This is an open letter to the self-taught nail technicians, making masterpieces in your living room, the licensed nail tech, making a name for his/herself in salon suites, and the nail salon owners, trying to keep your manicure and pedicure stations full. No matter what stage you are in on your nail journey, you've found yourself wondering if your price list is too low (or too high). There is nothing more normal in this industry that having the mental power struggle while putting a quantity on the quality of your work. This is a conversation my wife and I have had countless times. I'll list out the angles to consider when pricing your services and how me and my wife used these concepts to take our businesses from discount people-pleasing prices to high-end price tags on services while maintaining a loyal clientele.
How Much Is Your Time Worth
I wanted to make sure this topic was covered first. I've had many deep personal conversations with too many nail technicians and salon owners and I have always posed this question first to see where their head is. If you believe your full sets are worth $25, why should anyone else believe that you are worth a penny more? Before ANY changes are made to your price list, YOU must believe the finished product and experience you give is worth it.
While we are on the topic of your worth, lets talk about your deposits. I respect any technician thats charges a deposit. Once you have had clients not show up for appointments, you'll start charging one as well (or at least require a payment method on file). You don't question why you lawyer charges a retainer fee or why your doctor charges an appointment cancellation fee. When techs ask me, "How much is a fair deposit?", I always give the counter question: "How much do you feel like your time is worth PER HOUR?" Most girls just state the hourly wage they are being paid at their main job or last job, because that is what society has trained you to believe; That your hourly wage is all your time is worth. But I wasn't asking how much did your employer say you were worth. I am asking how much do YOU feel you're time is worth per hour?
Whatever number is in your heart, multiply that by the number of hours the service booked would have taken you. That way if they don't show up, you've still been paid for your time; since thats what was wasted anyways. (i.e. if your full-set takes 2 hours, and your time is worth $30 per hour to you, any deposit amount up to $60 for a full-set is beyond fair). That way, if not a single soul sits in your chair, your time has been paid for.
Living Room Full-Sets Does NOT Mean Discount
The dreaded question, especially for beginner and self-taught nail technicians: Where is your shop? No worries, we've literally been there before: In our living room. And there is NO SHAME. I repeat, do not be ashamed of doing nails out of your home. It cuts down on booth rent, childcare fees, transportation, etc. and for self-taught nail technicians, it may be your only legal option since most commercial property managers won't lease you a space without a license.
Doing nails at home should NOT be a factor when making your price list. Yes you read that correctly. I said what I said. Let me explain why. The ENVIRONMENT you give your clients should be a factor. When I say environment, I mean, screaming kids, barking dogs, other people in your home coming in and out and around your workspace. Are there dirty dishes in the view of your client's eyes (or nose)? Your client is paying for that relaxing space and is there to be pampered. If youre not able to provide that aura, then you're probably not in a position to raise your prices (yet). Try positioning your work station where you client doesn't have a view of your kitchen and backrooms. Give your client an extra chair or space near your workstation for them to sit their purses. Light a candle 30 minutes before your client arrives to help create that relaxing setting. Doing nails at home doesn't mean you provide a subpar experience and having a salon/suite does not guarantee you are giving that experience either.
What Products Are You Using?
I always say 70% of a completed set, is the skill and effort you put into your work. The remaining 30% is the quality of products you are using. Yeah, you can pass a test with a 70, but are you going to make the Dean's List?
Questions to ask yourself if your skill set alone isn't producing the results you know you are capable of producing: Are you using MMA monomer (Thats a WHOLE conversation for another day)? Are you going over someone else's work? Is it time for a new Kolinsky brush? Are you using different brands for your acrylic and monomer?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are not in a position to raise your prices. MMA is illegal and very dangerous to you and your clients health. Going over another techs work almost guarantees a weaker foundation since you are more than likely mixing acrylic brands and possibly working over MMA. Using a old, dried-out Kolinsky brush will make your acrylic balls lumpy and create less than desired results. Using mix-match acrylic systems (one brand of monomer and another brand of acrylic) can create a hot/burning sensation on the nail plate. All of the issues mentioned have nothing to do with your skill set but are avoidable just by having quality products (and practices).
Now don't get me wrong, I know first-hand how expensive nail supply products are. I own a nail supply store. But thats where youre able to raise your prices. Clients pay for quality products. They can tell that you've been using craft store rhinestones and not Swarovski. Clients can tell you're using gorilla glue and not nail glue. They may not be able to put their finger on it immediately (no pun intended), but when clients realize they are not getting what they pay for, they'll find another tech that'll give it to them.
Are you TOO Available?
Do you set aside time to develop your skills? Research new products? Practice advanced techniques? Or are you so busy with appointments that you haven't made time for anything else? Lets do some simple math so I can show you how you can maintain your income while still advancing your skills. Lets say you do $40 full sets that take 2 hours to complete. If you are doing nails 40 hours per week, you are taking 20 clients and making $800 per week. If you've committed 40 hours a week to doing nails, you've left yourself with no time for self-improvement, practice and research.
Now let's take the SAME 40 hours you have dedicated to nails and Ill show you how to maintain your income while building your skill set. If you were to raise your full-set price to $45, you only have to take 17 clients per week to make the same $800. But now you have 4 and a half hours per week you can use to work on your shaping, perfect your ombre, take a nail class, learn to perfect your C-curve on sculpted sets, research the latest trends.
That extra $5 your clients are paying is going to immediately pay off because you will be producing a better quality set and be able to offer more complex techniques. They are paying an extra $5 for your time to become a better technician. Honestly, you may lose 3 clients that were too cheap to pay the extra $5, but that is the time you need to develop yourself (and thats not the clientele you want if they'll leave over $5). If you are having doubts, go back and reread section one. YOU have to believe you are worth it before anyone else does.
You cannot wait for anyone else to raise your prices, because they won't. You'll have clients giving you tips here and there, but that is not guaranteed money. YOU have to raise your prices. If you aren't confident in raising your prices, you need to improve either your skills, your products, or your environment. Either way, the change starts with you.
CFO/Co-Owner of Kreativ Nail Supply