Most nail technicians mobilize only for special occasions – to give a regular client a treat while she’s recovering from having a baby or to make a nursing home resident feel appreciated on holidays. Some nail technicians, however, have targeted the busy, the ill, the elderly, or the just-plain-tired-and-in-need-of-pampering client to make traveling nail services a regular part of their service menu.
Clients abound who would be more than happy to patronize – and pay for – a traveling nail technician. Ill and shut-in clients are obvious targets for this service, but so are business owners, corporate managers, secretaries, college coeds, busy moms, and anyone who wants help getting ready for a Saturday night date.
In fact, it’s often the clients themselves who get nail technicians out of their chairs. “Starting our Mobilized Beauty Services program wasn’t our idea,” says Jacqui Turner, president and CEO of Salon Temporaries (N. Chicago, Ill.), “People started calling us and asking if we could send a nail technician to them.”
Mobilizing beauty services was the next logical step for Salon Temporaries, a company that sends beauty professionals to salons that need temporary help. Six months old, the Mobilized Beauty Services program offers nail, skin, and hair car to anyone who needs services. Salon Temporaries have worked on celebrities in hotel rooms, business owners in their offices, and recovering patients in hospitals. Illinois law requires that traveling nail technicians be prepared to present identification to their clients verifying their expertise in nail care.
Christina Ketter, owner of Prisms… A Nail Salon in North Haven, Conn., regularly performs services on a house-bound neighbor. Another client needed at-home treatment temporarily because the salon fumes aggravated her asthma. An unlicensed state, Connecticut currently has no regulations for traveling nail technicians.
Barbara Hippert’s clients are immobile due not to illness, but to lack of transportation. The owner of Nails by Barbara in Adrian, Mich., Hippert explains, “Adrian is a college town and some of my clients are students. They don’t all have cars and can’t always get rides to the salon, so I plan to start going to one of the sorority houses once a week to offer nail services there. I don’t need to be busier, but it will be fun and a change of pace.” Michigan allows nail technicians to travel under some circumstances, usually when the client can’t get to the salon.
Doreen Bastian, president of Facialgreen (Branford, Conn.), wanted to make basic skin and nail care available and convenient for people who couldn’t get to a salon because of illness, lack of time, or even shyness. The passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act also inspired Bastian to create Facialgram, a company that sends beauty professionals to serve a range of people, from the constantly busy to the terminally ill.
Friends and family told Pamela Ryan that an in-home manicuring service wouldn’t make it as a business, but she proved them wrong. The owner of Cornwall, N.Y. –based. Tips and Toes, Ryan does about 30 clients regularly at their homes or businesses.
“I service a lot of elderly clients, some in wheelchairs, some shut-ins, and one woman who has three children. The rest are people who want the luxury of having someone come to them,” she says. Although New York only recently mandated licensing, Ryan continues to take classes to keep abreast of developments in products and issues.
RULES FOR ROAD TECHS
While clients seem to be just waiting for a nail technician to sweep them off their feet for a pedicure, nail technicians can’t just put the shop in the car and declare themselves in business. Mobilized technicians need to operate within the law, scrupulously sanitize their tools, and he masters of organization and flexibility.
Not all states allow nail technicians to practice their art away from the salon. Some states require that a nail technician have both a nail technician herself needs to be licensed. In states where no licensing is required, nail technicians can practice whenever and wherever they please. However, the nail technicians NAILS spoke to did not take their responsibilities to their clients lightly. For example, Facialgram, employees are required to wear lab coats, keep their hair off their face, and keep their own nails short. Appointments for clients with health problems such as cancer are confirmed the morning of the appointment to be sure the client still feels up to it.
Nail technicians use antimicrobial scrubs for hands and disinfectant wipes for surfaces. After the service, the tools are washed, disinfected, bagged, and placed in a dryclave unit, which heats the implements to 350F. Technicians wash their hands after each service and will use disposable gloves and masks if necessary to prevent the transmission of disease.
Bastian also provides her employees with guidelines on how to service people with such conditions as paralysis, diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.
Above courtesy, professionalism, and technical skills, traveling nail technicians stress proper sanitation as the most important part of the traveling service. This is because people who are confined for health reasons are susceptible to illness, but also because a nail technician can’t control her temporary environment in the same way she can her salon.
Bastian outlines some of the protocols required of Facialgram professionals: “Techs have portable salon equipment, all in kits. Nippers, pushers, and cuticle clippers are dryclaved in a bag so as not to expose them to the elements.”
Tori Lichter, a traveling nail technician based at Prisms … A Nail Salon, brings a small container of disinfectant with her to house calls. Ryan carries a glass bead sterilizer and disinfectant sprays, as does the Salon Temporaries mobilized crew. Between clients, Ryan soaks her tools in liquid disinfectant.
STILL A HOUSEGUEST
The nail technician may be the service-providing professional, but she is still a guest in the client’s house and as such, she has to be sure she doesn’t bother anybody. Like any houseguest, the nail technician needs to communicate with her hosts so she doesn’t wear out her welcome. For example, she should warn clients if she will be using acrylic, which has a strong odor, or an electric filling machine, which can be noisy.
Hippert plans to bring a vented table with her to the sorority house, and visit before her planned service day. “I want to visit them and explain who I am and what I’ll be doing,” she says. “I need to find out if the odor is going to bother anybody.”
Ryan’s acrylic clients expect a little odor in their lives, but what frustrates her are the other people in the house. “Occasionally, one of the husbands will complain about the smell, but they’re usually pretty laid back,” she explains. “One woman’s kids annoyed me because they kept shaking her shoulders while I was working on her nails. But most of my clients know what to expect and they enjoy relaxing in their homes while ‘their’ manicurist works on them.”
Traveling nail technicians can adapt to any locale as long as they bring a few basic items. In addition to nail tools, Ryan brings her own light to work under and situates her client so she can reach the phone and Ryan can get water easily. Jamie Horowitz, another Prisms nail technicians whose traveling services are helping her build her clientele, brings everything but the salon sink to clients’ homes. In addition to her nail supplies, she totes a portable folding table, lotion warmer, and drill with her to create a true salon experience for her eight regular at-home clients.
A VULNERABLE POSITION
Bringing the salon to the client can leave the nail technicians vulnerable. After all, in some cases she is traveling to the homes of people she doesn’t know. While Ketter, Horowitz, Lichter, and Hippert usually see clients they already know from their salon clientele, Ryan, who posts fliers advertising her services, will receive calls from people she’s never met. To ensure her safety, she’s learned how to screen clients.
“I ask a lot of questions, like where they live, what kind of work they do, and if anyone else will be at home while I’m there,” says Ryan. “It gives me a sense of what kind of person the client is, and I can tell her what she can expect from me.”
If something doesn’t seem right, Ryan changes her approach. “If they live in a bad area, I’ll have them come to my home,” she says. “And if something doesn’t look right, I’m very cautious. One woman answered the door naked. I told her I didn’t think she was ready for me to do her nails and I left. No matter where I go, I always leave an address with a friend, my fiancé, or my mother so someone always knows where I am.”
Most clients appreciate the traveling nail technician and are willing to pay extra for her services (or to tip generously). The price nail technicians charge varies widely – Ketter and Lichter don’t charge extra for travel, but Horowitz adds $2 if she travels. Ryan adds $2 to $5 extra, depending on the distance. Bastian’s clients pay $10 to $20 per hour of travel time, and Turner’s clients are charged a minimum of $50 per visit (an at-home manicure is $20: a fill, $25). The bottom line: Clients will pay more for nail technicians who literally go the extra mile.
Nail technicians who travel get more than a few extra dollars. They receive the loyalty of clients who enjoy truly personalized service. “It’s a real time-saver for them,” says Hippert. “Clients like that you’ll follow them if they can’t follow you.”
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