Today is perfect for you to join me if you are new here, as I’m sitting down with one of my most dedicated students.
Her name is Carrie, and Carrie has a fascinating story about not only transitioning into the nail industry from a prestigious career as a lawyer -I know- but overcoming big challenges to get where she is today.
Carrie has thrown everything “and the kitchen sink” at her regarding obstacles. Yet, because she remained laser-focused on becoming a nail tech and trusted her mentors and programs to keep her on that path, she became a booked solid nail tech within five months of graduating from nail school.
I genuinely believe Carrie’s story has the power to give you the confidence and motivation you need to get serious about a career in nails if that’s what you want!
Alright, let’s hear from Carrie herself…
Paola: Carrie! Welcome to our channel. You are on today to share a little bit about your journey as an independent nail tech, and I would like to bring on case study stories of people who made big shifts in a relatively short time because I was not one of those people. Now I know how to be one of those people, so I’m teaching students like yourself how to do that.
Take us through your story briefly about what it was like not being fulfilled in your previous career, a very prestigious career, which I think will take the audience by surprise but also motivate and excite them at the same time.
Carrie: My first career was in law, I was a civil litigation attorney for ten years. Before I decided to leave that behind in 2016 and ultimately, it wasn’t fulfilling for me in that the hours were so long, the expectations were so high, and it has such high pressure. To make it simple, I just was unhappy. But when I let it go in 2016, I didn’t necessarily know that nails were my next thing, I just knew I wanted out of that.
After I left law six years ago, my husband and I started a family and but all the while, I actually had always been into nails, I’ve been doing my own nails for years; I started out with those polished strip things, you know, the nail wraps, the Jamberry’s, etc. Then I advanced to doing my own gel nails with DIY gel nail products, then fast forward to 2019 I was starting to look on Instagram for inspiration for nail art, and I found people like Katie Masters and Sierra of Sierra’s nails, lots of different nail artists in this community who did really great art with these little pots of color and I was like, What are those? So I started picking up a couple of colors to try to dabble with it, and I really liked it myself. By that time, I was not fully falling into the Japanese gel method, especially as you taught it, I was just learning like, these colors are really great for gel, they don’t spread, they layer really nicely, it’s really nice for line work, so really playing with it.
I remember the very first time I did nail art, I had one of my bottles of gel, and I was trying to use a toothpick, I did not know anything about nail art brushes, right? But anyway, in 2019 my husband was like, so… what does going back to work look like? Lol. He was trying to be supportive… maybe you can do transactional law, like wills and trusts? And I was like, hmmm, that sounds boring; I don’t know. Then I saw another person on Instagram who inspired me, her name is Courtney, and she goes by @nailartbabe, and I was following her journey. She had just left her career in marketing to pursue gel nails, and she’s so fabulous at nail art, and I was like, wow! This is someone who left the corporate world for nails because, your know, the stereotypes like, you’re going to do “just nails,” that was still in the back of my mind like is that really something I wasn’t to do? But when I saw her and people like Katie Masters and others really find success I was like, maybe I can do this.
Paola: And Katie Masters also went from nail school to salon suite or independent…
Carrie: Yeah! So when I was able to point people on Instagram, they seemed to be making decent money. It was around that same time I discovered your free seminar, like a 20 minutes free presentation you did about specializing in Japanese gel finding a niche in nails, and focusing on getting really good at that so you can present yourself to the industry as a specialist. That really spoke to me; I already knew I wanted to do gel; I was dabbling with gel nail art with Japanese gel color, so I felt like my potential career in nails really came into focus. I was so excited when I watched that free video you released, and I was like, OMGosh, yes! This! This is the path! I fully believed it, and I pitched it to my husband, and I was like, ok. To be licensed I need to go to nail school but to have the specialty I need to pursue this extra education so it was kind of like: “You know the cost of nail school we talked about, I also need to invest in extra education and it became clear to me that much more that basics are needed; if I want to be more than a basic manicurist I need to pursue more than just nail school.
Paola: Absolutely! and I’m glad you knew that because you even kind of knew that you wanted to do gel nails going into nail school. Now, this is a little bit of my story, okay? I think I’m watching tutorials online, and I’m like: I want to do gel nails; like I want this stuff. She’s whipping it out of this jar, and she’s putting it on there, she’s turning the finger this way, and she’s putting it in the lamp, and it’s so shiny I want to do that. So then, I didn’t have a mentor, a free video, you know?
Carrie: You literally pioneered it.
Paola: So then, I just go to nail school because I think that’s the next step. So I go to nail school and I actually get removed from the focus of I want to specialize in gel nails; this is what I want to do, this is what I want to offer.
So I go to nail school and they are offering all, there’s no one telling you, you must specialize. Listen, if you want to do it all, that can come later but right now you gotta start somewhere, somewhere small, find your own little comfort zone of whatever you are good at, at this time, and then you can branch out of your want to do more than one; and most people don’t want to do more than three services, so that’s the beauty and I’m so glad you say that because my messaging is coming clear and it will help people get grounded because, I have to share this, I was moved out of my specialty when I went to nail school and I knew.
I went to nail school not because I was watching the gel videos but because there was not one person telling me, you have to slow down, you have to specialize and this is how you can get to your success faster and from there you can do whatever. So, I was doing it all and when I get out of nail school I start doing it all I do acrylics because I just like the smell of acrylics, probably the only reason why I offered it.
I was horrible at acrylics, the amount of pressure file acrylics is twice as much to file gel nails into shape, right? so I was exhausted by that service. I was meh, just okay at acrylic nails, literally had to say a prayer before the service. So, that just reminded me, you just went in knowing this is what I want to do, I did too but because it was not that voice saying “just do one thing” because as you may know or maybe not, I did all, acrylics, regular polish, gel polish, pedicures…
So, you go to nail school in December of 2019, right? That’s when you get enrolled. You have this conversation with your hubby; he’s super supportive, seems like the rest of the family is on board…
Carrie: Oh yeah! We got the babysitter lined up so I could go to school! Yeah!
Paola: And like, wifey got a plan, we’re gonna do this! Everything is going great, and I’m going to preface by saying this, you are going to learn today that here’s a person that had every reason/excuse to say, ‘nope, ain’t gonna do it, I quit, this is not meant to be, I’m getting all sorts of signs to stop, maybe it’s not nail school, maybe I do have to do that other type of law that my hubby was talking about.” Ok, so you go to nail school in 2019, you get through the majority of it then it’s March 2020…
Carrie: Right. It’s a five-month program, from December through March, and we all know what happened in March 2020.
Paola: Basically, you get 2020ed, right? Then obviously you don’t know when you’re going back to school, not when you’re going to get this license, it all seems to be like it just happened 15 days ago, right? How many days or hours you have left to complete the course?
Carrie: I don’t remember but it’s a 400-hour program in California and we went from doing 20 hours a week in person to when they finally, I think it was in July, that started up as a Zoom online program; it was like maybe six hours a week. It was so much shorter, so much less, so it took a while. I finally graduated in October of 2020 and then I had to wait about seven months for the license and exam because the state board was still closed and backlogged; normally it takes about two months after you graduate for the licensing exam but it took seven months. It wasn’t until May 2021 that I was licensed.
Paola: Yes, that you were finally licensed and you had a verbal agreement with someone locally that you were going to start renting space in their salon as soon as you were licensed, right? So you know that this is going to work out for you because you’re getting better in your application, you’re niching down, by this time, by the way, you are maybe not allowed to go back to school yet or not able to take your exam because they don’t when that’s going to open to start taking the practical exam, so you don’t get another job, is that correct?
Carrie: Correct. So my husband was still supporting us, it was a little tight but we were able to make it work and I just really focused on practicing, I really feel in a way… I know the pandemic was so hard for so many in the nail industry but for me, it was a little bit helpful because I got all this time just to practice before I was licensed. By the time I was licensed, I felt confident with the specialty I wanted.
Paola: And you did, and you had three “clients,” right? and we say “clients” because they were not paying clients, but take us through what you did to really prepare yourself for that salon experience; I really love this.
Carrie: Sure, so during that seven months from after I graduated until I finally got my license and exam, I actually no, I started when I was in school; I think I did it for about a year; anyway, so what I did, I had my mom, my sister and my best friend who came to my house every three weeks to get their nails done for free and at the beginning, it took me about four hours to do their nails!
Paola: That’s actually fast. I used to take 6 or 8 lol
Carrie: I know! But they were so gracious and letting me practice, and I went through the whole thing, from using my efile to remove old product to applying the new product for the overlays and applying color, trying a little nail art, kind of the whole service as I had envisioned offering it once I was licensed in the salon setting, and it was so helpful. I actually took notes of how long each segment of the service took me, like removal with an efile took x amount of time, applying overlay took this much time, just so I could see my improvement and I did track it, I still have all those notes.
Paola: It was a beautiful journal, lol.
Carrie: Well, I’m kind of a nerd, hehe.
Paola: You’re a writer; let’s not forget.
Carrie: You’re right; I’m a writer, yeah!
Paola: And as a lawyer, you track time, too, right?
Carrie: Oh my gosh, that was one of the things I hated the most, tracking time, yeah.
Paola: I love this, and I recommend this to my students in their training; this was included even before you shared this with me because I was like, if you want to get faster, you need to treat the freebies that you’re taking care of as clients; because if you’re just chatting it up, if you guys are taking breaks and whatnot, that’s not a salon experience. So I’m glad you did that, again it kind of prepped you for what it was to come then you get your salon position or you become a renter out of the gate…
Carrie: …Yes. The salon owner she was so amazing; I was communicating with them while I was waiting for my licensing date, and was willing to wait. I think we developed a rapport when we spoke, and she was like, yeah, I feel comfortable with you, we’ll hold the space, which was so nice of her. So as soon as I was licensed, I went down and signed a booth renter agreement with her, so I actually had a contract, and I had a weekly rent that I paid to her, and I had a little square space inside the salon where I did my business independently.
Paola: Lovely. Surely after that, I believe you were book-solid out of nail school in five or six months, right?
Carrie: Oh, yeah, I was booked; by the holiday season, I was booked.
Paola: Which was pretty crazy; I mean, when you were sharing this on your story, I was floored, and one thing that I also like, by the way, is not that you tagged all your different mentors, and that’s one thing about you, it’s that you are one of the girlies I know that is always taking education, free or paid, you’re just finding inspiration, finding what similarities have with other nail techs and how you can grow so you really, really do this community thing in the nail industry very, very well. Really amazing now that you’re able to really pull people into your world via your messaging on Instagram. That’s primarily your source of clientele, I’m assuming…
Carrie: Absolutely, yes, that and Yelp; I have a little bit of presence there.
Paola: People think that that’s dead, that that’s gone, from a long time ago, and let me tell you. When I started, Instagram was second to me because it was new, and I didn’t want to spend so much time on social media. Let me ask you this when you thought about doing nails, what did a career in nails look like for you? Did you see yourself as commission-based, independent, working with multiple nail stylists? What did that look like for you?
Carrie: I knew I wanted to work for myself, that I did not want to work for anyone ever again so I knew I wanted to be my own boss I really liked what I saw modeled by other independent nail techs on Instagram that it’s possible to be independent and have your own business, your own clientele, your own art style and have success. That was my vision. I didn’t see myself being in a salon or something like that.
Paola: That’s lovely. Again, when I went to nail school, I didn’t have this roadmap, and I was like, I guess I’m just gonna have to go out there and get a job as a nail tech somehow, and I didn’t want to do that either, so I just went independent. It was a slow growth for me because I didn’t have the roadmap or the tools per se, so I’m just glad that that was not the story for you. Even though you had challenges