Maggie Rants [and Raves]

If You Build It ...

by Maggie Franklin | September 16, 2011

... you might be sitting in it for a long time before they come.


I always find myself wondering why people decide to go to nail school. So many people do it for so many reasons.


Many of us go because we want to do nails. I know that's what I was thinking. I was thinking that I'd been doing nails as a hobby for seven years already. I was thinking that it was something I enjoyed doing, that it was something I showed some propensity for, and that when I went and had my nails done, I had a blast talking to someone who seemed to genuinely enjoy her job, and that I spent an hour with her and gave her $20-$25 for the privilege.


That seemed like a lot of variables coming together in perfect alignment when it came to choosing a career that was going to dominate a significant portion of the rest of my life.


Also, the required schooling and licensing would only take a few months, which was a huge bonus for a girl who hated school with a seething, lifelong grudge of a passion.


Anyway I looked at it, it seemed like nothing but WIN.


When I finally got around to enrolling in a program, I was still young enough to get away with living at home. I didn't have a car payment or mortgage/rent considerations, and I didn't have children — I didn't have any responsibilities to take into account. I was in a good position to keep sitting in an empty salon, waiting for the phone to ring while I practiced nail art and did my own nails, with a fabulously supportive mother who was able to pay my $30/week booth rent in exchange for getting her nails done about every other day. Any money that I managed to make? A no-brainer! I just bought more nail supplies.


I often say that if someone had sat me down and seriously mapped out the pros and cons of going into this business, I'm not sure I'd have gone through with it. (OK, I would have. Because I am a stubborn know-it-all.)


But I see a lot of people enroll in the nail program. Many of them are thinking some of the same things I was. They're thinking that it would be so nice to have a fun job without a grumpy boss breathing down their necks all day; that they'll have flexible scheduling and make tons of easy money.


But some of these people are single moms without a second source of income. They have kids to feed and rent to pay and those things can't wait six months or a year until they get established in their new careers. No one explains the actual cost of doing business to them, or how they won't be able to call in sick or take paid vacation and that they'll be responsible for paying for their own medical insurance, planning for their own retirement, and if they get hurt on the job, they won't get worker's compensation benefits; if they lose their job, they won't get unemployment benefits; if they get pregnant, there's no state disability to rely on while they're on maternity leave, no FMLA benefits to help out if they have to take off work for a family member's illness; and they no longer have an employer who kicks in half of their SSI and FICA taxes. So not only will it be more difficult to not spend the portion of their income that gets allocated to Uncle Sam, but they now get to pay an extra 7.8% over what they're used to.


There are very few employee situations for nail techs left in the country. Salon owners are rarely businesspeople; they are mostly operators who have space to rent and bills to pay. They don't want to take on the responsibility of employees and pay payroll taxes and provide the state-mandated insurances that suck up a significant portion of the money they make off of their workers. It's so much easier to rent out a booth and let the worker take care of herself.


I think this is an awesome career field. I love it and I'm grateful that I chose it and that my personal situation allowed me to stick with it while I ironed out all those bugs. I do think there are excellent incomes to be earned in this business — but a livable income isn't guaranteed, and I wish that was something that got more focus before so many people signed up for the program.

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