Being a professional nail tech — at least the type of nail tech I am; you know, out here in the “trenches” — is all about finding a balance between that nagging quest for perfection in your work versus accepting when it’s “good enough.”
There’s an old saying: “Perfection is the enemy of good.” In 21 years of doing nails, I find this is very true in many cases. Including making a living doing nails on a daily basis for real people in the real world.
Many of us in this business work very hard to achieve perfection in our work — and are usually willing to settle for mere excellence. But our clients often want “great” and are willing to settle for “better than their friends and coworkers.”
So when someone comes in and shows me a photo of some truly amazing work done by some truly amazing nail artist who just happens to also be one of those fortunate folks who gets the opportunity to work on a set of nails for several hours in order to put them in front of a camera before soaking them all off the model, I can really beat myself up trying to emulate that level of work... in the hour and a half that I have scheduled for this client who was really hoping to be out in an hour because people all too often entirely fail to understand what’s actually involved in doing a stunning set of nails.
If I had a million dollars, I would spend it all on... no, wait... If I had TWO million dollars (yeah, that’s more like it!), I would spend HALF of it on nail products and supplies. Then, since I wouldn’t have to stress about my income, I’d become one of those nail artists who doesn’t take special requests. My mission statement would be, “You get what you get and don’t throw a fit.” Yeah, I like that.
But in the meantime, I have to balance too many factors. I have to price my services within what my market can bear. I have to be able to perform those services within the amount of time that clients are able and willing to sit still, which still allows me to schedule enough clients to make enough income to make a living. My market is not too keen on paying $200 for a set of nails that takes six hours to complete.
All this means that I have a drawer full of craft paints in hundreds of colors so I don’t have to carefully blend each color for my artwork from tubes of studio art quality acrylic paints (even though I’d really like to), my C-curves aren’t much to brag about, and I don’t always get the scratches filed all the way out before the top coat goes on.
I admire so many photos of so many different nail artists from around the world and it leaves me feeling lousy about my own work. I know I can create better nails and nail art... but I also know my market doesn’t demand it.
My clients they love their nails. They already think I’m awesome. They don’t even see my shortcomings when I point them out. They tell me I’m too hard on myself.
And then they bring me one of those dang photos.