If you enjoy doing your own nails and you love interacting with other people, a nail salon might be the right business for you. You'll have the chance to do other people's nails every day, honing your skills as you implement new techniques and styles from gel polish nails to acrylics and natural manicures.

You'll also get to interact with a wide range of customers. Best of all, you'll get to make someone's day a little bit brighter by giving them fresh nails they can feel great about. Read on to find out how to start a nail business.

Training Requirements for Nail Technicians

Most states require nail technicians to complete a formal nail technician training program in order to receive state licensure. The nail technician program, sometimes called a cosmetology program, must be state-approved. These training programs generally include classroom instruction and practical training where you get to practice your newfound talents.

Some beauty salon programs cover other areas as well, like hair styling and esthetics. Sanitation and hygiene are also included. Some programs may even provide training that's geared toward business ownership. Even if your state doesn't require you to complete this type of formal education, it will be practical and useful in helping give you the knowledge you need to open a successful nail salon.

You can search directories online to find programs near you. A comprehensive nail tech program can take 300 to 600 hours to complete. Some states may also require you to complete an apprenticeship following your education before you can practice independently. Before enrolling, make sure that the program is approved by your state's Board of Cosmetology and Barbering or equivalent institution. You can find a list of state boards here.

Steps to Take When Planning Your Nail Salon

Getting the requisite training is just the first step in preparing you to open a successful nail salon. Adequate planning will help pave the path to success. Here are the steps you need to take before opening a nail salon.

Describe Your Services and Target Market

Decide in advance what type of nail care you want to offer. Will you offer standard manicures and pedicures, gel manicures, and/or acrylic nails? Will you only provide nail services or will you also offer other cosmetology or esthetician services (assuming you are trained and licensed to provide them)?

Your service focus may also influence your target market. For example, maybe you want to exclusively offer gel nails, focusing on simple, quick-drying manicures that can be done in a lunch break. In this case, you're probably targeting busy business people. Alternatively, maybe you want to create more of a luxurious spa experience where people can spend hours not only getting their nails done but also enjoying other pampering services.

You might even offer a mobile nail business, assuming this type of service is permitted in your state. In this case, you might focus on catering to special events like bachelorette parties or bridal showers. The possibilities are endless. It's up to you to define a niche. A market analysis to see what competition is in your area (and where there's a gap in the market) can help.

Create a Price List

When pricing your nail services, you have to consider the cost of supplies and the value of your time (or that of your nail technicians). This also means factoring in how much time different types of services take. For example, a simple manicure will be faster than acrylic nails. Check out what other salon owners in your area charge to get a sense of price points.

Calculate your Startup Costs

Write down a list of all of the overhead costs you anticipate having when you start your own nail salon. This will help you figure out how much money you need to get started (and if you need to take out a loan). These are some of the costs you may have to deal with:

  • Commercial rent (unless you plan to operate a mobile business)
  • Furniture (e.g., manicure tables and pedicure chairs)
  • Marketing materials like your own business cards
  • Nail products and nail treatments (e.g., nail polishes, cuticle oils, lotions, etc.)
  • Nail tools (e.g., nail files)
  • Worker wages if you plan to hire staff
  • Business licenses and insurance (more on that below)
  • A vehicle if you plan to offer off-site services like wedding day manicures

Write a Nail Salon Business Plan

Take all of the information above and write it down in a well-formulated business plan. This will be your business guidebook, including everything from a description of services to financial projections. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a full list of what your business plan should include, plus templates. Note that if you request external funding from a bank, investor, or another lender, they may also ask to see your business plan.

Steps for Starting Your Nail Salon

With the above planning steps for how to start a nail salon completed, you can take the formal steps to actually start your nail salon. The precise process will vary between states. Here's a general step-by-step guide.

Get the Licenses and Insurance You Need for Your Nail Salon

All states require that nail technicians be formally licensed in order to practice their craft. Connecticut used to be the only exception to licensure requirements but this changed in January 2021. The steps to getting a license vary between states. It generally requires completing a state-approved training program and, possibly, an apprenticeship.

You may then have to get a separate license in order to open a nail business. You should check with your state Board of Barbers and Cosmetology or a similar organization to determine your area's legislation. Again, here's a database of the state boards that you can consult.

Your state will also have rules governing your nail salon facilities. Certain standards need to be met in terms of sanitation and hygiene. Further, there are basic safety requirements that any brick-and-mortar business must adhere to, like capping occupancy at a set number of people and ensuring the appropriate number of fire exits.

Finally, keep in mind that you will likely have to renew your license regularly. Further, you will likely need to buy some basic insurance, such as professional liability insurance. This can help cover the cost of damages related to lawsuits.

Register Your Nail Salon as a Legal Business Entity With the State

In addition to obtaining a nail salon-specific licensure, you should also register your salon with the state as a legal business entity, like a limited liability company (LLC), corporation, or sole proprietorship. Setting up an entity like an LLC offers tax benefits and other advantages, like protecting your personal assets in case your business faces legal troubles (e.g., a lawsuit from a customer).

When you register your nail salon as an official business, you will be asked to provide a business name. Make sure to choose a name that's original and distinct from any competing salons. It should also be succinct and memorable. You want customers to remember you! Choose your business name carefully as you will have to use the formal legal name for all business purposes, including branding and marketing materials.

Set Up Your Banking, Bookkeeping, and Tax Filing Procedures

Once your nail salon is a legally registered business, you can take your official certification from the state to open a business bank account. This is important because it allows you to easily separate your personal money from your business money, simplifying bookkeeping and tax filings in the future.

At this point, you should also clarify what tax reporting requirements your business is subject to. This will vary depending on the type of entity you've formed (e.g., an LLC versus a corporation). You may want to enlist the services of an accountant to advise on your bookkeeping and tax filing requirements to start off. If you're willing to add this business expense to your overhead costs, you might also consider hiring someone to handle your financial paperwork for you.

Start Creating Buzz About Your Nail Salon to Attract Customers

With the above administrative steps taken care of, you can get to the fun part: attracting your first customers. Here are a few basic marketing and branding tips to get you started:

  • Establish your brand. Your brand image is all about how you want the world to see you. A great brand will attract your ideal customer. Branding takes into account many details, including color palette, verbiage, logo, slogans, imagery, and more. Don't have a clue about branding? You can find professionals via platforms like Upwork.
  • Create a website. Include all the important information your potential customers need, like your nail salon's location, price list, and contact information for booking (or linking to an online booking tool). Include your salon's license details, too. You can create a website yourself using tools like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress. Alternatively, you can hire a pro.
  • Set up your social media. Social media platforms are a fantastic marketing tool for nail salon professionals. You can use visually driven platforms like Instagram or TikTok to show off your best work and attract new customers. This is also a great forum for interacting with customers and keeping them engaged and loyal to your brand.
  • Create business profiles. In addition to the more generic social media profiles, set up profiles for your business on pages like Yelp and Google My Business. Customers can leave reviews on these forums, helping drive business via digital word of mouth. Additionally, a Google My Business profile can be linked to your location on Google Maps, making it easier for people to find your nail salon.

With these tools in place, you can start promoting your nail salon. The Salon Business has great tips for effectively marketing salon services.

Find Ways to Simplify Your Day-to-Day Business Operations

As your nail business grows, look for ways to streamline daily operations. For example, an online appointment management system can save you time and stress and spare you the hassle of making telephone appointments. If you have employees, you might look into automated shift scheduling systems that integrate with your payroll.

When it comes to your financial paperwork, Skynova's accounting software can help simplify tasks. You can easily keep your financial paperwork in one place, tracking expenses and invoices using one system. Skynova also offers business templates that can save you time on jobs like issuing invoices. This will enhance efficiency and free up time for other business owner duties.

Start Your Nail Salon Business With Skynova

Do you want to spend more time on manicures and less time on money management? Skynova is here to help. Our accounting software lets you easily track invoices and expenses, streamlining your business operations. With less administrative hassle, you will have more energy to focus on doing what you really love: Making your customers happy with beautiful nail art while you make money.