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Newbie Nail Tech’s Guide to Pricing

You’ve just completed your cosmetology training. You passed the board exam. Your license is now proudly on display in the perfect frame. Woo hoo, you’re now officially a big deal and ready to chase that big money. So where do you start and how do you determine what to charge.

First, you need to be honest with yourself. Congratulations! You are a Newbie Nail Tech and now at the bottom of the salon food chain. WTF? The skills required to pass the licensing exam are not the same set of skills that lead to a thriving nail business. You will need to tackle a completely different set of hurdles and we lay them out for you here.

Know thyself. Every new nail tech is a different configuration of confidence, hustle, and technical skill. Starting out, your job is to identify what your strengths are and keep them razor sharp. Next you should identify areas in your service that aren’t so great and make a commitment to get better. For example, you might be able to do a set of killer nails but horrible at self-promotion. Or the opposite might be true - you can talk a big game but you’re laying the equivalent of acrylic bricks.

Time is money. Keep in mind when you are determining what to charge, that there is a convenience upcharge for talent and time. If you’re already doing 60 minute full sets, good for you! But chances are, you are not quite there yet. So as a junior nail tech, keep your prices humble at the start. If a seasoned nail pro is offering the same service at $90, adjust the price slightly lower for your experience. Don’t worry, you will be still be making good money. Revisit your pricing at regular intervals to match your service skills.

Call a friend. Make a habit ofpracticing your work on people who support your vision like your friends and family. These should not be freebies. While you’re building your business, charge them special introductory discounted rates. There is no better way to hone your skills and speed up your service times than by doing as many sets as possible.

Find a mentor. If you want to find out how to price your services starting out, don’t be afraid to ask a salon owner. They’re often happy to give you their two cents worth. Who knows the local market and client preferences better than they do? Be a fly on the wall and take in all aspects of their nail business. Develop your salon smarts. You think you might know everything already. Trust us, you don’t. There are just some tricks of the trade you have to learn first hand. You may want to check in with a nail tech in the salon (who’s work you admire). Some may want to take you under their wing. Others may not be so generous. Don’t take it personally. Just remember, it never hurts to ask.

Neighborhood watch. Do you want to know the sweet spot for services in your area? Let us share with you our personal favorite price busting secret, it’s called Market Research. This is a fancy phrase for taking a spin around the neighborhood and sizing up all the local competition. What kind of business are they doing? Are they walk-ins or appointment only? What services are they offering - natural nail treatments, nail enhancements, nail art, etc? And lastly where will your talent fall into this business landscape? You want to make sure you price your service accordingly, but remember, at the end of the day, you have to start somewhere. Just be sure to continuously check in on your pricing and raise when needed.

Pricing is so critical, and I hope that this gives you at least someplace to start in your nail journey.


Habib Salo, CEO
Young Nails, Inc.