Being your own boss is a rewarding choice, but it takes commitment and perseverance. Seasoned techs offer tips to help you succeed.
1. Know your product. Educate people about the product you use and the services you provide. It impresses clients when you are able to explain the reasons you chose your product and what excites you about your services. It also gives you confidence when you’re well-prepared to answer questions.
2. Do your nails. Your hands and feet are your best advertisement. Make sure your nails always reflect your best work. Keep in mind that we often attract clients who are similar to us. So, if you love doing the latest and greatest nail art and want to attract clients who would wear it, make sure your own nails are glamorous.
3. Follow-up with a phone call or postcard. Call a client a couple of days after her appointment to see if she is happy with her nails, how she is adjusting to them, and to thank her for coming into the salon. You could also send a thank-you postcard with a discount offer when she refers a friend or an offer that lets her extend a discount to her friends. A sentence could read simply, “20% off to anyone who comes in this month and says you sent them.”
4. Be available. Say yes to the client who wants to come in the morning and to the client who wants to come after 7 p.m. even if that means you’re looking at a 10-hour day. It won’t be this way forever, but it will be while you build your business.
5. Update the status on your business web page daily. Announce services or specials with excitement and energy, post pictures of your work, show what gel polish looks like on a nail and then keep posting pictures daily to show how it wears, etc. Offer a free gift to a person who comments first on one of your updates or ask random nail questions and give a prize to the first person to answer correctly, etc.
6. Be accommodating. You thought you were going to meet friends on Friday at 5:30, but a client just called with a broken nail. Call your friends and let them know you’re going to be late — especially if the client is getting married, or going on vacation, or going out with friends, or ... you get it.
7. Carry your book with you. Your cell phone and your appointment book are necessary tools of the trade and should be with you at all times so you can add or change appointments no matter where you are: shopping, at the kids’ games, out with friends, etc. Think of yourself as always open for business.
8. Give out your cell phone number. It’s smart business because it makes your phone bill a tax write-off, but it also means you’re just a phone call away. So no matter where you are, your clients will think you’re working and won’t hesitate to call.
9. Communicate with coworkers. Even though you give your cell number out, many clients will call the salon to make an appointment. Let coworkers know where you are and what hours you are available so they can communicate to clients ... and let them know it’s OK for them (or a client) to call your cell. You might also consider choosing specific hours that could be considered “walk-in hours” so coworkers and clients can communicate this to potential clients.
10. Print business cards and pass them out with a discount offer written on the back. For brand new techs, offer 50% off a full set. When the client leaves the salon, pre-book her appointment, offering another 50% off on the first fill if she returns within two weeks. For techs with experience but who need to rebuild their business, offer something “free with service” instead of a discount. For example, a free gel polish with a full set or fill.
11. Offer a guarantee that’s reassuring and specific. It’s not a money-back guarantee; it’s an “I’ll-make-it-right” guarantee. One idea: “No lifting for two weeks.” Often when a tech is new there is lifting. By encouraging clients to come back to get the lifting fixed, it assures the client and helps the tech learn how to improve her application. Another guarantee could be: “Breaks fixed free in the first 48 hours of any full set.” New nails can be awkward for clients. Let them know you’ll cover any casualties in the first couple days of transition.
12. Pick a high-profile location. High profile could mean that the salon is in a high-traffic area where you will naturally attract clients from local businesses and walk-ins, or it could mean you rent in a busy salon where you will be able to build your business through the customers who come in for salon services. Either way, it’s easier to build your business in an area that draws people.
13. Be patient. It can take six months to a year to build a steady client base, and up to two years to feel as if the business is really up and running. Some techs keep part-time jobs as they build their client base. This doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Success takes time.
14. Go out and introduce yourself. Dress for success with your nails looking gorgeous and go to every high-end restaurant with business cards. Let them know you are a new business in town, and explain how it would improve professionalism among their servers to have beautiful nails that complement the quality atmosphere of the business. Give a card to each person on the wait staff and offer a certificate for the manager to award one staff person of the month.
15. Hit the market. If you need to fill your book with day clients, visit grocery stores with your card and your appointment book and be ready to make appointments when someone stops you to comment on your nails.
16. Work as a team. If you’re working in a salon with other techs who have a full schedule or with hairdressers who don’t offer nail services, ask if you can promote yourself to their clients and their clients’ friends.
17. Think of success in terms of building loyalty, not just dollars. Financial sense would say it doesn’t pay to return to the salon (or stay late, or come in early) for a small service such as a broken nail or a polish change. But keeping a customer satisfied will build loyalty, which is a sound investment in your business.
18. Hold a drawing. Go to the busiest florist in town and ask to hold a drawing that offers a gift certificate for a nail service from you and an arrangement from the florist. All the people who enter are automatically on your mailing list and the happy winner will spread the word about your business.
19. Visit local businesses. Visit law offices, banks, schools, real estate offices, gyms, etc. and introduce yourself as a new local business. Hand out cards and service menus and bring a small thank-you gift (a coupon or gift certificate for $5 off a service, for example) to hand to the person who took the time to talk with you.
20. Stop by local hotels and talk with the sales manager. Many hotels offer information packets filled with ideas of what the city has in the way of salons, shopping, restaurants, etc. These are often handed to wives who are traveling with their husbands. You’ll not only get travelers, you’ll also build a reputation among the hotel staff.
21. Set up a Facebook page. Be sure to post pictures of your location, of the inside of the salon, and of yourself. You want to build a relationship with your online audience. Facebook allows you to post updates from your phone via e-mail and text, which allows you to update your page instantly with fun, business-related photos.
22. Be “liked.” Use your Facebook personal status to announce to all your friends that you are open for business. Offer to put everyone who “likes” your business page into a drawing to win a free service.
23. Join networking groups. The Chamber of Commerce and other business groups offer you a way to make connections with other business and potential clients.
24. Offer to help at non-profit events. Choose a charity that is meaningful to you and call to find out ways you can support them while also promoting yourself and your business to members of the community.
25. Be flexible. Building a clientele could mean sitting at the salon for hours waiting for a call or a walk-in, or it could mean leaving the salon to pass out your card. Understand that there will be times when you are out networking and a client will call and want to get her nails done. Head back to the salon and do her nails even if it’s inconvenient for you... because it’s convenient for her.
Contributors to this article:
> Tomilynn Rando, a nail tech of 25 years, is owner of New Beginnings Salon in Owego, N.Y. She has been a booth renter herself, and within the past few months, she has added two new booth renters to her team.
> Tammy Warner, a nail tech for more than 10 years, is a booth renter and founder of The High Road to Education.