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How to Open a Nail Salon: The Complete Guide

From services to pricing, here’s how to attract new clients and keep them long-term

Every nail empire starts with that first salon. To be successful, you’ll have to create a welcoming environment that makes clients choose your salon over the competition, and offering the right services at fair prices is a huge part of that process. If you’re on the verge of launching your first shop and find yourself wondering how to open a nail salon, we got you! Read on to find out everything you need to know.

How to open a nail salon: Going beyond the mani/pedi

Step one when opening your nail salon is figuring out what services to offer. There are many variations on the classic manicure and pedicure treatments that your nail techs can use to make clients feel pampered and glamorous. To set your salon apart, consider adding these services to your menu:

  • French manicure: This classic style, with slightly rounded square white tips and a light pink or beige base, always adds an elegant touch. As a bonus, there are so many variations: The reverse French, the American manicure, and even replacing the standard neutral tones with bright or dark colors.

  • Gel manicure: Upgrade the basic mani with gel polish cured under a UV light and finished off with a top coat. This results in a longer-lasting mani or pedi that also provides the perfect canvas for some gorgeous nail art.

  • Acrylic overlays: Acrylics are another way to make that manicure sturdier. This process involves using a liquid, powder, and coat on the natural nail before finishing it off with an acrylic overlay with the client’s preferred color and design.

  • Dip powder: This service involves — you guessed it — dipping each nail in a fine, pigmented powder and setting it with a clear, protective polish. Because dip powder manicures don’t require UV lights, they’re faster to apply than gel manis, and they also tend to last longer than services that need bi-weekly touch-ups.

  • Hot stone massage: Adding this to any manicure or pedicure is an instant upgrade. Hot stones can improve circulation, and even more importantly, they feel amazing.

  • Paraffin manicure: Like the hot stone massage, paraffin manicures feel so good and instantly take any standard service to the next level. Sure, coating your hands in hot wax might seem strange, but once your clients realize how good their skin feels afterward, they’ll ask for this one again and again.

For more information, check out Nail Services 101: Going Beyond the Mani/Pedi.

How to open a nail salon: Standing out from the crowd

Once you’ve nailed your services menu, it’s time to start thinking about the customer experience. Your nail techs might be the best in the biz, but it’s not going to matter if your salon is lacking in personality. You want your clients to feel like going to the salon is an act of self-care, not a chore.

Get creative

Some clever copy, eye-catching graphics, and themed events go a long way. Use colorful descriptions for your nail menu and marketing materials, letting your personality shine through. It’s not a cucumber scrub, it’s a refreshing treatment perfect for those hot summer days! Think up seasonal specials and other limited-time promotions that tie into big holidays or pop culture events. Have happy hour events with special pricing in the after-work hours. Do whatever you can to make the experience more fun for your clients and they’ll want to come back season after season to see what’s new.

Party time, excellent

Another creative way to get people in your salon is to make it easy to book parties or group events. Whether it’s a birthday party, a wedding, or a “just because we’re bored” gathering, get ready to celebrate with your clients and make their special days even better. By encouraging your regulars to invite their friends to a nail party, you’ll also have the opportunity to make an impression on a whole new group.

Balance functionality and personality

It’s not easy to convey your staff’s beauty expertise while also showing off your fun side, but finding that balance is key to a memorable salon experience. Remember, it all starts with the right nail menu; creatively communicating the services your salon offers will set the tone and allow you to build out the experience from there.

For more advice on how to open a nail salon, check out Nailed It! Here’s How Salon Owners Can Create the Perfect Nail Menu.

How to open a nail salon: Nailing your prices

One of the most difficult parts of opening a new business is figuring out how much to charge for services. This is especially true for salon owners whose businesses operate on razor-thin margins to stay competitive. How can you stay afloat without alienating clients?

While salon prices will fluctuate based on a number of factors, including location (think going to a salon in Los Angeles vs. the midwest), they should account for time, labor, and supply costs. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve rounded up some industry-standard prices:

  • Manicures: Basic manicures usually cost $15-$25, with add-ons like polish, designs, and paraffin wax treatments tacking on another $5 to $15.

  • Gel manicures: Because these require special polishes and equipment, salons typically charge $25-$35 for gel manicures.

  • French manicures: For this elegant look, clients are willing to pay $30-$40.

  • Acrylics: Acrylic nail treatments require regular upkeep, so consider follow-ups in your pricing options. Depending on if the client’s nails are long or short, acrylics can be priced anywhere between $25 and $50, with fills costing another $25-$40 and nail repairs going for $5-$10 per nail.

  • Standard pedicures: Pedicures typically start at around $30-$40, with prices rising to $50-$55 for gel or French applications.

  • Spa pedicures: The ultimate luxury, spa or deluxe pedicures often incorporate services like exfoliation, paraffin wax dips, and hot stone massages. As such, they’re priced higher than regular pedis at $45-$65.

Don’t forget to bundle!

If you’re only selling basic mani/pedi services, your profit margin-to-time spent ratio might be lower than it should be. Encourage clients to spend more with add-ons, upsells, and bundles. By offering a 15-20% discount on bundled services, you’ll end up getting more value out of each client — particularly when two of those services can be done at once, like filing nails for a manicure during the foot-soak portion of a pedicure.

Learn more about salon pricing in the full article: The Owner’s Guide to Salon Nail Prices: How Much Should You Charge?

Opening a new business can be scary, but don’t forget to have fun! Let your personality shine through, show off your expertise with the perfect nail menu, and pay attention to your pricing model to see what’s working and what needs improvement. By now, you should have a better idea of how to open a nail salon, so go forth and conquer the beauty world!

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