June 2009

Vicki Peters

The Nail Extension | by Vicki Peters


Only the Strong Will Survive

Did you know that as little as 25 percent of nail tech graduates actually succeed in the nail business? It’s a sad statistic but it is reality.

Having been in the business for 27 years, I have seen it change tremendously, including the students. More than ever, we are seeing a trend where mature women come to school seeking second careers after their children are grown, after retirement or they are feeling the need for a career change.

Back in the 80s, most students were in their early 20s but now it seems they are older. This isn’t a bad thing since the education we receive in beauty school does not really prepare us for all we need to know to work in a salon. If the graduate has life experience and other work experience, they usually are more successful.

So you graduate from school… what do you do next? We know we need more training to succeed and find work. It’s difficult and only the strong will survive. Keep in mind, one third of running our business is customer service, one third is business skills, and the last third is technique, so here are some survival ideas that can help:


The first thing you need to do is write a résumé even though you do not have nail experience. The new salon will want to know your background and strengths and your career aspirations.

You also need to compile a list of what you want in a salon and that may take a little interviewing to figure it out. Do you want to become an employee or rent a station? What does your state allow? What kind of salon do you want to work in and do they have a call for nail services? Can you build a clientele off the clients that already frequent the salon?

You will need to think about business licenses, liability insurance, designing business cards, commission scale, and your bookkeeping and marketing plan. You will need to market yourself and your services to local businesses and potential clients in and out of the salon. Sitting there waiting for the phone to ring is not enough.

Reach outside the beauty business for business skills, there are books and plenty of online information that you can research to know what you need to be doing. Depending on salons to help you may not be available.


Again reach outside the beauty business for customer service ideas. Remember that the experience of your service should be your strongest customer service skill. Taking care of the client is priority in capturing a loyal clientele. Always accommodate, listen to their needs, follow up with cards and thank you notes, call to remind them of their appointments and work the edges of your service with special treatment. Be consistent with greeting your clients and walking them to the door to close the service. Little things mean a lot and add up to loyalty.


Although your technical skills are not quite there when you get out of school there are plenty of options to get your skills up. First, understand there is not a program out there to help you – you need to explore your options. You can train privately with a seasoned nail tech – which is going to be the most beneficial.

Find a local tech that will train you one-on-one. Make the investment, it will be the best money spent. She can teach you control of your liquid and powder for acrylic, gel application, filing and shaping techniques, how to finish nails properly and many tricks of the trade you won’t learn in school and raise your skill level right away.

Classes are not aplenty but they are out there. Manufacturer classes and non-product are usually found in the back of magazines such as the Stylist, local distributors, online in web sites and on www.beautytech.com. Subscribe to every trade magazine you can find and spend time searching the Internet. You will be amazed how many websites have technical nail information.

Trade shows are a must. That is where you can network and see new techniques and products and keep you in touch with your industry. Small or large, every trade show is worth going to and many you will have to travel to so make the commitment to attend at least two a year.

Your distributor can also be a link to information if the sales team is on top of the industry. Some are and some are not. If you find a product distributor that is savvy, you can benefit from their knowledge and information.

Perfecting your skills is the most difficult of all. Practice, practice and more practice!

But most important – don’t give up. It’s going to take a while to build your clientele, and you may switch salons until you find the right one for you. Position yourself so you can learn and build your business and have a plan. It’s a fact that a good nail tech can make a good living, even in this economy. Doing nails for a living is a very gratifying, artistic, social way to make a living and if you make the effort, you will be successful.

Vicki Peters is a 28 year veteran master nail tech, competition champion, judge, international educator, author and manufacturer and serves on the Nail Manufacturer Council. For more information visit www.vickipeters.com or email her at Vicki@vickipeters.com.