“Manufacturers/websites selling product to the general public.”

— Lindsey Jeffrey via Facebook

How to overcome it: As a nail tech, you have the opportunity to form an intimate relationship with your client. They will be more loyal to you than, say, Target, if you know your product, recommend your product, and offer a VIP reward program. These are three essentials to the client buying from you instead of a big box store. However, the first thing you need to do is stock and merchandise your product. Retail is your profit center. So create a shopping space that encourages clients to buy. You want to be able to recommend products from a beautiful, attractive, well-stocked display. Make the effort to bring people in to shop.

— Bryan Durocher, Durocher Enterprises Inc., Whitefish, Mont.



“The biggest obstacle is definitely the economy falling apart: layoffs, cutbacks, a tighter budget, etc.”

— Evett Jordan, Polished Nail Boutique, Peoria, Ill.


How to overcome it: Changes in the economy is an ongoing problem that any businessperson should be aware of and prepared for. One way to prepare is by seeing where you can cut expenses. This will reduce stress as you keep an eye on your bottom line. A first and obvious place to start as you look at expenses is how much your products cost. The lower your costs, the less stressed you will be if a client has to extend or cancel her appointment.

Along with tightening your purse strings, it may help to modify your services, which could modify the cost to your customer. Offer express services during lunch or afternoon hours, which are often harder to fill. The modified service could also be used to run specials for people who want their nails done but need to save money.

Focus on retail! Your first response might be, “How can I sell retail when clients have a hard time paying for their nails?” Think about it this way: Mary can’t afford to come to the salon because times are tough and she sees nails as a luxury. However, she’s upset to let her nails go. Rather than losing her business, why not suggest retail items so she can do her nails at home? Now you’re asking, “Elaine, you want me to tell my customer she doesn’t need me?” Selling retail to a client for at-home care not only puts a little money in your pocket now, it also keeps the client coming back in so that when she can afford nails again, she’ll still be loyal to you.

— Elaine T. Watson, vice president of marketing and sales and global education director, Star Nail International


“Improving teamwork.”

— Vicki Peters,

co-owner Polish Salon, Brea, Calif.


How to overcome it: Legwork on the front end makes for teamwork on the back end. Choose staff with the same values — people who have an ethic for sharing, for ongoing education, who are like-minded with who you are. People who are serious about managing their careers, who communicate well, who have a strong ability to prebook appointments and sell retail will be more likely to have a great attitude and avoid drama and chaos. The second part of that is to have a strong lease agreement. Let independent contractors know your expectations.

— Bryan Durocher, Durocher Enterprises Inc., Whitefish, Mont.



“How do I find clients when it seems like so many people are comfortable going to salons with no appointment/commitment/loyalty?”

— Wendy Shelton, nail technician, Essex Hair Design, East Lansing, Mich.


How to overcome it: Be flexible. Look at what’s working for your competition. If it’s successful, ask yourself if you should be doing the same thing, or some modification of it. If your book isn’t full, allow walk-ins, which means you may need to sit around and wait for clients. When a new client comes, educate her about how your salon is different, what you’re doing during the service and why you’re doing it. Educate the client about how your services are better. Tell them some of the benefits of choosing your salon, in booking appointments, and in caring for their nails, skin, and cuticles at home. When clients realize they can go longer between services, that the experience is more personal, and that you’re a licensed, knowledgeable nail tech, they’ll begin to understand the difference between salons.

— Elaine T. Watson


First, are you comparing apples to apples? If you’re comparing apples to apples and still asking, “How do I compete?” the only answer is to charge less for the apple. But you’re not competing with discount salons. Discount salons compete with other discount salons. A fast, cheap, convenient salon where multiple friends can walk in off the street with no appointment is one model. In this model, the owner is trying to fill the chairs for that day. My salon uses a different model. We want to fill the chairs for tomorrow. We offer clients a safe space, where we know their preferences, and where we customize services. Plus, we build client loyalty to the salon, not just to a service provider. We want clients to come for the overall experience as well as the skill of the technician.

A couple ways to increase the experience is to offer other services, such as massage, facials, waxing, or hair. Also, increase your retail section so clients will see it as a shopping destination. This encourages clients to visit between appointments. Be a resource and networking hub; I can’t tell you the number of people who call or stop in for recommendations and referrals. In a discount salon, the work might be fine — it may even be good. But the overall experience is a discount experience. Develop relationships and reasons for clients to return!

— Heather Goodwin, owner, A Totally Unique Nail Boutique and Inspiring Champions Success Coach


“Finding technicians who have a passion, skill, positive attitude, and the know-how to provide great customer service!”

— Ronieka Page Howell, owner, Abstract Nails & Wellness Studio, Indianapolis, Ind.


How to overcome it: The keys are: recruit, mentor, and plan.

Recruit: Recruiting new or current talent is one of the most underutilized business tools. Look at every person you come into contact with and ask, “Would they make a good nail tech? Would this person be a good fit in my salon?” Think about the banker who calls to alert you of a bounced check, or the waitress who has exceptional customer service, or the salesperson who always looks perfectly dressed and has beautiful nails. These are examples of potential talent. While it’s difficult for a person to change careers, many people do it every year.

Look at talent already in the industry, such as spa hostesses or the front desk staff at other salons. Most industries recruit extensively — even within their own industry. So pay attention to where the top talent is and see if they are happy where they are or if they would be a good fit for your salon or spa.

Recruiting doesn’t need to be the sole responsibility of the owner, either. Pay a finder’s fee to staff who recruit good team members. Let everyone take ownership in recruiting your salon’s A-team.

Mentor: Go to a beauty school and get to know the instructors. Offer to come in for four hours a month to work with and talk to students. Invite the students to an open house event in your salon. Let them come in for a few hours to see how the salon operates. Take a technician under your wing — even if she is working at a different salon. Offer to help her with her career.

Plan: Any experienced tech knows it will take three months of school, plus a few months of jitters, plus nearly a year before raw talent becomes refined skill. So, plan ahead! If you’re looking to expand in a year, cut back your hours, or retire, you need to be recruiting, mentoring, and planning now. Many small salons feel there isn’t enough business to expand the staff. I’ve not found this to be true in most cases. The industry is huge right now. Stores like Sephora sell professional products for at-home use because people are getting sick of the “discount, assembly line” mentality. Clients are out there! Find the right staff and position yourself to bring them in.

— Michelle Cordes, nail tech and industry educator, Tacoma, Wash.


While you’re looking for the perfect tech, the perfect tech is looking for the perfect salon! Know what makes your salon great so you can set yourself apart from other spas. How do you advertise? What’s your reputation in town? Do you have a niche clientele? Do you pay for and attend networking events/shows/training classes? Do you offer staff team-building opportunities — even if it’s a casual get-together one night a month? What benefits do you offer?

“How do you balance clients, social media, advertising, and family?”

— Adrienne Shaffer,

senior nail specialist, Glamour Girlz Nail Studio, Rathdrum, Idaho


How to overcome it: Balance is an issue that most working professionals struggle with, and I think the (im)balance issue is greatly magnified with women, especially mothers. For me, there will never be a balance between Nail Taxi and my family; the scales will always be balanced in the favor of my family and that’s by design. After eight years in business, I decide how much and when I work. Many days I am up at 5 a.m. so I can handle work before waking my children and managing my household. I work some while the children are in school. I try not to work in the evening before the kids and my husband go to bed.

The most critical tool in managing all the tasks before you is to set a daily intention. I never have more than three intentions on my list because then I am all over the place, stressed, and nothing gets done well. Social media requires a lot of time to do it correctly, and I suggest determining a set time each day to check all your accounts and using an app to automatically post for you each day.

Another key to balance is doing something for yourself other than work, such as 15-minute breaks throughout your day to stretch, go for a walk, breathe some fresh air outside, etc. These breaks will energize you and help you to refocus on the task at hand.”

— Cinnamon Bowser, owner, Nail Taxi




For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.