A career in the nail industry has its fair share of rewards, but with it can come issues that challenge even the most die-hard professional. From finding it difficult to retail products to being allergic to chemicals in the salon, it seems almost every nail tech has some concerns regarding her occupation.
The biggest challenge I face is time. Because I make all the appointments for the salon and usually have to do customer relations or troubleshoot for my employees, I often run behind with my appointments. This is a constant struggle for me, but it comes with being a salon owner. Even when I didn’t own a salon, I always had a problem with staying on schedule. I tend to get carried away with my creativity and don’t watch the clock. Fortunately, I have an understanding and tolerant clientele. Patricia Yankee Williams,2005 AVAs Nail Technician of the Year, Pattie’s Place, Baldwin, N.Y.
My challenge is not being trained enough on acrylics at school. I attended a vocational school where I was the only nail student. My acrylic training was solely on practice hands. Even though there were 10 cosmetology students attending at the same time’, I had no practice on the human hand unless it was my own. My knowledge and skills were enough to pass the state test, but my confidence at doing a good job with human hands is very low. I have attended several nail shows, but these only last a few hours. There are no reputable salons nearby where I can find a mentor. Monique Hendrix, Troy, Ala.
I truly believe the biggest challenge that I face in my career is an apathetic and uninformed consumer base. Not only does the average client or potential client I encounter lack a healthy understanding of the industry, but they don’t have an idea of what level of knowledge and skill is truly required to do nails. Many clients have the notion that the nail industry is for immigrants who don’t speak English. They’re also frustratingly nonchalant about learning why they should care about safety, sanitation, and the chemicals used on them and whether or not their salon professional knows, let alone cares, about these issues as well. The industry would be well served by a more enlightened consumer base: clients who understand the risks involved with inferior nail care and who demand higher standards from their salon professionals. Maggie Franklin, Laughing Lady Salon, Visalia, Calif.
I feel the nail industry has not introduced anything new to increase sales and services in the salon. I have not seen anything new and exciting, which means I have bored my clients with the same thing for the last few years. I would love to see new products and service-oriented ideas for natural nail clients, because that is where my concentration in the salon is based. Mary Jo Zwirowski, Innovations Salon of Naperville, Naperville, Ill
Although I firmly believe I attended the best nail school in the Milwaukee area (The Institute of Beauty and Wellness), timing was not really emphasized until almost graduation. We were scheduled well over the average time that most salons allow for manicures and pedicures Once we were given a breakdown on how long each individual step should take, I was able to improve my time, but until then, I was taking too long prepping the nail and not leaving enough tune to massage and polish. After working a few months in a busy salon, timing became easier, especially because a seasoned tech took me under her wing and showed me a few tricks. I still run into a little trouble now and then, but if necessary, I schedule a 15- minute break into my day to allow time to catch up. Unfortunately, if my client is running late, then I am, too. I try to hurry either on the massage or polish portions of the service on the latecomer rather than rush the next client who is on time. Most salon-goers are fine with a slight delay, especially if they still receive their complete service. Tonya Weninger, Brown Deer, Wis.
Being a nail tech has been a very rewarding career for me. I feel lucky to be in a profession that can make me happy and take me to different levels. I don’t want to discourage anyone by discussing the physical toll it can take on one’s body; I just wish I would have been more aware or educated and taken more precautions. The physical toll this career has had on my body has been bad, but it’s been worth it. My neck and shoulders burn and hurt from the way I usually sit. Holding your head down in the position we nail techs do puts a toll on your neck. My hands also hurt and seem to be numb to the pain now. My five days a week, 10-12 hour workdays are also challenging. Christy Graham, Liberty Township, Ohio
Although I do retail a lot of products, I find it hard to sell people nail strengtheners when they have tried to use products before that didn’t work. I don’t want them to think I am trying to take their money. To convince even your greatest and most loyal clients is hard, no matter how much they like you. As a nail tech, most of the time we make our living on our commission, and sometimes retail commissions can be a big part of our paycheck. When even our regular clients don’t trust what we are telling them, it hurts us — and them — in the end. Malissa Maltese, Antoinette Day Spa & Salon Paoli, Pa.
The biggest challenge I face every day is being allergic to the chemicals in nail products. I have to be careful my hands are well-protected and be cautious when I am filing to not let the dust go everywhere or file through the gloves. It can get frustrating at times, but being uncomfortable for a little while is better than suffering from allergic reactions. Barbara Lee, Country Nails, French Creek, W. Va.
The process of trying to obtain licensing for nail techs in Connecticut has been a big challenge for me. I’ve tried to make consumers aware of the fact that this is the only unlicensed state in the country. I’ve called and written health officials, state representatives, nail product manufacturers, and professional organizations, and no one seems to care. Yes, the individuals I spoke with were sympathetic, but since I am not a politician or a lobbyist, I could get no action. This has been personally challenging for me because I am tired of having to convince people that I am a professional even though I have no license to prove it I have to explain to manufacturers that Connecticut has no licensing, but I have been in business since 1989 and do know what I am doing. At trade shows, when I say I am from Connecticut, I get looks from people insinuating that I am uneducated. Even local supply stores seem to look down on nail techs. Unfortunately, I have decided to quit the fight. I am no longer active in trying to get licensing in this state. Because Connecticut sees no reason for licensing, I have given up. Wendy C. Updegrave, First Class Nails, E. Lyme, Conn.
As a salon owner, the biggest challenge I face is trying to pay the bills and have the money to do all of the things I’d like to do, such as get new flooring and new tables. As a nail tech, the biggest challenge I face is charging what other techs think I am worth. I have many clients who come in and say ‘do whatever you want,’ which is great, but because I am so into nail art and colored acrylic I often go a bit crazy. By the time I’ve finished, I may have done a $100 set of nails on someone and only charged $35. My clients are like my family, and I have a hard time charging them. I have read many articles saying to tell your clients the service is X amount and if they really want it, they will pay for it, but it all sounds so mechanical. I may say a full set costs $100 to someone who just walked in the door, but for the girl who has been in my chair since I was in beauty school, when it took me four hours to do a fill, that’s different. Jill Worswick, Visions Salon, Chico, Calif.
The biggest challenge is being thought of as second-rate after the hairstylists in the salon. When the salon plans promos or other events, it feels as if nails are an afterthought. There is a contest for stylists in the salon. They compete to receive prizes and recognition. I have been at this salon for two years, and there has never been a contest for nail techs. We are constantly having awesome deals to get new clients through the door, but unfortunately, nails are seldom included in the promotions. It makes me (and I think new clients also) feel like nails are just an accompaniment to the hair services we offer, rather than being an independent service. I’ve had to prove to some of the stylists that I’m not just there to supplement them but that I add my own ideas and strengths to our team. I’ve been a nail tech now for about seven years; I do feel like I have seen some improvement in how we, as nail techs, are treated, but I still think that we have a ways to go before we are considered equal to the stylists. Heather Burpee, JC Penney Salon, Puyallup, Wash
The Top Challenges
Each year NAILS sends out readers a Nail Tech Survey We use your responses to compile our annual industry statistics, which appear in our Big Book at the end of each year. This year, one of the questions we asked on the survey was, What is the biggest challenge you face as a nail professional? That question received plenty of responses, making it possible for us to come up with a Top 10 list of challenges you face in your career, put together in no particular order.
1 Having clients who never seem to be pleased with your services.
2 Building and keeping a clientele.
3 Hiring good, professional nail techs.
4 Retailing products to clients.
5 Adding new services to keep clients enticed — and attract new ones.
6 Keeping up with the plethora of new products on the market.
7 Understanding proper sanitation and disinfection procedures for the salon.
8 Raising prices without losing clients.
9 Competing with salons who offer faster, cheaper services.
10 Changing and elevating the perception of the nail industry to the same level as the hair industry.