How to Start a Nail Salon: Cost and Profit Margin in This Business

Nail salons are profitable businesses that cater to practically everyone. Although getting manicures and pedicures are technically luxury items, most women (and some men) consider it an affordable luxury, and sometimes even a necessity depending upon their job and personal tastes. Opening your own nail salon takes some work and knowledge, but can be a great investment and career.

Types of Nail Salons

Before you embark on starting up your own salon business, consider the different types of salons first. Depending upon your budget and schedule, you may want to start off gradually first, and branch out as you become more successful.

  • If you are just starting out and don’t have a lot of funds or clients, consider a mobile salon. With a mobile nail salon, you take your supplies to a customer’s office or home and provide your services at their convenience and comfort.
  • A home office salon is another option if you are light on funds. Running a salon out of your home cuts out a lot of overhead costs and can be a great stepping stone until you are ready to expand.
  • Buying into a franchise will give you the advantage of a brand name and reputation but it will also cut into your profits and limit your abilities. Franchises offer training and help setting up equipment, but they limit the way you can market and the vendors you can use.
  • If you have the knowledge and funds available, a retail store may be the answer for you. Choose your location carefully so that your store is visible and easily accessible.

The Business Plan

  • A business plan will be needed before you do anything else. The business plan is your guide from start up to projected expenses and profits.
  • If you are planning on obtaining funding to start up your salon, you will need a well-written business plan to show to the banker or broker.
  • Business plans keep you on track and help you reach your five, ten and fifteen year milestones.


  • Once you have decided upon they type of salon you are going to have, and the budget you have to work with, you will need to obtain the proper paperwork.
  • Licenses vary depending upon the state, county and type of business. Be sure to check with your local Chamber of Commerce to discover the exact type of license(s) you will need.
  • Insurance is a must have in the salon business. As with licenses, the type of liability and other insurance requirements depend upon your business variables. Contact an insurance agent to discuss your needs and requirements
  • Another must have piece of paperwork is a permit, or permits. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or permit departments to see what kind of operating and other type of permits you will need for your salon.


  • Observe nail salons in your area. Visit them and study their operations, the type of equipment and products they use and their prices. Do they have packaged deals that attract customers that you can utilize?
  • Offer coupons and discounts to surrounding businesses to help promote your salon.
  • Go to fashion shows and other community events where you can set up a display booth to advertise.
  • Perhaps you can even advertise home parties where you go to a customer’s home and provide manicures and pedicures for them and their guests. Be sure to have a variety of nail polishes and other products to sell to the guests.

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