Any experienced nail tech knows her business is built on customer service. A clean salon, quality work, and fair prices are essential to a successful business, of course, but it’s the personal connection that secures client loyalty. However, the admirable quality of “giving 100%” needs to include the caveat that giving your all includes giving yourself the respect you deserve. Respect comes from within you. When you respect yourself and set clear boundaries, you will earn the respect of your clients. Below, we’ve compiled nine ways techs communicate self-respect.

1. Self-Respecting Techs Know When to Say “No”

Maggie Franklin has heard it all: You should give me a refund on my nails. (From a client who loved her nails on Friday but is having buyer’s remorse on Tuesday about an $85 set of nails.) You should stay late or come in on your day off. (From a client who couldn’t find time to come in during salon hours.) You should do nails for $20 like the salon down the street. (Be honest, you’ve all heard this one.)

“Clients tell me I should use more primer, use MMA, and even how to nip the acrylic off,” says Franklin, owner and artist at Art of Nailz in Visalia, Calif. “I’ve learned any self-respecting nail tech needs to know when to say NO.” Franklin stresses techs need to understand when to say “no” to people other than their clients, too. “You might need to say no to your sales reps, your colleagues, even to the manager or boss,” she explains. “When the answer is no, you need to be able to say it and respect your boundaries enough to hold to it.”

2. Self-Respecting Techs Know Their Worth

“Techs respect themselves by paying themselves,” says Athena Elliott, nail tech, salon owner, and host of Nail Talk Radio. “It’s taken me years to learn this.” The ability to sustain your career as a nail tech comes with understanding the cost of business. Part of that cost is paying the technician — which is YOU. It’s easy to take in revenue for a week of business and pay yourself what’s left after expenses. In this scenario, your paycheck fluctuates. Instead, decide what weekly income you need for your personal household budget. Add that to your list of expenses. Now you’ll not only have an accurate idea of how much you need to bring in to pay your bills, you’ll also reinforce your value every time you pay yourself.

3. Self-Respecting Techs Discipline Themselves

Because our jobs allow us to bond closely with clients, we can be tempted to let down our guard and be casual at work — too casual. Self-respect means we conduct ourselves professionally, at all times. “One main way techs can respect themselves is to avoid answering your cell phone in front of a client,” says Chloe Reed, a nail artist at Glam Nailz by Chloe in San Antonio, Texas. “Even if it’s about an appointment, don’t answer.” Set up an auto-response text that lets clients know you received their call, but can’t pick up the phone. Both clients will be happy if you send a text that reads in this way: “Thanks for your call! I’m with a client and can’t pick up the phone, but leave a detailed message, and I’ll get back to you by the end of the business day.” The client in front of you won’t feel ignored and the one on the phone will be assured she got through to you.

Discipline the content of your stories and the language you use in the salon. When a client comes in to get her nails done, don’t tell sordid stories or use unprofessional language. Even with friends, it’s good to wear your “work” hat when you’re sitting behind the desk. They’ll respect it in small ways; for example, they’ll recognize when you do their nails you really are at work, and they’ll be less likely to abuse your time or cancel at the last minute.

Discipline your time by confi rming appointments. This takes only 10-15 minutes a day, but it’s amazing how many techs don’t fit this into their workday. Instead of thinking it’s up to the client to remember the appointment, try viewing it as an investment in yourself to keep a full book.

Finally, respect yourself by disciplining your time. Whether in the morning for your first client or keeping pace all day, how you manage your time speaks volumes to your clients. Teach clients to respect you by modeling expected behavior.

4. Self-Respecting Techs Create Policies and Procedures

You know whose fault it is if clients continue to come in with unruly children, talk on their phones during a service, or cancel at the last minute (or just don’t show)? It’s harsh, but it’s true: it’s your fault. If you don’t respect yourself enough to educate clients on spa etiquette, you have to blame yourself when the boundaries are violated. Prevent this from happening by creating policies and procedures. This can be a single-sided sheet of paper that functions as an agreement between you and the client. The top half can list what you give them: your education and experience, your sanitation standards, all the benefits you bring personally and through the salon. The bottom half can be what you expect of them: no unruly children, no cell phones, and a 24-hour cancellation policy, to name a few. Set the tone pleasantly, with sincere customer concern, but with finality. You’ll respect their expectations, and they’ll respect yours.

Elliott requires her clients to pre-pay for appointments. It’s a policy she put into place when she realized the value of her time. She couldn’t afford no-shows and cancellations. “When Minx nails hit the market, I could hardly keep up with the demand and the flaky clients,” recalls Elliott. “So I created a 48-hour, pre-pay policy. Now my entire business is run this way.” She no longer has no-shows or last-minute cancellations. “It allows me to have the caliber of clientele I want,” she says. “Techs can respect themselves by counting their eggs before they hatch!”

5. Self-Respecting Techs Schedule Self Care

You all know the drill: schedule yourself a lunch break, a vacation, and time to get your own spa services, where you can be pampered the way you pamper other people. When you say you don’t have enough time, what you really mean is you are not willing to take care of yourself enough to do it. Take the time. You’ll work better. You’ll run your business better. You’ll appreciate your family and clients more. You’ll be more creative. You’ll avoid burn out. Self care, people. It’s the new black.

6. Self-Respecting Techs Set Up a 401(k)

“Nail techs need to focus on what they are doing after they are done doing nails,” says Reed. With a background in the corporate world, Reed understands the importance of working toward retirement. Reed recommends techs live on their income and save their tips. “I don’t take any of my tips until Saturday,” says Reed. “On Saturdays, I count the tips and that’s what goes into my 401(k).” If possible, set up an automatic deposit for a 401(k) account. Reed suggests techs invest at least $50 a week into the market and leave it there — even during the dips. This way they will have something to live on when it’s time to retire. “Once you put it in there, leave it alone,” says Reed. “It’s for you, not the kids’ college funds. If the kids want to go to college, tell them to get scholarships!” Reed suggests techs talk to someone they trust, such as a fi nancial advisor at their bank or credit union, to learn how to set up a 401(k).

7. Self-Respecting Techs Purchase Personal Disability Insurance

“Since I’m an independent contractor, nobody pays me if I get sick,” says Reed. “With personal disability insurance, I get paid based on the income I claim.” So, if you’re injured in a car accident and can’t work, your insurance pays your lost wages. Multiple companies offer disability insurance, such as MetLife and AFLAC. Shop around to fi nd the coverage that is most attractive to you. Reed’s policy does not pay her for the fi rst three months she is out of work. However, after the three months, they pay all her wages, including the three months she went without an income. “I pay only $53 a month for the coverage,” she says. “It’s not expensive, plus I claim it on my taxes.” Going three months without a paycheck may sound so unmanageable that techs question the benefi t of having it at all. However, Reed lists another essential for all self-respecting techs that prepares them for the loss of three months’ income...

8. Self-Respecting Techs Save at Least Six Months’ Salary

“Open three accounts,” says Reed. “Checking, savings, and retirement.” Checking, she explains, is for budgeted, monthly expenses. Retirement is untouchable. Savings is for emergencies. “Shopping when you’ve had a bad day is not an emergency,” says Reed. “This money is for a true emergency, such as an injury, or to help you weather an extended period of time where you aren’t bringing in the money you had expected. This is the extra money you need from time to time to help cover your bills.”

9. Self-Respecting Techs Register as an LLC 

Reed recommends all nail techs set their business up as an LLC. Creating a Limited Liability Company, or LLC, may seem like a big step, but the distinction of being an LLC has benefits that far outweigh the cost. An LLC protects the personal wealth and assets of a nail tech should anyone decide to sue the business. They are relatively simple to set up and cost only a few hundred dollars. Search online to learn your state’s laws regarding LLCs.


For a more in-depth look at some of these topics, check out these articles online: 

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

Read more about