Nail Techs Reveal Best Advice for Younger Selves


You’ve heard the old adage, hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, we can all identify a piece of advice that might have proved beneficial—if only someone had told us so (or if we only had listened!). We at NAILPRO wondered: If techs could go back in time, what would they say to their just- starting-out selves? Thirteen nail pros pondered this deep thought—and here’s what they had to say.

nail-tech-advice[Image: L – R Jessica Washick, John Hauk, April Johnson, Gino Trunzo]“My first pro gig was painting nails at pop-up salon MoMA PS1 with Vanity Projects, a famed nail and video-art studio in Manhattan. I knew I’d be executing manis inside the museum’s Confettisystems installation next to serious nail art heavy-hitters over whom I’d long obsessed on social media, and in anticipation I made myself sick with nerves. I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. the night before, perfecting my nail menu and worrying about what to wear, what to say and how my hands might shake so hard I’d fail before I even began. But as the day progressed, my anxiety eased. So, I’d go back and quiet my nerves by telling myself to focus on the work. We don’t trust ourselves when nervous, and self-confidence is key to creating great designs.” —Jessica Washick, nail technician and blogger, New York, NY

“The best bit of guidance that comes to mind? Slow down. Take your time. I set a lot of goals, both short- and long-term, and then tried to get them all accomplished in one week. That left me feeling stressed out and high strung. I’d tell young John to relax and not sweat the small stuff. Work hard, but be sure to enjoy life. Over time, career milestones will fall in place.” —John Hauk, president of Royalty Beauty, Cincinnati, OH

“Learning to believe in myself as a nail pro required time. At first I took all criticism to heart. So, I would tell that young tech, ‘It’s fine if cranky clients don’t return. You can’t please everyone. As long as you’re kind, proficient and working to the best of your abilities, you’re going to feel like a personal success.’” —April Johnson, nail technician at Fabulous Nails at The Total Look, Emmitsburg, MD

“Fear holds us back. I would have nudged myself to stop worrying about what colleagues thought and quit comparing my skills to those of other artists. These types of anxieties deter pros from their proper paths. My weaknesses and strengths are my own. Being with Essie taught me to embrace my mistakes and let life naturally unfold. That’s how we become the best possible versions of the people we are meant to be.” —Gino Trunzo, assistant vice president of education at Essie, New York, NY

nail-technicians-advice[Image: L – R Nina Park, Karen Hodges, Jill Wright, Tracey Reierson]“Some of my adventures in this industry made me feel invincible, while others left made me questioning my abilities. Given the chance, I encourage my young self to appreciate every learning opportunity and turn each experience into a lesson. Also, figure out how to light [photography] and edit social-media posts! Take classes at a community center or local college to master those essential skills.”— Nina Park, editorial nail artist, Boston, MA

“I was too available in the initial years of my career: coming early, staying late, working days off. The only answer people heard from me was ‘yes.’ Then, I went through a taxing period and uttered my first ‘no,’ to which a client replied ‘OK.’ I was shocked! I wish I’d stood my ground earlier, so I
would let myself know that it’s important to set boundaries. Customers want and appreciate that which they perceive to be a little precious. Once I figured out my time was valuable, clients started feeling the same way.”—Karen Hodges, concierge nail technician and online educator at Nailcare
Academy, Fort Myers, FL

“To young Jill, I’d say, ‘Think like a business woman to create a career path. Use your existing client base to recruit more likeminded customers, and let go of the bad ones before they suck the joy from doing nails!’ It’s essential not to wander through your youth polishing nails without a long-term goal, because that’s wasted time you can’t get back. There’s less risk for burnout and thus greater chances to succeed when you’re a fresh newbie.” —Jill Wright, owner of Jill’s—A Place for Nails, Bowling Green, KY

“Remember: This is a business. That’s what I would have told myself when first starting as a nail tech. We’re very fortunate to have jobs we love, but this is how we pay for health insurance and put food on the table, which means we must get compensated for our services and not give work away. I’ve watched too many talented techs quit because they didn’t understand how to make a living doing nails. I’d also advise my newbie self to never chew gum while painting a pedicure. I learned that one the hard way!” —Tracey Reierson, director of education at Young Nails, Buena Park, CA

nail-tech-tips[Image: L – R Laura Merzetti, Nikki Payton, Natalie Minerva, Shiori Durham, Rita de Alencar]“If I could do it all again, I wouldn’t jump from product line to product line, hoping the next item might magically solve my application or lifting problems. Instead, I’d invest that money in education to continuously improve my existing services. Such action will cut months—if not years—off a beginner’s learning curve, preparing the tech for a lasting career in this ever-shifting industry.” —Laura Merzetti, owner of Scratch My Back Nail Studio, Ajax, ON, Canada

“Learn how to navigate social media and jump on that bandwagon early. That’s the tip I’d share with my just-starting-out self. Then remember to take photos of your creations and learn new tricks—or pitfalls to steer clear of—by following the work of other techs.”—Nikki Payton, nail technician at Nail It! Pro Nail Studio, Medford, OR

“Looking back, I’d give myself three pieces of advice. First, don’t respond to negative Instagram comments. What’s the point? My current rule of thumb: block and delete the haters. Second, don’t work too much for free. Promotions are great, but they won’t pay the bills. Finally, be collaborative with fellow techs. If someone mimics you, try not to get offended. Imitation means they love your work. Just enjoy the fact that you get to be an artist at your job every day.”—Natalie Minerva, celebrity nail artist and owner of Nail Swag, Los Angeles, CA

“When I was 19 years old, I got my first job working at a luxury salon and nail school. I was very skilled, but didn’t have much self-assurance, and that made my customers uneasy. My students, likewise, didn’t always listen because I couldn’t project confidence while teaching. It got to the point where I didn’t enjoy going to work because I felt so stressed. Entering—and winning!—competitions helped me gain my poise, but I’d still like to tell that girl to believe in herself and be less timid.”—Shiori Durham, nail technician at eN Salon Musée, Bellevue, WA

“Be on time and hire a good accountant. Those are the best lessons I could impart. It takes effort to build relationships and trust, and being reliable and prompt are traits that will get you rehired. Keeping people waiting reflects poorly on you as a professional. Equally important is knowing where you stand financially. Setting up monetary goals, devices for compensation and employee bonus incentives are crucial to any future business success.”
—Rita de Alencar Pinto, founder and CEO of Vanity Projects, with locations in New York, NY and Miami, FL

–by Francesca Moison

This article was first published in the October 2017 issue of NAILPRO

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