How Do Nail Salons Pay Their Employees?

Nail salons have become a staple in the beauty industry, and many people rely on them for their regular manicure and pedicure needs. However, have you ever wondered how nail salons pay their employees? In this article, we will explore the different payment models that nail salons use and their benefits and drawbacks.

Types of Nail Salon Employees

Before we dive into payment models, it’s essential to understand the different types of employees in nail salons. Typically, nail salons employ three types of workers: nail technicians, estheticians, and front desk staff.

Nail Technicians: Nail technicians are licensed professionals who specialize in nail care, including manicures, pedicures, and acrylic nails. They are responsible for performing services for clients, such as cleaning, filing, and polishing nails.

Estheticians: Estheticians are licensed professionals trained to provide services that improve the health and appearance of the skin, such as facials, waxing, and other skincare treatments. Some nail salons employ estheticians to offer additional services to clients.

Front Desk Staff: Front desk staff is responsible for scheduling appointments, answering phone calls, and greeting clients when they arrive at the salon. They provide customer service and ensure that the salon runs smoothly.

Each of these employees has a unique role in the salon, and their payment models vary depending on their job duties.

Payment Models in Nail Salons

Nail salons use different payment models to compensate their employees, and these models can vary from salon to salon. Generally, there are three primary payment models in nail salons: hourly wage, commission-only, and hybrid.

Hourly Wage Model: In the hourly wage model, employees are paid a fixed hourly rate for the hours they work. This payment model is common for front desk staff and nail technicians who are not eligible for commission. The hourly wage model ensures that employees receive a steady income and is beneficial for businesses that don’t generate a lot of revenue from services.

Commission-Only Model: In the commission-only model, employees receive a percentage of the services they perform. Typically, nail technicians are paid on a commission-only basis. This payment model incentivizes employees to provide high-quality services to clients, resulting in higher earnings if they perform more services.

Stay tuned for the next two sections where we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of each payment model and the regulations and compliance surrounding nail salon payment.

Payment Models in Nail Salons (Continued)

Hybrid Model: The hybrid model is a combination of the hourly wage and commission-only models. Nail technicians may earn a lower hourly wage, but they also receive a commission on the services they perform. This model provides some stability with the hourly wage while still offering the incentive of commission-based earnings. The hybrid model is gaining popularity in the industry, as it provides a balance between stability and earning potential.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Each Payment Model

Each payment model has its benefits and drawbacks, and it’s essential to consider them when deciding which model to use.

Hourly Wage Model:


  • Provides stability for employees
  • Easy to calculate payroll
  • Suitable for salons with limited revenue


  • No incentive for employees to perform more services
  • May lead to less motivated employees
  • Difficult to manage labor costs during slow periods

Commission-Only Model:


  • Incentivizes employees to provide high-quality services
  • High earning potential for employees
  • Can be cost-effective for the salon


  • Inconsistent income for employees
  • Can create a competitive work environment
  • May lead to overworking employees to increase earnings

Hybrid Model:


  • Provides stability with hourly wage
  • Incentivizes employees with commission-based earnings
  • Can balance out inconsistent income for employees


  • Difficult to manage labor costs during slow periods
  • May lead to overworking employees to increase earnings
  • Can be complex to calculate payroll

Regulations and Compliance in Nail Salon Payment

Nail salon payment is subject to state and federal regulations, and it’s essential to comply with them to avoid legal issues. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage and overtime requirements for non-exempt employees. Nail technicians and front desk staff are usually considered non-exempt employees and must receive at least minimum wage and overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

Nail salons may also be subject to state-specific regulations regarding tip pooling and service charges. Some states allow tip pooling, while others do not. It’s crucial to understand these regulations and comply with them to avoid legal issues.

In conclusion, understanding how nail salons pay their employees is essential for both employees and salon owners. By choosing the right payment model and complying with regulations, nail salons can create a fair and productive work environment for their employees.

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