Money Matters

Do Your Prices Measure Up?

Interested in adding nail art to your menu? Or do you already offer it but wonder whether you are charging the right amount?

For handpainting, Brew usually charges per two nails. Here, her prices go up as the design gets more involved, with $3 for two of the royal blue nails to $20 for two of the multicolorerd nails with rhinestone and glitter accents. 
<p>For handpainting, Brew usually charges per two nails. Here, her prices go up as the design gets more involved, with $3 for two of the royal blue nails to $20 for two of the multicolorerd nails with rhinestone and glitter accents.&nbsp;</p>

NAILS talks to nail artists in different areas of the country to get an idea of how they come up with their prices.

Before you even begin to think about what you are going to charge for your nail art, you first have to have nail art clients. The unanimous answer to the question “How do you first get clients interested in nail art?” was a resounding “I wear it myself.”

Annie Leonard, who owns her own salon in Seekonk, Mass., stresses, “I am a walking advertisement for my services. I have the designs that I offer on both of my hands, and when people see that, they usually will inquire about my prices.”

Debbie Ward, a nail artist at Artisan Salon in Livermore, Calif., agrees, “Your best advertisement is yourself. My advice for anyone who is getting started would be to have nail art on your own fingernails.”

When some nail artist come up with a new design, they use receptionists and other stylists in their salon as models, so that more people will inquire about the art. “I wear art myself and I also have the other techs in the salon wear it, especially around the holidays,” says Kelly Reese LeMaster, owner of Freckles Hair & Nail Salon in Ocala, Fla.

“I also have some special clients who spend a lot of time and money at the salon, who I know are social butterflies,” she continues. “I will do free art on them because they are good customers and I know they will spread the word.”

Everybody Loves Freebies.

So now you have attracted the attention of a potential new client, but she is somewhat hesitant to go all the way. A great way to get people interested in nail art is to offer a complimentary service. This doesn’t have to mean a full set of painted nails for free, but at least something to get that reluctant client to give it a try.

Debbie Brew's airbrushed nail pricing ranges from $5/set for French, $10/set for blue and purple peaks on white naiil duster with glitter, $15/set for the beige nail with tri-colored designs, to $20/set for her multicolored designs with rhinestone accents. 
<p>Debbie Brew's airbrushed nail pricing ranges from $5/set for French, $10/set for blue and purple peaks on white naiil duster with glitter, $15/set for the beige nail with tri-colored designs, to $20/set for her multicolored designs with rhinestone accents.&nbsp;</p>

“I will often offer something complimentary as a way to get someone who is a little more conservative interested in nail art,” says Ward, who is an independent contractor. “Usually, I will do something on the two ring fingers – something simple. Then when they get compliments, they are likely to come back in and pay to have more nail art applied.”

Debbie Brew, a nail artist at Jennifer & Co. in Mentor, Ohio, has the same philosophy, “To get people interested, I will do a simple design on one or two fingers when I am doing a fill on a client. This way she can see how she feels about nail art without having to invest a lot of time or money.”

How Much Is That Nail Art in the Window?

Now you are beginning to build a clientele for your nail art – how do you determine what you are going to charge? Many factors come into play when determining prices for your services:

How long does it take you to do the particular design?

How many colors are you using?

How detailed is the art? Are you shading? Blending?? Is it airbrushed or hand-painted?

Is this a regular client?

Is the client also getting a fill or other service?

All of these questions (and more) need to be considered before you set your prices. “I think about the detail and the amount of time the design takes when I am figuring out my prices,” says Leonard, who charges anywhere from $1 per nail, for the simplest of designs, up to $20 per nail, for an intricate design, such as her Vincent Van Gogh nail.

Some nail artists, such as Ward, determine what their time is worth based on how long it takes for them to do a fill and what they charge for that service. “I charge about $30 for a fill,” says Ward, “which takes about 45 minutes to an hour. So a half-hour of my time is roughly worth $15. I go from there when pricing my nail art.”

Ward’s fees range from $10 for a full foil, which she says only takes about three minutes to do, all the way up to $30-40 for a full hand-painted set. “Foiling is the least expensive to buy, it is easy and it makes a great return on investment,” says this self-taught nail artist. “When I do free-hand, I will charge up to $8 a nail. But when I am doing a full set, I can do an assembly line type thing, where I already have the paints out and I do each step on every nail before moving on to the next step, so I won’t charge $80.”

“I figure the client is paying me for an hour of my time,” says LeMaster. “Since I charge about $26 for a fill, which I block an hour for, I also charge about the same for intricate nail art.” LeMaster, who says that she doesn’t spend more than an hour and a half on any design because she simply does not have the time, rarely charges more than $25 for a full set of nail art.

She also notes that it is more cost-effective for the client to have all 10 nails done. For instance, if LeMaster were to do an intricate design on all 10 fingers, she might charge $25 for the full set of art. But she would charge $15 for the same design if a client were to get it on only one finger because she still has to take out all of the equipment and set up the same as if she were doing all 10.

Another pint to consider is that if you have already done a service on a client, and then you do nail art on top of that, it can end up being a rather expensive trip to the salon. For this reason, many nail artists charge slightly lower prices for the art if the client is also getting, say, a fill. “When I am doing a fill on customers, I tend to give them a break on price,” says Brew, who says that she prices as she goes, rather than working off of a menu. “I try to keep in mind a scale of $5 per 15 minutes of my time for flat art,” says Brew.

The Price Remains the Same

Brew is an employee of the salon where she works, and she says that even though her employer sets prices each year for regular nail services, as a nail artist, she is free to determine her own prices. “If I am doing a daisy or a simple flower, it can go from $2 and up,” she notes. “Generally, I will charge for $5 for an airbrushed French,$15 for an airbrushed set, and $20-25 for a hand-painted set.” Brew’s nail art is 90% hand painted, and she says that although the price of a fill increases each year, she rarely raises her nail art prices.

LeMaster, who allows the nail artists in her salon to set their own prices and keep the money they generate for all art, says that although she increases prices on regular nail services approximately 15% every two years, nail art prices remain relatively constant. She notes that the price of products does not increase greatly, and if the amount of time spent on designs changes, it would only be quicker.

One explanation for constant prices was given by Ward, “Over the past seven years, my prices for nail art have not gone up at all. The more I do it, the quicker I get. And the faster I get, the more cost-effective it is. That is why I haven’t raised my prices – If I can do the same design now in 15 minutes that I used to do in 30, then I am making a better return on investment.”

This California-based nail artist also adds, “My prices go higher if I get a new product. I figure it is better to charge too much and then offer a discount than it is to start low and have to increase your price later when you realize that you are not making your money’s worth. And I never charge a client for something that is brand new to me. I usually ask an open-minded client if I can try new things on her, and then she is happy because she is getting free nail art.”

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