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What Do Nail Pros Need To Succeed?

What do Nail Pros need in order to succeed in the nail business? The question in and of itself is quite broad and surely lead us down many paths. Is it a fully stocked shelf of professional nail products? Is it a slice of humble pie? Together with Tracey Reierson, our Young Nails General Manager and former Director of Education, we explore what might be the most surprising tool you can wield to forge a profitable and fulfilling salon business.

It may be a shock to discover that the single most important tool a nail tech needs to succeed doesn’t come with a price tag and isn’t sold in stores. When we boil it down to the essential, the top of our list, is actually something free. The single thing that sets apart successful nail techs from the struggling is a never ending supply of patience. We’ve all heard the saying, “Patience is a virtue.” How does that exactly apply to nails?

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of patience means “the ability to remain calm when dealing with a difficult or annoying situation, task, or person”. Now let’s apply that. The nature of our business brings us the chance to cross paths with nail techs in every stage of their profession in places all around the globe. We’ve seen how patience comes into play:

The Early Years - Patience is needed while you focus on building your professional career. A strong and steady stream of paying clients doesn’t spring up overnight. Instead, the road to success requires much of your attention spent on strategy, self-promotion, and paying your dues. It can be a grind of long hours and a trickle of revenue.

The Established Years - You now have yourself established in the dream job. You are basically your own boss with creative freedom. You work with clients you love and that love you right back. You get a great sense of accomplishment transforming people’s lives through beautiful nails. If only, it was all rainbows and it is still work! Once you’ve created a following, you’ll feel your focus shift. Your attention will be directed to maintaining your existing client relationships.

It won’t be easy. The nail business is not for everybody. It’s a career that requires a lot of skill to handle customer service and its many professional pitfalls with style and grace. You won’t realize how draining the job (yes, even your dream job) can be until you’re alone at the close of business. When you are thriving and you’re putting yourself 150% into the work; it can be utterly exhausting. Juggling schedules, people, and personalities, the time may come when you might lose your cool. When (and not if) it happens, know that without patience, a well-timed apology, a little self-awareness; you could really destroy your business.

Beyond cultivating patience, a nail tech needs to make smart investments in some education and essential product lines. Which ones, you ask? You know we’re biased but we highly recommend you exercise some self-control and start out with buying small. Carefully build out and curate the products you use. Trust us, we know that there are a crazy amount of products out there. It’s easy to act out that kid in a candy shop flashback when it comes to beauty supplies. There is a difference between things you NEED and things you WANT.

• What product systems does a professional nail tech need to start out?

Focus on one enhancement system at a time. Start with either Gel or Acrylic. In time and in order to address the diverse needs of each clients lifestyle, you will definitely need to use both systems. Sign up for advance education on the system of your choice and really get to know it. And for a shameless plug, no matter what system you get into YN Protein Bond is an essential.

  • Nail polish or gel polish, which one do I really need?
    Starting out, you’ll want definitely want to work in both. Nail polish is essential for natural nails and toes. It’s taken a little time, but gel polish is also essential nowadays. We can’t imagine salon work without it. Keep your color offering limited to the top 12 best sellers in nude, beige, pink, and red. There are always a handful of classic colors that get tons of action. It’s easy to see what’s trending on social media, and pick up a couple of what’s hot that season. You don’t need to go all in. It would be overkill for a business just starting out. There are some great nail artists we follow and they’ve already done the hard work. Follow their lead.
  • How many glitters do I need?
    With glitter, a little goes a long way. We recommend having around 12 glitters on hand. One of our favorite things to do is mix glitter to create many more custom color blends. Then build up from there.
  • Ok, what other serious equipment is really essential for the success of my business?
    For the big ticket items, we highly recommend two: a light and an electric file. If you’re new to salon, buy one light. Two lights is the ideal but you can start saving up for the second one little by little. We encourage you to invest in a really good quality electric file and get the best training on it. Do this from the very beginning of your career before you develop bad habits or injuries.

No matter what level you’re at, it’s very important to dial into what’s trending in fashion and the trending color stories you will be seeing on the streets inspired from the runways. Instagram and Pinterest will be the place to look. These are always available several months ahead of time. Once you know what to expect, you’ll be able to practice nail art that highlights that trend, create a mini-style guide and charge for it.


Habib Salo, CEO
Young Nails, Inc.