Perfect Nail Salon Pricing

I used to hate doing nail art. Whenever someone would ask, I’d pull out a small plastic square of flower decals and silently pray they would choose something from it. And most of the time, they did. But once in a while, a client would sort of sigh and ask me to hand paint a flower. So, I’d pull out my acrylic paint set and dotting tool, probably leftover from my (middle) school days. This time, I’d hold my breath and silently pray that the 5 dots would land uniformly on the nail instead of running together into one amorphous blob.


And then after all that trauma, I wouldn’t even charge for it. “My treat today!” I’d say with a brittle smile and sweat steaming the back of my neck.


And then, the opposite happened.


When CND Shellac came out in 2010, nail art suddenly became easy. Glitter fades were a breeze. Transfer foil was so fun. Stamping was way easier than it looked. So I felt guilty for charging for it. When I actually sat down and did the (very conservative) math, I was leaving $10,000 on the nail table because nail art was fun.


A ginger bearded man in a grey sweatshirt and trucker hat incredulously tells a grey-haired man in a blue business suit, "That doesn't make sense."


Why the heck is pricing nail salon services so hard?


We make it about us.


Our work doesn’t define us, but if you’re like me and a little bit obsessed with your work, we can let it become who we are. We begin to rely on compliments and referrals as our main source of dopamine, approval or love.


The problem with tying our identity to our work is that money adds a false layer of acceptance, approval, or rejection. If a client rejects our pricing, we take it personally when it has nothing to do with us as individual human beings. Maybe the client is on a fixed income or they lost their job. Even if they don’t think the nail service is worth the investment anymore, it’s not a reflection on us.


Spoiler alert: If a client does get priced out, they more often than not will continue to refer other clients to you. The ones who balk and get nasty about nail service prices usually never end up booking a service in the first place.


Besides, we’re made of the same stardust that’s been floating around the universe since the beginning of time. How could anyone really afford to pay what we’re worth? Our work doesn’t equal our worth.


Our relationship with money


Our beliefs about money and the economic situations we’re born into can affect how we feel about pricing. Can we keep the money? Do we deserve the money? Why do we want more? Are we allowed to make money only if it’s “hard”? Is “easy” money something to be ashamed of?


Working with a coach like Stacy Highland can help dispel any stories that might be holding you back with your pricing. And if questioning attitudes about money is a new thing for you, I recommend reading the very fun The Land of Plenty by Carolynn Bottinno. Super fun and inspiring read.


We’re too busy!


Nail professionals generally work 2 weeks to one year into the future. Once our books are full, it can be months before we get a chance to stop and think about the business itself, including pricing.


We get comfortable on owner/operator autopilot and really only react when something breaks or needs urgent attention. While this isn’t a bad thing, there’s an opportunity to leverage your busy schedule just by asking a few questions and being proactive in your business.


→ What’s your most profitable nail service?

→ What nail service brings you the most revenue?

→ How does that affect what nail services you want to keep offering?

→ Would you actually make more money phasing out a certain nail service?


When you can regularly spend time assessing and questioning your business, you can often increase your profit margins without even raising your prices.


What does perfect nail salon pricing look like when it’s easy?


It’s intentional


When we can confidently price our nail salon services, it’s income goals become specific because they have meaning. Earning our living transforms from a weekly/monthly/yearly series of sprints into a well-paced marathon where we know when to slow down, when to refuel, and when to sprint to get to the finish line faster.


It’s non-emotional


Prices rooted in the real world no longer need to be justified to clients. The best part: when you know WHY your nail services are priced the way they are, you don’t feel bad or guilty about charging them.


It’s sustaining


When perfect nail salon pricing is easy, you can live well. Your business can grow or scale. You’ll have money to invest in new decor, systems, and tools. You can see potential problems on the horizon and pivot before they become emergencies. You can hire and mentor the next generation of nail professionals. You can save for retirement. And if you want to, you can sell your business when you’re ready to retire.


The First Step To Perfect Nail Salon Pricing


The first step to perfecting your nail salon prices is knowing what you actually need to charge, especially if you’re an indie nail professional renting a booth or salon suite.


The truth is, pricing can vary widely by location because the standard of living varies. And while there are a few different ways to determine what you need to charge, here’s ONE quick 5-minute price check to see where you land based on your area.


In this Instagram video, I share a simple way to tell if you’re priced properly for your area, which may be different from “industry standards.” And that’s ok!


When you want to grow any area of your business, it’s super important to know where you want to go and where you’re starting from. This video will help you figure out your Point A so you can plan your route to Point B.


Take a few minutes to watch the video below and determine your Point A. Your Future Self will thank you for making charging for your nail salon services a lot less stressful.



Mary sits on a wooden stool and smiles broadly. She had collar length pink and purple hair. She's wearing a black knee length skirt and a blue tank with red and orange flowers on it. Next to her, text reads, "Are you charging enough for your area?"


I’d love to hear your findings and thoughts after you watch the video. Leave a comment here or on Instagram.


About the Author


Mary Chhea (she/her) is a nail professional and marketing nerd who helps indie salon professionals build healthy businesses financially, mentally and creatively. She believes that, as co-creators of beauty that moves and lives in the world, we deserve to be well compensated for our creations and we get to decide what that means.


Creator of the Service Menu Makeover, Mary has helped 30+ nail professionals discover their perfect pricing and redesign their marketing to increase their profitability with services they love and best-fit clients.


A #coloRADo kid living in Vermont with her husband and cat, Mary is a sucker for pho noodle soup, English panel comedy and any excuse to visit a Harry Potter themed anything. Download your Perfect Pricing Calculator here.

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