How to Build up Your Book

By Debbie Doerrlamm

I went from zero clients to 70 in nine months and you can too. It is all in your client referral. My method was to attach myself to one of the more popular local high school girls. I adored this young lady, she adored her nails, so I made a deal with her; for every warm body you send me, you get a free fill-in.

I then made a deal with all the friends she sent my way, but for them it was a little different: For every warm body you send me I will give you $5 off your next fill-in. Within nine months my book was solid. I had to hire a girl to pick up the over flow and she was booked to her limits within three months.

Within two years, these high school girls started to leave for college, BUT, they also started to refer me to their mom's, aunts, boyfriends mothers, boyfriends sisters etc. I made a swing to mostly adults over the next two years, to a little more reliable client base, but I was generally very lucky with the high school girls I did. As a matter of fact, I am still doing one of them today. Kerry is now my bookkeeper, and is married with kids.

A program of this type obviously cannot go on forever. You have to be strong and wise enough to know when to stop the referral discount. Post a sign at least one month before the decided upon discontinuation date.

Another thing I did when I first started out which worked very well for me, was get a stand at a craft fair and do nail art. Keep in mind this was almost 20 years ago, no one ever saw decals on nails or even wispies. That was all I did, apply decals, wispies, and some dot flowers on one or two nails for free.

So many of the technicians today are doing colored acrylic, glitter fades, stunning pink and white, UV Gel Polish, however you could still do some hand painting or decals just to stir up the interest level. If electricity is available, you can certainly consider bringing your UV Lamp and do one UV Gel Polish nail.

You need to pack very few supplies, your appointment book and a stack of business cards. That is exactly how I got cozy with my popular high school girl that started the ball rolling in the first place. The big outlay for the fairs I attended as a vendor doing nail art and booking appointments was $20 or $25 a day, and I got much more than that in repeat clients from each fair.

Somewhere in my files, I still have a "family tree" that I sat down and made at some point. It is amazing to see who referred whom.

Keeping Track of Referrals

When a new client calls, my first question is always, "Who referred you?" Let us assume Mary gave Susie my number. When I booked Susie's first appointment, I would write MARY next to her name. When Susie rebooked, (that was the key -- Susie had to rebook for Mary to get her referral discount), I would find Mary's next appointment and make a note there about her referral bonus.

My record keeping was very simple, but effective. When you do not have that many clients, it is easy to keep track of who referred who, and who is due a referral discount. As you get more clients and it starts to tax your brain, then it is the time to stop the referral program.

For more information, please contact: or call Debbie Doerrlamm at 631-981-1273.

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