How to become a Nail Technician

The demand for nail technicians or specialists has surged in recent years. With households spending more on pampering, nail treatments have become a monthly ritual for many. This makes it the perfect occupation to supplement your income.

What is a nail technician?

A nail technician specialises in delivering a range of nail care services such as manicures, pedicures, and various other nail treatments depending on the specific needs and preferences of clients. They are usually self-employed or work in salons, spas, barbershops, or nail salons.

They skilfully groom, shape, and paint a client’s fingernails and toenails, while being responsible for the care and decoration of both. As such, they must possess an understanding of the biology of these body parts to ensure optimal treatment.

Nail technicians will also apply and design acrylic and gel false nails, groom a client’s cuticles, eliminate calluses and dead skin, remove shellac nail polish, provide arm and leg massages, and much more.

What are the responsibilities of a nail technician?

  • Checking clients’ hands for any skin or nail issues.
  • Consulting with clients to understand their preferences and advise on the most suitable treatment.
  • Performing manicures and pedicures, focusing on shaping nails, softening skin and enhancing the appearance of the hands and feet.
  • Providing relaxing hand and forearm massages during manicures to to alleviate discomfort, while similar massages are offered on the lower legs and feet during pedicures.
  • Preparing nails by removing old extensions or polish.
  • Cleaning and softening the cuticles.
  • Treating the skin around the nails.
  • Filing the edge and the surface of the nails.
  • Use acrylic, gel, fibre glass, or silk wraps to apply nail extensions.
  • Cutting, filing, and shaping each nail into the designed style.
  • Apply a wrap to the nails before a fitting to strengthen the nail to make nails last longer.
  • Applying different types of nail polish in the colour of the client’s choice.
  • Applying gel nails to create a glossier, natural look.
  • Using a special UV lamp to set the gel nail polish.
  • Using a stencil, or going freehand, to paint patterns and colours on nails.
  • Advising on aftercare to not only prevent infection but also to lengthen the life of extensions and polish.
  • Ensuring all tools are sanitised to prevent the spread of germs and infections and to ensure they have a hygienic workstation.
  • Provide hot oil therapy, an expensive and luxurious nail treatment that is designed to heal damaged cuticles.
  • Apply artificial nails for sturdiness and ability.
  • Make adaptions to the nail, known as nail fills, to prevent the need to get replacements all the time.
  • Apply a wrap to the nails before a fitting to strengthen the nail to make nails last longer.

What equipment does a nail technician need?

  • Nail clippers
  • Different types of nail
  • Nail files
  • Glue
  • Buffers
  • Sanitisers
  • Cuticle clippers
  • Cuticle oil

How much do nail technicians earn?

A nail technicians’ salary will be dependant on where they work. Freelance nail technicians can set their own rates, whereas in some salons, you may have to pay for chair rental. Some salons will offer an annual salary and others may offer an hourly pay rate. High end spas may offer higher salaries.

According to National Careers Service, the starting wage for a nail technician is £15,500 per year, going up to £25,000 for a more experienced technician, all dependant on experience and place of work.

Becoming a nail technician on the side of another job is also a good way of earning extra money and can be a flexible career choice. The average rates of a freelance nail technician is between £14-£35 per nail treatment. You will need to do your research in order to offer competitive prices and you should also factor in costing of products and insurance. If you choose to go mobile, you should also factor in any travel costs.


Customer service

Providing excellent customer service by ensuring a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere in the salon or spa and addressing clients’ concerns.

When clients experience pampering and attentive care, they are more likely to share their positive experiences with friends and family, which leads to valuable referrals, enabling nail technicians to build a loyal client base.

Client consultation and communication

Effective communication is important to understand clients’ preferences, provide recommendations, answer any queries, and explain the processes of treatments.

Attention to detail

Keen attention to detail is needed to perform precise nail shaping, apply polish, and create intricate nail art designs.

Product knowledge

Familiarity with nail care products and equipment such as nail gels, polishes, acrylics, extensions, and other accessories.

Keeping up-to-date with the latest trends

Keeping up-to-date with the latest products, trends, techniques, and innovations in the nail care industry.

You can do this in a number ways e.g. subscribing to beauty magazines and blogs, following beauty industry influencers and nail salons on social media, attending beauty expos and trade shows, and much more! Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with different products and techniques and put your own spin on it!

Marketing skills

Promoting services using marketing channels such as social media to attract clients.

Patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations

A nail technician will need to be patient to work meticulously, while also paying close attention to the details. When it comes to caring for a client’s cuticles, trimming their nails, and applying polish, patience is required. When things go wrong, it’s important to remain calm and not buckle under stress.


An artistic style is imperative when it comes to being a nail technician, as it’s so much more than just manicuring nails. They can use their artistic ability to sketch out new ideas for new nail art or to draw attention to specific areas of the nail. Both men and women will pay good money for this art form.


To become a nail technician, it isn’t a requirement to have a qualification, however, it will be very desirable to employers. Studying a nail technician course will help you stand out against other candidates, particularly if you have a qualification in a specialist nail service such as acrylic nails. It will improve your chances of landing a role in a high-end salon or spa.

You will also need to have gained professional insurance in order to carry out your services legally to clients.

There are many courses in nail technology or nail treatments that you can take. You can seek out local college courses or apprenticeships. You can also take these qualifications through distance learning and study alongside other commitments.

The Complete Nail Technician Diploma will give you a strong basis for both the business side of becoming a nail technician and the key practical skills. There’s also the option to add on practical training, meaning you can put your skills to the test.


The more skills and specialisms you have as a nail technician, the more services you can provide. This will make you highly sought after by salons and spas eager to diversify their treatment menus.

While it’s not necessary to master every specialisation, opting for a specialist route is advisable over solely offering standard French manicures to clients.

You can choose to specialise in a variety of different treatments including:


An attractive aspect to this job role is the flexibility it can bring. If you are a freelance nail technician and work for yourself, you can pick and choose your own hours to fit around your lifestyle.

If you work in a salon or spa, your hours are often set. Most of the time you will be required to work weekends as Saturday tends to be a salon or spas busiest day, so you must be prepared to give up some of your weekends. You should also be aware that you will be required to work in the afternoons or evenings, as this is when people book most of their treatments.

Some nail bars offer chair rental, so you are working in a salon meaning you may only receive a percentage of each clients’ money paid and will need to pay the salon a monthly or daily fee.

If you market yourself well and build a loyal client base, being a nail technician can be a very flexible and rewarding career choice.


Although most people would prefer to attend a college, you can become a qualified nail technician through distance learning, meaning you can study alongside your current job or life commitments.

Many distance courses will not only offer the theory side, but you are also able to attend a practical day to put the theory you have learnt to practice.

A number of courses offered by Open Study College enable you to become fully qualified and obtain professional insurance without having to attend a practical day, meaning you are able to upload evidence of your work for it to be marked. This is perfect if you want to retrain or study alongside your other life and work commitments.

Nail Technician Courses