Dec 3, 2022 | 8 min read

How to start a nail salon business

This article was updated on January 31, 2024

The basic guide to starting your own nail salon

The most relaxing errand on your to-do list, your go-to neighborhood nail salon is a hub for self-care, wellness, maybe even a little local gossip now and then. The process of starting a nail salon has a lot in common with opening other small businesses, plus the licensing and trend spotting that comes with working in the beauty industry. If you’re interested in learning how to start a nail salon, this guide takes you through the basic steps without breaking a nail.

Step 1: Outline your vision

A well-polished business plan will help guide you through opening and growing your own nail salon. Start by deciding on your services, whether you’re planning to focus on nails, or including other treatments. Here are some of the most in-demand manicures and pedicures on the market:

  • Basic or express manicures and pedicures
  • Gel manicures and pedicures
  • Acrylic overlays
  • Shellac manicures
  • Paraffin manicures and pedicures
  • Dip manicures 
  • Hot stone manicures and pedicures
  • Nail art

Choose the services that you’re qualified to perform as well as more niche offerings that may give you competitive advantage. Many nail salons carry their own signature treatments, or tier manicures and pedicures to offer express options for those on their lunch break, and deluxe packages when looking to indulge. If you’re trained and licensed in other treatments, consider expanding services to include:

  • Facial and body waxing 
  • UV and sunless tanning 
  • Eyelash extensions
  • Makeup application 
  • Facial spa treatments 

Your business plan should also include your brand identity, all of the messaging and visuals that represent your business. Decide on your mission and company values. Work with a graphic designer on a logo and brand colors, and a writer or brand strategist on messaging and a tagline. 

Research your local market and create personas to represent your target clients, whether you’re appealing to a budget-conscious clientele or opening up a luxury spa. Well-defined personas fit for your local audience will help shape and inform marketing and business strategies as well.

Step 2: Make it legal

Before you open your doors to the neighborhood’s nails, you’ll need to make your business official forming one of the following:

  • A sole proprietorship
  • A partnership 
  • A limited liability company 
  • A corporation 

Work with a lawyer or accountant who has worked with local businesses in your area to help you decide which is right for you. An accountant will also help you get a head start on financial projections and taxes. 

Chloe Reed, a nail artist at Glam Nailz by Chloe in San Antonio, Texas, registered her business as a limited liability company (LLC). It may cost more than a sole proprietorship, and each state has its own qualifications and regulations, but it may be worth the investment, as an LLC protects you and your assets should the nail salon be sued.

Step 3: Plan your nail salon’s operations and logistics

Plan out all of the specific details that will help your salon operate as smoothly as possible. A good place to start is scheduling. Once your calendar starts filling up, you’ll want to be prepared with an efficient scheduling process in place. Weigh the options of:

  • Managing a traditional, pen-and-paper system yourself
  • Hiring a receptionist to take care of bookings on your behalf
  • Building a website and adding a booking widget to a services or contact page that accepts appointment requests online
  • Showcasing your services and availability on a third-party platform through which new and existing clients can schedule appointments

Next, you’ll need an itemized list of all the nail salon equipment you’ll need. Clippers, cuticle oils, and colorful polishes are just the start. Consider other important items, like:

  • The salon space itself
  • Will you be renting a booth at an already established salon?
  • Do you plan to purchase or rent your own salon space?
  • Comfortable pedicure chairs with or without a built-in foot bath
  • A shelving system to display nail polish options
  • Manicure stations complete with chairs, brushes, tools, lighting, and any decor
  • Sanitizing gels and sprays or a system to keep nail salon equipment clean 
  • UV LED drying lamps 

If you’re expanding your services to include an array of beauty treatments, you’ll need to factor in the other key pieces and supplies that go along with each.

After finalizing your equipment needs, build a budget that keeps a log of your tentative expenses including initial startup costs, business insurance, and monthly expenditures. From there you can build the framework needed to solidify the costs of your services. 

Step 4: Build your online presence 

Once you feel like your nail salon business plan is taking shape, build your online presence. You’ll want to show up when neighbors search for a nearby salon, and when a new client wants to give you a glowing review. Start building your online community with the essentials:

  • Launch a user-friendly website yourself or outsource the task to a professional developer. Make sure it’s optimized for desktop and mobile devices and that it paints a picture of who you are, what you offer, and how you can be booked or contacted. 
  • Create a free Nextdoor Business Page to turn neighbors into clients. Here you can share your story, services, salon hours, and even engage with neighbors directly through posts and direct messaging. Plus, satisfied clients can sing your praises by leaving a recommendation. They mean big business on Nextdoor, where 72% have been influenced by a business recommendation from a neighbor.

More than 75% of brands have experienced that having an online community boosts brand awareness and establishes credibility. Start yours locally to speak directly with the neighbors closest to your nail salon.

Step 5: Round out your marketing plan

Use your small business marketing plan to connect with members of your local community and turn first-time clients into loyal patrons who help you grow your word-of-mouth business. Here are actionable steps to reaching more clients for your nail salon:

  • Build an email list – Offer an in-salon newsletter sign-up or pop-up on your website to collect emails. Having emails means you can get in touch with current or prospective clients directly to share business updates, offer exclusive deals, and show off some of your best work. 
  • Set up a loyalty program – Keep clients coming back with a punch card, package deals, or something else that builds loyalty. Vanity Hair Studio, an independent salon based in Portsmouth, NH offers tiered membership packages in which members pay a fixed monthly fee for salon bonuses: complimentary retail items, unlimited blowouts, deep conditioning treatments, and more.

This clever idea could easily be implemented at a nail salon with your own membership packages offering free manicures, retail items, or spa treatments and add-ons. You could also offer a punch card that rewards repeat customers with a free manicure after they’ve come in for a set number of regularly-priced manicures. 

  • Spread the word on social media – Extend the reach of your online presence by becoming active on social media channels, like Nextdoor, which unlocks an instant following you don’t have to build up. Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are other channels that you can use to share videos, photos, and customer-generated content that showcases your best work. You can also use your social media to host giveaways and encourage bookings through a scheduling link on your profile.

Treasured Hands Beauty Salon in Boston, Massachusetts uses their social media to include details on their website and showcase different types of manicures, post salon updates, and re-share client photos from satisfied customers. 

With a free Business Page on Nextdoor, you can upload your best photos and videos right to your page, and share regular updates with free posts to those within 2 miles of your business. When you need to expand or reach more, easy-to-use advertising tools help you target clients in specific ZIP codes up to a 30-mile radius around your salon — no experience necessary. 

Jumpstart your local nail salon success with Nextdoor

When you’re ready to branch out into the world of small business ownership and start your own nail salon, tap into a built-in community that loves supporting local businesses on Nextdoor. 

Make hyperlocal connections, share your story, and announce the grand opening of your neighborhood nail salon all on your Nextdoor Business Page. With more than 53 million business recommendations and 1 in 3 U.S. households here on Nextdoor, see for yourself what the power of local can do for your nail salon business. 

All kinds of businesses use Nextdoor to grow and reach their neighbors.

Skin By Lexie is one of those businesses. When she started out in 2020 she had 50 clients - now she has 900.



Elle. A Very Detailed Guide To Every Type Of Manicure.

Nails. Nine Things All Self-Respecting Nail Techs Should Do.

Venngage. 80+ Branding Statistics You Should Know For 2020.

Fivestars. Top 10 Examples of Spa and Salon Loyalty Programs.

Groupon. How to Open a Nail Salon: Equipment Costs and Where to Buy.

Claim your free business page
Author image Nextdoor Editorial Team At Nextdoor, we love local. The Nextdoor Editorial Team is dedicated to telling stories of local businesses, providing product education, and sharing marketing best practices to help businesses grow.