“I don’t charge for nail art,” says Sharon Frenz, owner of The Nail Boutique in Tomah, Wis. “As long as I can fit the art in the allotted appointment time, it’s free. I do some quick wisps, swirls, and dots, and my clients are happy as clams!” Complimentary nail art is a no-brainer, she says. “Of all the services we can offer, it’s the least expensive for us. Nail art paint and polish is inexpensive and application only involves a little bit of our time.”

And once she gets them in the door with the promise of free nail art, Frenz educates new clients about why they should stick with her. “I have my Barbicide jar in a conspicuous place on my table and they see how I work and take care of their nails,” she says. “They see how we clean our pedicure throne and we explain why we’re doing it that way. I kill them with the best customer service I possibly can and my receptionist has them rebooked before I’ve put on the top coat.”

She does make exceptions to her free nail art policy. “If they want something specific (such as a special design for their kid’s sports team) then I charge a nominal fee — usually not more than $5. If what they want is more detailed and goes into the next hour (and I have time), I usually charge $8,” she says. “But I tell all my brides that their art is my wedding present to them. I figure there’ll be someone at the wedding who will admire her nails and she’ll tell them about the wonderful place that treated her so nicely.

“I’m not giving anything away. It’s part of my business and marketing plan. I tell my clients that they are my walking billboards so why would I charge for them to advertise for me?”