Adam Tran

Adam Tran

Celebrity nail artist Adam Tran ­(@adamnailstyles) got his start in 1985 at his parents’ salon, Family Nails, in Huntington Beach, Calif. He spent his childhood immersed in the world of beauty with a family tree deeply rooted in nails. His father is one of 32 siblings, all of whom have contributed to the nail industry in some capacity. But from an early age, Tran yearned for something beyond the typical pink-and-white routine and classic mani/pedi.

“I used to feel like a robot doing the same nails over and over again,” says Tran. “Until I discovered nail art. These days, nails can complete an outfit like accessories.”

Tran changed the course of his entire career simply by challenging what he learned in school and challenging what it means to be a nail technician. He asked himself: You got your nail license, now what?

“Think beyond that license…what do you really want to do with your career? Do you want to become an educator? A blogger?” asks Tran. “It’s about positioning yourself correctly and always having business in mind.”

Now Tran’s career consists of celebrity nail styling and doing nails on set for photo shoots, commercials, and more. He has a passion for developing products that help other nail techs become nail artists and teaches classes to inspire cosmetology students to think ahead about their careers.

NAILS associate editor Brittni Rubin attended Tran’s lecture “10 Tips for Success to Become a Beauty Professional” at ISSE Long Beach 2014. There he shared the secrets to his success. Here’s what he had to say:

Make Your Career Fun and Profitable


With the increasing demand for nail services, don’t lower your prices to compete with surrounding nail technicians or salons. Rather, think about how you can set your business apart.

Have fun with your career by marketing your individual skills and offering add-on services like unique pedicure upgrades and, of course, nail art. About 83% of salons in the U.S. now offer nail art. If nail art is something you’re not too comfortable with yet, try drawing a bigger version of your design on a piece of paper and then shrink it down until your hand is trained for the minute detailing of nail art.

Understand Industry Products


The more understanding you have of the products you’re using day-in and day-out, the more you can do with them. Knowing the science behind them and how they work allows you to mix mediums and eventually create products of your own if that’s a route you’re interested in taking. One product can be the inspiration for another.

Build Client Relationships


Don’t create an “in and out” atmosphere in your salon. Spend time with your clients and get to know them as friends. Set the tone with your decor, cleanliness, and customer service. You can even offer your client complimentary food or drink. Most clients want to come to a salon to relax, so don’t rush them unless they’ve expressed they’re in a rush. Make a client feel welcomed and they’re sure to come back. Also, keep this little formula in mind:

Client + relationship = friendship = word of mouth = residual amount = $

Diversify Yourself and Your Salon


There are so many ways to diversify what you and your salon offer and there’s always room for growth. Look into starting a retail boutique in your salon if you haven’t already. Look into advanced education or becoming an educator. Travel to see what people in other regions of the country or world are offering so you can expand your own service menu. There’s also a huge market for bridal showers and parties in general. Try adding wedding-related services in the salon or think about going on location. If you’re able to offer a myriad of services in and out of your salon, your marketability and value automatically increase.

Marketing, Advertising, and Branding


You are a product! So it’s important to sell yourself, your skills, and services. Create a portfolio (or website) to display media from photo shoots or some of your most beloved nail art creations. Target specific clientele with coupons, print ads in your local paper, or whatever form of advertising makes the most sense for your business. You can eventually create video tutorials, a blog, or other types of offerings to brand yourself and your salon.

Look Outside the Box


Firstly, be open minded to different styles. If you’re into gothic nail art, also know how to do pink princess nails, and vice versa.

Be able to look outside the box for design ideas and tools. Tran was once on a “Polar White” photo shoot when he realized he forgot to bring his most important product: white polish. Instead of running out to buy more, which would have taken away valuable time, he came up with another solution on the spot. Tran cut a piece of the furry rug from the shoot and turned that into 3-D textured nail art. Don’t be afraid to wear your stylist and artist caps to think up untraditional ideas.



Network with clients, prospective clients, and industry professionals to build your contacts list. It could even be something as simple as complimenting a person’s nails on the street. Tell them you’re a tech. That’s networking at the simplest level.

If you notice a prospective client is skeptical, offer a free service to show how confident you are in your ability. Years ago, Tran met singer Keyshia Cole and offered to do her nails. He said, “I’m not going to charge you, I just want you to see what I’m about.” She’s still using him today.

Understand Your Title

It’s important to embed it into your mind that you’re more than a nail technician; you’re also a stylist and an artist. Work on your general art skills and your nail skills and then put them together. No one has the unique skillset and ideas you do, so you’re very valuable to your loyal clients. Don’t ever cut your prices — believe in the worth of your product.

Mastering Artificial Nail Tips


Even though there’s a heavy industry focus on nail art, it’s also important to master your traditional nail skills, including mastering the artificial nail tip. As a rule of thumb, thinner is better. A thinner overlay is a more durable foundation for all of your fun nail art. Don’t ever lose sight of this critical part of the business.

Inspiration and Motivation


When Tran was young, he thought he should be a doctor or lawyer, but he really enjoyed fine art. So rather than ignoring his passion, he just found a way to make art profitable and is creating art every day as a nail technician. “The real key to success is being passionate about what you do, working hard, and believing in yourself,” says Tran. “You have to think business beyond the license.”


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