The beauty industry is a great place for creative minds who enjoy interacting with people. So, if your nails are always on point and you love helping others look and feel fabulous, a nail salon might be the perfect business for you!

In the US, there are around 56,300 individual nail salons and 395,600 nail technicians. In fact, nail care makes up nearly 16% of the $42.8B beauty salon market with an annual spend of $8.36B. That’s a lot of money being spent on the perfect pedicures.  

Despite the inevitable impact of the pandemic — the nail salon industry declined 19% from 2019 to 2020 — the beauty market is expected to rebound. Industry experts predict it will grow at an average of 9% annually for the next couple of years, as more people return to salons for their regular beauty treat.  

How to start a nail business

So, What Are the Benefits of Owning a Nail Salon?

  • It's quick to get started

All you need to do is create a legal business entity with insurance and a license, and you’re ready to go.  

  • You can make a great living

Once established, a salon owner only has to worry about standard operating costs. Barring the high initial investment, running costs are comparatively low. The rest of the profits are yours!

  • It’s a rewarding job

When your creative efforts make people look and feel amazing, you’re certain to come home with a smile on your face every day.

  • High client retention

Once you’ve established a great relationship with your guests, they’re likely to stay loyal to your business for years to come.  

Now you know the benefits, let's look at how you can get started.  

You might be surprised to learn that starting a nail salon is relatively simple. If you've already learnt how to create beautiful nails and you have some business know-how, you’re halfway there.

While some of the initial paperwork might seem daunting, you only have to do most of it once before you can add ‘business owner’ to your CV. Follow our 10-step checklist to start your nail salon business, and you’ll be ready to open your doors before you know it:

1. Assess your business needs  

Start by drawing up the blueprint for your salon. Consider what type of business you want to run: do you want to have employees or renters? Are you offering a budget or a luxury service? Is there a particular niche you’d like to get into?

Study your competition and make sure that your nail salon will stand out, then set your prices accordingly.

Create a detailed budget to match your business plan and remember to include some margin for unforeseen costs. Raise, save, or borrow the funds you need.

2. Choose your business name

Your business name defines the identity of your business, so ask yourself:

  • Is it simple and easy to pronounce?
  • Is it memorable?
  • Is the name too similar to another nail salon?
  • Does the name communicate your niche or personality?  
  • What will others think of the name?

Tip: remember to check social media platforms for similar names to ensure your future clients won’t confuse you for someone else!

You’ll also want to consider if a website address for your salon is available to buy (such as, and whether anyone has trademarked the name. Search your state’s business records to avoid duplication.

3. Create a legal entity

What type of business is a nail salon? Under the North American Industry Classification System, commonly referred to as NAICS, beauty salons are classified within category 8121, which pertains to Personal Care Services. This is where the paperwork comes in; it’s time to legally register your nail salon business. Depending on your type of investment and the number of owners and partners, your business structure can be a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation.

Typically, a nail salon is formed as an LLC. This protects you from personal liability and is less complicated and restrictive than the other models. The cost of forming an LLC includes the fee to file your LLC's articles of organization with the Secretary of State, business licensing and permits, and a few other fees depending on what state you’re in.  

4. Complete tax registration

The next step is to register for local, state and federal taxes. To do this, you first need an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is used for tax administration — like a social security number for your business. You can apply for an EIN online.  

The taxes you pay and the benefits and exemptions you receive will vary depending on what business structure you’ve chosen. There are five general types of business taxes, and you’ll need to check your state regulations to see what applies to your business.  

5. Get licensing and permits  

Acquiring licenses and permits can be one of the more challenging tasks of setting up a nail salon business. There are specific requirements depending on your location, so it’s important to do your research. But as a quick overview, here are a few you may need:  

  • State Cosmetology or Beautician’s License: every state has specific requirements for cosmetology. You’ll need a nail technician license, which requires completing a formal nail technician program or apprenticeship and a licensing exam.
  • Salon Business Operation License: Your business requires a license to legally operate in the state of your choice. Check with your local/state Chamber of Commerce, the US Small Business Administration, or City Hall to figure out what kind of business license you need.  
  • Salon Retail Seller Permit: If you intend to sell products in your salon, you’ll need a seller’s permit. Again, this comes under the jurisdiction of local/state regulations.  
  • Certificate of Occupancy (CO): The certificate confirms that the building is suited for your business and complies with building codes. If you’re building a new location, a review of the building codes and zoning requirements will be necessary. A CO can be obtained at City Hall.  
  • Building permits: If you intend to renovate part or all of the building, you’ll first need a building permit that ensures the space is suitable and safe for reconstruction.  
Things you need to start a nail salon business

6. Arrange banking and accounting  

Once you have your EIN, business plan, ownership, and licenses, the next step is to open a business bank account. Having a separate bank account for your nail salon business is mandatory, but it also makes accounting and tax filing much easier.  

Choose a bank that offers flexible and affordable services, maintenance fees, and transaction limits. It’s also a good idea to get a business credit card, especially one offering perks that can be reinvested in your business. A credit card will help build your company’s credit history, which can be beneficial if you later want to raise funds for investment. However, keep an eye out for hidden charges and limited offers.  

It’s important that you keep a record of your expenses and sources of income. These must be accurate and detailed, as they will allow you to track your business’ financial performance and will support your annual tax filing.  

7. Choose business insurance

If your business is an LLC or a corporation, your personal assets will be protected from lawsuits for the most part. Nevertheless, unforeseen issues can arise and business insurance can protect against some incidents and losses. Even where it’s not mandatory, it’s still highly recommended.

Different states have different mandates for business insurance, but the federal government requires all businesses that hire employees to have workers’ compensation, unemployment, and disability insurance. For information about additional insurance requirements, visit your state’s website.  

Here are six other common types of business insurance you might need:

  • General liability insurance
  • Product liability insurance
  • Professional liability insurance
  • Commercial property insurance
  • Home-based business insurance
  • Business owner’s policy

8. Pick a space and set it up

Back to the fun stuff! Choose the right location for your budget, while considering ease of access and how many people might walk past your space regularly. It’s also worth noting if there are many other nail salons in the area.

Create a great ambience in your salon by choosing the right equipment, lighting, and furniture. Then connect with reputable brands and products to use and sell in the salon. The look of your salon should reflect your niche and personality.

Read more: 6 salon interior design tips for 2022

9. Find the right staff

Before you begin the hiring process, make sure your payroll system and employee benefits are set up and your workspaces and equipment are ready for use.  

The skills and personality of your nail technicians can make or break your salon’s reputation, so hire carefully. Find providers who’ve taken qualifying examinations in State Approved Cosmetology or Nail Technician Programs, and who have valid, up to date licenses and prior hands-on experience (no pun intended). Ask for recommendations from previous employers or from their regular guests.  

Above all, ensure your employees are personable, talented, and trainable.  

Tip: here are eight ways to support your staff to maximize their success.

10. Let people know you’re open  

The nail salon business is highly profitable, but it’s competitive too. Here are a few marketing techniques to help you attract and retain guests. You can also:

  • Advertise in local media announcing your opening and promoting your services
  • Participate in local events to improve visibility
  • Sponsor local events that cater to your target audience
  • Invest in billboards and posters
  • Create a great-looking website that makes you easy to find on Google
  • Make a business listing to appear on search engines
  • Run targeted paid ads on Google
  • Update your social media frequently with relatable content
  • Use email and SMS marketing to keep in touch with guests

Discover more must-have marketing strategies for salons.

Now you’re all set! What happens next?

Once your nail salon is up and running, you’ll need to focus on maintaining a smooth operation. Staff management is crucial for preventing errors and ensuring your guests remember your business for all the right reasons. Here are some tips to keep in mind:  

  • Communicate effectively: A good salon is known for impeccable service and quality. Each team member needs to understand their role, responsibilities, and creative freedom. Build a culture of clear and thoughtful communication, even when things don’t go as planned.  
  • Take care: Nail services are precise and labor-intensive, and some, like the application of gel and acrylic nails, are also complicated. Ensure that your staff are careful to avoid any incidents that might cause distress or injury.  
  • Lead by example: A good salon owner embodies the qualities they expect to see in their team. Set a precedent that motivates your team to bring their A-game every day.
  • Utilize technology: A great salon management software will manage appointments, schedule staff intuitively, track inventory, and handle payments. It will prevent mix-ups and save you time – allowing you and your staff to spend more time doing what you do best; beautiful nails!

Key Takeaways  

Every business comes with some element of risk, but with thorough market research and thoughtful preparation you can start your own salon with confidence.

When it comes to keeping your salon running smoothly, let Zenoti handle it for you! Our extensive experience of salon workflows makes us the go-to all-in-one nail salon management software.

Emily Martin
Zenoti Copywriter
A self-confessed bookworm with a passion for languages and weaving together words. Happiest when immersed in nature, either on horseback or skis, or curled up with a good thriller. Emily's writing focuses on sharing trends and insights impacting the beauty and wellness industry.
Emily Martin
Zenoti Copywriter
A self-confessed bookworm with a passion for languages and weaving together words. Happiest when immersed in nature, either on horseback or skis, or curled up with a good thriller. Emily's writing focuses on sharing trends and insights impacting the beauty and wellness industry.

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Cullie Poseria
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Fitness
Coming from a healthcare family, growing up as a competitive athlete, and being trained as a filmmaker, and MBA, Cullie brings diverse experience to her storytelling and digital business-to-business product marketing. Her writing focuses on sharing trends and insights from her experience in software, entertainment, wellness, and fitness.

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