How to ask for, and get a pay raise as a Nail Technician

Nail Technician Photo

Come rain or come shine, customers will want to get their nails done.  As your customers leave smiling, you move straight onto the next client, ready to deliver more expert nail services.  However, even though you may be building relationships and bringing in more regular customers, your base salary stays the same, why might this be?  It could be because you are already getting paid highly, but most likely you are suffering from the recent economic downturns in the industry.  Fear not! There are many ways to increase your salary whether the economy is booming or suffering.

Firstly, are you currently underpaid?

Before deciding that you deserve more money, it’s important to assess the current job market to determine if you are actually being underpaid, whilst this isn’t crucial when asking for a pay raise, it will help you considerably when making your case.

Things to Consider:

Supply and Demand

The US government counted 126,300 nail salon workers in the US in 2017, which is for sure an undercount.  In California and New York alone, there were 133,338 certified manicurists.  Be sure to consider the employment rate of other salons near yours to ensure exit opportunities.  Some great places to check are SimplyHired and Indeed.

Industry Trends 

The graphs below (from Statista) show that the nail salon industry has started to become stagnant.

These numbers imply that nail technicians will most likely have less room to negotiate for large raises but do not be alarmed with these statistics.  The negotiations tips below and tips on how to earn more along with increasing your value to your employer can be found on our other blog!  Some other trends are that 1/2 nail salon employees earn what amounts to ⅔  median wages for full time workers.  This is positive compared to the 33% for all other industries in the US.

Compare your current pay with others in the industry

A big differentiator in the nail salon market is that 30% of employees are either self-employed or independent contractors (which is 3x higher than industry average).  Being an independent contractor can cause many headaches such as being denied paid sick leave, breaks, lunch breaks, and worker compensation.  Horror stories, such as having to work more than 40 hours during hot weather without proper overtime compensation.  This can lead to complications at home when dealing with emergencies.  If you work as an independent contractor and want benefits, we recommend you request changing to a full time hire in order to receive full time benefits when possible.

Making a case for your pay raise 

Having extra training, like from the Nailcare Academy, can dramatically increase your ability to ask for a pay raise if you are early on in your career.  If you are later in your career, Payscale shows that it is likely you can be entitled to a 27% increase in wages and 7% increase for being an experienced worker.  Having a great social media following as well as an active regular customer base can boost your argument for a wage increase.  Being able to differentiate yourself from your colleagues through branding and accolades can help set yourself apart too.  Try to attend local nail technician competitions or even fairs/public gatherings to show off your skills and attract new customers.  

After determining the values you bring to your salon, compare your salary range with the current market rate.  Find the wage ranges through websites such as Glassdoor which have a Know Your Worth™ salary estimator, and LinkedIn Salary with  crowdsourced data.  By giving your job title, location, years of experience, and a few other variables you can get a good understanding of the current market, which allows you to put together a report to show your manager.  A good hourly pay median to look at is shown below.

After looking at compensation, nail technicians especially should see which benefits they would like added.  The figure below from Payscale shows average benefits for other nail technicians.

Never back down from benefits, since 78% of nail technicians do not receive any benefits, gaining a few could cut your own costs drastically!  Medical protection is especially key due to the hazardous nature of the chemicals you work with.  Chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, acetone, and dibutyl phthalate can cause symptoms such as irritated eyes, skin, and nose along with headaches, dizziness and difficulty breathing.

When’s the best time to ask for a pay raise?

Once your case for the raise and compensation you want added has been ironed out, it’s time to figure out the best time to ask for your pay increase. The first step should be to find out when your company’s fiscal budget is being planned out so you can be sure your raise will be included in the next cycle.  Be sure to also keep these four timing strategies in mind:

  • Annual Performance Reviews
    • This is the most natural time for the conversation to come up.  It is often expected at this time and both you and your manager can be prepared to negotiate salaries.
  • After completing an important project 
    • By doing an excellent job bringing in new clients or with a new social media campaign/award, managers will be impressed with your recent performance and will be more inclined to raise your salary to keep you. Raises are typically a reward for great achievement after all.
  • When a manager is happy 
    • Asking for a raise during hectic or stressful periods will guarantee your manager will be short on time and be losing patience.  Waiting for these times to blow over and for your manager to be happy with recent results will allow for success.
  • Economic Booms/Salon Notoriety Rises 
    •  Asking for a raise when the markets are up or when your nail salon has performed at historic highs are both perfect times to ask for a raise.  There will be a lot of free cash available and managers will be more willing to keep their experienced staff who have helped build relations with clients.

In most cases, you should not ask for a raise more than once a year.  There are exceptions to this, such as if your employer did not give you a raise you asked five months prior, but promised to revisit the issue in another month after reviewing performance goals or available funding. If your performance and regular client base is increasing steadily each year, it is more than acceptable to ask for a raise each year in compensation for the business you are bringing in.

How should you request your pay increase?

After your case and timing strategy have been planned out you should brush up on what not to do and what to do while negotiating. 

What NOT to do when asking for a pay increase:

  • Apologise when asking 
    • Apologising shows you are willing to back down whilst negotiating your proposed salary.  You are confident in your skills and value in the first place so do not back down on the salary you calculated.  Negotiation is a part of business and there are no hard feelings.
  • ‘No’ and other negative words 
    • When discussing, steer clear of negative words which will slow negotiations down and make collaboration difficult. If you are negative or defensive, the chances are your employer will act the same way.
  • Later – “I can deal with this part later…”
    • This is for the procrastinators out there. It may be easier to avoid uncomfortable parts of negotiations by pushing them away to a later date. but this can be a costly mistake.  By saving harder parts for later, you will not have as much leverage to improve your position.
  • “Can we try…”
    • By having passive words such as ‘can’, you leave a lot of wiggle room for your manager to take control of negotiations.  You don’t want to TRY; you want to DO. Using positive language such as “I would be comfortable..”  gives more open ended leverage and calls for a reasonable discussion. 
  • Want 
    • Using ‘want’ can undercut the premise of your argument that you deserve to be paid more and instead seem as though you’re making demands.  Go into a negotiation with the facts and make a compelling case with your research and achievements.

What you SHOULD do when asking for a pay increase:

  • Be clear
    • Begin the discussion by stating how excited you are to work and grow the company, and how you would love to discuss salary.  Be clear about what you deserve for your new salary and other pertinent details.
  • Be specific 
    • Mention your desired salary and specifically outline how you came to this.  Bring a copy of your estimate you created and cite your skills and achievements.
  • Be confident 
    • An employer will be uncomfortable about giving you a pay raise if you are unsure of yourself. If you are nervous beforehand, consider exercises to help you feel more confident such as practicing power poses
  • Express gratitude and appreciation
    • Be appreciative of what you currently have at the company, you don’t want to see, unappreciative, but you still need to address your desires.
  • Express enthusiasm 
    • Sharing excitement for future goals for yourself, family, and the company is a good way to show you are invested in doing well at your job, and that you aren’t looking to leave anytime soon.

If your boss asks how much you want directly throughout the year be sure to justify the raise.  Cite recent accomplishments and quantify your value with data, awards and accolades.  Be sure to bring up the raise logically and tactfully to justify your request.

What happens if you don’t get a pay raise?

If your boss rejects your request for a pay raise, be sure to recover gracefully and set yourself up for the next conversation. Set up a plan with your boss with a specific timetable and goals mapped out for you to reach your desired salary.  If there is no way a salary can be increased right now, you can look into getting better perks.  These can be additional vacation time, a title change or more paid sick days.  It is also beneficial to ask if there is any training (paid or unpaid) you could do to help reach your goal or new assignments/responsibilities to take on that will make you more valuable to the company.

If that does not work you can still have other options.  One option is to make more money by earning more tips – we’ve written a guide for nail technicians looking to increase their tips, which you can read here. If that doesn’t help, and you are still not satisfied, look on Glassdoor or other job boards near you to find other nail salons that offer higher pay and benefits.  Be sure to read reviews about the salon’s culture too!


By having the confidence and a case pre-planned, you should easily be able to approach your manager and get the pay raise you want.  By applying some great tips such as preparing a salary comparison, finding the right time to ask for a raise, and showing confidence in your abilities, you will be able to get a raise in no time! Remember to have a backup plan if your boss rejects your initial plan, and be sure to find out how you can be able to increase your salary, one way or another.

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