When NAILS did the nail industry’s first-ever salary survey in 1992, we focused on the ways nail technicians could increase their income. Our study found that nail technicians earn more money if they are licensed and if they continue their education and stay in the business longer. This year’s study goes further and also looks at the non-monetary benefits that nail technicians earn. We found that although nail technicians’ earning power seems to have dropped, many nail technicians are now receiving the same kinds of employer-paid benefits that many workers in the corporate world enjoy. We also discovered that retail commissions, for those who receive them, can add up to substantial extra income.

The survey also showed that monetary considerations are a factor in determining whether you want to be employee or an independent contractor. For many nail professionals, booth rental has meant maximum earning potential. Our study indicates that booth renters do indeed earn more than employees, but employees earn the lion’s share of the benefits.

In analyzing this data, our editors wondered what factors contributed to the drop in income, and what the drop means to the industry as a whole. Of course, the stagnation of service prices, as reported in NAILS 1993 Fact Book, is a big contributor to the downturn. We know from a study now underway by NAILS editors that it is due to a perceived lack of earning power, as well as the struggle to establish a clientele, that many nail technicians leave the business altogether.

So many factors affect income that one should not use these survey figures except as a yardstick to determine whether her income is within the industry average for her experience, age, working situation, and geographic area (among still other factors).

The good news for nail technicians is that although a successful nail career takes time to build, and a weekly paycheck can be subject to booth rental, supply costs, and self-payment for important benefits, a nail career can be rewarding, long-lasting, and profitable.



Percentage of booth renters 33.5%
Average weekly booth rental   $83.43
Percentage paid on commission 39.1%
Average commission 53.6%
Average weekly commission amount $228.01
Percentage receiving a salary 20.4%
Average weekly salary $252.17
Percentage who accepts tips 93.8%
Average weekly tip income $60.63
Percentage who receive retail commission/bonus 38.6%
Average retail commission   18.5%
Average weekly retail commission amount $74.95
Average monthly salon retail income $777.51
Average number of clients serviced weekly 30.7
Average hours worked/week      35.1
Average amount spent on supplies/month $136.24
Average weekly income (service income only) $329.92
Average hourly rate     $9.79
Average income per client       $11.60


BENEFITS RECEIVED (all respondents):

Scheduling flexibility 58.2%
Discounts on services 50.3%
Discounts on products 45.5%
Retail commission 38.6%
Salon provides products 35.6%
Unpaid products 32.6%
Free business cards 29.6%
Paid vacation 17.4%
Birthdays off 15.9%
Self-paid medial 15.2%
Maternity leave 14.6%
Education reimbursement 11.0%
Bonuses for sales goals 8.9%
Reimbursement for show expenses 8.2%
Paid holidays 7.4%
Paid time for shows 7.1%
Company-paid medical 5.4%
Retirement benefits 3.4%


Your earning power as a professional nail technician is indicated in more ways than the paycheck you cash each week. Depending on your experience and the salon you work in, your commission ranges anywhere from a high of 75% to a low of 20%. For an industrious professional who does everything she can to bring in new business, there’s a lot of control to be had over your financial situation. The weekly income figures here are for service income only.

  • The 35-hour work week, which is average for nail technicians, is below the average for corporate America.
  • Nail technicians can always supplement their income with extras such as tips and retail commissions. 93.8% of nail technicians accept tips, and 36.6% receive retail commissions or bonuses.
  • Benefits offered by your employer save you money. Although the top benefit offered to nail technicians is scheduling flexibility, 50.3% of our respondents receive discounts on services for themselves, 45.5% receive discounts on supplies, and a lucky few of you are getting paid medical insurance and retirement plans.


Average weekly booth rental N/A $81.50
% receiving commission 84.9% 9.4%
Average weekly commission %                                52.2% 
Average weekly commission amount     $217.00 $227.59
% receiving a salary       33.5% 4.7%
Average weekly salary    $172.96 $280.38
% of technicians who accept tips 96.3% 97.3%
Average weekly tip income     $66.50 $58.58
% receiving bonus or commission on retail    57.0% 32.2%
Average commission percentage on retail     14.5% 20.6%
Average weekly commission amount on retail   $157.16 $20.62
Percentage working at more than one location  11.0% 6.0%
Average hours worked per week     31.01 35.82
Average income per hour (service income only)   $8.20 $9.37
Average income per client   $10.34 $13.98
Average weekly income (service income only)         $254.41 $335.61


Booth rental is an employment option exercised by 33.5% of nail technicians. It is an attractive option because it offers flexibility and, most booth renters say, greater financial opportunity. Our study shows that although the average weekly income for booth renters is actually higher than for employees by ($81), employees earn more benefits and work slightly shorter weeks (31 hours compared with 36). The key to deciding which option works best for you is to weigh all the factors and not just look at the bottom line.

In our 1992 compensation study, male nail technicians out-earned female technicians by a few dollars, a point we made with some chagrin. However, this year’s study shows that women, who represent the majority of the nail industry’s practitioners, earn more than men. Interestingly, though, men do average more in tips than women do.

Not surprisingly, and consistent with past studies, wages for nail technicians increase as they move up in skill and title. We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: The more you learn, the more you earn.



  0-1 show  2-3 shows 4-5 shows 6+ shows 0-2 classes 3-5 classes 6+ classes

average hourly income (service income only)

$9.25  $9.42  $10.87    $11.21  $9.11  $10.07  $10.54
Average weekly income (excludes retail income) $307.01  $336.23 $438.95 $494.35 $305.67  $361.55  $444.49


The rule holds true in nearly every business: stick around and you’ll begin to see a difference in your paycheck. The survey showed a stair-step of earning ability with every year business (although not necessarily by every year in life: older nail technicians earn slightly less than their younger counterparts).



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