You should care about your clients as people. Having that personal connection with certain clients is one of the most enjoyable parts of being in the beauty industry. And part of being a professional is acting friendly and courteous to clients, asking about their kids, swapping stories about vacations, etc. But because they pay you, the nature of the relationship is—and has to be—different from a friendship.
I try to keep my professional face and not share extremely personal things. But I confess my sins: My clients know that I'm married, have two kids, two cats and am originally from California. But this is where I draw the line; after these personal tidbits, I quickly turn the conversation back on them and ask about their lives. This puts them at ease and helps them feel like part of the conversation rather than a captive audience. I consider this being friendly. Developing a friendship is a whole different story.
So, there is friendly, and then there is friendship. Friendly clients are the ones who follow their nail techs on Twitter, Facebook or personal blogs and comment when they have something to contribute to the conversation. Being friendly is a client who sends a quick email just to see how you're doing rather than to make an appointment. On the other hand, friendship involves hanging out on the weekends and discussing personal issues, maybe inviting a client to dinner after work.
So what's the problem? Combining friendship with a business relationship limits prosperity. If a friend cancels her appointment with you at the last minute, will you send her a bill? No! This is because friends treat you like a friend, not a professional nail technician—and you'll treat them as a friend rather than a client. So even when a friendly professional relationship turns into a genuine friendship, you need to consider business first and friends second.
No matter what your opinion is on the importance of professional friendships, one rule is clear: you should never be friendly as a tool to grow your business. Friendship should come from genuine feelings. In any case, it will remain a one-way friendship if you use it to manipulate your earnings. Remember, your client is smart. Just like a bad set of nails, it's obvious when it's fake. But this works the other way, too: Be aware that if every time you hear from the client they are asking for a favor, then the relationship is not a true friendship.
In the end, maintaining a professional friendship can be like navigating a minefield. But as long as there is a complete understanding between you and your client of when to be professional and when to be friends, it can be navigated—with no surprise explosions!
Jill Clark is a veteran nail technician and freelance writer in Southeastern Michigan.