Since time is money, it is important to make every second count during your nail services. How do you become a faster, better nail technician? After experience and education, the answer could be by learning to use every second of your service wisely. Analyze your technique — no detail is too small — and try to isolate areas where you can do things more efficiently.
Though cutting mere seconds off the way you work may seem like a waste of time in itself, when you add it up, the results may surprise you. For instance, if you see eight clients per day and lessen your service time per client even by 30 seconds, that is 4 minutes of saved time per day. If you see 40 clients per week, that is a time savings of 20 minutes. If you consider that there are approximately 48 work weeks in a year, that is 16 hours per year, or $400 in additional income. If you have six clients per day and spend 1½ hours per service, and can shorten your time per client by a half-hour, you will see dramatic differences. That is three hours per day, 15 hours per week, and 720 hours per year or about $3,000 in additional income!
Now you have an idea what a difference streamlining your service can make! Teri Taylor, owner of Teri Taylor & Co. in Napa, Calif., says that she determined areas that needed more time-efficiency using old-fashioned teamwork and a timer. Taylor approached a coworker who had a faster, higher quality full set service and asked for help. “I told her I felt my service took too much time and I wanted to do a comparison with her that would show me the areas in which I could improve,” says Taylor. Both technicians timed every portion of their service, from the client washing her hands to polish application, then recorded the results faithfully, and examined the differences. In places where the other nail technician had a better time, Taylor worked with her to learn how to shave time off her own technique, but still offer a quality service to her clients. “Eventually, we came up with a chart that showed how long each step of the service should take,” says Taylor.
Controlling Your Service
One easy way to keep track of how long you take during specific parts of a service is to break the service down into portions and concentrate on each part you do and how long it takes. Brenda Bollard, owner of Bren’s Nails in Conroe, Texas, breaks her hour-long full set service into four distinct parts of 15 minutes each. This allows her to keep track of her time and performance of each step.
Bollard spends the first 15 minutes preparing the nails for product: working on the cuticles, etching, removing dust and debris, applying primer, and then forms. The second 15 minutes is for applying the product to the nails. “I am quick at this, so it may take me less time than for other nail technicians,” she says. The third 15 minutes is for filing and buffing, and the last 15 minutes is for polishing and other finishing touches. Bollard encourages other nail technicians to adjust this schedule to fit their own work habits.
To keep your service flowing smoothly explain the nail service and ask important lifestyle questions as you work. “Discuss the different steps as you go, being sure to ask her about her daily regimen and shape and length preferences,” says Kym Lee, founder/CEO of Galaxy Nail Products (Corona, Calif.).
“The biggest time-waster is repairing problems like broken nails and lifting during future appointments, which are preventable by prescribing the right length and service for each client in the first place,” says Doug Smith, a Boston-based educator for Creative Nail Design (Vista, Calif.). “It costs both you and your client time and money to repair nails.”
Preparation Saves Time
Along with selecting the right type of nails for a client, make sure to properly sanitize and prepare the natural nails at the beginning of each service. Susan Porlier, national education coordinator for Pro Finish (Scottsdale, Ariz.), uses both a hand sanitizer and a nail prep. “If the nails are not properly prepared for the service you will get lifting or service breakdowns at the fill appointment. It makes sense to take the time now to avoid problems like that in the future,” she says.
Similarly, Smith points out that if you apply too much product to the nails, it takes more time to file the nails down to the shape and thickness they should be and it is a waste of product. “Extra filing can damage the product already on the nails, making it vulnerable under impact,” he says. “I only use a 240-grit or higher abrasive to shape and finish the nails after a full set or rebalancing service.”
Even the type of product you apply may help shave some time off your service. “I use a fast-set product, so I have to work more quickly,” says Taylor. “It saves me time because I am not chasing the product around on the nail and have to work with it less get the desired results.” Taylor also uses forms instead of tips as much as possible because she feels sculpting is faster.
When applying forms, Lee recommends applying five at one time and then the next five. “If you put on all 10 at once to save time and a client moves her other hand you may have to read just the forms, which will end up costing you several precious minutes in the long run,” she says.
Organizing Your Table
Keeping your table organized and your product handy is remarkably effective in streamlining your services. “Lately I have been keeping my acrylic products in a drawer at my station, but I have decided it may not be the best way for me,” Taylor explains. “It means an extra couple of minutes opening and closing the drawer and then opening up the products and then arranging them on my table. I figured out that it may save me some time to arrange those products on my table top permanently.”
Lee works the extra time into the service. She takes out her powder and pours fresh liquid in front of the client while she is waiting for the second coat of primer to dry. Then, after she has applied the acrylic, she puts the lid on the powder, disposes of the excess liquid, and puts the bottles away while the product is curing, before filing. “Clients notice when a nail technician has to cross one arm over another to reach a product that she has placed in the corner of her table or when she can’t find something right away. Not only is keeping yourself organized time efficient, but it also looks good to your clients,” Lee explains.
Working With a Filing System
“Nail technicians usually make it or break it when it comes to the filing portion of the service,” Lee says, explaining that clients will notice if your filing seems unorganized. “A system creates consistency and ensures that you have covered the entire nail.”
Before applying tips, Lee thins out the well of the tip while waiting for her second coat of primer to dry. This saves her time later during filing. She files the free edge to the desired shape, but then blends the well area before starting on other parts of the nail. Similarly, Porlier also blends using a liquid tip blender to speed up the process.
After applying acrylic, Lee starts at the cuticle area to thin it and clean it up, moves to the stress area, holding the file horizontally and lifting it off the nail as little as possible to reduce the friction. She tilts the file and shapes from the stress area to the free edge, tapering downward. Lee holds the client’s hand toward her so that she sees the client’s point of view of her own nails and shapes the nails that way. She then buffs the nails using a buffer with soft edges and cuticle oil so that she can rehydrate her client’s cuticles and skin while buffing the nails without cutting skin.
Bollard files the free edge first, shaping it to the client’s preference and then starts at the cuticle and works toward the free edge. She always checks the nails before buffing to make sure that the edges are beveled and thin. She then buffs the nails using the same system.
No matter what type of propping, application, or filing system you use, the bottom line when it comes to generating quality nails is not necessarily taking shortcuts. Shortcuts mean you are skipping something that could be vital to creating beautiful, long-lasting nails. The secret is to do everything it takes without wasting a second. Get in the habit of preparing the nails properly and applying acrylic carefully and you will turn out nails that are consistently beautiful in less time. Make every second count.
- (2 min.) Clean/sanitize client’s and your own hands with soap and water and a sanitizer at your salon.
- (8 min.) Etch each nail plate gently. Discuss service/client needs now and throughout service.
Biggest time-waster: Client who washes her hands, then touches her hair, face, or other non-sanitized surface before service begins. Keep waterless sanitizer handy at station.
- (4 min.) Dust debris off and apply pre-primer or other nail prep.
Biggest time-waster: Not cleaning or preparing nails properly can cause lifting or other service breakdowns. Adds time to fill service.
- (1 min.) Apply primer to all 10 nail beds, repeat.
Biggest time-saver: Being extra careful not to apply primer to the client’s skin, which can cause skin allergies or burn. Costs time to clean up a flood of primer on the nails and cuticles.
- (5 min.) Apply forms or tips to fingers.
Biggest time-waster: Improperly sizing tips for the nail bed or poorly fitting forms. Apply forms five at a time or make sure client is careful if you apply all 10 at once.
Biggest time-waster: Using too much product, which then requires heavy filing, making the product vulnerable. Keep the client’s lifestyle in mind and create appropriate length nails.
Biggest time-waster: Random filing habits. Use a system to make sure you file all parts consistently: sidewalls, free edge, and surface.
- (5 min.) Shaping the free edge.
Biggest time-saver: Shape the nails by turning them toward you as if from the client’s vantage point and file them to the appropriate shape, keeping the client’s lifestyle in mind.
Biggest time-waster: Forgetting to bevel edges.
- (5 min.) Buff nails with oil
Biggest time-saver: Use a soft edged buffer with cuticle oil on it is smooth nails and rehydrate cuticles and skin at the same time.
- (2 min.) Have the client wash her hands.
Biggest time-saver: Teaching the client to really scrub so that leftover debris doesn’t ruin a perfect polish job.
Biggest time-waster: Using a low-grade enamel that requires more coats and more time to dry or using old enamel that is too thick to apply evenly.