November 2010

Jaime Schrabeck

The Nail Extension | by Jaime Schrabeck


From Nail Girl to Nail Professional

After years of hearing consumers casually refer to either me or another manicurist as “my nail girl,” I have heard enough.

That kind of job description ranks somewhere between “pool boy” and “cleaning lady.” Nail girl? Every time I hear that term, I am so tempted to ask, “How do you refer to your dentist? What about your gynecologist?” You get my point.

It is a given that being a manicurist usually does not engender much respect. Perhaps this explains the imbalance of power that many manicurists experience in their client relationships. Rather than being treated as a respected nail professional, a skilled individual who has been paid accordingly to provide a service, many manicurists tolerate being treated as subservient nail girls (or guys).

While assuming the role of obsequious manicurist may seem harmless, or even necessary to build a clientele, this attitude of inferiority can have unintended consequences for your business. Ultimately, it will give your clients the sense that they can tell you what to do and how to do it. This trivializes your work, minimizes your education and undermines your professionalism.

As you might imagine, I do not play this role in my salon, and would not recommend you do it either. I feel so strongly about the lack of respect that I developed a class titled, “I’m Not Your Nail Girl!” The class focuses on the biggest mistakes manicurists make:

Being Incompetent: Realizing that we all start somewhere, it is the progress you make, particularly after being licensed, that sets you apart. Developing your skills and knowledge not only improves the quality and efficiency of your work, it gives you the confidence to charge more and be more selective about your clients. However, if you do not have the aptitude and inclination to do professional-quality work, find yourself something else to do.

Refusing to Learn: This is even more inexcusable than being ignorant, enough said.

Failing to Follow Through: Know your limitations and do not make promises you cannot keep, like guaranteeing how long polish will last, or that artificial nails will not break. You do not control how your clients treat their nails. In addition, do not overextend yourself; for example, attempting to complete within an hour a service that normally takes 90 minutes is sure to frustrate / disappoint someone.

Lacking Discretion: The beauty business is based on relationships: with clients, colleagues, other businesses, manufacturers, etc. As tempted as we are to connect to others, resist the temptation to share all. The best advice I could give would be to compartmentalize the interactions you have to protect yourself from sharing, whether intentionally or not, information that you should not.

Being Cheap: Are you using your thumbnail instead of a metal cuticle pusher? Toilet paper instead of nail wipes? Reusing files when you know better? Clients will realize quickly how invested you are in your business.

A transition is the process of changing from one condition to another. What is the most significant transition a manicurist can make? From being considered just a nail girl/ guy to being respected as a nail professional.

These are my recommendations for polishing your image and becoming a professional:

1. Enjoy your work. Doing nails is hard work; it can be both physically demanding and emotionally draining. We cannot afford to have a bad day technically, or be in a bad way emotionally. Our clients expect and deserve to have their services provided competently with enthusiasm. Your passion for doing nails will help you overcome challenging nail problems and manage the most difficult clients.

2. Be efficient. From scheduling appointments, to providing services, to ordering products, to paying your bills, every activity related to your business should be accomplished as efficiently as possible. Do not waste your time, money or efforts without asking yourself if you are making the most of your resources.

3. Do the right thing. Knowing what you should do, and actually following through and doing it will earn you respect. Follow all applicable laws, understand product chemistry, provide safe services every time, claim all your income, pay your taxes, respect the privacy of others, support your coworkers, clean up after yourself, etc.

4. Value yourself and your clients. Whether you are a new licensee or a seasoned veteran, you control how others perceive you. Present yourself as a professional committed to a lasting career, rather than a temporary job, and discover that clients will be more willing to commit to you. Long-term client relationships, based on mutual appreciation and respect, should form the foundation of your business.

5. Share your knowledge. Educating clients demonstrates that you care about their health. Educating other manicurists demonstrates that you care about the health of our industry. Nail professionals would benefit from more collegiality; it is in our best interests to encourage each other to be the best professionals we can be.

Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D. owns Precision Nails, an exclusive nails-only salon in Carmel, California. She can be reached at