Business Management

Home, Sweet Home-Based Salon

Working at home has its advantages – time with your kids and being your own boss – but there is still a price to pay-client calls at midnight and never really being able to leave the “office”.

Sick of commuting? Tired of working for other people? Distressed about day-care arrangements? If so, you may be one of millions of Americans who are discovering that working at home full-time suits their particular needs. You may be one of a growing number of nail technicians who like the idea of redesigning their garage, basement, or spare room into a full-service salon.

But before you hold a yard sale to get rid of all the junk that’s clogging up the garage to make room for some plush mauve carpeting, think long and hard about whether working at home will make life easier- or harder.

To help you decide, NAILS interviewed several technicians who shared the advantages and disadvantages of opening and operating a home-based salon.


“When clients come here for the first time, they expect me to take them into my kitchen where I’ll haul out a portable nail kit or something.” says Cheryll Graybill.

“So when they walk into my separate salon area and experience the professional decor, they’re really surprised and excited.”

Graybill decided to open a home-based business when neighbors told her they wished there was a nail salon on the army base where she lives. A licensed technician, Graybill found the idea appealing because it would allow her to be home for her two boys.

But before choosing her plum, black, and white color scheme, Graybill checked with the base post commander, housing director, and her husband’s unit to make sure she could open a home-based business on the base. She was able to meet all local and state regulations because she had a separate room to devote to clients and a separate adjoining bathroom.

“I wanted to create a relaxing atmosphere that wasn’t too feminine,” she says, “because several of my clients are men- although they often sneak over here in the evenings so no one sees them”

Tapping into a specialized clientele of army personnel, as well as the civilian nurses and doctors who work at the base hospital, Graybill never has any problems attracting clients. “Word -of-mouth is my best advertisement,” she says. “I make sure my clients are satisfied and spread the good word by concentrating on education and service, which are my two main objectives when I take care of a customer, whether it’s the first or fiftieth time. A home-based business allows me the flexibility to indulge and pamper clients.”

Instead of the usual 45 minutes or one hour that most technicians schedule for their clients, Graybill devotes at least an hour and a half to each person. She likes taking the time to cater to her patrons’ individual needs and whims, like playing their favorite music, helping them on and off with their coat, and walking them to their car.

“Too many technicians are always rushing,” she says. “They’re so into making money that they don’t take the time to massage a customer’s hand or to explain what products they‘re using and why. I’ve had clients come to me from other salons and tell me they want a manicure when what they really want is a silk wrap. My clients like the fact that I take the time to educate them.”

Home-based doesn’t mean homebound: Graybill constantly attends nail show and network with other salon owners and technicians. She is an active member of the National Nail Technicians Group (NNTG). She also made room in her home salon for a variety of high-quality products. “Retail is 25% of my business,” she says. “I sell a lot of files, polishes, lotions, buffers, natural nail care products, nail glues, and pedicure products.”

Although some people claim that home businesses are run by non-professional technicians who take money away from other salons. Graybill says it’s an unfair assumption. “Professionalism is based on attitude- not whether you work in a slick city salon or at home. Manufacturers and distributors treat me with as much respects as any other salon owner. They sense my enthusiasm and love of the industry, and they know I invest most of the money I make back into my business to help it grow. I may be a small salon, but I offer as much high-quality service and as many products as any other shop. To my clients, my services are equally – if not more – valuable than any of my competitors.”

About the only disadvantage Graybill sees to working at home is that some clients assume she’s on 24-hour call. “I’m usually booked one to two weeks in advance,” Graybill says, “but there are always those clients who call and ask, ‘Can you take me tomorrow at 10 a.m.?’

These clients will do anything to wriggle their way into your schedule and make you feel guilty if you say no. But to survive at home, you have to learn how to be firm, yet polite, and let clients know their boundaries, So now , when a client asks me to squeeze her in , I say ‘I’m sorry, I’m already booked, How about such and such a time?’ And I hold firm. In a few cases, this has resulted in clients running to other salons in desperation, but they always come back to me – usually complaining about the rushed service they received at the other shop. So ultimately I’m forgiven- and appreciated.”


When Judy Franck discovered that a number of her clients yearned for a salon that opened at 5 a.m. and closed at 9 p.m., she decided to accommodate them by starting her own business.

Franck had toyed with the idea of opening a home-based nail salon when she’d moved from California to Illinois several years ago. At that time she’d spent several months searching for a house that had a basement with a separate entrance and its own bathroom.

But before she left the salon behind her, Franck contacted local and state officials to ensure her house met zoning and other legal requirements. “The only question they asked was whether I had enough parking,” she recalls. “But when I explained that I never have more than a few clients visiting at one time, and that my double carport provides ample off-street parking, there was no problem.”

To create a unique salon setting, Franck painted a large mural of her favorite stretch of California beach on the walls. The result is a relaxing atmosphere where clients feel like they’re at the ocean getting their nails done while dolphins, mermaids, and sunbathers laze around under a ceiling of blue sky and puffy clouds.

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