Your work has been reposted and recreated by the likes of Kylie Jenner, Lizzo and Vogue. How did that happen?
Tori Watterson (@tori.nailedit): “model and businesswoman Kylie Jenner reposted my work of the multi-coloured tips (pictured on the next page) at 1am. I felt physically sick –I just couldn’t believe this was happening to me. When Kylie mentioned me on her Insta Story, I’d gone to sleep with 2,000 followers and woke up with 50,000. I’ve now got more than 80,000 followers.”
Bryony Howell (@gelsbybry): “it was a surprise but having people with huge followings or big-name magazines share my work has helped me gain publicity. When I posted my gold tipped nails (pictured above), it was the catalyst for me to grow. In a year my Instagram blew up from 1,000 followers to 100,000. I now have more than 133,000 followers.”
How did you deal with the influx in client bookings after these endorsements?
Watterson: “for the first month after that, I was doing six days per week, and these were 12-hour days. I was really tired so trying to create content on top of that was a lot. Now, I only do three-to-four days per week of client appointments so I have time to process my admin and keep up with content for my Instagram. I also have a day where I create press-on nails for anyone who orders them.”
Howell: “at the start, I took on more work, like anyone who is self-employed does. You accommodate people as and when they need to be booked in and you work all hours to build your client base. However, once you’ve got those clients then you can be more strict with saying, for example, that you don’t work every Saturday or that you are only going to do set hours. It was all worth it in the end though.”
Do you feel pressure about what you post now?
Watterson: “massively. I think because I was overwhelmed at first and had so many messages from brands and clients congratulating me and wanting to order press-on nails, I went to a place where I had a creative mental block because my mind was in a million other places. So many people began looking at me for inspiration and I felt under pressure to create strong content because the standard was kind of set for me.”
Howell: “I think I never really let it get to me too much. I know some people really struggle with social media algorithms, but I think the fact that I’ve never chased it or thought that much into it has helped me grow.
“the only pressure I do feel is coming up with good designs. When I’m out and about that’s when I’m inspired, but when you’re in the same environment day-to-day, as we were during the Covid-19 lockdowns, it becomes difficult to think of new things to post.”
What challenges have you faced since gaining a bigger following?
Watterson: “I think Instagram engagement is such a big challenge. Even though I’ve got 80,000 followers, sometimes I’ll only reach 10,000 people, while other posts reach 200,000. It’s just cracking the algorithm to stay relevant and making sure your work is being seen by people. Sometimes it comes down to posting things that you’re not 100% happy with just so you have something to put out there. The nail community is amazing and supportive, but it is still competitive.”
Howell: “I feel like there isn’t too much negativity in the nail community but I have experienced comments from people who haven’t grown as quickly as me, saying it’s not about the nails anymore and that it’s just about the rings and sleeves, while others have suggested that you don’t even have to be good at nails these days, that it’s just about the photo you take. There are a few bitter comments that are made but you can’t let those get to you.”
You’ve both gone on to become brand ambassadors for big companies. How did that come about?
Watterson: “one of the girls who trained me knows the Glossify team and put me in touch with them after I’d mentioned the types of brands I’d love to work with. I’d only really been doing nails for about seven months but I got their full collection and loved it. If I didn’t enjoy working with the products then I wouldn’t be brand ambassador.”
Howell: “I recommend that techs tag the brands they use in their stories and use the companies’ hashtags to attract their attention as that helped me. I worked on my first photoshoot with The Gel Bottle Inc recently and I got to meet the chief executive Daisy Kalnina. I went to her house to shoot for the brand’s new collection, so that was pretty huge for me.”
What led you to offer training courses alongside seeing clients?
Watterson: “so many people were asking for tutorials of that Kylie Jenner nail design during lockdown, so I did an Instagram Live where people could pay to join. I feel like everyone does things differently so it’s always good to share techniques and ideas. I also did a masterclass in September at North West Training College and a tutorial for the Nail Tech Board.”
Howell: “I feel like with a one-to-one lesson it’s completely tailored to each person and you can really build up their confidence. It’s a chance to ask somebody who does the job already anything that’s on your mind.”