AASM: Can I dismiss a difficult, picky client?


“I am a nail tech. One of my clients drives me crazy. Every time she comes in, she spends the entire time critiquing my work as I’m working and nitpicks over the littlest things! She’s nice and she tips well, but it’s annoying. I know I’m new to the business (almost a year of experience) but I hate dealing with her. I’ve earned my license and I don’t think any clients should be trying to correct me. She’s not rude or anything, just obnoxiously picky. Every appointment she’s telling me to straighten a free-edge that’s a fraction of a hair crooked or to redo smile lines that are slightly too thick or too thin compared to the others. Most of her complaints are things other people wouldn’t even notice. Can or should I fire her? How do I tell her I don’t want to put up with her anymore?”

First, change your attitude. Fast.

Generally, I’m the kind of professional who preaches the “bad clients aren’t worth having” mantra, dancing to the beat of my friend Jaime‘s drum, but what you have isn’t a bad client–she presents an opportunity for you to grow as a professional, and you need to open up your eyes and realize that the “annoying” client you don’t want to “put up with” is likely your most valuable customer right now.

Her attention to detail will benefit you more than you know, but again, an attitude adjustment on your part needs to take place immediately. This client has been loyal to you despite your shortcomings, and trust me, with you being less than one year out of school, you have buckets of technical (and likely professional) shortcomings.

I don’t care where you studied or where you placed in your class, at this stage in your career, you’re an embryo.

As far as I’m concerned, you’re not even at a stage where the cord can be severed. If you were working in my salon, all of your work would be supervised by a senior technician and checked for quality by management before guest check-out.

You’re right, clients shouldn’t be correcting you. They shouldn’t have to. When a client visits a professional and pays for a service, they have a right to expect a certain level of quality. In the nail industry, precision matters. The nails should be the same length and filed at consistent angles. Your smile lines should be the same width and the curvature should be identical from finger to finger. By your own admittance your work is inconsistent so her complaints are valid.

I cannot say this clearly enough: You are too new to the industry to be sticking your nose in the air like you can do no wrong.

This client takes time during the service to politely point out aspects of the service she isn’t satisfied with, tips you well, and still rebooks. There is no shortage of nail technicians, but she chooses you consistently. Take a hint. She’s trying to support your professional development. Be grateful for that.

Let’s pretend you’re my employee: The next time that client comes in, I want you to sit her down and thank her for being so helpful and so patient with you throughout your first year in the field. Tell her you appreciate all of her commentary, as it helps you not only ensure she leaves fully satisfied, but to grow professionally and become a stronger technician. During your appointments with her (and with everyone else who sits at your chair) request feedback. Give all of your clients an opportunity to speak up–many won’t do so without a direct invitation. (Instead, they’ll complain to their friends or online and never return to you.)

Asking clients for their opinion shows that you care about their preferences and their overall happiness with your work. It shows that you value them and make them a priority. That kind of consideration generates client loyalty.

I know it can be hard to deal with the type of client who points out the ragged cuticles before you’ve had time to push them or asks you for the fourth time to re-apply the French polish to fix a slightly inconsistent smile line, but those clients who demand perfection will never settle for less than your best. They will require you to push yourself to be better. They won’t allow you to become complacent or to slack off. Those clients help to create masterful technicians.

You don’t need to fire that picky client–you need ten more like her. (Unless you’re happy to continue producing mediocre work, but that’s a whole ‘nother article if that’s the case.)

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.


  1. Excellent article. She is very lucky she has a client.that provides feedback, many do so with empty chairs. You never stop learning and there is always something to learn


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