Teresa Liles, a nail student at the Pittsburgh Beauty Academy in Pittsburgh, Pa., asks Debi Duemig, owner of Nails At Last in Tampa, Fla., for guidance on how to become a successful nail technician.
Liles: What made you choose a career in nails?
Duemig: I liked the fact that I can work my hours around my three kids and make as much money as I want. Instead of working 9 to 5, five days a week, I can work three 12-hour days and every other Saturday.
Liles: Do you have any tips to help me achieve my career goals?
Duemig: You have to become very technically proficient, and you need to get repeat business to be successful. Focus on being a perfectionist.
Liles: If you had to do it all over again, what would you change or do differently?
Duemig: I would learn the best technique before trying it on customers. In nail school, they let you try all types of products. Each product requires a different technique. To get good at what you do, you need to specialize and use a specific product.
Liles: Do you have any experience that you could share to help me get started in the industry?
Duemig: Take as many extended education classes as you can. Also, try to work at a nails-only salon; you’ll get more experience and learn from the other technicians. Full-service salons usually have only one or two technicians, so there really isn’t anyone available to ask if you have any questions.
A nail student asks a veteran technician for some advice on starting out.
Liles: What do you enjoy most, and least, about your career?
Duemig: I enjoy my customers and the close relationships we develop. I dislike it when I get behind in my schedule. That is the most stressful part of the job. Since I don’t cut comers, there is no way I can make up time and still do the service correctly. I am a perfectionist and I can’t eliminate steps to get back on schedule.
Liles: What are your favorite, most profitable services and why?
Duemig: Pedicures, because they don’t take a lot of product, and your customer really feels like she’s being pampered.
Liles: Have you met every goal that you set for yourself when you started out?
Duemig: Yes, and more. When I opened my first salon in June 1989, my goal was to eventually make $200 a day and to work only three days a week and every other Saturday. I’ve reached those goals, and I’m also able to support my children.
Liles: After being in tin industry for a while, have you set any new goals?
Duemig: I wanted to open a second salon, which I did last May, to pay for my son’s college tuition beginning next year.
Liles: Do you have any words of encouragement for new nail technicians?
Duemig: Be patient where building a clientele. If you’re good and persistent, it will happen. It takes about six months to become a good nail technician and to build a regular clientele.
Liles: What was the hardest part of getting where you are today?
Duemig: Having the patience to become good through practice and experience. A lot of beginning technicians give up because they don’t have the patience needed to become successful. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Liles: What do you feel is the most difficult money-maker for you and how do you overcome that obstacle?
Duemig: Doing repairs. If you’re booked solid and you have two walk-ins who need repairs, it car really put you behind all day. Try to teach your customers how to soak the product off their nail before coming in. We also have a nail bar with polish remover and cotton on it. If you’re running behind ask your client to please take off her polish.