grow your salon, salon tips

How to Open a Nail Salon: The Only Guide you will Need to Start a Nail Business

A nail artist at a nail salon with a customer

Nail salons in the United States generate more than $5 billion each year. And as a nail technician who is looking for growth and financial independence, starting a nail salon business might just be the perfect option for you. 

Moreover, nail salons can quickly build a recurring client base due to the variety of services that they offer starting from manicures and pedicures to nail extensions, advanced nail art, and more.  

That is what makes them easier to establish. Moreover, the straightforward business model that they have, also means that you spend less time biting your own nails and more time decorating extensions for your clients.

Now for the answer to your question, ‘How to open a nail salon?‘, let us acquaint you with these 10 steps that you can follow to nail it! 

Steps to opening a nail salon business:

  1. Find your niche
  2. Get yourself a mentor  
  3. Make a solid business plan 
  4. Choose the perfect location 
  5. Decide your nail salon’s name & aesthetic 
  6. Make a financial plan 
  7. Decide your pricing strategy
  8. Get the permissions 
  9. Build a nail clientele 
  10. Get the correct tools 

Right off the bat, the idea might sound big & confusing. But don’t worry,  we’ll guide you through the process and get you started with building your presence as well. 

1. Find your niche 

Have you ever wondered how to open a nail salon business and stand out? 

Only having expertise as a nail technician isn’t enough for owning a nail salon. As you know, before starting any kind of business, it is important to understand what you are getting into. 

So while you plan to start your own nail salon business, here are some actionable tips you can follow:

  • Size up your competition. Get an idea about where your competitors are located, and what services they offer. Make a note of how many customers they get daily and if they were affected by the pandemic.
  • Check competitor ratings. Ratings and reviews play a vital role in defining how good a business is.
    This information can help you understand what thresholds you have to reach and then cross to be better than them.
    It will also give you a primary understanding of the type of customers they attract. 
  • Learn how much they charge. It is important to have some idea about your competitors’ price cards since it can help you decide on your own pricing strategies. 

    Based on your vision for your nail salon and the target market that you are opting for, adequate pricing can be a strategic approach to growth. It can help you attract customers to your salon. 

    You can:
    • Visit them in person, assess how they run their business, and understand their unique selling propositions.
    • Identify and take note of their strengths & weaknesses as it can help you decide the services that you should offer and how you should offer them.
    • Get an upper hand over them by offering services that they don’t.
      You can also offer the services that they’re not very good at and to add your own touch of expertise & quality to it.

How to choose your target market?

Your target market is essentially the kind of customers that you want to attract to your nail salon. This depends on your vision for the salon, location, pricing strategy, and marketing techniques.

How to understand your vision? As yourself questions like:

  • How do you want your salon to look and feel? 
  • Who are your ideal customers? Do they belong to a high-class, a middle-class, or a lower economic class bracket? 
  • What kind of experience do you want them to have?

Questions like these can help you understand your vision. 

2. Get yourself a mentor 

This step can play a major role in easing the process of opening a nail salon business. 

You can:

  • Find someone who has been through the journey. This way, you can get valuable insights about both starting and running a nail salon. Besides, it always helps to have a second opinion.
  • Ask them about the skills they possessed which helped them in the on-ground process, find out what they think of your salon’s goal and target market, as well as how they got their first clients. 
    They can also help you with the permissions and ease the process for you.

On the other hand, having a business partner can also be advantageous. Shared duties, costs, responsibility, funding, and growth are all part of it.

Choose someone who shares your interest but has a different skill set than you. While this may be difficult for some, try to locate someone you can trust.

3. Make a solid business plan

One way to make the whole process more streamlined is to make a business plan. A solid business plan can help you leaps & bounds if you want to apply for loans, financial help, or in keeping operations organized. 

A notepad showing nail salon business plan

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a written document that describes in detail how a business, usually a startup, defines its objectives and how it is to go about achieving its goals.

It helps to document your objectives and vision for the business and the actionable steps that you will take to achieve it. 

You’ll have to make a marketable strategy and a budget that works to build realistic development and reinvestment. Along those lines, you can jot down practical objectives for yourself and your business, and change your timeline as needed. 

A couple of business courses wouldn’t go amiss, however, on the off chance that the possibility of returning to university makes you nervous, it’s alright. There are templates & resources available online that can help at a similar scale. 

A few important topics to consider are:

  1. How much does it cost to open a nail salon?
  2. What are the recurring costs?
  3. Who is your target market?
  4. How much can you charge customers?
  5. What will you name your business?
  6. What are your business strategies?
  7. How are you going to market your nail salon?
  8. Is there a monopoly in your industry/area?
  9. Is adequate funding available/ hard to obtain?

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. 

4. Choose the perfect location 

If you’ve done your research well, you are likely to know what the local peak hours are for nail services in your area. Keep that in mind while choosing a location.

The best places to play safe when it comes to the location are residential areas, college localities, and office buildings. However, this is highly based on your business model, target market, and the services you will be providing. 

While shortlisting locations, make it a point to have a definitive answer to these parameters: 

  • Peak times of the location,
  • Traffic conditions in and around the location,
  • Parking availability,
  • The age range of people in and around the locality.

These parameters in particular will help you get a better understanding of what your customers will look like and how their pre & post salon experiences will be.

New businesses are never one-size-fits-all. If a location gives you the perfect perks but is slightly over budget, or say, it’s in an average location but with a fair price, it is your call to decide which will have a higher return on investment for your business. 

5. Decide on your nail salon’s name & aesthetic

The biggest reason why the nail salon industry is ever-thriving is that people don’t just go to get their nails done, they want an escape from the real world, they go for the full-round experience & pampering.

This experience starts from the name of the salon and its aesthetic. If you’re reading this, it must mean that you desire to open a nail salon. Undoubtedly, you also have a vision for it. What you need to do is compare your vision with the target market in your area and align the two. 

All in all, try to build your salon brand such that it is a comfortable space for your customers and impress them with your service. 

Here are a few tips that can additionally help in curating that experience: 

  • Pick a name that feels like your own. Just like picking out a name for your kin or pet, with love & hope, ideate on names that resonate with your vibe. It should fit your aesthetic.
  • Pick interior spaces to complement your vision, not compete. The best way to create a good experience for your customer (apart from your perfect service) would be through your interior spaces.
    Interiors make a big difference in their overall experience, it can make them keep coming back! 

In case you want ideas to build your vision, you can use Pinterest to further the agenda.

6. Make a financial plan

One of the most common questions that people think of while seeking out to start a nail salon business is, ‘how much does it cost to start a nail salon?’

The best advice, as given by Habib Salo (Young Nails, CEO), for financing any kind of business is to start small and then build it as it grows. By doing that, you are going to be dealing with smaller problems. You have to start getting a feel of what it’s like running a nail salon.  

Estimate your costs based on advice from your mentor and data accumulated via baseline research. If that isn’t much help, get a financial advisor. 

PBA Brand Manager Erin Walter said in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “There are numerous financial considerations to take into account when looking at opening a business and it can be helpful to meet with a financial planner to navigate through some potential obstacles.”

Essentially, for nail salons to open and keep running, it is important to have a flow of income so your main goal is to make sure of that.

With your experience and research, you can come up with a sample budget to start with as well. You need to understand the basics of money, spending, and record-keeping. 

  • Start your nail salon business only if you are debt-free. That is a key component of starting any business. If you have debt, clear that out first. There is a perfect time for everything so do not rush into anything. 
  • Understand record-keeping. The nail salon industry is largely cash-run. With that said, it is extremely important to keep an account of all your income and expenditure. 

    You can use tools like Excel for this as it is more automated. It is recommended that you take a course related to this subject in the case that you don’t wish to hire a professional. 
  • Have operational Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPIs are parameters that validate the (in this case, financial) performance of your business.

    They show you if your business is growing & developing in the direction of your desire or not. Common KPIs in the Nail Salon industry are mentioned here.

7. Decide your pricing strategy

Keeping your pricing strategy clean and simple is a Nail Salon Industry best practice. Breaking your head over a complicated pricing plan is unnecessary and might backfire. 

There is no straightforward answer to this as it is subjective. It is based on a simple understanding of where your target audience is coming from. 

Coins near a calculator

In order to correctly price your services, it is important to understand the following factors: 

  • Location. Analyzing your location’s role in starting your nail business can help you set prices that will yield a higher return on investment. Rents and mortgages must also be factored into your price. 
  • Demand. With nail salons opening up again, the demand for services has continued to grow in the post-pandemic world.

    While people are being more cautious, they are also looking for an escape from reality through the experiences that salons provide. However, each service has its own demand and prices should be adjusted accordingly.
  • Competitor’s pricing. Through your initial competitor research, you will become familiar with their pricing techniques and the average prices charged for each service in your locality. 

    This will help you understand various parameters including the spending capacity of customers in your area, acceptable pricing, and local demographics. 

    You can then build a pricing strategy based on your target market & the experience you want to sell, which will give you an advantage over others. 

Customers tend to associate price with quality, so while keeping your price competitive, do not let it get diluted as it may affect your nail salon’s scope. Your mentor could also help you with the validation of your pricing strategy. 

8. Get the permissions

When it comes to the things you’ll need to open a nail salon, the legal requirements usually vary by location. But you’re likely to need a building permit, business license, and state-approved training to officially open your business. 

If you’re not sure what is required in your area, you should connect with a local business attorney or check with your local government.

Once you clear these checkpoints, 50% of your work is done. You can then start decorating your nail salon in the manner you had visualized. Arrange the necessary supplies & set up all the equipment once the permits are in place. 

'We're open' signboard on a nail salon door

Starting a nail business can be fairly simple once you get a clear from your local authorities, following up on them can fasten your process. Your mentor can also help you get in touch with them. 

9. Build a nail clientele

Brand building and getting your name out there is the most crucial step when you set out to build your initial clientele.

You can:

List your nail salon on Google 

To set up & list your business on the Google My Business free listing, you will need to fill in the following information:

  • A small description of your nail salon
  • Your contact information, address, website (if applicable), operating hours, days, and any other information you want to advertise on your visible listing.
  • A logo or images that represent your nail salon (for example, a picture of your interiors, nail techs, services, products, etc.).

Listing your nail business online can greatly increase your reach and help you build a base audience. Moreover, a well-optimized Google My Business listing can also improve your local search ranking and make your business more discoverable. 

Register your salon on online marketing directories

Online directories are of two types, marketing, and local business directories. These are resources that list businesses in your local area and help consumers find companies to cater to their needs. These directories have important information required to contact your business in case clients want to reach out (like phone number, address, operating hours, etc)

You can list your nail salon business on popular online directories such as Yelp, Groupon, Who Do You, Best Salon Guide, Beauty Seeker, etc.

Build a brand through social media

Social media is the latest & most effective marketing tool. Everyone uses it, your potential customers included. 

You could get started by creating an account for your business and posting your past nail work consistently along with putting out feelers of your interiors and salon. 

Get your friends and family to follow the account and give you a few shout-outs to get the word out. It is best if you keep your approach simple and start organically.

Experiment with your posts and uploads and see what gets more interaction, and don’t forget to add book buttons. You can easily incorporate your booking links right on your Instagram & Facebook pages with the help of a scheduling software.

After starting your nail salon account, try looking at the popular accounts of other nail salons in your locality to get a hang of what they are doing. You can read their profile descriptions & captions, check out how they interact with the audience, note their follower count and look how often they post.

1. Instagram

Instagram & its latest features are great tools to grow organically and get customers. You can do the basics as mentioned above, and experiment with the following as well: 

  • Experiment with reels. Reels have the maximum amount of reach on Instagram and can prove to be very effective in getting people to view your account. 
    By putting out content related to your nail art and hopping on the newest trends in doing so, you can get customers & reach.
  • Interact with your customers. When viewers comment or reply to your posts or message you, try and interact back.
    Putting up stories with polls and questions increases your viewer engagement. Instagram will then push your content to more viewers, organically. 
  • Be consistent. Whichever method you choose to follow for your social media marketing, just make sure you are consistent with your content.
    This will translate into a strong brand aesthetic and marketing strategy and people will recognize you.
  • Make it appealing. Your feed should reflect your brand personality and at the same time add value for your visitors. It is important to understand what people would actually want to see before you set out with your marketing tactics. 
    Putting up visually appealing and valuable content on your Instagram handle can rapidly increase your brand following.

2. Facebook

Facebook can benefit from two main aspects: marketing and networking. 

Off-late, Facebook has positioned itself as an amazing platform for communities & groups. You can join pages & groups about starting a nail salon in your country, find new trends, network with people, etc. 

You can start by:

  • Creating a business page. As for other ways to market, you can create a page for your business and have a consistent posting strategy for it. 
    Videos and short contests work best on Facebook. You can also open a nail shop to demonstrate your products and sell them through your Facebook shop.
  • Joining related groups & communities. You can join groups for nail art enthusiasts, be a thought leader, share insights, and put out new ideas to get traction.
    This will promote your work, create a brand for you, get people to contact you, etc.
  • Carrying out paid promotions (optional). The above-mentioned tactics are free. Facebook Ads is a feature you can use if you are willing to spend a few coins. They are highly effective and can be enabled through your public pages within the application.

3. Pinterest 

People regularly visit Pinterest to get project and lifestyle inspiration. It has a major market for nail art enthusiasts who can also be your potential customers. 

So, to start with Pinterest marketing, you will need to start a business account for your nail salon. 

In a very brief sense, you will have to create engaging boards of your nail art and connect with the nail art market. Pinterest is like a visual search engine. 

You can put up photos on your boards and add characteristic keywords and hashtags that you yourself would use as a nail-art enthusiast while looking for ideas (put yourself in the customer’s shoes!) 

Make visually appealing content for the boards because who doesn’t like looking at catchy images & ideas!

You can also link your nail art-related blogs from your website to these boards and get organic traffic to them. 

In case you need more tips about building your salon brand, you can check out our blog on Salon branding strategies by clicking here ->

An experiment you can try to promote and make money out of it

There are many ways that you can use to attract clients. However, to set you apart, we are going to give you a fun experiment that has not only fetched good results but has also helped promote nail salons in the past.

This requires you to have social media handles across Instagram & Facebook. 

The experiment goes like this:

  • Put up posts on your social media platforms & groups asking people to model for your nail art and in turn, have them pay a discounted price for the service. 
  • You can use their nail art photos for social media, promotion strategies, and even tag them. 
  • This will create a buzz and you will have walking “billboards” with your nail art on them. 

The best way to start building a clientele is through word-of-mouth promotion (through friends & family). Mix that up with a consistent social media presence, and you have a set strategy to start. 

Once you have established a decent customer base, you could start focusing on referrals. 

If you have some experience and a few loyal clients already, you can even try these strategies to promote your business.

  • Keep your base service prices competitive but give out discounts on add-ons or fills. 
  • Try giving out 2 for 1 specials (charging the price for one person’s service for service provided to 2 people). 

This will get you more customers as well because friends usually love coming together for nail services. This way, there is promotion happening side-by-side. 

Running promotions keeps service prices high but allows you to give discounts. This helps in getting more people through your door.

You can even provide gift certificates and rewards to build loyalty when they return or give referrals. 

10. Get the correct tools for the job

When running a salon of any kind, there are two defining characteristics that your tools should have. They should help give your customers the best experience and help your business grow & function with ease. 

So, what do you need to open a nail salon? Let’s understand this together:

Set up administrative processes

To simplify day-to-day operations, it is important to set up a system amongst your staff concerning their days, work opportunities, and collection of customer data. 

You also have to decide how much you want to pay your employees apart from minimum wage, this will keep them motivated to work. 

While you have your usual tools required as a nail technician, there are a few more requirements when it comes to running a nail salon. 

Get a scheduling software to ease your workflow

Like any other business, a nail salon needs to have additional goals: 

  • customer satisfaction, 
  • growth in clientele, and 
  • more billable hours

A scheduling software is paramount for the smooth running of a nail salon. It can manage appointments, organize client bookings, staff availability, manage data to help make data-driven decisions, find out how one can improve service, convert customers to clients by personalizing their experience and overall Marketing & PR, all at the same time.

You can use it to create gift cards, reward programs, get reviews and strengthen your service accordingly through a simple interface.

This helps in your essential promotional activities as well and to validate your decisions. 

The bottom line

Opening a nail salon has a high earning potential & requires minimal initial costs. If you pay adequate attention to management & culture and take small strategic steps to maintain your position in the market, being a successful nail salon owner is not far down the road!

We hope that the above tips will help you prep yourself for your journey to set up your own (profitable) nail salon and get clients. 

Go for it! ❤️

About Appointy

We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, and resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day. 

If you have any thoughts on this blog or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below. 

We love a good talk!