Friday, October 30, 2015

The Importance of Proper Terminology in the Nail Industry

Many of you have already noticed that I am a stickler for using proper terminology in the nail industry.  I believe that is is one of the key factors that will help in elevating the perception of our industry.


First and foremost, using proper terminology is professional.  Every profession has proper terminology used in their job and we are no different.  How would you feel if you went to a doctor who didnt use proper terminology?  "Hey there, let's take a look at your boo-boo....yep looks like your bone has an owie."  I mean, really?  I would find it demeaning and figure I could have just taken care of my "owie" at home. 

Now, if the doctor said, "Hello. Let's take a look at what is bothering you.  Yes, I can see you have an abrasion on your skin and likely a subperiosteal hematoma - basically a bruise on your bone. I am going to prescribe a painkiller and you will need to take it easy for a few days and ice the area regularly." 

Which doctor sounds like a professional?  (I hope you said the second one.)  Notice that the doctor in the second scenario used correct terms but also explained what they meant so the patient wasn't confused.

Granted my made-up scenario is slightly ridiculous but I hope it opens your eyes to how you might look to clients if you are very informal or use outdated and/or incorrect terminology (like "mold", which does not grow on living humans - I'm not even a fan of calling it a "greenie" personally, as I find it a bit childish [my opinion]. It's a pseudomonas bacterial infection).

Reputation and Client Perception
Inconsistent and varied use of terminology is a risk to industry - and individual - reputations.  Already there is much confusion not only in the public but amongst new nail technicians as well.   When people in the industry use wrong terminology (knowingly or unknowingly) it perpertuates myths and confuses people.  When people are confused they can receive incorrect treatments.  now granted, it is unlikely that a wrong treatment is going to hurt someone but it can definitely hurt the technician and the industry as a whole. 

I once had a client - a lovely 80+ year old woman - who came to me for a fill.  She had gone into a discount salon in the mall to get a manicure and walked out with acrylic nails.  She was told that it was a manicure and was very confused about what whe had on her nails.  All she knew is he told her to come back in 2 weeks for a "fill", but she didn't like the vibe of the salon and so came ot me instead.  I explained she had acrylic nails and we could remove them  but I was concerned about the amount of damage she may have on her natural nails (plus I knew this salon to use MMA). Her other choice would be to continue to fill them until we could ge the MMA and damage grown out and remove the nails at that time.  She chose the latter, however she should never have had to choose at all.  Because the salon she went to called a "full set" of nails a "manicure" she received an incorrect and unwanted treatment.  Unfortunately, she did not understand what was happening at the time. To this day - nearly 15 years later - it still upsets me.  And this lovely woman now has a negative view of the industry as a whole.
"Gel Powder" is another example of incorrect terminology that confuses clients who do not understand that they are paying for clear acrylic (vs the cloudy natural acrylic usually used). Clients tend to end up with a negative industry view when they find out they have been duped.

Other examples: calling a full set a "manicure", calling gel polish "gel nails", calling onycholysis "fungus", etc.

Terminology  is universal and can be used by all professionals within the field who will know what it means (which ever field it may be - medical, beauty, legal, etc). And if you are telling your client to go to a doctor for her paronychia, the doctor will know what you are talking about too.

I know it will take many years to get everyone using proper terminology but I have high hopes that it will happen and our industry will no longer be looked upon as negatively as it has been in the last decade or so.

Politically Correct
In the USA (and many other places I'm sure, but I live in the US so that's what I know :)), there has been a big push over the years to be "politically correct". What this means is we are encouraged to use terms that do not exclude people - for instance, saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" which could exclude non-christians.  Now, I personally think the whole "PC" thing is taken too far at times, but it does point to the fact that terminology has become a very big deal in the USA and should be just as much of a "big deal" in the nail industry.

References and Resources:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Etching the Nail

In my post on proper PREP I noted that in prepping the nail, your goal is to get rid of the natural oils that coat the nail NOT to etch or scratch up the nail.  Of course for every nail tech who understands and practices this, there are just as many who insist that you need to take a coarse file (100 grit) and "etch" the nail.  Lets take a look at where this misinformation comes from.

Fred Slack was a dentist in the mid 1950's.  One day he and his brother were trying to fix a severely broken fingernail and inadvertently invented acrylic nail extensions (He eventually created the nail company NSI, which is still in existence today).  All acrylic nails in the industry's infancy were created with dental monomer - which was Methyl-Methacrylate (MMA) (which I will discuss in its own post later).  MMA does not bond very well to the natural nail plate. The only way it can adhere to the nail is through mechanical adhesion, which requires massive amounts of damage to the natural nail plate (through severe ‘etching’). The upper most layers of the plate have to be removed to expose the looser knit center of the plate. This gives the MMA something ‘substantial’ to bond to.  (Of course, once MMA is bonded to the nail it doesn't want to come off, but we can discuss this in depth in a different post.)

By the 1970's, the FDA was receiving numerous complaints about MMA and officially placed MMA on its poisonous and deleterious list of substances and warned professional nail manufacturers against the use of the substance. Nail manufacturers began looking for an alternative and by 1978, Fred Slack (again!) developed the first Ethyl Methacrylcate (EMA) monomer for nails. Right around the same time, Creative Nail Design invented their EMA based Solar Nail liquid.

However, just because they invented a new monomer does not mean that their techniques changed. Technicians were still removing multiple layers of nail with a coarse nail file.  And to top it off, they started using an acid based primer which further micro-etched the nail.  As companies like NSI and CND (and OPI and many others) refined their product and invested many, many dollars into research it became known that there was no need to etch the nail with EMA as it was required for MMA. As a matter of fact, nail companies that spent time and money on R&D have studied and refined their products to the point that minimal buffing is now required to just remove the oily shine from the natural nail in order for their products to stick.  They have also refined primers to be protein based rather than acid based.  

At this point, you should take a look at your product and if they are a company that teaches using a 100 grit file (or, really, anything lower than a 240 grit file. If you use a 180, try a 240, a 180 still scratches quite a bit..), try and figure out why.  Is it because they are not a company that has an in house R&D department?  Is it because they have not refined their product and kept up with modern nail technology since the 1970's and early 1980's? Or are you using a coarse file just because you have been told to, even though the manufacturer doesn't recommend it? The thing is, if you are using a 100 grit file and acid based primer to prep your nail, you are doing the same damage as MMA (without the hazards of MMA, but the nail damage is there.)

"But I don't use a 100 grit file to etch the nail" you say.  Ok, great - awesome in fact.  But can you please stop using the term "etching" then?  If you are not putting grooves int he nail for the purpose of adhesion, you are "removing shine" or "breaking up the oil".  (Again with the proper terminology??  YES!)

And to be fair, I do need to point out that you can still over file the nail even with a fine 240 or 320 grit buffer.  It happens to the best techs, but it is less likely to happen and will cause less damage with a finer file.

I personally use a 320 grit most of the time and do not have lifting so don't let anyone tell you that your nails will lift if you use a fine file (if you are using a good, modern product - and yes I know of products out there who haven't changed there formulas since 1983)! Lifting can be caused by many other reasons and using a 100 grit file and extra primer to "stop lifting" is just masking the real reason you are experiencing lifting.Non-living tissue on the nail and improper mix ratio are usually the culprits.

Resources and References

Acrylic Removal

More golden advice from Vicki Peters circa 2001
By Vicki Peters
This week's tip of the week is about acrylic removal. So many of us still take the nippers and clip off old acrylic to replace the nails and this should be against the "nail law". It is extremely damaging and hurts the client.

This varies but when the nails will take more work to fill is when I opt to soak them off and do a new set. If I had a new client that came from a discount salon, and I knew this was not a one time client I was going to keep, what I would do is fill over the MMA the first time and schedule her a two hour fill appointment next time she plans on coming in to get her nails done. Be sure to explain why you would do this, the benefits of switching her over to an EMA based product and how wonderful you can make her nails with a new set.

Soak them off of course.
Schedule her first hour for soaking while you're doing another client so you don't waste time not making money while she soaks. Set her up in straight acetone with Vaseline on her fingers and cuticles and cover the bowl of acetone with a towel. Add some cuticle oil to the acetone and maybe some marbles for her to play with that will help work the product off. You can heat the acetone up by placing the bowl of acetone in another bowl of very hot water and covering it. You may want to file the MMA down a speck and cut the length off first to hasten the process. Let her sit for the whole hour if possible. The longer you leave her in the acetone the better if her fingers can take it. The idea is to leave the nails in the acetone until they fall off. Taking them out and scraping the product off is ok, but can waste time - they set back up as soon as you take them out of the acetone. MMA nails will take longer then EMA nails.

Another way to remove the nails safely is to take a very wet cotton ball with acetone (use real cotton it absorbs better than synthetic cotton) and place the ball of cotton on the nail and wrap in tin foil making it fit snug around the finger. Condition her hands first with a heavy lotion. After placing the acetone and cotton on the nails, wrap all ten nails in tinfoil and paraffin dip her three times. The acetone won't get into the paraffin so don't worry about that and if it does oh well, no harm. Place her hands in a plastic bag and mitts. You can also place the hands with the plastic bags into warming mitts with or without the paraffin. The heat speeds up the process. Leave the hands and nails in the paraffin and mitts for 45 minutes. Remove the mitts and plastic bags, and with some pressure on the nails remove the tin foil taking the melted acrylic with it. You should be able to take a tissue and remove the remaining acrylic and have the clients use a nail brush to remove any acetone from her fingers and nails. If they are soaking have them wash the acetone off their fingers too.

For MMA nails the soaking may take about an hour, with EMA nails 30-40 minutes max. Fiberglass much less time and gels, forget it. They need to be buffed off.

This procedure needs to be positioned right so it is not a hassle and you're not wasting valuable time. Got a client that can't sit still for that long? Put her feet into the pedicure bath and let her soak her feet while soaking her nails - she will mellow out about sitting there quickly. She can remove her shoes and socks herself and she can put them back on so it does not take any time from you. Just get the pedicure bath ready.

That depends on your pricing structure. When I was in the salon I charged a higher price for my pink and whites that included the soak off or backfill whenever I chose it needed to be done. This way the client could not dictate to me when to do the new set, it was my decision when I had the time. I did a lot of white tips for my pink and whites instead of backfilling and offered the soak off every 3rd or 4th fill. Which in the long run took me less time because the fills were easier. I place the tip as high as I could to stretch the white tip for a longer period of time and the clients who liked the white tips liked the soak off service that came with the deal. Other clients that did not want the soak offs because they liked having their natural nails opted for the backfills. Again I included them in the price so it was my decision when they got backfilled. I charged $5 less for a regular fill with clear or pink that usually got polished.

Bottom line I feel that the soak off takes the same amount of time clipping and cleaning up the mess after does and is a gentler and kinder way for the client as well as the nails to remove them. We need to take better care of the natural nail underneath the acrylic and soaking them is one sure way to achieve that.

The Peters Perspective
"When you stop learning your career ends and your job begins"

Any products mentioned in the "Tip Of The Week by Vicki Peters" is not an endorsement of any kind.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Business Basics: Setting Yourself Apart

by Vicki Peters  circa 2001

Setting yourself apart from your competition takes time and effort and can't be done overnight. It is a collection of good business basics, knowledge and  experience and most of all good customer service skills. It takes experience, professionalism and wisdom to see what your competition is NOT doing. It  also takes the right salon environment. If you're working in a salon that does not share your professional ethics then you should find one that does.  If the rest of the salon does not answer the phone with the utmost care, if  you're working with techs that don't have high enough standards then you  should reconsider where you're working. And for those who think lowering your prices to compete with those discount salons up the street is taking the WRONG approach. It is, just the opposite, believe me. Here are some ideas  for you.

Salon appearance - does the salon look the way you want it to look? What is  the client's first impression and is there anything that you can improve on?  What is the decor and does it need updating?

Your appearance - Are you a jeans and T-shirt kind of manicurist? Will smocks  help the appearance of the techs because it is difficult controlling what  everyone wears? Do you apply makeup every day and do your hair so you feel  good about the way you look? Are your nails done? There is no excuse here.  Get a standing with a tech at another salon if you don't have time and get  your nails done. Top coat them with gel so they are resistant to acetone. We  are our best form of advertisement and if your nails don't look good then how  can you sell your services? And there is nothing wrong with natural nails -  buff them so they look neat and clean all the time. Take a look at the  things and containers on your table - it is time for a table makeover? When  was the last time you scrubbed your station down and removed all the polish  and yuck from the top of the table? How about a new lamp? Is your table set  up simple or do you have a cluttered table with personal things that looks  like an extension of your bedroom?

Table Manners - This is also important from the client's perspective. How do  you handle interruptions and phone calls while you're servicing a client? Do  you gossip within the salon? Do you have salon menus available for the new client? Do you do nail consultations for the first time client? Do you offer  alternatives to acrylic work? How to you greet the client and how do you end  the appointment? Do you meet her at the front door and walk her back to the  waiting area every time?

Do you explain your technical procedures and why you prefer the products you  prefer? Do you explain how you sanitize your implements? Do you share with  your clients the extra education you take all year long to improve your  knowledge? If not they won't know.

You need to be up on all the latest trends. Watch the consumer  magazines and be on top of all the new polish colors as soon as they are  available. Watch consumer nail shapes as well.

Referrals & Networking
take advantage of the clients that sit in your chair  before you go spend too much money on advertising. Your clients can advertise  for you. Tell them you are looking for new clients and arm them with several of your business card. Write their name of the back of the card so when the  new client comes in from a referral you so will know who it is. Reward that
client with an extra 10 minutes of a massage or something special that does  not cost money and they will remember. Discounting a service is not  memorable. Most of your clients probably believe you're booked and don't need  more clients - if you don't tell them they won't know.

If you're not retailing you're missing the boat. The client wants your professional opinion on a top coat they do not want to go to the store and  buy something blindly they would prefer your recommendation because you know.  So why not sell them retail? Our recommendations can be powerful. They are  always looking for good hand lotion, exfoliant and cuticle products. You can
make so much more money by retailing and not having to work longer for it.

Career Enhancement 
If you're not attending several trade shows and classes a  year YOU ARE OUT OF THE LOOP. Don't you ever think for one minute you know  enough because you don't and your business will eventually suffer. Even if  you're fully booked now, that will not last. You have to maintain your career  with fresh information, constantly. Go to every product class you can, even
if you don't use or like the product. The educator may have one little tip she passes on that will make it worth your while going to the class. Also you need to  continually try new products, you never know - you just might find something  you like better and if you don't it will just confirm you're using the right  product.

Network at the shows - get online and find out who is going to what show and  meet up. Help with a competition (maybe mine?) so you get the chance to stand  over the shoulder of someone like Tom Holcomb as he competes. Watch the  judging, hang with the competitors. Share hotel expenses with other techs you  meet and network. Share ideas and attend classes and discuss with others what
you learned at the classes. There are hidden values to attending a show that  if you don't dig deeper you may miss. Spend ample time watching all the demos  you can. Never know what you can learn.

Goal Setting 
This is important to do in order to grow your career. Goals  can be getting your time down, learning new techniques so you can charge more  or training others. Setting goals on how much money you want to make each  year and how you're going to do that.

Customer Service 
I can't say enough about this. Customer service and  sanitation for that matter are two of the most important factors in securing  a loyal client, the nails you do actually plays a much smaller part in it all. If you don't take pride in how you take care of the client she will not think the service was good no matter how good the nails are.

So let's start with developing a phone dialog and customer service standards with in the salon. Answer the phone by the third ring. Take turns on answering the phone if that is what it takes when you don't have a receptionist. A consistent phone dialog should be written that every one uses. When you have to put someone on hold do so nicely don't just click. And please don't yell across the room if the phone is for some one else especially if the client is not on hold and can hear you. Keep track of everyone's schedule so when a client calls in for someone that is not there you know when she will be or take a written message and place it on the manicurist's desk. Not knowing is not good enough, the client called for a reason and she needs an answer. If you have voice mail use it and ask if the client if she would like to leave a message in so and so's voice mail if they are not there.

Develop a standard on how to greet a new client that may be a walk in. Don't let her stand there and wait for some to greet her.. Put your friendliest tech closest to the front door for that reason. And even if you're all independent contractors you should be working as a team. The client does not care if it is not your job; she just wants to be taken care of. Bottom line.

Customer service is easy and the best way to gain loyalty. Training on customer service is something to consider, there are many seminars you can take, Career Track is one of them and they are very good. I have taken several myself and there are plenty of books on the subject as well. Look outside the beauty industry for customer service help. Watch the way you are taken care of when you venture out to other salons, stores and restaurants. Give the client the impression that no matter what your salon can accommodate

Setting yourself apart from the other salons is easy as I said but will take a collection of service skills to rise above the discount salon mentality. And remember there will always be "Ford" customers out there but you want the " Cadillac" customer, and in order to attract a clientele like that you have to be a "Cadillac" tech. So, are you?

Any products mentioned in the "Tip Of The Week by Vicki Peters" is not an endorsement of any kind.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Business Basics: Pricing Services - Doing the Math

When determining your prices, you don't want to price yourself out of the market, but at the same time you want to cover overhead expenses and generate a profit. Therefore, in pricing your services you must consider these two factors: what the market will bear and your profit margins.

First things first, let's determine our target market.

Target Market
You cannot determine your prices if you do not know you you are servicing. Your target market is not something I can tell you , you will need to think about it in relation to your own area.
There are four main pieces to your target market:

  • Region (Determining the types of jobs that people in the salon's region hold may give you a clue as to the prices you can charge and the services you should offer)
  • Gender (do you cater to men or women exclusively? Or both?)
  • Style (are your clients on the cutting edge offashion or more conservative? Are they young mothers who want natural looking nails or are they teenagers who just want to look "cool"?)
  • Socioeconomic Status (Pricing is going to be very different if you service affluent young professionals in a large city versus people in an economically challenged rural area)

Of course not everyone in your area will get their nails done here are some questions to ask yourself to help narrow down your potential market:
  • Who has the need for my products or services, the financial ability to purchase my services, and the ability to find my services?
  • How many of these people or businesses exist in my general area today?
  • How much money does each person or business currently spend every year solving the problem that my service also solves?
  • Who else do I share this market with? (how many other nail salons are in my general vicinity?)

Service Pricing Categories
“Within our industry there are three categories with which you can choose to align yourself: budget/economy, intermediate/midsection, and luxury/top end,” says salon consultant Maxim Titter. There is no right or wrong category, she emphasizes, only the danger of not knowing which category you belong to.

Each category varies, once again, with your location - in my area anything under $40 for a full set is a budget salon but in other areas the mid-range price is $25 and $40 is getting expensive. What your online friend charges has nothing to do with how much you should charge(unless you work across the street from each other).

Your Service Offerings
Next, you want to figure out what prices your market will bear - ask yourself this question: Is my service unique? Now, yes, there are a million places offering acrylic nails, but your service can be unique in that you guarantee your work and offer free hand massages and basic nail art. If your service is unique--meaning there's little in the way of direct and indirect competition--then you're a market leader and you have more leeway in setting the prices.
If you are a market follower--meaning your service is not necessarily unique and you're not the only outlet--then setting prices is easy. Your prices simply can't be higher than that of your closest competitor. The question you should then ask is this: Should I be offering this service? (or should I make my services more unique) The answer lies in your profit margin for this product.

Profit Margins
All right, get our your calculators and spreadsheets. We are going to crunch some numbers!

Keep this in mind: The purpose of business is to make a profit. Every service you offer must must cover your fixed costs and generate a profit--otherwise, you're just trading dollars.

One more thing, I am looking at these number as an independent tech. If you are paying employees your costs would include their salary and employer taxes, which would make them much higher.


  • Fixed costs:costs that do not fluctuate with sales volume such as rent, utilities, depreciation, licensing, insurance, advertising, laundry, maintenance, postage, bank service charges, computer programs related to your business and so on.
    • Depreciation:loss of value over time and with use - you likely use a range of equipment that has a limited lifetime (brushes, electric files, tables, lamps, chairs, etc.) and the decrease in value of these items should be considered an expense. You should figure out depreciable items and their life expectancy and work in the monthly cost of these items into your fixed costs. For tax purposes, the IRS considers items subject to depreciation to be "fixtures" (like table and chairs) but for our purposes anything that we need to buy periodically (brushes and UV bulbs) will go in this category.
  • Direct Costs: Costs that are directly associated with the service being sold such as product cost.
Step 1: Make a list of all of your fixed costs, not including depreciable items. For items you pay annually, take the annual amount and divide by 12 to get the monthly cost.

Fixed Costs: Monthly
Rent $500.00
Utilities $60.00
Insurance $8.25
Licensing $2.92
Advertising $16.67

Total Monthly Cost: $664.71

Step 2: Make a list of all of your depreciable items and their cost and life expectancy. Here is a good list of examples on depreciable items and their life expediencies. Here is another good reference. Obviously things like acrylic brushes are not on the list so with that you just figure how often you buy that item. Take the cost and divide by the life expectancy to get the annual cost. Then take the annual cost and divide by 12 to get the monthly cost.
Depreciable Items Cost Life Expectancy (years) Annual Cost Monthly Cost
Manicure table 279.00 7.00 39.86 3.32
Tech Chair 99.00 7.00 14.14 1.18
Client chair 99.00 7.00 14.14 1.18
Pedicure station 2,395.00 7.00 342.14 28.51
Electric file 350.00 5.00 70.00 5.83
Bits 150.00 1.00 150.00 12.50
UV lamp 150.00 5.00 30.00 2.50
UV bulbs 45.00 0.25 180.00 15.00
Desk lamp 79.00 7.00 11.29 0.94
Acrylic brush 28.00 0.50 56.00 4.67
Gel brush 15.00 1.00 15.00 1.25

Total monthly cost: $76.88

Step 3: Make a list of all of your direct costs (product cost per service)
This step can be a bit harder since cost could vary. Many manufacturers have broken this out for you. For my example I am using the CND product cost per service chart. Remember, buying larger sizes will lower the cost per service and increase the profit margin

Product/ Service Other Costs/ Service*
Acrylic Full Set/Fill 1.87 3.00
Gel Full Set/Fill 3.28 3.00
Shellac Manicure 3.21 3.00
Spa Manicure 2.56 3.00
Spa Pedicure 2.89 3.00
*other costs include disposables like files, cotton, toe separators, etc. I just used the same number for all services here but you should figure out your specifics.

Next determine how many of each service you perform each month
Service Average # Per Month
Acrylic Full Set/Fill 25
Gel Full Set/Fill 30
Shellac Manicure20
Spa Manicure 15
Spa Pedicure 25

Total Services per Month (average): 115

Take the total number of services (115) and divide your fixed costs and depreciable costs by that number

Fixed costs per month: $664.71/115 = $5.11 per service
Depreciable costs per month: $76.88/115 = $0.67 per service

For a total of $5.78 - Now add those costs to your product costs

Service Product/ Service Other Costs/ Service* Fixed Costs/
Total Cost Per Service
Acrylic Full Set/Fill $ 1.87 $ 3.00 $ 5.78 $ 10.65
Gel Full Set/Fill $ 3.28 $ 3.00 $ 5.78 $ 12.06
Shellac Manicure $ 3.21 $ 3.00 $ 5.78 $ 11.99
Spa Manicure $ 2.56 $ 3.00 $ 5.78 $ 11.34
Spa Pedicure $ 2.89 $ 3.00 $ 5.78 $ 11.67
Your total cost per service is your break even point. Setting the price at the break-even price will give you a profit of 0. Essentially you would be doing the service for free if you charge that amount.

Figuring Out Your Pricing Structure
Now we need to determine what we need to charge to make a living.

Lets say my goal is to make $15 an hour.
For the sake of this exercise I am going to assume that I am booked completely solid - meaning every hour I work I am booked with no gaps. If you are not booked solid (and honestly, who is?) then you need to figure out how much you need to make during the hours you are working to cover the hours you do not work. I will be writing a post on that soon (and yes it involves more math!).

Total Cost per Service
Service Timing (hours)
Minimum Price to Charge
Acrylic Full Set
$ 33.15
Gel Full Set
$ 12.06
$ 34.56
Acrylic Fill
$ 10.65
$ 25.65
Gel Fill
$ 12.06
$ 27.06
Shellac Manicure
$ 11.99
$ 23.24
Spa Manicure
$ 11.34
$ 22.59
Spa Pedicure
$ 11.67
$ 26.67

So now you have a price that will make you a profit and a living wage (assuming you are booked solid!). Ask yourself this: Can I sell my services at this price and still be competitive? If the answer is no, then you have the following alternatives:
  • lower your direct costs, fixed costs or desired profit
  • make your service unique and market it as such
  • reduce your timing or salary expectations
  • Get in more clients to spread out your fixed costs further
  • consider not selling this service and focus your attention instead on services that have a better profit margin or less competition.

Resources & References

Friday, October 16, 2015

Business Basics: Pricing Services

I think that the question that is most asked in online nail tech groups and forums is "What do you charge for xyz?" and frankly I am always amazed at the question. For one, what I charge is not likely the same as what you would (or should) charge - unless you have the exact same training as I do with the exact same quality of work and work across the street from me. There are so many factors in figuring out your pricing that it can be mind boggling. So let's break it down.
[I should mention I have a degree in Business Administration. I am not a CEO or anything but I do "get" how business works and I believe it is something that nail technicians needs to understand and luckily I am also a nail technician and can speak "business" without putting you to sleep (I hope).]


What factors affect how you should price your services?
  • Location
  • Overhead costs
  • Service timing
  • Competition ("supply and demand")
  • Technician qualifications (more training = higher prices)
  • Customer Service & "extras"   
In business, as in real estate, it's all about location, location, location!  You will not be able to charge the same prices in an inner city, lower middle class neighborhood as you can in a high-end day spa in an expensive suburb.  But that doesn't mean that because the area doesn't warrant charging $100 for a full set of nails that you cannot charge what you are worth.  Just take into account where you are located - you do not want to price yourself out of business!
Even if you don't own a full fledged salon with employees and you work out of your home salon, there are still many costs associated with doing business besides just the cost of your products!
Taxes, rent, utilities, insurance, marketing, licensure and transportation are all overhead. Part of the overhead costs must be allocated to each service performed and must be adjusted annually.
Service Timing
Time equals money, its true.  Setting your prices based solely on what someone else charges and not based on your time is setting yourself up for failure.

Decide how much money you need to make per hour.  Lets say you need to pay yourself $20 per hour.  This does not mean you price your 1 hour pedicure at $20!  You need to make $20 after all of your other costs are taken into account. 

Take your product cost - lets say $3 - and your overhead costs - lets say we figured out $12 per service for overhead - then the absolute minimum you can charge for a 1 hour pedicure is $35.  Now if you think about the fact that being self employed means you pay extra in self-employment taxes, you might want to adjust your prices to account for that as well.  If you do discounts or coupons you may want to pad your starting prices to help offset those.  If you offer "free" extras then you need to add in a bit for that as well. Lets say we determine that we need to charge $40 for a 1 hour pedicure just to make $20 commission.  So that means our 1 1/2 hour full set needs to be at least $60 and a half hour basic manicure needs to be $20.  Make sense?  Good because in my next post we are going to do some more math <evil grin>

**all numbers here are off the top of my head and not representative of anything other than an example**
The goal of business is to make a profit. If the salon down the street is charging $15 for a full set of nails, that doesn't mean that you need to lower your prices to compete with them, especially if it means that you will not make a profit on that service.  High volume salons make very little profit on each service - their strength is in quantity, not necessarily quality. Do not try to compete with them (unless that is your business plan).  Instead, highlight other factors, like customer service.
Tech Qualifications
In every industry, people with more training get more money. My sister is an auto mechanic - every time she goes to training and gets a certification - boom - she gets a $1 an hour raise. In the business world, people with Masters degrees make more money.
As a nail technician, any additional training, including trade shows, or certifications you obtain absolutely justify a higher cost for your services because you are more qualified at doing them.  Have you set foot into the competition arena?  If you have won or even placed second or third in a competition you are justified in raising your prices.  Anything you do to raise your status and skills in the industry justifies charging more! 
Customer Service & "Extras"
Not charging enough is a common problem for small businesses simply because  they frequently find that their costs are higher than they anticipated or they are competing with much lower priced (and lower value) businesses. Many techs do have one advantage, though, and it’s one that justifies charging a higher price – service!

"I’d rather add on an upgrade to spoil my client than have to rush and fit in more people because I am not making enough. That’s not fair to anyone." ~ JESSICA MAHLER, Painted Red Nails, Osterville, Mass.

Clients must feel that they are getting “value” for their dollars spent.  If a client has money to spend and could get a basic service or a service with "extras" included, they will opt for getting the "extras" every time.  Who doesn't like "free"?

I know of people who offered free paraffin dips (product cost is minimal and clients can dip themselves) and one tech I know offers free basic French nails (white tips airbrushed - it literally took her less than a minute, she did not include pink or anything other than white airbrushed tips for free).  Free nail art on one finger, guaranteed work for one week after a service,  etc, etc.  My point here is if you are offering "free" things then your prices should be set to cover those amenities (so they aren't really free, just built into the price).  Its like a hotel - you get free soap and shampoo but do you really think they are free?  Nope, they are built into the price of the room.  Same concept. 

The important thing here is you need to MARKET these things to make yourself stand out from the competition and justify your prices.  One easy way to market your service is when someone asks the price of a full set of nails you answer, "My full sets are $60 and that includes a hand massage, free paraffin dip and free optional French upgrade and they are guaranteed for one week." 

Some other things that can help you justify higher prices or selling above your competition. include:
  • Satisfaction in handling customer complaints
  • Knowledge of product or service
  • Helpful and friendly staff (even if it's just you!)
  • A convenient or exclusive location
  • Exclusive merchandise (if you sell retail)

I hope this helped you think a bit more about pricing your services.  Stay tuned for more posts on pricing coming soon...


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Enhancement Troubleshooting: Yellowing in Enhancements

Yellowing is the discoloration and breakdown of artificial nail coatings by ultraviolet light, excessive heat, or chemical contaminants.  Yellow enhancements is a relatively common problem in the nail world but luckily its something that is easy to fix. The majority of yellowing occurs in acrylic nails and wraps, though it could happen in gel nails as well.  Lets take a look at the reasons.

Acrylic (Liquid & Powder) Nails
Since acrylic nails are porous, yellowing can be caused by a number of things.  The fact that all modern acrylics are cross linked means they are not as likely to yellow as a resin based product which is not cross linked but still more likely to yellow than a gel nail which is non-porous.

These are the most common reasons for yellow acrylics:
  • Staining from nail polish
  • Contaminated or old liquid - Make sure you store monomer in a dark, cool place, always use a proper dispenser made for that product, and never mix old and new monomer together and always use fresh monomer for each client
  • Using monomer that doesn't have a UV protestant 
  • Using a contaminated brush or brush cleaner - Also, never apply any oil or conditioner to the bristles. Nothing but monomer and polymer should ever come in contact with your brush
  • Not thoroughly seasoning a new acrylic brush - Each time you buy a new acrylic brush, gently run a new wood stick through the bristles until the manufacturer’s powdery gum is completely removed. This may take 15 minutes or longer, but if you fail to do it, the gum could cause your acrylics to turn yellow.
  • Odorless acrylic is more likely to yellow
  • Acid primer touching existing acrylic during a fill can cause that part to yellow.
  • Not allowing an acid primer to dry before applying nail enhancements.
  • MMA (methyl methacrylate, which we will discuss soon ) is notorious for yellowing
  • Excessive tanning or smoking, on the client’s end. Sunless tanning lotions can stain the nails as well.
  • Household chemicals can also cause yellowing (clients need to wear gloves!)
  • Certain top coats that are used over pink and whites tend to stain and yellow.

Gel Nails
Gel nails (hard gel) are non-porous and generally not susceptible to yellowing, however occasionally it is seen. Products designed for UV tanning sometimes yellow the top surface of traditional gels and can be easily buffed away at the next appointment.  With certain brands, if you do not apply the finish gel to seal nails, nail polish and smoking can sometimes cause the gel to discolor. Lastly, some gels actually absorb UV rays from the sun, technically "over-curing" the gel and causing yellowing.

Wraps and other Resin-based Products (i.e. "Tip and Dip" systems)
The most common cause of yellowing in resin-based systems like wraps and dip systems is staining from polish, nicotine, tanning lotions, etc or age.  Because resin based systems are not cross-linked, they are more susceptible to things like UV rays, nail polish pigments and general wear and tear. Resin-based systems are the one type of system that has to be removed and replaced periodically since there is no way to avoid the aging.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Business Basics: Gift Certificates and Cards

This is one subject that is not taught in nail school in the US (actually very few actual business-related subjects are taught in nail school).  But it is important to understand gift certificate laws if you are in this business, especially if you work independently or own a salon.  Let make this simple (at least as simple as a law can get). 
Since I live in the US and don't have knowledge of other countries laws, I am only speaking of US and state laws here - but please feel free to comment with your local country's laws!
As of August 22, 2010, the United States gift card industry has been regulated by the federal CARD act.  This federal law creates a floor for regulation and leaves room for state regulation on redeeming gift cards.  State laws that are more protective than the CARD Act are not preempted. So, applicable state laws that further limit expiration dates or fees or require additional disclosures continue to be effective. 40 of the 50 states have laws covering gift cards. PLEASE make sure you understand the statutes in your state and do not make the broad assumption that the laws are all the same.
The laws do NOT govern the following (meaning they CAN have expiration dates):
  • used solely for telephone services i.e. phone cards
  • reloadable and not marketed or labeled as a gift card or gift certificate
  • not marketed to the general public
  • a loyalty and other promotional award (not paid for with cash - i.e. "buy 4 services get one free" - the free service can have an expiration date earlier than 5 years or the max date set by your state)
  • issued in paper form only, redeemable for:
    • admission to an event or for the purchase of goods or services in conjunction with the admission, i.e. concert tickets.
    • specific good or service, or “experience,” such as a spa treatment, hotel stay, or airline flight, i.e. vouchers.
    • a certain percentage off the purchase of a good or service, i.e. coupons.
Federal law says that (at a minimum) gift cards sold in the United States cannot expire any earlier than 5 years from date of issue or date of last load. State gift card regulations vary greatly on the issue of expiration dates.

California, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Washington all prohibit expiration dates on gift cards.

Of the many states that allow expiration dates, Arizona, Georgia, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia all require that the expiration date be disclosed (but per the federal law cannot be less than 5 years from date of purchase or reload).

Further adding to the complexity regarding expiration dates, many states allow for expiration dates but require that the gift card remain valid for a certain minimum time period
The federal law generally limits inactivity fee on gift cards except in certain circumstances, such as if there has been no transaction for at least 12 months and many states have regulations that govern the fees that a gift card issuer can charge.
Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont are examples of states that prohibit a gift card issuer from charging service fees.
Redeeming for Cash
A few states require merchants to redeem a customer’s gift card for cash.
In California, a gift card is redeemable for cash if the cash value on the card is less than $10.61
In Colorado, a gift card is redeemable for cash if the amount remaining on the card is $5 or less.
In Maine, Montana, and Washington, a gift card is redeemable for cash if the amount remaining on the card is less than $5.63
In Massachusetts, a customer has the option to redeem the remaining balance in cash (1) if the gift card is non-reloadable and 90 percent of the value has been redeemed or (2) if the gift card is reloadable and the balance is $5 or less.
In Rhode Island and Vermont, a gift card is redeemable for cash if the remaining balance is less than $1.65
I hope this gives you a general understanding of gift card laws - I am not a lawyer or a politician so please make sure that if you are offering or accepting gift cards you have researched your state laws (not to mention laws change constantly! Its important to keep up - "not knowing" the law isn't an excuse and you WILL be fined.)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nails Don't Breathe!

One of the most prevalent myths about nails - and one that is sadly perpetuated to this day by nail technicians - is the myth that nails breathe.

"Breathe" is defined as: to take air, oxygen, etc., into the lungs and expel it; inhale and exhale;respire.

"Respire" is defined as: to inhale and exhale air for the purpose of maintaining life; breathe.

This myth makes no sense on many levels! Nails aren't alive and don't have lungs nor do they have any ability to absorb air into the nail plate. The nail plate is created from nutrients that are delivered by the blood stream to the nail matrix. Cosmetic scientist Doug Schoon explains that "100% of the oxygen needed by the nail matrix to create a new nail plate comes from the blood stream and 0% comes from the outside world".  Blood brings oxygen and nutrients to the hand, fingers, and nails through millions of tiny blood vessels which also carry waste and carbon dioxide way. This intricate process is what feeds the matrix, so that it can produce healthy nail cells.  In short, nails do NOT require an external air supply and do not breathe or exhale.

Taking a break from nail polish or enhancements (acrylic, gel, etc) for a few weeks is not at all necessary.  Doug explains that while wearing enhancements, "moisture and natural nail oils leave the nail bed and pass through the nail plate at a slower than normal rate but they aren't trapped by the product." "The nail plate's moisture content is increased by increased 10-15%, and the oil content increases only slightly; both serve to increase the flexibility of the natural nail plate". Since the nails do not need to "breathe", no benefit is gained by waiting to reapply any type of nail coating. Nor does it make sense to assume the nails only need to breathe "every once-in-a-while". This faulty reasoning is not supported by the facts.

  • Neither "air" nor "nutrients" can be absorbed or "fed" to the nail plate from any external source. 
  • Moisture and natural nail oils leave the nail bed and pass through the nail plate at slower than normal rates, but they aren't "trapped".  
  • Waste products are removed from the matrix area and surrounding tissues by the blood as well, and are not released into the nail plate. 
  • Normal, healthy nail plates would continue to grow and thrive in a completely air-free environment, as long as a healthy flow of blood to the nail is maintained.

The natural nail plate is not living - and it does not breathe. Because it is made up of non-living keratin, it does not hurt to have your nails clipped – the same reason that it doesn’t hurt to have your hair cut. The nail plate is healthy when the health of the nail bed, matrix and surrounding tissue are properly cared for - it does not need to “breathe” to be healthy.