Business Management

The New Nail Technician's Survival Guide

Is there life after graduation from cosmetology school? You bet there is! While developing good work habits and building a clientele don’t happen overnight, working on them early in your career will help you stay one vine swing ahead of the rest.

Words Of Wisdom

NAILS asked seasoned nail technicians to tell us the most valuable things they learned as they began their new career. Read on, and profit from their experience.

Anita Lime, The Hair Force, Albany, Ga. Be patient with yourself. Learn all you can from any source that is available to you. Don’t ever forget why the clients are there. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize — for you and your clients. Keep reaching for higher goals, and don’t ever assume you’ve learned everything. There are no limits in this industry, other than the ones you put on yourself.

Sue Abbott, Head Over Heels, Houston, Texas. The most valuable lesson I learned when I was new was to cheek all of my equipment and supplies ahead of time. On my third day of being a nail technician, I went to do a set of nails and realized I didn’t have any tips. They were in a locked drawer of another nail technician’s workstation.

Donna Emmons, Nails by Donna, Dayton, Ohio. When you’re in school, you don’t get enough instruction. You need extra education to learn how things are done in a salon. People used to ask me, ‘Can you do this or that kind of nail extension?’ and I always had to say no. One of the prerequisites I have for my staff is to participate in continuing education, which I pay for.

Gayle Gray, The Nail Shop, Lubbock, Texas. It’s important to be stable, and to be on time for your appointments. When I first became a nail technician, I had never worked with the public before. I had a hard time training myself to check and double-check my book, and to deal with late customers. Today I see new nail technicians with the same struggle. You have to be self-motivated and make it your business to always cheek your book in advance.

Betty Joy, Comfort Zone Nail Care, Tacoma, Wash. I was lucky; I had great teachers even after I graduated from cosmetology school. The lady that had been doing my nails helped me the most. So the valuable lesson I learned was to talk to other nail technicians and absorb as much information as you can. Most important, listen to your clients and find out what they want instead of deciding what you want to give them.

Julia Kinchen, Gold Country, Vallejo, Calif. I work at a salon in a retirement home, and the most valuable thing I learned was that not everyone can wear artificial nails. I switched from offering artificial nails to natural nails only, because elderly people often have a lot of medical problems. The last thing they need are acrylic nails that break off, or that trap moisture and allow fungus to grow, etc. Many of my clients have gone along with my policy, but there are some who fight me on this. They may be more than 70 years old and living in a retirement home, but they still want glamorous nails!

1)    Go to nearby stores (if your salon is in a shopping center or strip mall, so much the better) and pass out your business card. Always have business cards handy, and always keep your own nails in perfect condition. After all, you’re the best salesperson for great-looking nails.

2)    Open the telephone book and start making calls to homes and businesses. Don’t call them “cold calls”; think of them as “opportunity calls.” Use one of the neighborhood directories so you know the people you are calling are within a few miles of your salon. Does it really work? Yes, says Kathy Addis, owner of Naturalized Nails by Kathy in Longmont, Colo. “I didn’t get a new client with every call, but I did get some,” she says.

3)    Give three business cards to every client who comes in, and put their name on each card. Then, when a referral comes in with that card, write the first client’s name in a book. When all three cards come back, the first client gets a free fill. Remember to give three cards to the new clients, too.

4)    Keep business cards on your workstation at all times, and very close to the client. Encourage them to take some to pass around; if someone comes in that they referred, send the obliging client a $5 gift certificate. Or better yet, call that client and tell her when she comes in for her next appointment she will receive a gift.

Be ready for anything with the following supply checklists. Nadine Galli, Southern California regional manager for OPI Products, Inc. (N.  Hollywood, Calif.) gives her recommendation depending on the services you provide and the type of salon you work in.

The Basics (if you work in a salon that provides working products, chairs, tables, and towels)

  • Files (3-6 types, for working with acrylics, natural nails, and for buffing)
  • Nippers
  • Tip cutters
  • Brushes
  • Cuticle pushers
  • Sanitizing System

The Right Stuff

Specialty (this list is for the nail technician who specializes in natural nail manicures and pedicures)

  • Towels
  • Files
  • Nippers
  • Tip cutters
  • Cuticle pushers
  • Sanitizing system
  • Manicure bowl
  • Pedicure bath
  • Soaking solution
  • Sloughing lotion
  • Moisturizing lotion
  • Hot-oil manicure system
  • Polish line with at least 25 shades
  • Base coat
  • Top coat
  • Polish remover
  • Cuticle remover
  • Nail adhesive
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toe separators
  • Paper slippers
  • Paraffin (optional)
  • Pedicure cart (optional)

The Works (for the full-service nail technician who works on her own or works as an independent contractor or booth renter in a salon)

  • Table
  • Lamp
  • Chairs (2)
  • Telephone with a separate line
  • Business cards
  • Business license
  • Cash box with lock
  • Towels
  • Files
  • Nippers
  • Tip cutters
  • Brushes
  • Brush cleaner
  • Solvent to remove artificial nails
  • Cuticle pushers
  • Sanitizing system
  • Manicure bowl
  • Pedicure bath
  • Two liquid-and-powder systems
  • Fiberglass system
  • Gel system
  • Soaking solution
  • Sloughing lotion
  • Moisturizing lotion
  • Nail adhesive
  • Polish line with at least 25 shades
  • Base coat
  • Top coat
  • Polish remover
  • Cuticle remover
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Client card file

Don’t Twiddle Your Thumbs

New nail technicians often have anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour between clients. Don’t waste it by making personal phone calls of flipping through an old people Magazine. Here are some excellent suggestions for using your spare tie to improve your business.

1)    See the article, “Start Building Your Business” in this guide, and use your spare time to make “opportunity” calls, pass your card **** or make reminder calls to *** are due for a fill.

2)    *** are other nail techni*** salon, ask if you can *** shoulder while *** Sometimes you *** saving techniques, such as holding your brush differently of using a better product, just by observing someone else for a few minutes.

3)    Offer to help other nail technicians or hairstylists in your salon. Some may not want it, but those who do will appreciate your thoughtfulness. When your days start getting busy, you will have appreciative coworkers who will help you out in return.

4)    Karen Roche, owner of Sculptures salon in Plainville, Conn., says her nail technicians give hand massages to clients getting their hair colored. While massaging, the technicians explain what they do during a manicure, or they suggest that a client try artificial nails. “We’ve seen a big increase in their clientele from these sessions,” Roche says.

5)    Spruce up your table. Sanitize your implements, dust your nail polish bottles, straighten your retail displays, and remove everything from your table that shouldn’t be there. You never know when a walk-in client may walk in.

6)    Practice your “sales” presentation for those times when people call you and ask “how much?” “I don’t answer that question right off the bat,” says Kathy Addis. “First, I ask them to hold for a minute because I’m with a client (even if I’m not), then I tell them about my services. After that, I’ll talk about prices.”

7)    Create a checklist for clients to maintain their nails between appointments. Then give one to each client after the service, and suggest retail products she can buy for home use.

Get Organized!

Sometimes the most overwhelming tasks end up with every simple solutions. Take your cluttered workstation, for instance. With a small (and inexpensive) redesign, you can have a clean and well-organized table that shows clients you really have it together.

Here is a tip from Stephanie Bricker, co-owner of Tips Nail & Image Center in Redwood Shores, Calif.:

Take a box about 12 inches wide, four inches high, and as deep as your tabletop. Inside that box, place everything you need to perform a service. Start with a plastic mini-orangewood sticks in the square compartments. Store brushes bristle side up in the round brush holes. Place pump-bottles of acetone, lotion, and hand sanitizer on one side of the box. Your implement sanitizing system should also fit on the other side of the box. If you use a drill, use a hook on the side of your table to store it when not in use. Nail polish bottles should fit neatly on a plastic display rack, either mounted on the wall or standing securely on one end of the table.

Keep it basic, advises Michael Visconti, a competitor and nail technician at Artizan Image Center in Altamont Springs, Fla. Keep personal items, such as photos, mugs, and decorative objects, to a bare minimum. Never leave soda cans, your purse, personal mail, or any miscellaneous junk lying around. Place only the items you need for every service on the tabletop; store the rest in your drawers or in a hairdresser’s rolling cart. Use small containers for your polish remover, liquid and powder, lotion, etc. and keep your bulk items stored. Use towels and paper towels that match the salon décor, and stick with one or two colors. A nice final touch is a single fresh flower in a bud vase.

School’s Not Over

Some say your education is just beginning when you graduate from cosmetology school. You will be working with the public and encountering situations in which you’ve had no experience. Does the knowledge and experience just kind of come to you? No, says Brenda Lee Vogt, you have to make a conscious effort to keep learning. “School is just the first step in acquiring nail expertise,” says Vogt, a nail technician at Coles Salon for You in Burnsville, Minn., and an advocate for continuing education. Vogt immediately started attending all the local tradeshows and manufacturers’ classes in her area after graduation. “Eventually, I started to focus on the products and lines that worked the best for my clients,” Vogt says. “Every time I repeated a manufacturer’s class, I saw something that I didn’t catch the time before.”

To build a network of “teachers” in the real world, Vogt focused on a “hit list” of the people she wanted to meet, starting with local notables (such as experienced nail technicians and salon owners), and working her way up to nationally known experts such as Kym Lee and Tammy Taylor. She admired the work of competitor Tom Holcomb, and aspired to create sculptured nails as well as he did. “I was petrified to do acrylics without tips, until I went to Kym Lee’s [Galaxy Nail Products] class at the NAILS Magazine Show in Las Vegas,” Vogt recalls.

Vogt suggests that new nail technicians attend at least two local tradeshows and one larger tradeshow each year. They should also go to classes, both at tradeshows and at local distributors. Don’t go to classes exclusively on the technique you prefer; instead, push yourself to attend classes on techniques that give you trouble, or that you don’t do very often. “I love doing sculptured nails, but I force myself to lake classes on other techniques or I’ll get too rusty,” Vogt says. The next best thing to classes are books, videos, and magazines. The advantage to them is that you can refer to them over and over until you get it right.

For one-on-one tutoring, new nail technicians can ask professionals in their area if they can sit in and observe them doing nails for a day. Or set up a private instruction arrangement, where you receive tutoring at an hourly rate. Money is tight when you are a new nail technician, but a couple of private lessons can help you bring your skills to a new level.

 

Keywords:   newbie  

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