Step-by-Step Guide to Opening a Nail Salon

The hardest part about opening a nail salon is figuring out where to start, so we’ve done the legwork for you. From how to pay your nail artists to finding the perfect all-in-one booking and payments solution for your salon, we’ve got the answers you’re looking for to get you started on the path to beauty boss status. Our guide to opening a nail salon will help you get up and running in no time. 

Step 1: Define Your Target Market

In any business, brand, or company, understanding your target market is your first step to creating a lucrative venture with a lasting roster of loyal clients. Once you’re able to define who your market is, you can set up a menu of offerings that serves them best and strategically craft a marketing plan to successfully attract them. For example, your services, price points, and messaging may differ greatly if you’re planning to open a salon in Miami’s artsy Wynwood neighborhood versus opening up in a small suburban town on the outskirts of Dallas.

There are a variety of approaches you can take to define your audience, but most often it will involve taking a closer look at the demographics in your area – think age, lifestyle, and income – and balancing those against your personal style and vision. Consider, too, that there might be a few different personas that you can expect as your regulars depending on the location, time of day, or day of the week that your business operates. You may see tons of businesspeople popping in for a quick maintenance mani during the workweek, while stay-at-home parents are filling up your weekend slots with a luxurious pedicure while their partner has the kids.

Step 2: Cultivate Your Brand 

From a business perspective, of course, you want to position yourself and your nail salon in a way that appeals to clients in your geographic radius. From an internal point of view, however, it’s still important to maintain a sense of authenticity that reflects your passions and personality – that’s where branding comes in. Finding that sweet spot between strategy and a sense of self is tricky, but can be accomplished by taking a thoughtful approach to your salon’s identity.

After determining who your key clients will be, you’ll have a better understanding of how to build your brand in a way that appeals to that crowd. Before opening a nail salon, consider how its name, atmosphere, color palette, and booking experience will stand out against your competitors and speak directly to your market? Take some time to think about the specific style, skills, and services that you have to offer and how that will resonate with your target clientele. Doing this will help bridge the gap between what your clients want and what your salon style is so you can find a solid middle ground to build up your branding.


Step 3: Create a Service Menu

Creating a service menu when you open a nail salon may seem straightforward, but this is your chance to put your spin on the basic services that every nail salon provides. In addition to your regular manicures and pedicures, consider ways you can elevate the experience with extras that will make your clients feel ultra-indulgent while opening up an extra stream of revenue with add-on purchases.

Are there additional offerings that might complement your core services? This is where you may want to seek out independent contractors to provide an upgraded level of service to your clientele – if your vibe is more spa-like, perhaps you can bring in a massage therapist for an extra layer of pampering, or if you’re leaning more beauty-centric you may want to onboard additional professionals like lash techs or estheticians. All of these additions create more opportunities for additional profits and advantages over your competitors.


Step 4: Work Out What Equipment You Will Need

Aside from rent, purchasing salon equipment and furniture is likely one of the largest expenses you’ll incur as an independent professional, so this must be kept in mind when budgeting to open a nail salon. Do your homework before you start shopping so you can determine exactly what you need for both your physical space and your services so that you don’t overextend your budget.

Despite the materials needed for your specific menu of services, there are a few basic pieces that any nail salon will want to have in place to create a clean, comfortable environment for clients and staff. These include basic furniture for your waiting area, cleaning supplies, protective equipment, storage (for products, tools, towels, etc), and nail polish displays so clients can easily browse the full array of colors you offer.

For nail artists specifically, these core pieces of equipment will be essential:

  • Pedicure chair: Keep in mind that these pieces are pretty sizable, will require access to electrical outlets, and may have specific plumbing requirements.
  • Manicure station: Make sure you have space for two chairs on either side of the station – one for your nail tech and one for your client – and have access to electrical outlets for nail drills or drying lamps.
  • Nail polish rack: Whether it's built-in shelving or a stand-alone furniture item, you’ll need a space to keep your polishes on display for clients to choose from.
  • Sanitation station: This area should be in plain view for your clients and may include a sink for hand-washing and specific pieces of equipment for sanitizing tools in between uses.


Step 5: Create a Business Plan and Access Financing

Building a successful business doesn’t happen by chance. Start with a strong foundation by creating a business plan that outlines your goals, services, and strategies so that you have a roadmap to success. In addition, a business plan is an integral tool that can help you secure funding as you open a nail salon and get your business off the ground. If you’re looking to friends, family, or your professional network as potential investors, having this plan in hand shows that you are serious and you’ve already done the legwork to ensure a strong start.

At the most basic level, your business plan should include: 

  • Services you’ll offer
  • Your pricing structure and strategy
  • Additional revenue streams
  • Startup costs
  • How you plan to fund your business
  • Operating expenses
  • Projected income

Opening a nail salon may be your dream but without proper preparation the financial aspect can quickly become a nightmare. Perhaps you’ve been saving your money for this moment over the years, but if that doesn’t cover it, you can look into loans, business grants, lines of credit, or investors, which might even include friends or family! When it comes to funding your beauty business, there are several options out there worth exploring, so take your time and make sure you’ve examined each thoroughly so you feel good about moving forward financially, no matter which avenue you pursue. 

Step 6: Find a Suitable Location to Open a Nail Salon

Choosing the creative space for your salon is one of the most exciting parts of the process but there are alot of decisions that come into play along the way. Once you’ve determined the city or neighborhood in which you plan to open a nail salon, start familiarizing yourself with the items below to keep in mind as you begin your search for the perfect place.

  • Size: First and foremost, you need a big enough space for all of your creative needs.
  • Storage: Cabinets or shelving for back bar and retail products are essential, as well as space for a laundry sink or possibly an on-site washer and dryer.
  • Privacy: It’s important you take breaks, so make sure you have a space to get away! Other break room bonuses might include having enough space to set up a refrigerator and microwave.
  • Connectivity and Facilities: Wifi and utilities are the obvious must-haves, but also keep an eye out for things like plumbing hook-ups and the number of electrical outlets as those may influence or limit the way you set up your nail salon. Also, make sure you have a bathroom (or two) that your employees and your clients can use.
  • Accessibility: Easy accessibility and parking for clients shouldn’t be overlooked – not just because it makes visiting your nail salon more convenient, but it's also an important ADA consideration in many places.
  • Security: Security within the building should be prioritized in order to keep you, your employees, and your clients safe.
  • The contract: Before signing anything, take a close look at the fine print and make sure you’re only getting into a leasing contract that you feel good about. Make sure you’ve taken a close look at things like the leasing length terms, who’s responsible for maintenance and repairs, and whether you can cover the cost comfortably. 

Step 7: Secure Permits, Licensing, and Insurance

Much less exciting than finding a home for your nail salon but equally as important is making sure you’re covered legally with the proper permits, licensing, and liability insurance. We know your eyes might start to glaze over at this point, but all of this documentation is seriously vital to the health and longevity of your business. If you’re putting everything you have (mentally, physically, and financially) into this business, you want to make sure your investments are protected at all costs.

Step 8: Staff Up Your Nail Salon

After you’ve got your services and your space set up, you may need support staff to help you bring the vision to life. Based on your offerings and the size of your salon, start thinking about how many employees you may need to create a profitable client flow and whether or not you need to start with contractors when you open your nail salon.

With the addition of employees and contractors, you’ll also need to explore the best options for making sure they get paid. Hourly, salary, and commission-based structures are all common payment models within the beauty industry, but it’s important to find out what works best for you and your employees and contractors. And don’t worry, you don’t have to employ an HR team or bookkeeper to keep track of your staff hours. You can easily give your staff ownership of their services, schedules, and client notes by giving them access to your salon software account when you’re utilizing a multi-user platform like GlossGenius.

Step 9: Pick the Right Salon Booking Software

How do you pick the right salon software for your business? Simple. Find one that makes life easiest for you as a busy creative entrepreneur. Most times that means automating as many tasks as possible, so the perfect salon software should be one centralized system, such as GlossGenius, that serves as your all-in-one solution for booking, payments, marketing, staff scheduling, and more.

These are some of the key components you’ll see in salon booking software like ours that truly makes your life as a nail salon owner more manageable:

  • Easy Booking and Appointment Management: Enables you and your clients to book, reschedule, or confirm appointments with ease via desktop or mobile websites. Bonus points if that customized website is stunning and its functionality is seamless.
  • Calendar Syncing: Have easy access to your availability at a glance, with views by day, week, or month, and merge with your personal calendar to stay on top of your schedule.
  • Payment Processing: Run checkout, process any payment type, offer gift cards, and easily share receipts with clients.
  • Reporting and Analytics: Easily pull reports on services booked, profits made, marketing campaigns, and revenue trends.
  • Marketing Campaigns: Execute SMS or email-based marketing campaigns to effectively communicate with clients en masse to share announcements, promotions, updated hours, and availability.
  • Client Relationship Management: Capture client information that will help with marketing campaigns such as customer feedback, segmenting customers, and tracking average ticket sales.


Step 10: Promote Your Nail Salon

Once you’ve made it this far, there’s only one thing left to do – celebrate your journey by promoting your nail salon far and wide. Start by sharing your booking site via text, email, and social media, and encourage word of mouth marketing by way of your family, friends, and followers. Next, get familiar with your nail salon’s neighbors and make sure they know you’re open to cross-promoting each other's businesses.

When you’re ready to fully open your doors, why not do it with a bang? Buy a few cases of bubbly and host an open house in an effort to generate new business, connect with your community, and most of all, celebrate becoming a boss!

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