Si belle nail

You’re ace with acrylic, brilliant with builder-in-a-bottle, and a genius with gels. Your propensity for making mini-masterpieces on the nails of your friends and family has earned you quite a reputation. And every time you post your nail pics on Instagram your followers go bananas.

You’ve often wondered whether you could open a nail salon but assumed that it would be too difficult or expensive. But with the right plan and a clear strategy, this goal may be more achievable than you may think.

Opening a nail bar is a wonderful business idea for those who are creative, love meeting and chatting with new people, and have the technical mastery to keep clients coming back. If you ever wondered how to open a nail salon we’ll look at how you can do this in a way that is sustainable and profitable.

1- Write a business plan

As with any business, your first step should be to write a business plan. This will encourage you to think about important aspects of running and marketing your business including:

  • SWOT analysis

  • Competitor analysis

  • Sales and marketing strategy

  • Financial projections

Take a look at our guide to writing a business plan.

2- Legalities and logistics

In order to start a nail salon, you’ll need to contend with certain legalities and logistics. The most pressing of these is getting qualified to work on paying customers’ nails.

Frustratingly, there is no single recognised qualification for nail technicians across the UK. Indeed, some salons can (and do) employ uncertified technicians. However, if you want to know how to start a nail salon of your very own, the first step lies in obtaining certification.

However, according to the National Careers Service website it is generally recommended that aspiring salon owners get one (or more) of the following accreditations from their local nail academy.

  • level 2 or 3 Certificate in Nail Technology

  • level 1 or 2 Certificate in Nail Treatments

  • level 2 Award in Nail Art

If you intend to use an electronic nail file (e-file), you will need to complete a course in the use of this tool as it may injure clients and damage your reputation if used improperly.

You will also need to register as self-employed. Most nail technicians operate as self-employed sole traders. This enables them to pay income tax on their profits while also claiming the cost of rent, equipment and training against their earnings.

If you think you may want to employ other nail techs at your salon, self-employed sole traders can still have employees, without needing to incorporate.

Finally, you will need proper insurance to protect your business, your reputation and your clients. Some insurers offer policies designed specifically for nail techs. However, at the very least you should have public and product liability insurance.

3- Build your brand

Having sorted out the legal and logistical side of getting your business ready, you’ll be ready to move on to the fun stuff. Branding allows you to engage with your creative side and create a nail brand that is truly unique.

Building a brand is more than simply choosing a font and colour scheme or designing a logo. It’s also about deciding what aesthetics and styles you want to associate with your nails. It’s about the clientele you service, the decor of your space, and the equipment you choose.

Crucially, you will also need to decide whether you want to trade under your own name or create a business name for your nail studio.

4- Establish your online presence

In the social media age, establishing an online following is extremely important in gauging your audience and finding your niche. Instagram, TikTok and other visually-led platforms are great platforms for carrying out market research.

Who likes and comments on your posts? Are they local? What kind of services would they want if you were to open a nail salon? Would they want intricate nail art or simple French tips? What colours and designs excite them? Actively soliciting feedback from your social media following is a great form of research that can influence the kind of nail technician you want to be and the kind of stylistic and aesthetic choices you will make in your nail salon.

5- Find payment and scheduling solutions

Making bookings and getting paid for appointments will be a huge part of running your business and keeping it solvent. That’s where we come in. Square Terminal makes it easy to take cashless payments but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can also create and manage your own customer directory and run loyalty programmes for your valued clients.

Need a helping hand organising your schedule? Don’t forget to download Square Appointments, our scheduling software designed to integrate seamlessly with our payment solutions for an effortless customer experience and easier cash flow for your new business.

Square Appointments

Accepts payments and bookings with the all-in-one scheduling solution from Square.

6- Choose the right location

Having developed your skills and gained certification, you now need a space in which to open your nail salon. When starting out, it may be an idea to first rent a table in another technician’s salon or studio. There are many nail salons that rent out tables to self-employed freelancers, providing them with autonomy over their working hours, clientele and branding. You may also be allowed to customise the look of your space to a certain extent.

This may also help you establish a client base as you will have the opportunity to do appointments for walk-in clients and turn them into loyal regulars. Once you have established yourself with a loyal client base and sufficient revenue stream, you may find it easier to find your own space.

There are numerous creative and studio spaces that can be used as salon spaces. Just make sure that you will have access to:

  • Clean running water

  • Proper ventilation (as you will be using harsh chemicals like acetone)

  • A seating or waiting area for clients

  • Free parking is also ideal but not essential

7- Create a financial plan

In order to find out how much cash you’ll need to raise to get your business up and running, it’s essential to carry out a financial plan.

This will allow you to account for all the business finances that you will be responsible for managing, including:

  • Securing startup capital (for equipment, furniture, decor etc.)

  • Securing business bank accounts or credit cards

  • Understanding budgeting, cash flow, and accounting

  • Keeping accurate records

  • Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) for future planning or expansion

8- Manage procurement and operational costs

As part of your financial planning, you’ll need to account for all the costs associated with running your nail salon. You’ll need to budget for both your fixed and variable costs.

Fixed operating costs include:

  • Rent

  • Insurance

  • Utilities (if not covered in rent)

  • Booking and payment software and hardware costs

  • Equipment

Variable costs can change from one month to the next. These include:

  • Gels, acrylics, BIAB etc.

  • Tools such as e-file bits, LED lamps, nail dryers etc.

  • Marketing

  • Wages for any other techs you employ

9- Identify a pricing strategy

What will you charge for your offering? Finding the right balance between offering value for money and keeping your business profitable may prove a steep learning curve. There are several pricing strategies open to nail salons, including:

  • Competitive pricing– Find out what your competitors charge and plan your prices accordingly

  • Full-cost pricing– Work out the cost of supplying your service and add a fixed markup to ensure a profit margin

  • Budget pricing– Position your prices below those of competitors to offer them better value for money (keep in mind you will have to work longer hours and see more clients to ensure profitability)

  • Premium pricing– If you offer luxury nail art or otherwise distinctive nails, you may want to charge extra for your premium offering

10- Market your nail salon

Finally, now that you have everything you need to get up and running, you’ll need to market your salon to get more clients through the door. Potential marketing avenues worth pursuing include:

  • Word of mouth

  • Incentivising client reviews and referrals

  • Social media and engaging with the huge UK nail communities on Instagram, Tik Tok etc.

  • Local SEO, including setting up a Google Business profile

  • Email marketing

  • Leaflet campaigns to help generate awareness

With a powerful suite of tools designed for SMEs, Square can help you with every aspect of running your nail salon, from accepting bookings to managing customer directories, taking payments and establishing an online presence.

Contact sales

Contact our sales team to learn more about how Square could help your business.