The My Freelance Story interviews are a chance for us to celebrate and share stories from the world of self-employed careers. Gain inspiration and advice from a wide range of creative people who work for themselves, at various stages of their journey.
We spoke to freelance nail technician and the founder of Parlour de Hun Jade Conneely about her journey from nail technician to running her own self-employed business, and she shares her advice for anyone thinking about becoming a freelance nail technician and starting up their own beauty business.
How long have you been self-employed? What were you doing before?
I’ve been self-employed for a few months now and before that, I was working in a beautiful hair salon doing nails. So far I’ve been enjoying finding new clients, meeting new people, and having the freedom to offer the services I want.
Why did you choose to become a nail technician and build your own business?
I actually have my own small jewellery business too, and I think before I started that I never really realised how practical I enjoyed being. I studied art and had worked in galleries in Berlin, but I was mainly office-based and even my art practice was performance-based so it was rare that I actually worked with my hands. After leaving Berlin I returned home to the UK and began a marketing career; again this was really office-based and while you could argue it was creative, I was in corporate so really it wasn’t. I had always been interested in fashion and styling but not enough to commit to studying it. Later down the road during the COVID pandemic, I was thinking about my career and it suddenly dawned on me, doing nails would genuinely be my dream job: social, practical, creative and fashion and beauty based – as well as getting to make people feel good (I am a very social being).
What does your typical day look like?
As I’m only starting out with being self-employed I have another part-time job two days a week, so most days I’m rushing home to take evening clients or planning and preparing content to get new clients in between clients on my nail days.
What kind of skills are needed to do your role? And would you say you need specific training to do what you do?
You do need a qualification and insurance before you can even think about offering nail services, but really you need passion and dedication. Like with learning any skill, crafting the perfect nail takes time and practice. You also need to be socially intelligent and work well under pressure, along with being creative so that you can offer up suggestions – for example creating the perfect shape, length, and design for a client based on their personality and job is actually not as simple as it sounds.
How do you tend to find clients?
It’s probably not much of a surprise that most of my clients come from social media, mainly from Instagram as well as friends of clients. I think when it comes to nails, people will either go to a ‘fast nail bar’ which is cheap and doesn’t offer good quality service or they will be loyal to their beautician, so I think gaining clients from a referral or word of mouth speaks volumes and is a great way to gain clients as it’s really about trust.
If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
Network: Having a small network of other beauticians, hairdressers and nail techs has been really useful for me. As I’m still starting out it’s great to have colleagues in the industry who can offer up genuine help and advice from their lived-in experiences as well as words of encouragement. So even if you don’t have that locally, social media is always a great place to build your network.
Social media: …Which brings me to my next point. While social media can be utterly time-consuming and really distracting from IRL events, it’s where I get all my clients and I can showcase my portfolio in the same space. It’s also a great education tool – not sure how to improve on a technique? You just know there are thousands of tutorials out there to help.
Creativity: I think a creative mind always wants the next thing, to understand how things work, or isn’t maybe linear – well I’m not anyway! So, I think being creative has really helped me from really wanting to understand the science of nail structures, to building a nail, to designing it, to trying out different products and techniques, to creating content – the list really is endless and is actually pretty fun. I love waking up and thinking – OK I want to do nails, I want to learn this design or technique, to improve on this or explore a new idea.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Although going self-employed straight away from gaining a qualification might seem to be the easiest thing as you have the freedom to do it, I did really enjoy working in a salon environment. I enjoyed learning from other professionals and keeping up to date with salon best practices and standards. So, I’d recommend gaining some salon experience before flying solo, then you can also cherry-pick elements that you want to bring from what you’ve learned in a professional environment into your own business.
What’s the best thing about being freelance?
Ultimately, I love knowing that most of the money I charge for each appointment goes straight into my pocket. I also love being able to pick my own clients and grow my clientele in the way that I like. It’s so, so lovely when clients come back time after time, and I especially love building friendships with them over time – to me, that’s really special and probably the best perk of my job.
Want to read more inspirational stories from freelancers across a variety of industries and sectors? Try previous interviews;
- My Freelance Story: Freelance Coach Jenny Stallard
- My Freelance Story: Virtual Assistant Louise Richman
- My Freelance Story: Photographer Jak Spedding
- My Freelance Story: SEO Consultant Steve Morgan
- My Freelance Story: Journalist Thomas Hobbs
- My Freelance Story: Writer and Marketer Dan Thornton
- My Freelance Story: Content Creator Liz Randell
If a similar self-employed business appeals to you, check out our guide on how to become a freelance makeup artist, hair stylist or model. And you can get support and help if you’re starting out with self-employment, or still in the early stages of building your career, with the IPSE Incubator.