How much does a nail technician earn in the United States?

In all U.S. states, nail service professionals work in salons, spas, at home, or offer mobile services (visiting clients in their homes). To work in this field you need a license. In the next article, we will discuss how to get this license and the costs involved. As of 2020, there are officially more than 110,000 nail technicians in the country. Some earn very little ($9-12 per hour), others earn decent money- (from $50 per hour and up). You may ask: why such a big difference?

manicurist's earnings photo

Your earnings are strongly influenced by a number of factors:

  • Whether you work for yourself or for an employer.
  • Whether you’re a beginner or a professional.
  • The speed at which you provide services.
  • The average income level of people in your area.
  • Your work area in which you take clients.
  • The equipment and materials you work with.
  • The state of your health.

Thinking back on myself, I would say that when I came to the United States, I started out at the bare minimum, like any beginner, and I managed to make about $10 an hour. Today, with a lot of experience and regular clients, my average earnings are $100 an hour. Thanks to this, I can avoid overburdening myself with a 10-hour workday: it’s enough for me to work a few days a week, part-time. At the same time, I earn as much as I need to live comfortably by the ocean in my beloved Southern California.

In a future article, I will discuss how to create a balanced and convenient work schedule that will allow you to have time for family, self-care, sports, and hobbies.

Would you like to earn $50 or more an hour?

As I listed above, there are a number of factors that greatly affect how much you earn. Let’s talk about them in more detail.

About working for yourself or your employer. If you work in a salon for an employer, they usually offer a 60/40 pay plan. No matter how great a technician you are, you won’t make more than $25 an hour. I’m not saying that working for an employer is bad. Most nail technicians in the US do just that: minimum stress and stability are attractive. This option is also very good for those starting out or those who just moved to the US and are looking for work. For example, I am very grateful that I was once hired by a local Russian salon, where I gained valuable experience and became more confident. However, if you want to earn more, you should think about working independently.

In a future article I will discuss in detail how to start a manicure business from scratch, how much money needs to be invested and how quickly this pays off.

About your experience. If you are a technician with limited or no experience, you have to start with modest prices. Gradually, as the quality of your work improves, you have every right to raise the price of your services. In addition, if you do quality work, you will have a growing number of regular customers, and perhaps soon you’ll have an Instagram status of “No new customers at this time!”  As an example, I started out doing classic manicures for $25, and now I’m doing gel polish manicures for $140 without design. I also currently have a large list of regular clients and schedule appointments 1-2 months in advance.

This wasn’t always the case, though. It took me about six months to build up a list of regular clients that would completely fill my schedule. Also, speaking of improving skills, unfortunately, American manicure schools are very inferior to European schools. Therefore, I strongly recommend that in addition to getting the license itself, take additional courses from Russian masters, as their services are particularly valuable and expensive. For example, I occasionally hold courses in Russian manicure and pedicure techniques, both individually and in groups. If you are interested, please email me at

About the speed of your work. Since time is money, the faster you work, the more you will earn. And fast results should not be to the detriment of quality. When I first started, it took me 2.5 hours to do a classic manicure. Now I spend on average 1.5 hours.

In one of my future articles, I will definitely share with you the secrets of how to work faster.

Demographics of your location. If you live in an area where residents have high incomes, your prices will be higher accordingly.

About your premises. It is very important that your work area be sterile, private, and at the same time comfortable. If you host at home and you’re surrounded by unwashed dishes, a dirty floor, a running dog, screaming kids who keep distracting you, and the occasional husband in his underpants who needs to look in the fridge, it’s unlikely that your clients will like it and want to return to you. The same principle applies if you are hosting in a salon or renting a private studio – everything should be highly sterile and comfortable. Then you can safely raise your prices because clients can see what they’re paying for.

Equipment for manicurist

About your equipment. Of course, clients will appreciate high-quality professional equipment and materials that do not harm their health or cause allergies. In my work, I use the equipment and materials that I sell in my online store. And although many of them seem expensive, the pros of using them outweigh the price: they work faster, safer, they are more reliable and last longer without breaking. And most importantly, my clients often tell me that they come to me because they see the expensive and professional equipment I use!

About your health. Just as in any other profession, you need to take care of your health if you want to make this a long-lasting and successful career. Make your workplace safe and comfortable not only for your clients but also for yourself. Don’t skimp on this! Don’t skip meals, take breaks to exercise, and get enough sleep. Apart from work you should make time for your family, sports and hobbies. Enjoy your work. If you do not get pleasure from work, then perhaps you have overwhelmed yourself, and you urgently need to make a change in your schedule. But if this doesn’t help, think about changing occupations – this may not be the right job for you.

Career growth prospects for nail service technicians

If you are not satisfied with $50 an hour and you constantly strive to develop and grow, here are possible ways of further growing and developing your career:

  • Studio owner
  • Owner of a salon or salon chain
  • Founder of a training school
  • Blogger selling lessons online
  • Owner of a manicure and pedicure products store
  • Owner of an online store for manicure and pedicure products

To sum it up: how much can a nail technician earn in the USA? At least $50 per hour if you follow the advice from this article, and at most – much more! It all depends on you and on your goals in life. Again, the main thing is that you enjoy your work and that the people around you are happy.

Future articles:

I will discuss all this and much more in the following articles. Please send me your questions: I really want to know what you are interested in. Then I will be able to prepare relevant articles for you, my dear readers!

In addition, very soon, I will begin making video clips of each article in this Blog. That way I can add even more detail on each topic and answer your questions live.

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Truly yours,


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