Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Through my years of consulting with nail technicians across the U.S. and Canada, I have noticed something unique about their relationships with their clients: Nail techs become very close to their clients very quickly, probably due to the intimate environment of the nail salon. Think about it: We are less than two feet apart and holding hands. This makes it easy for our clients to trust us and to tell us things they wouldn’t share with their husband or sister. We immediately form a close bond. Our clients quickly become our “friends” and because we don’t like to charge our friends and we want to give them a deal, we tend to undercharge them or not charge them for each and every service.

I see this most commonly with nail art. At one time, the going rate for nail art was a dollar per minute. If a technician covers both ring fingers in glitter, she may charge anywhere from $3 to $5+ for that. I feel that’s appropriate, because it’s easy and not very time-consuming. However, when nail techs take 20+ minutes for nail art, add nail art to all 10 nails, or do very detailed work, they usually don’t charge enough. This is usually because they want their clients to like their work and to show it off to their friends. I know some of you do this as a way to get referrals, but typically I don’t see the return on the investment of your time. Before you start decorating a client’s nails, have a conversation. Talk about what she is looking for, but also about the time it will take and the cost involved. Most often, we have the conversation about what the client wants and we forget to follow up with the second part. I urge you to follow through, so you both have a clear understanding of the time and costs involved.

Add-on services and upgrades are another area in which I find nail techs are not charging appropriately. I see no problem offering a complimentary mask or paraffin treatment one time so a client can try it. But in general, if you offer an additional service, your guest will assume there will be an additional charge. Plus, if she really wants to know the cost, she will ask. I find a separate “additional services” menu —  a short list of the add-on services you offer — to be very effective in this situation. The client can see the services offered and how much they will be charged. You can present it to her to review when she sits down at the pedicure throne or nail station.

Nail repairs are another area where techs too often give away their time. Set a salon standard to avoid pricing confusion and make the nail department cohesive. Clients will say, “When Lilly does my nails, she doesn’t charge me for repairs.” If everyone is on the same page, you can combat these types of remarks. You can respond, “Our salon policy is two complimentary repairs with your fill. After that, you will be charged for each repair.”

Remember, if a service has a special name or title, you should be charging for it. Repairs, add-ons, and nail art can add up quickly. Think about it, by doing just two $10 add-ons a day, you’ll earn an additional $100 a week (assuming a five-day workweek). That adds up to be an additional $5,200 a year! If you charged your clients for the services you preformed, you could increase your income by thousands of dollars. This could change where you live, the kind of car you drive, or how you provide for your family.

It’s OK to charge for your services and your time — everyone else does. Restaurants charge you for dessert, coffee, or soda, and they charge to upsize, too. I recently moved and the moving company charged me to shrink-wrap items and for every 15 minutes over four hours. Don’t take it personally if your client says no. Your job is to make your client aware of the services you offer. If they want to take you up on it that’s great; if they don’t that’s fine too. Don’t be afraid a client won’t come back because she was asked to pay for an upgrade or extra; just know that you now have an opportunity for a client who will pay for it. 

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