Complete Guide: How to earn more tips as a nail technician

Nail Technician Photo

Nail polish brush and buffer file in hand, it’s Saturday and you’re finding it to juggle several customers in the busy nail salon. However, you know that upkeeping both a high quality of work and a relaxing environment for the client is what being a nail technician is all about. After all, your effort is directly reflected in customer satisfaction, and therefore your tips. 

Unfortunately, tips only make up about 19% of a nail technician’s median income of $13.30 per hour vs other industries where tips can account for 36%, such as a pizza delivery driver, who has a median income of $10.60.  Getting more tips can help you cover the high costs of new tools and products (and even pay for an extra vacation) if you follow our simple tips.

The nail technician’s revenue growth has recently been on the decline as shown in the figure below (Statista).  This is due to nail salons becoming less aggressive with expansion and focusing more on regulars, which in turn has reduced the consumer’s willingness to experiment with new salons (Statista).  These factors have started to affect nail technician’s tips, as more popular salons and technicians will receive more tips due to customer loyalty and continued business whilst a gap arises with less popular/early career technicians. 

Another trend is that more people are starting to do their own nails—following YouTube tutorials and buying cheap equipment online, which is cutting away from nail technician’s revenue.  However, there are many ways to attract more clientele and gain more tips, as we will discuss in this article.

How much can you expect to earn as a nail technician?

As a nail technician, tips can vary between 15%-25% of the total bill.  According to our research, 90% of customers tip nail technicians. These tips make up a portion of the average nail technician’s pay, which is around $13.30/hour.

According to US News, the overall median salary for a nail technician is $23,230.  The states that have the highest median salaries are as follows:

  • Minnesota – $36,580
  • New Hampshire – $33,180
  • Arkansas – $32,180
  • District of Columbia – $31,430
  • Wisconsin – $30,720

The states that have the lowest tips and salary are Alabama and West Virginia which have a median salary of $18,824 and $17,799 respectively.  These lower salaries reflect the lower cost of nail technician services, which in turn lead to lower tips in proportion to the total ending bills.

Tipping for nail technicians can be broken down with two main items: manicures and pedicures.  Manicures ($16-$20)  on average bring about $3.50 in tips per session, but this varies depending on the state, customer, and salon type (luxury or normal).  Pedicures on the other hand tend to be more expensive ($28-$35) and bring in around an average of $6 per session in tips (Glamour).  Research also shows the fluctuations in how much experience can play a role in getting more tips and higher wages.  In the chart below, the commission refers to the tips that can be received by a nail technician per year. The ones who display aggressive marketing and larger brand presence via social media can receive up to $24,240 a year in tips!

Luxury nail salons will usually hire highly experienced technicians who have completed high level courses in nail work, have outstanding customer service skills and a proven reporte of loyal clients.  These boutiques only pay techs about a 60/40 split of the price of services  but the higher fees translate into higher wages and higher proportions of tips.  To get to this level takes years of experience refining your skills, which will be discussed in the sections below.

Who tips nail technicians the highest?

Now we know how much you can expect to earn as a nail technician, and where you can earn the most. The question that remains is—who tips the best?  According to our research, 79% of women tip almost all the time versus 74% of men.  Demographically,  married woman and gay men are most likely to tip the highest for nail technicans.

Additionally, our research has shown that 15% of people over 50 never tip, compared to 7% of people ages 18-29.  This is because younger people are more likely to form lasting bonds with their technicians and be regular clients.

Do women nail technicians earn more tips than men?

The industry is very female-orientated with the breakdown showing 95.1% of the industry is female and 4.9% is male.  When it comes down to tipping, typically the nail technician who has a larger social media presence and more loyal clientele will receive a higher volume of tips and larger percentages.  Research has shown that tipping depends on the fame, quality, and customer service aspects, rather than gender.

Why might you be earning a small amount of tips?

If you are an early career nail technician, you might get worried about clients coming in once and never becoming a return client.  If you are an experienced technician, then you know clients leave for various reasons, such as they do not want to pay for nail services anymore, they move, or have found a new nail technician.  Some even stop getting nails because they picked up a new hobby like gardening and do not want to get their nails done just to ruin them.  Don’t take it personally though!  Even the best nail technicians lose clients due to reasons like these. To try to mitigate the loss of clients, be sure to follow the tips in the next section below.

How to earn more tips as a nail technicians 

Be Creative

  • Channel your creative talents and showcase photos of your work on your workstation wall or on social media. This will be sure to attract many customers who want unique nails. People love to stand out so make designs that do too!

Know Your Nails!

  • A great resource to learn more about nails is Nailcare Academy.  It has online courses where you can study anytime and anywhere to gain certifications. You can increase your skill set, along with gaining bullets on your resume.

Practice, Practice, Practice

  •  Speed 
    • Money will come with more clients, but be sure to work on your quality.  Many nail technician influencers say  going too fast will take away from the passion, fun, and quality of your work, along with adding more stress.  
    • A useful tip is to buy a timer and have a notebook for every step you take and write down the times for each. 
      • Make it into a contest with yourself to beat your own personal record. This makes your job more fun and less stressful whilst enjoying time with your client.
  • Using Product Carefully 
    •  When applying SNS, make sure you apply it as perfectly as you can and avoid the excess dust that can land on the table. Additionally, take your time while applying other mediums such as gel or acrylic, so you need less cleanup on the client’s nails afterwards.
      • This will save time from cleanup on both your station and your client’s nails, as well as saving money from wasting less material.
  • Try practicing by doing your friend’s nails and your own to perfect your speed and quality of service.

Social Media 

  • Social Media advertising across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin will help you get your name out there along with showing off your creations, certifications, and overall knowledge.
    • Post mini informative posts talking about the chemistry of when gel and acrylic is curing and what happens to your nails. 
      • Other ideas include: 
        • How to eliminate burning sensations and risk of damaging your client’s cuticles
        • Common nail diseases and how to prevent them 
  • Join online communities and learn what has been effective for other technicians.

Treat your clients right

  • While doing your clients nails, try to get to know them on a personal level. This helps you to deliver excellent customer service!
    • Remembering client’s names and their preferences will make them more inclined to come back to you 
    • Try to get referrals and have incentives for clients to come back to you.
      • You can offer half off nails/free pedicures after a certain amount of visits/dollars spent. People love rewards!


Become a speedy nail technician who can create unique nails with precision, and clients will be lining up at your workstation! Be sure to always be posting on social media about new nails designs, new facts, and just more about yourself and who you are.  Remember to always try to get clients to refer friends to you and integrate incentives like a loyalty punch card into your business.  By becoming more personal with your clients, you will gain a better salary from raises, tips, and an increase in cliental combined.

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