk?
Expectation #4 How will you ventilate?
No not you to your bestie about your day’s work. Ventilation from nail dust and any fumes!
This one is crucial. I don’t want you renting or working where there are no windows, so please do not rent a space with no windows, and a door is not sufficient because it won’t always be open, right? Make sure you can create a draft if you need to air out the room for some reason or just because you need fresh air; you’re gonna want that.
Maybe you could have an exhaust fan, or the room you’re renting already has one. The point here is to ensure the room has ventilation.
Expectation #5 How will you deal with dust?
Regardless of what nail system you use (acrylics, gel, polygel, etc.), there will be dust, a lot of dust. The dust from acrylics falls faster because it’s heavier, and gel dust stays in the air longer because it’s lighter and you are breathing that, so how will you deal with dust?
I used to have a table that had a dust collector unit; I liked the one from Valentino. They had just upgraded theirs, the Valentino beauty pure system; it’s a little bigger, so you have to consider the size of your table too.
Do you want your table to be super high-end? Like are you going to pay a lot of money for it? I don’t recommend that you don’t necessarily need it. I bought mine at Ikea, and I had a handyman cut out the surface area of the dust collector on a marble top (I know, I was so lucky). It’s really awesome to have your dust collector system on the table without having to pull it out on and off. It’s not a big deal, but it’s really great, especially when working with glitters and chromes that are super quick to fly into the air. It was awesome to just turn the dust collector on because it was already there, and many of my clients were getting chrome powders.
Expectation #6 What hours will you work?
Do you expect to work a full-time job or part-time? This is very important. Initially, I didn’t have expectations of how much I wanted to work, so one starts taking more clients than you would probably want to work with. I recommend that so you can start meeting your ideal clients, but! If you ultimately (emphasis on ultimately) don’t want to work weekends, I wouldn’t open myself up every weekend immediately all the time because you will accustom your clients to book you on the weekends. Three months from now, you’ll be like, “No, I actually don’t work on weekends,” and that can look irresponsible because why would you book a lot of clients for the next month when you knew that you would tell them “no” later on? This is a big mistake. I wish I could’ve taken notes a long time ago.
The same thing goes if you know you can’t work in the evenings, again, having your boundaries of what hours you will work. So, think about it, you’re going to book yourself, let’s say, two hours with a customer, even if it’s only a gel manicure, you’re a newbie, and this is to get comfortable and learn how to transition from one client to another, right? Then, how many clients do you need to see to feel booked and make income out of this?
I will say at least three clients a day; now, in the beginning, you will probably take longer, so I would book each client for three hours.
Let’s do the math: you are seeing 3 clients a day, that’s 15 clients a week if you work 5 days a week, and that’s 60 clients per month that you will acquire ( more like 50 because some will come twice a month). This number might be intimidating, but I actually want you to focus on the time you want to work.
If you see three clients daily, you will be working around 6 hours per day at the minimum. I’m a workaholic, so I would book myself back to back; this is great for those of you that know that you have the mental strength to do this and only at the beginning because this is not a sustainable way to work and live, but it will train you to improve your speed and work fast, to the 90-minute mark. If you take three hours per client, you are coaching yourself to work at three-hour appointments. In contrast, if you book yourself to 90-minute services with the right systems in place, that’s why we have the Master Gel Nails course to help you with the Japanese gel nail application so you get a step-by-step memory built in, like muscle memory, that’s why we do that, ok? But as soon as you feel confident in the process of your services, you can book yourself for shorter times and start working faster.
Expectation #7 You will need to stock up on disposables
You need to start looking at where you’ll get your files and buffers. Are you going to wear masks? I highly recommend, will you use disposable cuticle pushers. Are you going to wear gloves? You have to wear gloves during your services. If you are going to use table napkins. You can check out my Amazon storefront page HERE with my essentials like the dental bibs I use, the lint-free towelettes, etc.
You’ll also need solutions like alcohol and acetone, which must be replenished often.
Expectation #8 Will you be using advanced methods of manicuring
Advanced methods of manicuring mean that there will not be any water manicuring, and also, will you be doing efiling? Those are advanced methods. Before, water manicures were very popular but that’s no longer the case. If you are, you do need to consider taking training for this, regardless of how you feel (sorry!), but you cannot go on just grab an efile and think that you can practice on yourself a couple of times and then use it on a paying client.
If you want to use it on yourself for a while, watch some videos on it; that’s up to you, and if you have the time to hunt and peck the information by yourself or just take an online course. This is the difference between free and paid. You are paying for the roadmap that will take you from A to Z quickly and surely; for that reason, I recommend online courses and not only mine but the one you need for the system that you offer, ok?
You don’t need an efile right off the bat, I don’t think I had one right off the bat, and clients don’t hate you for not having one. On the contrary, they are curious because they haven’t had a full hand-file manicure. On this note, I recommend mastering your applications and not using an efile machine because what if your machine malfunctions in the middle of a service or the power goes out? Then you will know how to do the procedure, prepping the nails, and even removing the nails without an efile.
Expectation #9 Expect to turn down clients
Remember at the beginning when I told you that no one told me not to do this or that? And I thought I had to offer it if I paid for it, right? Well, that’s not the case. What can happen is that your customer has been doing a particular service for a long time, like gel polish like Gelish or CND, and then you want to upgrade your services to structured gel overlays, and you want to do it with Japanese soft gel, then how am I going to tell my clients? Am I going to lose clients? If the structured gel manicures are coming with a price increase and you are growing, and it’s coming from a place of growth and happiness for you, don’t worry about telling your customer, “Hey, starting on x date, this is going to be happening, this is going to benefit you, and it’s similar to what we already do” As long as you are very clear and explain this to the client.
Maybe they’ll be like, “Well, I just want regular gel polish” Then you have to decide if you still want to offer that service. Do you want to keep this client? Does this client respect my growth and what I do? Do I love this client? Maybe you can create a special situation for that one client because maybe they don’t really need this upgraded service, but 90% of my clientele do, and that’s what I want to continue cultivating. Then just do that for that one client but don’t take any more new clients for that service, ok?
Expectation #10 How often will you budget for education
This one is a biggie. When I got out of nail school, I thought that was all the studying I needed to do from here, just keep practicing on clients; yeah, no. So many of you watch my free content on Youtube, and I am so thankful, but here’s the thing, I am talking to those who are taking this more seriously and want to become Professionals and upgrade to their own nail suite. Let me tell you, you are costing a lot of slow growth in your business, tucking yourself in this little corner, this little nail suite, and you’re just piecing the process together for yourself, and you’re not getting advice or learning from others. You’re not venting to some degree and getting really good feedback and recommendations, step-by-step processes on how to get that; some problems are easier to solve than others, and you’re not the first one to go through these problems.
Even though I am not a nail tech with you in the salon, I am a coach. I’ve had so much more experience in the salon I’ve gone through, all already working as an independent nail stylist. Suppose you think you are going to get by with all the free stuff at the superficial level. In that case, I hate to break it to you, but that’s where your career will stay most likely, at the superficial level, not making big decisions to grow your business like pricing, what services to keep offering, and what hours to work? All these are easily answered within a coaching program.
Also, you can all grow together by following the community in these courses. Trust me, growth together is needed; even where I am at not, I yearn to have that communication with other content creators within this space because I want to know what’s working for them and share what’s working for me or what big mistakes we should be avoiding for that reason we have a Virtual Nail Tech or a little more advanced coaching program to help you with content creation if that’s where you want to go.
To sum up, I believe you should create a budget for continuing education. I understand education is not cheap, it shouldn’t be if it’s good education, and if you are paying, you will definitely pay attention. I truly believe in that. 80% of what we do is free, Youtube videos, downloadable resources, and things like that have been free for four years, and around 20% or less are programs that are not free, and that’s because you have to put in focus, work, and dedication you have to come out of your bubble, you need to ask questions, experiment and that’s how you grow.
I would say at least two classes per year, budget for that including traveling accommodations if it’s not an online course, around $900 uds for each class, and do this twice per year at least for the first two years of your nail career.
If you can’t make it to a physical class, welcome! We’ll take you. We have e-learning available only.
Expectation #11 How will you book your clients?
Will you be using pen and paper, which is fine, I used to the beginning. I did have online booking software, but I still transcribed everything to paper so I could write notes or look quickly at my appointment book without having to log in or bring my computer. I would have my planner; I love planners, ok?
There are a couple that I mentioned before, I have mentioned square, and now you will hear me mention Yottled. This is another booking software that I was looking into. I became interested in the perks that can be very beneficial for the beautician, not just the customer, because most of the time it is the other way around, right?
Expectations #12 How will you get more clients?
You got your first one, celebrate! Now, how do you maintain and keep that client? #1 You give them an awesome set of nails that lasts. That is the number one reason why clients stay with you because their nails lasted from their first appointment. So how do you get more clients?
Obviously, you have social media, which is your modern-day portfolio. I recommend you have a designated Instagram account; we talked about it a few topics ago, so make sure to watch it so you know what to do to keep attracting a loyal, raving returning clientele, the best clientele, the one that you actually want to work with and get’s you up in the morning, ok?
Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed 12 Expectations about whether or not you should go Pro and really give it some thought. Alright, all, I don’t think I’ve hit all of the expectations, so if you are considering going into nail professionally and have a question, just pop it in the comments below. Would love to help.
Thanks, and I’ll see you very soon.
Content written by Paola Ponce
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