Educating the Nail Tech Masses

Do you long to take that next step in your career and make extra money but aren’t quite sure how? Become a manufacturer’s educator. Not only will you get a chance to teach, you’ll have fun, meet new people, and increase your own knowledge along the way — all while bringing in more cash.

Are you looking to take the next step in your nail tech career? Are you eager to share your knowledge and experience with other nail technicians? Are you outgoing and friendly? Are you willing and eager to travel? If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, then you’re prime educator material.

Becoming an educator can open a new career path for a nail tech, especially for a nail tech who wants to move forward in her career but doesn’t necessarily want to own her own salon.

With so many manufacturers constantly introducing new products to the industry, it’s essential these companies offer continuing education (of course, that also goes for products that may not be new). Today, nail technicians want more than the how-to information that’s provided on the box or the video of the products they purchase. They want hands-on instruction. That’s where a manufacturer’s educator comes in.

Educators receive in-depth training themselves, free or discounted products, additional job opportunities, travel, extra income, and professional growth. What’s not to like about that? What’s more, many manufacturers will pay nail techs a percentage of all products sold at the class as a sales incentive.

And the best thing is you don’t have to stop doing nails completely. Many nail technicians teach part time to increase their income and continue their own training while continuing to work in the salon and service clients.

What Makes a Good Educator?

To become a successful educator, it’s important to have great people skills. In fact, most manufacturers value that over technical skills. After all, technical skills can be improved, but a friendly personality cannot.

Educators need to be people-oriented. “We look for people who have infectious personalities and good sales skills,” says Janice Corona, director of education for Star Nail International. “It’s important the person be able to work independently, is reliable, and a team player. They must understand that when they educate for a manufacturer, they are representing the company.”

Of course, don’t sell yourself short if you’re not as outgoing as other nail techs. The shyest nail techs have been known to emerge from their shells to become topnotch educators.

Most companies require at least one year’s worth of experience as a working nail tech. There’s nothing like salon experience to give you the background you need to answer students’ questions about salon situations. As with any job, it’s important to look and act professional at all times.

Finding a job as an educator is as simple as going online. Many manufacturers post help wanted ads on their websites or in magazines.

And if you’re interested in a position, all you have to do is ask. “Lucky for us, many nail techs approach us, particularly at trade shows and classes,” says Corona. “If we are looking for someone in a particular area we pass flyers out through nearby distributors. We also tend to meet great people through our technical hotline.”

Nail techs may go through a few interviews before they are accepted in a manufacturer’s educational program. Conducting interviews gives manufacturers the chance to get a feel for a nail tech and see if she is a perfect fit for the position.

You must be a self-starter and love what you’re doing. If you work as an educator for a company whose products you aren’t completely thrilled about, then chances are that will come through during classes you teach. You must be confident in your skills and yourself, believe in the products you are touting, and be willing to help class attendees improve their skills.

“We contract our educators as needed, and new educator trainings are usually held each June,” says Joey Brown, international spokesperson and director of education for OPI.

Manufacturers are constantly seeking new educators. New territories open up and educators leave or move up, leaving plenty of room for new people.

“We’re continually recruiting educators for our programs,” says Gari-Dawn Tingler, director of education for EZ Flow. “We have entry level trainings every two months and we host six master trainings a year.”

Time to Learn

Once you’re hired, most manufacturers will give you some kind of training before sending you off to teach.

OPI educators, for example, must participate in an intensive five-day training and pass three tests (written, technical, and presentation skills). After the training, educators continue its learning process by observing a series of OPI workshops, says Brown. Educators are then assigned to teach their own workshop, and are observed by a seasoned OPI educator. After that, continuing education is offered when new products or procedures are released.

Creative Nail Design has its Creative Institute, an intensive six-day training that covers all aspects of its products, technology, philosophies, and communication methods. The company holds its educators in such high regard that they’re even referred to as education ambassadors, of which there are currently more than 350 worldwide.

NSI holds two full-day educator team trainings. In the training, educators are taught how to do a presentation while teaching a class. They also review the different programs and types of classes they will be teaching, how they will be compensated for the classes they teach, trade show guidelines, and how to fill out paperwork correctly.

“Attendees must do sculptured and tip overlays, acrylics, and gels,” says Shannon Urquiola, national sales manager for NSI. “We often spend additional time perfecting their application techniques if needed.”

And once a nail tech becomes a full-fledged educator, the education doesn’t stop. The team receives bimonthly NSI updates that include months in review, new products, and new programs to keep them updated. In addition, the company holds an annual recertification training and education awards. “Consistent communication is the key to an education team’s success,” says Urquiola.

EZ Flow also believes in continuing education. Once an EZ Flow educator is certified she must participate in a minimum of one event per month to keep her up to date.

Backscratchers Salon Systems offers hands-on training courses when new products are introduced or changed. A general course is offered every two years to refresh skills.

And Creative holds update trainings. “We fly in our entire team of education ambassadors to preview our latest innovations and eduational programs,” says Leslie Randall, education development manager for the company.

Most educator trainings stress similar points. Educators must know the company’s history, product line, and answers to common questions. Manufacturers also stress the importance of teaching the manufacturer’s recommended technique, regardless of any shortcuts they may know.

During training, manufacturers will evaluate and improve your teaching skills. You may also be provided with training manuals. If your technique needs work, your training educator may work with you until you are technically qualified.

Great Expectations

Most educators work part time, also devoting themselves to salon work. They teach classes for distributors, trade shows, beauty schools, or salons. Educators with more experience might even hold presentations at sales meetings.

A plus to being a part-time educator is that many manufacturers are usually flexible about schedules and are considerate of the fact that their educators also work in salons. Also, classes are usually held when the salon is closed because attendees often work full time and can’t take time off. Trade shows are also often held on weekends.

So what kind of money can you expect to make as an educator? It all depends on the company. Star Nail, for example, pays educators $50-$100 per event and also takes care of food, travel, and hotel expenses at trade shows. “We also restock kits with product at absolutely no charge and offer a 40% discount on all products for their personal salon orders,” says Corona.

At Too Much Fun, pay varies with the time of the event. “We have a pay scale for half a day and pay for a full day,” says Dianne D’Agnolo, owner of the company. “Most of our events are either one- or two-hour demos or classes or full-day seminars and full-day trade shows. Depending on the level of educator, our pay goes from $75 for a half day to $125-$225 for a full day.”

Before a company lures you with promises of good money, do some preliminary checking. Make sure you and the company are reaching for the same goal. Find out what the company’s philosophy is, what its goals are, if you can set your own schedule or be on call, if there are growth opportunities available, etc.

Know what the company expects from you. If you’re expected to travel, find out the details. Also, ask other educators in your area about the company to get their perspective.

As with most other jobs, there is always the opportunity to move up. Star Nail, for example, has three levels of educators. An assistant at shows learns the ropes from higher-level educators. Next, she advances to the second level, where she teaches classes, does store demonstrations, works trade shows, and conducts store inventories. The final level is high-tech educator. This person is responsible for presentations at distributor sales meetings, detailing stores, assisting in development by product testing, stage presentations, as well as classes and shows.

Too Much Fun has educators who help in product development and help research new products. “An educator position can turn into a full-time position if it is the right person and the right time,” says D’Agnolo.

Take a cue from those words. If you’ve been stuck in a rut for a while in your current position and are looking for something different, dipping your hand into the education sector of the nail industry might be the answer you’ve long been looking for.

[Originally published: February 2004]


[keywords: education, alternative careers]

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