Checklist for starting
your own nail

You've probably been thinking about it over and over again in your head: starting your own nail salon. This is the only article you need to go through all the steps, a complete guide from business plan to your first client.

Why would I start my own nail salon?

Did you know that since the beginning of 2022, according to the Chamber of Commerce, there are more than 10,000 officially registered nail artists? In 2017, there were only 7,500.

That's a significant increase. Fortunately, there's nothing to worry about, as research also shows that more and more people are choosing to have their nails done.

Depending on how big your dreams are, you can start as a brand-new nail salon owner with a relatively small budget.

Nail stylist checking nails
Follow our checklist to start your own nail salon

Start a nail salon from home

This article will help you go through all the steps properly, and every now and then, there's some homework to do your own research. After all, you want to start a successful nail salon that people in your neighborhood eagerly await.

Who is your target audience? Write down in a few sentences who the target audience is for your nail salon. It's important to have a clear picture of this group.

Is this a group that only comes for special occasions? Or can you expect them to visit every 4-5 weeks? Are they mostly busy clients, requiring you to be open primarily in the evenings and weekends? Or are they customers who have more time during the day?

Having a clear understanding of who you're targeting will help you develop a solid plan in the following steps. If you only write down, "everyone who wants beautiful, well-groomed nails," you risk making a poor start.

Research your competition. Look closely at websites like Treatwell and Google Maps to see how many nail salons are already in your area. This will give you a good idea of how much competition you can expect (or which salons should keep an eye on you 😉).

It also helps to see if you will serve the same target audience in the future. The better you've thought about the previous question, the easier it is to determine whether you'll "bother" each other.

Your research may reveal that you'll serve a completely different target audience!

Write a business plan. Don't panic! You've already done a lot of work with the previous two steps to create a business plan. It's not the most fun part, but if you skip it, you risk making on-the-spot decisions in a few weeks/months that you could have thought through better.

A business plan is essentially nothing more than writing down what you plan to do and how you'll execute it.

There are plenty of examples online of how to create a good business plan, but if you ask us, this is the essence:

  1. Summary of yourself, your information, your (work) experience, education, motivation, strengths, and weaknesses about yourself.
  2. Your business: what you plan to do. How will your business be named, your business in 200 words (who you're there for, what you'll offer). Why is your business better than the rest?
  3. Your community. The homework from the previous two points: who is your target audience, which companies are active in your area? Who are competitors, and who aren't - and why?
  4. Your marketing plan. What will you offer and how will you position your salon in the market? Mainly via Instagram? Do you already have a clientele? What will you offer and how often will customers (on average) return? How will you acquire your next 100 clients? What are your rates? How will customers make reservations with you? Where will the treatments take place? Will you do it all by yourself, or will you also hire staff?
  5. Financial. You've already mentioned your rates in the previous chapter, but now we'll delve a little deeper. With your pricing: what hourly rate is it based on? And is that enough to cover your costs? Will you also sell products? And what profit margin will you charge for this? (Don't forget about VAT!). Estimate how much revenue you want to make in the first year. You always make this calculation from January 1st to December 31st, so if you don't start on January 1st, you must calculate how many weeks/months are left for 'year 1'. You must also make this calculation for the second year: "year 2". Which is often your "full" first year. Include your expected growth in your "year 2" calculation as well. It's reasonable to expect at least a 15% growth in the second year compared to "year 1" because your salon should have more brand recognition by then. You can also make projections for year 3, but it's understandable that those plans may have a lot of uncertainty. In this chapter, also write about the investment you plan to make. Maybe you already have all the equipment and will start from home, so your costs will be much lower. At the same time, you may want to promote your business online, create flyers, and reserve money for replacing or repairing products later in the year. If you're applying for a loan from a bank or another lender, you'll need to provide more accountability in this chapter. If you're starting with your own savings or a limited budget, you only need to justify it to yourself.
Woman working on nails at nail salon
Make sure to research your competition

To-do list for your first week of owning a nail salon

Congratulations! After your visit to the Chamber of Commerce, your nail salon is officially a reality. You'll undoubtedly remember this day, and it's just the beginning.

The first week will be hectic, so we've put together a list of action items for you:

Open a business account at the bank

If you haven't done so already, we recommend opening a bank account for your business to track all your business income and expenses. In your business plan, you may have already decided to what extent you'll enlist the help of an accountant for bookkeeping.

Initially, you can manage it yourself and may only need assistance with your annual statement. The advantage of an accountant is that they know all the tax deductions you're entitled to, providing various financial benefits for new entrepreneurs.

Set up a good appointment system

A good appointment or reservation system provides peace of mind. You'll know exactly what to expect each day, who's coming, whether they've been there before, and when you have time for a quick coffee or tea break! Plus, it prevents double bookings (everyone's worst nightmare).

Another significant advantage of an appointment system is that it frees you up for the actual work. Many stylists have told us that scheduling appointments via messaging apps can be time-consuming (and requires a constant response).

Customers may want to reschedule or only have time to respond in the evening. In that case, it's great to have clarity from day one: appointments can be made, modified, and canceled via the booking page.

Try Vev's free appointment scheduling tool

Initially, it's wise not to start with an expensive system, or one that requires a one-year commitment or anything like that. Vev's appointment system is designed for nail stylists and completely free.

All the most-popular treatments are already on your price list; you only need to adjust them. You can also easily set whether time should be reserved between appointments.

You can customize the booking tool with your own set of business colors too. This way, the page looks exactly how you want. You can go for a beautiful pastel vibe or a bold color scheme.

Your booking page, dashboard, and all your (automated) emails will be sent in that color scheme — completely on-brand!

You can also upload an image for each treatment, write a description, and let customers book additional (paid) options and extras.

If you have a home-based salon, you can hide your address if you don't want to share it publicly on the internet. In that case, customers will only see your exact address after booking.

You can indicate online which days you're open. You can also open and close multiple times a day (e.g. if you work Wednesday morning and are open in the evening).

You can easily set how far in advance customers can book, modify, and cancel appointments. This way, you can "lock" your schedule one or two days in advance, knowing what to expect. You can set this for both making and canceling appointments.

You decide how flexible you want to be with your customers. Of course, you can always make exceptions, but it's essential to be clear about this.

Works on any type of device

It's 2023, so you'll want a system that works well on your smartphone or tablet. Vev's free system works on your computer, but it's mainly designed for your phone. This way, you always have your schedule handy and can use quick functions like blocking your calendar.

This feature is called "Me Time," With one tap, you can close your schedule for that day. This can also be for a few hours if you unexpectedly need to do something else.

With Vev, you can also receive payments. Customers can prepay, and you won't have to deal with payments in the salon—an excellent experience for you and your client.

If you already have a paper agenda, adding existing appointments is easy. This works great if you have a few customers who aren't tech-savvy. You can still add them to your Vev calendar, ensuring the time slot is blocked.

You can create a free account with Vev using this link. Your booking page is instantly online and costs you nothing.

Sign up for Google My Business

Many people search for a nearby nail salon on Google. They might type in "Nail salon Nijmegen," for example. Google looks not only at websites but primarily at businesses on Google Maps. It's free to add your business to Google Maps.

You can sign up on this page. Your business will be online almost immediately, and you can add photos immediately, giving potential customers an idea of your salon. It's smart to link to your Instagram page and list your Vev booking page under "reservations."

Afterward, ask customers to leave reviews on your Google Business Profile. New customers will see your trustworthiness and read about others' service satisfaction.

We recommend collecting at least 10 reviews in the first month. You can offer discounts on future treatments for customers who write a review—a smart strategy that will pay off.

Website or no website?

A few years ago, the answer was "of course!" but in 2023, things are different. A website is not mandatory and can be expensive if you're not tech-savvy.

Nowadays, many nail salons have three pages:

  1. Google Business Profile, to be found on Google Maps and Google. This is where customers leave reviews about your business. You can link to your Instagram and appointment system from here.
  2. Instagram page (which can also be a TikTok and/or Facebook page). To showcase your work, Instagram offers many visual options (posts, reels, and stories). In your industry, this is crucial, and it's easy (and fun) for customers to follow you. You can answer DM questions, announce availability through Stories, and share results online. Customers can tag or repost you, which is essential for friends-of-friends to see your business online. This is the way to grow digitally. A website doesn't offer these possibilities, making it less useful.
  3. Online appointment system, the final indispensable link. This is your digital price list; people can book appointments with you directly. You want this process to be as easy as possible without your involvement. It's inconvenient to be helping clients while constantly receiving messages about appointment availability. An online appointment system solves this issue. Vev's system is free, and it's wise to put the link in your bio. Customers can click directly from Instagram to your booking page to make an appointment.

As you can see, you don't really need a website. You're visible where it matters. There's a logical cycle of being found on Google, visible on Instagram, and offering appointment booking. Previously, a website was necessary. Now, it's no longer needed.

Person picking nail colours at nail salon
Offer special packages for regulars at your nail salon

Get ready for your first customer!

Now that you have the basics covered, it's time to prepare for your first client(s). To get off to a successful start, we recommend following these tips:

Organize an event

A fun way to introduce your new business to the neighborhood. Create a flyer and invite neighbors, friends, and family. You can host a nail workshop or an open house to familiarize everyone with your nail salon and its offerings. Tip: Hand out cards at the event with an opening offer. Ensure the offer is time-limited; customers must book within 14 days to receive a 25% discount on their first treatment.

Create a lookbook for Instagram

Especially if your page is relatively empty, curious customers will take a look. Make sure to showcase the image you want to be known for. Post a few highlights of previous work you've done. This also helps inspire your clients, who may not know what to do with their nails. You can tie in holidays or other major events, like Christmas inspiration, a special for the 4th of July, or Easter ideas. You probably have plenty of ideas to share with your community!

Invite influencers

Local influencers are particularly important, as their audience is more likely to be nearby. Identify who is relevant to your business and invite them for a free treatment.

Do something unique

This might be easier said than done, but think about what you want to be known for and promote it heavily! Are unique designs your specialty? Do you exclusively work with a specific brand? Mention it! Instagram is an excellent platform to showcase what makes your business unique.

Have professional photos taken

You can achieve a lot with your smartphone, but if you know someone who can take a few beautiful photos of you and your salon, it can help market your business effectively.

Offer special packages

Of course, you want customers who come in for "regular" treatments, but you also don't want to miss out on revenue from clients who may want to book you for a special occasion. Consider offering bachelorette party packages, bridal packages, or an introductory duo treatment (e.g., "bring a friend, and the second person gets a 50% discount").

Journal with pen and laptop
Never use a manual appointment scheduling solution again

Off you go 🚀

Now that you've followed all these steps, you're ready to launch your own nail salon! We wish you great fun and success in starting your salon. Feel free to follow us on Instagram, and don't hesitate to ask questions via DM. We are happy to help, just like we have helped hundreds of nail salons worldwide!

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