How To Open a Nail Salon: A Step-by-Step Guide

ByJulija A.
March 21,2022

The nail salon industry was worth $6.5 billion in 2020, despite the pandemic, so if you’re a nail technician looking to build a business, this could be a great time to start. There’s a big market out there to tap into - all you need is starting capital and the right strategy.

That’s where this post can help. In it, we discuss how to open a nail salon. You’ll learn how to find your niche, construct a solid business plan, choose the perfect location, create a financial plan, and much more. 

How To Open a Nail Salon

Nail salons are an attractive business because they provide you with the opportunity to build a recurring client base fast. Clients tend to come back over and over for multiple services, including manicures, pedicures, nail art, and even hair extensions (if you offer them).

Step 1: Pick a Niche

Before you begin the process of opening a nail salon, you’ll need to pick a niche. Ideally, you want this to be an area in which you already have some experience, but you’ll need to consider other factors, too. 

When choosing a niche, aim for something that: 

  • Your competitors don’t offer: If there are already half a dozen advanced nail art salons along a street, opening a seventh probably won’t solve any new problems for customers. 
  • You understand: For example, don’t offer paraffin manicures or acrylics if you don’t know how they work.
  • Your customers find compelling: Specific types of nail treatments may be more appealing to your client base in certain areas. For instance, you may find that people in your area just want basic polish. 

Step 2: Sleuth on Your Competitors

Before you open a nail shop, you should also do some sleuthing on your competitors. Find out whether people rate them highly or not by reading publicly available reviews on their services. This way, you can determine the level of competition and avoid making any of the same mistakes. 

Also, try to find out how much it costs to open a nail salon in a particular area. You may be able to access this information by asking owners of local salons or by consulting public LLC records. 

Finding out how much they charge helps, too. Knowing this will give you a sense of how much leeway you have regarding pricing. If there’s an expensive local nail boutique, you may be able to undercut them.

Lastly, try to find out what services they don’t offer. You can then bear this in mind when brainstorming nail business ideas. If you can offer something your rivals don’t, you’ll attract more customers. 

Step 3: Find Someone Who Has Done It All Before

Most successful business people have a mentor – somebody who works behind the scenes, offering helpful insights and important advice. This person doesn’t necessarily need to have set up their own nail care salon business, but they should have an entrepreneurial past. The cost to open a nail salon can be high, so always choose a mentor who understands business concepts. 

A good mentor is someone who: 

  • Understands how the nail salon business works
  • Can be there for you long-term, particularly when the going gets tough
  • Has well-developed business acumen and can advise you on financial matters
  • Has experience gaining clients in a market-facing role

If you don’t like the idea of owning a nail salon by yourself, you can always ask a partner to join you. Joint ventures can be highly successful since each person can support and motivate the other. However, the person you choose must be: 

  • Competent in their role
  • Committed to the success of the joint venture
  • Responsible
  • Passionate about opening a nail salon business
  • Someone you can trust

Step 4: Write Down Your Business Plan

Once you have all of the preliminaries out of the way, it’s time to write down your business plan. This document describes in detail what your business will sell and what you would like it to achieve, and it serves to remind you of what you do and why you do it.

There are many business plan templates available on the web. These make organizing your goals easy. As you write your business plan, you’ll want to consider the following: 

  • The cost of opening 
  • The recurring costs
  • The target market
  • How much you’re going to charge customers
  • The services you will offer
  • The competition in your area
  • The amount of profit you think you can make each year
  • The contribution any funding will make (and how you can pay it back)
  • How you’ll market your nail room ideas
  • How you’ll charge customers (subscriptions, membership of pay-as-you-go)
  • How you’ll pay back any startup capital or bank loans

Step 5: Decide on Your Nail Salon’s Name and Branding

If you go to any nail salon open in your local area and ask people why they are in there, most of the time, you’ll find that it has little to do with their nails. Instead, nail shops are places people go to escape the madness of the world for a few minutes and get an all-round pampering. 

For this reason, it’s imperative that you get your nail shop’s name, branding, and interiors right. The more you can sell yourself as a location that offers the ultimate pampering experience, the more customers are likely to frequent your business. 

When choosing a name, go for something that really describes who you are and what you offer. Try to avoid something that sounds generic or creates a false impression of what your customers can expect. 

For interior design, pick décor that complements your salon’s goals. Find a designer who understands how to make people feel welcome, pampered, and cozy.

Step 6: Flesh Out Your Financial Plan

Starting a nail salon business costs between $75 and $125 per square foot, depending on where you are in the country. Therefore, if you open a small 500-foot salon, you’ll be paying $37,500 to $62,500 in startup expenses.

Because the sums of money involved in opening a fixed or mobile nail salon can be quite high, having a financial plan in place makes sense. Where possible, separate your business finances from your personal accounts.

Financial plan templates make it easy to record all relevant details. When fleshing out your financial plan: 

  • Estimate how much your running costs are likely to be
  • Estimate your weekly income
  • Calculate your future cash flow by subtracting running costs from weekly income

To keep your nail shop open, you’ll need to ensure that the flow of income is positive. 

Other things to include in your financial plan are: 

  • Key performance indicators you’ll use to determine whether your business venture is successful
  • A pricing strategy based on your location, demand for your services, brand image, and competitors’ pricing
  • A record-keeping system so that you can report all your income and expenses to the relevant authorities
  • Your personal financial situation, including how you’re going to manage any outstanding debt you might owe

Step 7: Pick a Location

Once you’ve written down your business and financial plans and have a strategy in place, you’re ready to choose a location. Ideally, you want an area that is: 

  • Easy to access
  • Close to a large and interested target market
  • Near to popular intersections, transport hubs, and pedestrian routes
  • Close to other businesses

Many nail places open in residential areas, office buildings, and even college campuses. These tend to offer reasonable rents and high footfall. 

Step 8: Gather All Licenses and Permissions

Many people want to know if they can open a nail salon without a license. The answer is - it depends on your location. Some states allow you to open nail businesses without first applying for a license, while others don’t. You should be able to check state rules on your local government website. 

Common requirements include: 

  • Business licenses
  • State-mandated training for nail techs
  • Building permits
  • Cosmetology licenses

Step 9: Attract Customers

Once your nail business is ready to go, the last thing to do is to attract customers. Here are some of the things you’ll need to do: 

Post Your Salon on Directories

Posting your salon on directories makes you easier to find and also helps with SEO. Many nail salon owners put their shops on Beauty Seeker, Best Salon Guide, Who Do You, and Yelp. 

Reach Out on Social Media

If you own a nail business, Instagram and Facebook are your friends. Both platforms provide ample opportunities for you to show off your skills and what you can do. 

When marketing on Instagram, make sure that you: 

  • Make your feed appealing, showing customers the types of services they can get if they go to you
  • Interact with clients by regularly replying to their comments and messages
  • Experiment with reels, showcasing the newest nail art trends 

If you market on Facebook, be sure to: 

  • Set up your own business page. You can use this for posting videos and messages to your audience. It also offers a shop facility where people can hire services with you
  • Join local communities and groups interested in cosmetics, such as manicures and pedicures
  • Pay for highly targeted promotions, targeted at people who are likely to want to use your business

For Google and SEO, you’ll need to set up a Google My Business account. This service ensures that the search giant displays your business in Maps results, along with your website link, opening times, review rating, and branding images. It’s one of the best ways to boost your position in search results. 

Further Reading

Conclusion

Opening a nail salon can be a lot of fun. However, it also requires a business mind and strategic thinking. Ultimately, the goal is to generate an income for yourself that allows you to give up your regular day job. 

Getting to the point where you can manage your own shop takes a few months, but if you follow the right strategy, you can attract clients who keep coming back for more and create a lucrative business.

Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to start a nail business?

Once you have all the relevant permits, the cost to start a nail business is around $75 to $125 per square foot, implying a total cost of $75,000 to $125,000 for 1,000-square-foot premises. 

Is a nail salon profitable?

Nail salons can be highly profitable. The average business generates around $40,000 in profit every year. 

How do nail techs get paid?

Some nail technicians are at the same time salon owners, while some are employees who are usually paid a salary and/or commission. About one-third are booth renters, which means they work as independent contractors who stock up their own supplies, pay their own taxes, and build their client base on their own.

Can you start your nail salon at home?

You can open a nail salon in your home in most states. However, there are regulations and restrictions. Some states, for instance, may require you to operate a separate entrance and bathroom for clients. Other states may forbid you from employing people who aren’t family members. You may also need to apply for special parking permits. 

What kind of license do you need for a nail salon?

In some states, you can open a nail salon without a license. However, most states require you to obtain a cosmetology license. You may also have to apply for zoning permits, employee identification numbers, and general business licenses.

About the author

Julia A. is a writer at SmallBizGenius.net. With experience in both finance and marketing industries, she enjoys staying up to date with the current economic affairs and writing opinion pieces on the state of small businesses in America. As an avid reader, she spends most of her time poring over history books, fantasy novels, and old classics. Tech, finance, and marketing are her passions, and she’s a frequent contributor at various small business blogs.

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