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How to Start a Nail Salon Business

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Nail Salon Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$23,225 - $44,400

Revenue potential

$85,000 - $340,000 p.a.

Time to build

1 - 3 months

Profit potential

$42,000 - $70,000 p.a.

Industry trend




Do you feel like you have some untapped creativity? Could you see yourself chatting with customers while prettying up their nails all day? Then starting a nail salon business could be a great fit.

Running a nail salon is all about pampering and beautifying. Whether you offer simple manicures and pedicures or are all about artistic design, this line of work offers a variety of niches — and one may be perfect for you!

Of course, starting any business takes a great deal of work. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place. This step-by-step guide has all the info you need to start your very own nail salon. From understanding and researching the industry to getting your business registered and making good money, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Decide if the Business is Right for You

Before you start your nail salon, it’s a good idea to scope out the industry and see what you’re getting yourself into. 

Pros and cons

Starting a nail salon business comes with many pros but there are a few cons to consider as well.


  • Many niches to choose from, find the one that fits you
  • You’re the boss — choose your clients and make your own hours
  • Travel to clients, open a home salon or rent out a shop
  • High margins and easily scalable business model


  • Business may slow amid recession
  • Inventory management needs to be a focus
  • Building a brand can be difficult and take time and money

Nail salon industry trends

When it comes to customer demand, Google searches have seen steady interest in acrylic nails over the last five years,((https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&geo=US&q=acrylic%20nails)) while searches for local nail salons have been increasing steadily.((https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&geo=US&q=nail%20salon%20near%20me))

Industry size and growth

nail salon industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

nail salon Trends and Challenges

These are some of the trends in the nail industry:

  • Most Americans still think of nail care as an affordable luxury
  • Increasing use of online booking programs or apps
  • Creative nail art designs persist, but there’s also a push for minimalism

Here are some of the common challenges:

  • Building and retaining clientele
  • Stiff competition from discount salons
  • Maintaining social media presence

What kind of people work in nail salons?

nail salon industry demographics

How much does it cost to start a nail salon business?

There are many factors that will determine the overall cost of opening your nail salon. These include the type of salon you open, renting vs owning, types of equipment, and the location and condition of your property. 

Starting a nail business could cost from $20,000 to more than half a million dollars for a brick and mortar shop, depending on whether you start from scratch or purchase an existing salon. You could save on startup costs if you operate alone as a nail technician and simply rent a booth for $500 to $1,000 a month or just make house calls.

Let’s dive into an example:

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100 - $300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Salon$1,500 - $10,000$5,750
Equipment, furniture, and supplies$20,000 - $30,000$25,000
Uniform per Employee$175 - $300$240
Website$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Total$23,225 - $44,400$33,815

How much can you earn from a nail salon business?

nail salon earnings forecast

A manicure cost nearly $23 while a pedicure cost more than $35 in 2019. Assuming an average cost of $55 for a manicure and pedicure, you could serve 5 persons a day for six days a week and earn more than $85,000 in annual revenue in your first year or two. With a profit margin of 50%, you could easily net more than $42,000 a year.

As your brand gains recognition and you get repeat customers, you could hire three nail technicians and increase your clientele to 20 persons a day, but reduce your profit margin to about 20%. This will bring in annual revenue of more than 340,000 and a tidy profit of nearly $70,000.

Since minimal space is needed to provide services you can hire multiple employees to work within the same salon. Later, you could open up another location if the demand is there.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are some barriers to entry for a nail salon business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • High startup cost
  • Stiff competition, especially from discount salons
  • License requirements and certifications

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a nail salon, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Make sure to scope out the local competition and their offerings. Doing this will help you develop and provide a better, different, or more valuable service. 

There are three main types of nail salons: traditional nail salon, which is all about manicures, pedicures, basic gel nails, and nail treatment; specialty nail salon that might focus on more extravagant nail art like sculpting nails into long claws or painting them with fancy patterns and colors; and full-service nail salon that offers the whole beauty package, from nail service to treatments for hair and skin and even sore muscles.

The list of niches detailed above may not be exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start. Decide which option best matches your style, local market, and business preferences and start moving forward. If you love nail art, for instance, a specialty nail salon might be the best choice.

What? Determine your services

Among the services you could offer are manicure, hard gel nails, pedicure, acrylic nails, nail art, and nail reconstruction. Once you expand, you could also offer waxing, eyebrow or eyelash services, hair care, skin care, makeup, and massage. 

How much should you charge for your nail salon services?

The best way to determine your nail salon prices is by reviewing competitors and weighing against your costs and services. The key, of course, is to make sure you give yourself enough of a margin to make a decent living. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

There likely won’t be one type of customer interested in your services but several. For example, specialty acrylic salons usually attract younger, fashion-conscious girls, but might also draw other demographics, such as independent professional women.

Where? Choose your nail salon location

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out a booth or commercial space. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

Choosing the right location for your nail salon is essential for attracting clients and ensuring its success. Look for a spot in a busy commercial district or a popular shopping area with high foot traffic.

Depending on the type of nail salon you plan to start, you may also want to consider the proximity to other beauty salons or complementary businesses, such as hair salons or boutiques. When selecting a location, ensure that it meets all necessary safety and regulatory requirements for nail salons.

By strategically choosing the right location, you can establish a profitable and successful nail salon that provides high-quality services to clients and stands out in the competitive beauty industry.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
nail salon rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Nail Salon Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • The name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “nails” or “salon”, boosts SEO
  • Choose a name that allows for expansion: “Glamour Nails LLC” over “Gel Nails Studio”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that set your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Nail Salon Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: A brief overview of the nail salon business plan, summarizing its key points and objectives.
  • Business Overview: An introduction to the nail salon, including its mission, vision, and basic background information.
  • Product and Services: Description of the nail salon’s offerings, such as manicures, pedicures, nail art, and additional services.
  • Market Analysis: An examination of the local nail salon market, including target customer demographics and demand.
  • Competitive Analysis: An assessment of other nail salons in the area, their strengths, weaknesses, and how your salon will stand out.
  • Sales and Marketing: Strategies for attracting and retaining customers, including pricing, advertising, and promotional efforts.
  • Management Team: Profiles of key team members and their roles in the nail salon’s operation.
  • Operations Plan: Details on how the salon will run day-to-day, including location, equipment, and staff.
  • Financial Plan: Projections of the nail salon’s financial performance, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, and expenses.
  • Appendix: Supplementary documents and information, such as resumes, legal documents, and supporting data.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to a nail salon business. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your nail salon will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.

Form Your LLC

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method, but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings, the sale of property or other assets, and support from family and friends.

Applying for a bank or SBA loan is probably the best option for funding a nail salon business. 

Step 8: Apply for Nail Salon Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a nail salon business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as, health license and permit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level licenses and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your nail salon business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

Digital tools that can help your nail salon business with scheduling, inventory and general management include Fresha, Salon Iris, and Versum


  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 


Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Social Media Presence: Leverage platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to showcase your nail artistry, share before-and-after photos, and engage with your audience through polls and Q&A sessions to build a community around your brand.
  • Local SEO — Regularly update your Google My Business and Yelp profiles to strengthen your local search presence.
  • Partnerships and Collaborations: Collaborate with local businesses, such as clothing boutiques or hair salons, for cross-promotions or joint events to expand your reach and attract new clients.
  • Referral Programs: Encourage your existing clients to refer friends and family by offering incentives like discounts or free add-on services for every successful referral, creating a powerful word-of-mouth marketing channel.
  • Themed Promotions: Introduce themed promotions tied to seasons, holidays, or popular events to create a sense of urgency and excitement, enticing clients to book appointments for exclusive, limited-time offers.
  • Client Loyalty Programs: Implement a loyalty program that rewards clients for repeat visits or spending milestones, fostering customer loyalty and encouraging them to choose your salon over competitors.
  • Online Reviews Management: Actively encourage satisfied clients to leave positive reviews on popular review platforms, and promptly address any negative feedback to show your commitment to customer satisfaction.
  • Educational Workshops: Host small workshops or tutorials on nail care, DIY nail art, or trends in the industry, positioning your salon as an authority and attracting individuals interested in improving their nail care skills.
  • Local Event Sponsorship: Sponsor or participate in local events such as charity runs, fashion shows, or community fairs to increase brand visibility and demonstrate your salon’s commitment to community involvement.
  • Flash Sales and Time-limited Offers: Create a sense of urgency by occasionally offering flash sales or time-limited promotions, motivating clients to take advantage of special deals and creating buzz around your salon.
  • Influencer Collaborations: Partner with local beauty influencers or bloggers for reviews and features, tapping into their follower base to increase your salon’s visibility and credibility in the beauty community.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your nail salon meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your nail salon business could be:

  • Provide additional services and nail care products
  • Make house calls by offering mobile nail services 
  • Complete sterilization system — hygiene will be a key customer concern post-pandemic 


You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a nail salon business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in salons for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in nail salons. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from home, you may not need any employees right away. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a nail salon would include:

  • Nail Technicians — Manicure, pedicure, nail styling and so on 
  • Office Manager — Hiring, scheduling, maintenance, inventory
  • Marketing Lead — SEO optimization, social media strategy and more 

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook.  You can also use free classified sites like Jobs and AngelList. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.

Step 13: Run a Nail Salon – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

You should now know what you need to do to start a nail salon business and start your entrepreneurial journey. You may need to make a sizable upfront investment, but once your nail salon is up and running, you can look forward to a steady stream of income.

Keep in mind, it’s important to differentiate yourself from the competition and offer a distinctive service to keep the customers coming. Offering value for money could also make a difference. With a creative marketing campaign, you can easily scale and grow this business. Now, It’s time to go out and execute! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a nail business profitable?

It definitely can be! On average, a nail business owner can earn between $40,000 – $70,000 per year. And this can be scaled if you hire employees.

How much does a nail technician make per year?

On average, a nail technician could earn between $20,000 – $35,000 depending on the state you live in. So as you can see, it’s much more profitable to start your own business and hire a nail tech to work for you.

What equipment do I need to start a nail business?

To start a nail business, you need nail polish racks, manicure stations, pedicure chairs, perishable supplies (acrylic, monomer, nail polish, gel polish), sanitation stations, and carts and trolleys.

Is it hard to start a nail salon?

Starting a nail salon can be challenging, but with proper planning and execution, it is achievable. It requires obtaining the necessary licenses, securing a suitable location, sourcing quality equipment and products, hiring skilled staff, and implementing effective marketing strategies.

How can I attract and retain skilled nail technicians to work at my salon?

To attract and retain skilled nail technicians, offer competitive compensation, benefits, and opportunities for professional development. Foster a positive work environment that promotes teamwork, growth, and open communication. Provide employee perks and incentives such as discounts, flexible scheduling, and career advancement opportunities.

How can I enhance the customer experience in my nail salon?

To enhance the customer experience in your nail salon, focus on personalized service by understanding customers’ preferences and offering customized treatments. Create a comfortable and clean environment with attention to detail in nail care services. Offer amenities such as complimentary beverages, relaxing music, and comfortable seating to make customers feel pampered and relaxed.

What are some popular nail services and trends that I should offer in my salon?

Some popular nail services and trends include gel manicures, nail art designs, acrylic or gel extensions, French manicures, and natural nail care. 


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How to Start a Nail Salon Business