1. Talking too much.

This is arguably the number-one time waster. Let your clients do the talking — you have work to do. They will think you’re a fabulous and attentive listener. It’s likely you think you can talk and work at the same time, but you’ll be surprised by the number of times you stop working to look at your client to emphasize a point.


2. Extending service times.

You have a fixed length of time to complete a service. When a client is late, you probably stay on track by abbreviating the foot soak or the massage, but what about when a client needs extra work to get her feet up to par? Don’t waste time trying to be a miracle worker, says VIP Salon and Spa’s Renee Borowy. Complete the pedicure in the allotted time while you educate your client about the need for multiple appointments to adequately address neglected feet. “Suggest pre-booking a callus-focused pedicure, for example, and send your client home with products she can use between appointments,” says Borowy.


3. Failing to systematize.

How long does it take you to prep? How much time do you need to start polishing? If you don’t have a protocol for the steps in your service, you’re wasting precious minutes. Think about if: If you can systematize your steps to complete a service in 45 minutes instead of 50, you’ve gained enough time for a nice, relaxed lunch break.


4. Muddling through the massage.

Similar to systematizing the service, developing a massage routine is essential. Clients notice if you chitchat through a lengthy massage on one hand or foot and then race through the other side to make up time. Develop a massage routine, define the time it should take, and then stick to it.

5. Second-guessing your selection.

It’s likely the pointer and ring finger take the same size tip, so if you’ve measured the right size for one finger, pull four tips. Stop refitting them. Tip selection shouldn’t take five minutes. If you’re not done in a couple of minutes, tighten up your technique.

6. Ignoring the three “Cs.”

Before every polish, clients need to grab their calendar, coat, and keys. You could cause a backup when you fail to remind them of this routine. Remember the Cs even with clients who get gel-polish; old habits die hard and people still tend to move gingerly even though gel-polish cures without needing drying time.


7. Answering your phone.

Why is this still happening? Stop answering your phone in front of clients. Not only is it rude, it reduces your efficiency. Suggest clients get in the habit of texting you, then respond privately instead of interrupting a service.


8. Fine-crafting cuticle care.

Dab a drop of cuticle remover on the nail, wait a few seconds, and then get to work. Removing cuticle shouldn’t require the attention of a high school science experiment. Stop studying the surface and start cleaning it.


9. Undercharging for nail art.

“My techs who do nail art often make less than techs who don’t,” says Borowy. That’s not to say you shouldn’t offer it, but make sure you are charging what it — and your time — is worth.


10. Working too wet.

Incorrect liquid-to-powder ratios mean you’re taking too long to apply enhancements. It’s that simple. (It’s also bad for the client, since the product can harden but not cure fully, putting her at risk of a reaction from prolonged exposure.)


11. Fidgeting with a French.

A French manicure should take no more time to complete than a regular polish. If you’re charging extra for French, let it be for the talent of the technique, not for the time it takes to complete.

12. Prolonging prep time.

Techs can be more efficient if they “work the line” during a nail service, which means working each individual step pinkie to pinkie. It’s a huge time waster to prep an entire nail before moving to the next one.

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13. Settling in to soak.

Don’t waste these precious minutes. See the sidebar on the next page to learn 10 productive ways to use this time.

14. Polishing with putty.

If your bottle of polish is thick as mud, throw it away. Don’t waste time applying it and again when your client messes up her nails because it doesn’t dry. Extra time-saving polish tips: Apply a very thin first coat and wipe excess polish off skin immediately rather than after the polish has dried. Also, suggest a client choose two color options so time isn’t wasted as she decides on an alternative to the polish that is too thick to use.

15. Repeating your work.

“One and done.” “Make it final.” Whatever mantra is memorable, own it. The point is, stop redoing your work. Techs are notorious for wasting time while they fine tune — the down side of being perfectionists! Get it right the first time and move on.


16. Personal over professional conversation.

It’s likely you have at least 45 minutes with each client. If you’re not using a chunk of that time to educate and upsell, you’re wasting a valuable opportunity to build your business and increase client loyalty. Keep your conversation focused.

17. Booking inefficiently.

Summit Salon Business Center coach Jill Wilson suggests techs schedule an hour for appointments, even if the service takes only 45 minutes. “Allow for opportunities to upsell,” she says. Then, make the most of your working hours by suggesting add-on services to fill that extra time. Having fewer clients with bigger tickets is the goal.


18. Failing to inspect a gift certificate.

Always, always, always ask to see a gift certificate before starting a service. Otherwise, you’re at risk of learning (in the middle of the polish) that your client was gifted a paraffin or a gel manicure. Get the details before you start.

19. Doing things the old-fashioned way.

Are you still doing your book-keeping, ordering, and scheduling by hand? Those are huge time wasters. Let technology streamline your systems. It will improve the internal and back-end flow, and also make booking and confirming appointments and buying gift certificates less labor intensive.

20. Letting your software sit.

Listen, if you bought the software, learn the software. That’s a good use of your time, not a waste of it!


21. Letting cancellations foul up your day.

What’s your system for filling your book when you get a last-minute cancellation? Make sure you have a reliable system to wait list your clients. (Tip: Check your software!)


22. Growing complacent.

Here’s a common time waster: working for years without taking continuing education classes. You’re letting time slip away when you could be using that time to expand your knowledge with technical or business classes, social media training, networking opportunities, etc.


23. Not having a plan for growth.

You’ve heard it said when we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Avoid the time waster of living without intention. Set goals for growth so you’re always on the lookout for the next hire, new assistants, next location, and improved services.


24. Not taking advantage of social media.

Tackle social media with a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, dive in — it’s your friend! Capitalize on the power of pictures to promote friends coming in for pedis, nail art, extensions, etc. Also, use it as a real-time advertising medium to let clients know about last-minute openings and specials. On the other hand, be cautious — social media can be a black hole of inefficiency. Discipline yourself to avoid scrolling, liking, commenting, and otherwise disengaging from the task at hand.


25. Missing easy promotional opportunities.

Use gift-giving as a way to grow your business. For example, you’re handing out candy for Halloween anyway, why not wrap the candy with a coupon so mom has a treat, too? Want to recognize your child’s teacher or thank a local business? Why not offer a 10% discount to staff at the local school or business of your choice? 


10 Things to Do While Your Client Soaks

1. Talk about a new retail product you’ve been using. (Every tech should have at least one favorite product she uses regularly and can sell to everyone.)

2. Inquire about dry cuticles or skin so you can recommend a remedy.

3. Promote a new service.

4. Suggest an add-on.

5. Pre-book the next appointment.

6. Ask clients about their vacations and special events in order to schedule appointments at the right time.

7. Take pictures of clients and post them on Facebook and Instagram. (Tip: When you see people like and comment on your work, private-message them to introduce yourself and invite them into the salon.)

8. Set up and prep your station, gather sanitized implements, restock towels in the warmer.

9. Assemble pedicure supplies.

10. Clean your workstation and pedicure tub.

 Thank you to Jill Wilson, nail technician and Summit Salon Business Center consultant, and Renee Borowy, owner of VIP Salon and Spa in Riverview, Mich., for helping us compile our list.

 Illustrations by Yuiko Sugino

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