Employment Opportunities and Compensation

Overview

In an estimated $6 billion dollar a year plus industry, there are now more choices than ever before to choose for a work environment in nail technology. A profession that started as a small table in the back of a hair salon has graduated to the front of the salon and beyond. Work environments include full-service salons, nails only salons, day spas, and even corporate and luxury locales (such as in office buildings, health clubs, hotels, cruise ships, even international air flights), not to mention some truly unexpected locations, such as in a tire store! Beyond actually doing nails, there are now a multitude of other possible opportunities such as: teaching in beauty schools; working for a manufacturer or distributor in sales, education, product testing; trade magazines, professional organizations, and the internet abound with opportunities for the creative and adaptable nail tech.

There are three major factors to consider if you choose to work in a salon: type of worker classification (booth renter, employee, owner), type of salon (hair, nails, etc), and method of compensation (salary, commission).

Worker Classification

Nationally, just under 35% of nail technicians are booth renters, with an average monthly booth rental fee of just over $300 (rent varies widely from $150 to over $500 per month, depending on location). Booth renters are more or less salon owners. They lease their space inside a salon (or a suite in a beauty mall), have their own keys to the building, set their own hours and schedules, buy all their own supplies, generate their own clients, and keep all the income generated.

Nail technicians who work as employees make up 20% plus of the work force. Employees generally are paid some combination of salary and/or commission, and may or may not have their supplies and tools furnished to them (only 5% of salons provide all the supplies, tools, and equipment for the nail techs). The salon will usually help to build a tech’s book by offering her overflow clients, walk-ins, and customers generated through advertising.

The remaining nail technicians are either salon owners who continue to do nails (in addition to their salon management duties) or work in other segments of the industry, such as in schools or for product manufacturers. As owners, salon owners either pay themselves as they would an employee for work done, or they take a percentage of the profits as their salary (assuming there are profits, the first years of a new salon can be very lean!).

Salon Type

Following is the breakdown of the percentage of nail techs working (as nail techs) in various environments (this does not concern whether they are booth renters or employees):

  • 42% work in full service salons
  • 23% work in a nails only salon
  • 13% in a day spa
  • 12% in home salons (consult local zoning laws)
  • 5% are mobile nail techs (they go to the client)
  • 5% work in tanning salons that have added nails (or vice versa)
  • 3% work in schools
  • 1% work in non-traditional locations (hotels, health clubs, tire stores, etc.)
  • Of those working in salons, over 50% of nail techs work alone, in salons that have only one nail tech. Fewer than 20% of salons have 2 techs, about 10% have 3 techs, and only 17% have 4 or more techs. If you are inexperienced, this could be a very important factor in deciding where to work; as a solo nail tech you would not have other techs to help you.

Compensation

The majority of nail technicians work on straight commission (either as booth renters or as employees). Only about 30% work on some combination of salary and commission. The national average for commission is about 55%. However, that “average” is deceiving as just over 4 out of 10 techs make over 50% commission, while 6 out of 10 make less than 50%. Another consideration is that about 75% of techs supply all of their own supplies, tools and equipment; thus they must deduct those costs from their commissions to reflect their true earnings. The average weekly income for a nail tech in the USA is just over $600 a week, however, more than 25% of techs earn $750 or more per week!

Conclusion

Take the time to investigate all the options, and a career in the ever expanding and evolving field of nail technology offers a myriad of exciting opportunities, long-term prospects, and a strong economic future.

* Facts and figures compiled from research published by Nails Magazine 2007