. A manicurist depends greatly for her success on her personality. A manicurist who combines an attractive personality and a sympathetic manner with technical skill stands the chance of having more work than she can handle. Women go to be manicured in order to keep their nails in good order, but also because the hour they spend with a clever manicurist soothes and rests them in every way. To many women manicure is as efficacious as massage, and more pleasant, for to some people facial or head massage is irritating. The gentle though firm rubbing of the finger-nails soothes the whole nervous system, and the mere fact of sitting still in absolute repose for an hour proves a pleasant rest to many wearied women.
It is an interesting fact that manicurists are busiest in the luncheon hour, or after five. That is when tired workers come to have their fingers kept in trim, and at the same time to enjoy a complete rest before facing the evening's work or pleasure.
No girl who is naturally taciturn or reserved should attempt the work. She will find that the time she spends with her clients is nerve-racking to herself and uncomfortable to them. Spasmodic remarks about the weather, delivered with an obvious effort, serve to counteract the soothing effect of the manicuring operations. An intending student of manicure would do well to cultivate any natural talent she has for easy, unforced, and gentle, "light-hearted" conversation. It will mean her subsequent success or failure.
Manicure work appeals to women who are not very strong, and to whom hours of standing or trudging about in all weathers is an impossibility. A manicurist sits to do all her work, and at a lower level than her client, so that she need not stoop. The little rubbing that has to be done is not so much a matter of hard, physical exertion as of knack. There is a way of rubbing, and girls who rub hardest do not get by any means the best polish.
Manicure is work at which refined women should succeed, because they come into personal contact with clients of the educated classes. Indeed, the manicurist is a very live person indeed, who is called upon to exercise her personality every hour of her working day.
The best way to train as a manicurist is to do so at one of the small private establishments, of which there are so many both in London and the big provincial cities. These businesses are run by ladies, usually in partnership, and most of them
Woman's Work are only too glad to train promising girls for quite a moderate fee. Manicuring is a profession that can be thoroughly learnt in three months ; indeed, a clever, persevering girl could do so in a month.
Most ladies who start a small business in which they take a personal part do not want to take twenty or thirty apprentices. To do so would mean increasing their expenditure in every way, and coming into open competition with the big firms who live on the strength of their advertising. Ladies who are wise know that there is far more to be made in a small, personal business which advertises itself among friends than in a large one which entails an enormous outlay of money.
A small manicuring business needs but one or two assistants at a time, and these girls, instead of getting occasional practice, and instruction from others who are in reality only learners themselves, have the benefit of instruction from qualified people and the daily practice of actual demonstration.
Fees for Training
The fee asked varies from £10 to £15, though in exceptional cases it might be even less. For that sum a girl can become a thoroughly trained and efficient manicurist, also a face-masseuse, if that branch of the business is to be acquired, and when she leaves she is fully qualified to set up for herself. She can have the recommendation of a London firm, or one well known in a provincial city. She is in no way bound to her teachers, as she has paid for her instruction, and worked for them for nothing during her studentship.
No manicurist or masseuse who makes up her own creams and lotions will give away her special secrets to her assistants ; but a girl working for a small private firm has every opportunity of learning and seeing exactly how things are made, though she may not know their precise ingredients. A little experimenting and reading-up will enable her to try the same creams and lotions for herself until she solves the secret of successful preparation. The subject of creams and other home-made articles will be dealt with in a further article.
The reasons why it is wiser for any girl anxious to do well for herself as a manicurist to seek her training with a small rather than a large firm are manifold. In the first place, many girls suppose that the fact of having been trained by someone with a well-known name will be to their advantage. In manicure it is competency that counts, and competency depends entirely upon careful training and personal skill. Careful training is not always obtained in big concerns. With perhaps fifty or more students it is obvious that the training and teaching are more wholesale than individual. They have to be. And it is individual tuition that makes all the difference in manicure work.
Again, a girl who takes up manicure with a view to making money will not make it by serving her apprenticeship in a " smart " emporium where everything is sacrificed for show. The manager or owner of a big business takes no assistants without a premium and the signing of a contract, which, as a recent case proved, is extremely rigorous in its binding of the assistant.
The premium varies from £40 to £50, and for that sum the firm agrees to train the assistant in manicure, etc., and binds her to work for them at a salary for two or three years. This salary starts at 10s. weekly, and never rises above a guinea. Yet the girl at the end of three months is probably qualified to start in business for herself, and, if successful, could soon be making £3 or £4 a week.
When a girl works for a small salary in the show-rooms of a big firm she often becomes popular with some of the clients. If she were able to start for herself these people would probably follow her, and form the basis of her clientele. But, as things are arranged by all important firms, the girls pay a heavy fee, receive a small salary, and only benefit by being able to say at the end of three years that they were trained by So-and-so.
Then, also, when their training is over, they know nothing but the bare routine of manicure and face massage. They can learn nothing about creams or lotions, or the way to prepare them, for that work is not done in a fashionable show-room. So they have to start right at the beginning, and puzzle out for themselves the very things that they would have learned at a small establishment.
Making a Start
The girl who intends to work for herself must make up her mind to prepare her own creams, etc., and to keep her prices low if she wants to succeed. Home-made and pure preparations, both for skin and nails; are always attractive, and when they are used and found efficacious a customer is generally tempted to buy some, especially if they are attractively " done up" and not dear. A private manicurist will always tell a girl who goes to her for training the best places to patronise for drugs and scents, and where to buy bottles and jars and have labels printed quite inexpensively. But a big firm will not do so.
For manicure 1s. 6d. is a sufficiently high charge. Firms that charge 5s. only do so in order to pay for their advertisements and gorgeous premises ; the manicure itself is no better. A girl who charges is 6d. is far more likely to attract customers than one who starts by asking too much. Many people would indulge in manicure if they did not imagine it was a most expensive proceeding. The high charges that have become so general make the public regard manicure as a luxury rather than a necessity.