Whether you’re just starting out or have been in the industry for years, part of a large salon or working as a freelancer, getting your pricing right is always a challenge, especially when it’s time to increase the cost of your services. However, it’s a very natural part of business and there’s nothing to be ashamed of, say the experts. We sat down with three experienced nail techs to chat about the best ways of increasing the prices of your services while retaining your clients.
Our panel of experts
Katie Barnes, director of Katie Barnes Training Academy and the Katie Barnes Tool Range
session tech and founder of salon Colour Riot Nails
leading session tech and educator
Why are beauty professionals nervous about increasing prices?
Tinu Bello: “When you up your prices, you naturally fear that customers might go somewhere that is cheaper and that you’re then potentially going to lose those clients.” Lee Moore: “Especially when you’re first starting out in the industry – it’s all unknown. You will have clients come in and talk about the salon down the road only charging X amount, and this leads you to look at others and feel as if you need to either match them or charge less.
“Because I was working freelance, there was also an expectation that my prices would be cheaper than salons because I didn’t have the same overheads. You don’t have the support of a salon to justify those price changes; I would even negotiate with one of my clients because she was coming in regularly. It was difficult to get past that.” Katie Barnes: “This is something that so many nail technicians and beauty professionals are guilty of, but every individual and business have completely different outgoings and income needs, which all have to be considered.”
What’s the best way for techs to overcome this fear?
Bello: “I think we need to stop doubting ourselves and fully understand why we’re charging our prices. I take into consideration my execution, precision, professionalism, products used, my industry status and even the staff I’ve employed and how much training I’ve put into them –a lot of factors go into that decision.
“When you have a clear grasp of your specific business model, then you start to realise that what you are charging is completely acceptable.”
Moore: “In the past, I’ve been guilty of not taking into account these factors. I also worked between Milton Keynes and London, so I had to bear in mind petrol costs, which go up every year, and now we all have to consider the greater cost of PPE, too. It’s all about learning what is realistic and how to focus on yourself. You need to be confident.” Barnes: “Everything relates back to understanding your worth. I used to think that the cost of a leg wax was the £1 of wax product, for example. When raising your prices, you need to know exactly how much everything is costing you. My advice is to use a spreadsheet to track all costs for each service, and then add wage, tax, pensions – everything. Then consider yourself and the service and skills you bring.
“I think it’s also great practice to write down all your achievements. Until you see it written out in front of you, you don’t realise what you’ve invested and accomplished, and this helps you understand that you are worth the price of those services.”
When is the best time to raise your prices?
Moore: “I usually put my prices up around April time, only because we’ve got past the new year and we’re coming into spring/ summer.”
Barnes: “April is a brilliant time to increase prices. At the beginning of the year, everyone is feeling miserable and no one has money following the holidays. April is when all inflation happens, so customer wages will increase. Also, think about when demand is highest – the period before Christmas is a great time to increase prices.”
Bello: “I don’t personally believe that leaving the Covid-19 pandemic is a good enough cause to raise prices. We’ve all been through that struggle together, so it doesn’t feel like it’s very moral.”
Barnes: “I agree. Only increase prices now if your costs have gone up significantly.”
How much would you raise your prices by?
Moore: “This year, I’ve put my prices up by 10% to showcase the additional training I have undertaken and my newly expanded skill set.”
Bello: “When I’m increasing my prices, I don’t go by a specific percentage, but my usual rule is charging upwards of £1 per minute.
“With certain treatments, I factor in product costs, but the only time I would increase prices is if the cost of nail products went up, my bills or rent increased, or if I’d completed more training.”
Barnes: “I would always recommend that you at least increase your prices by inflation costs annually, and then consider the other factors that will potentially affect your prices – base price, product cost increases, any increases in overheads, insurance, annual wages, national minimum wage, pension requirements, and so on.”
Do you tell your clients when increasing your prices?
Bello: “Communication with your clients is always key. I think it would seem a bit unfair if you increased your prices but you didn’t want to communicate that to them, so I would always suggest sending an email telliing your clients what you have done and why.
“You can definitely be honest with them. Tell them about the cost of insurance and overheads. Most clients understand.”
Moore: “My clients have always been quite understanding, too. I usually tell them before increasing my treatment prices so that I’m not springing it on anybody.”
Barnes: “The most important thing is being factual and to the point rather than tiptoeing around the issue. Never apologise for your choice and never ask your clients whether it’s OK because then you’re opening up the conversation to negotiation or disagreement.
“When you go to a supermarket and your favourite bread suddenly changes from costing 51p to 57p overnight, the shop doesn’t notify you. We have a different kind of relationship with our customers, so being open and honest to them is courteous, but it’s also something that is not questioned. A small increase should be expected and respected.”
What are the key things to avoid when pricing?
Moore: “When I started, I would practise on friends and family but it’s important you don’t fall into the trap of ‘mates rates’. If you’re friends with the general manager of a supermarket, you don’t just get to shop there for free. Offering a free treatment on their birthday is nice, though.”
Bello: “You can’t fault friends and family too much because they helped us with the skills we have today.
“At the moment, I offer a friends-andfamily discount for off-peak times to fill those slots. But, to be honest, if you’re my close friend or family, you should want to support the business.”
Barnes: “Filling empty slots is a great idea, and I agree that you’ve got to be careful with who you offer discounts to.
“When you increase your prices and then freely offer discounts, you’re giving the impression that your price increase wasn’t justified when you know that it was. The point of a price increase isn’t a number plucked out of the air. It’s for a reason – to cover costs and earn a wage.”