Michelle Saunders talks about her career as a celebrity manicurist.  You can find her on her website at www.manikit.com and on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.  

What do you do for a living?

I am Michelle Saunders and I am a celebrity manicurist in Los Angeles.
My job is to give manicures and pedicures to people, many who are celebrities and models.

How would you describe what you do?

My job is to give manicures and pedicures to people, many who are celebrities and models.

What does your work entail?

My work is considered “mobile” and “freelance” . I get called by an agency, or a production company and then they send me to various jobs and clients who are in need of a manicure and/or pedicure. I work mainly on commercials on TV, editorial fashion magazine shoots, and celebrity red carpet appearances.

What’s a typical work week like?

A typical work week is varied. Sometimes it’s very busy (like this week) and other times it’s less busy where I only have one client. But this week was unique, I worked as a manicurist on set for a T-Mobile commercial (for the model holding the phone) I worked with the actress Kate Beckinsale for the cover of a fashion magazine, did a seasonal advertising campaign for the fashion brand Juicy Couture and right now I am flying to New York to film a how-to video for Avon.

How did you get started?

My career started humbly in the San Francisco Bay Area. (over 20 years ago) I worked at a local nail salon for many years sharpening my skills as a manicurist. I typically got paid about $50 a day then. My career evolved into celebrity manicuring when I moved to Los Angeles, well, simply, because there are a lot of them there!

What do you like about what you do?

What I like most about what I do is the opportunity to work with many talented people, including directors, photographers, art and creative directors. I also love to collaborate with the hair and make-up artists to create and ultimate “look” for the client.

What do you dislike?

There is almost nothing I dislike about my job. But the one thing that can be challenging are the long hours on set. (Sometimes 12-14 hours)

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I am paid for my services as a manicurist though an agency. They negotiate my rate and then typically get a paycheck every 2 weeks.

How much money do celebrity manicurist’s make?

A celebrity manicurist rate varies between $0 (test shoots) to $1000 and up for an advertising campaign. It’s not uncommon in the beginning to not make a lot of money.

And those rates are usually per day. So, sometimes you give manicures to just one person, other times it’s more (like 5-10) when you are on set.

How much money do you make starting out?

It’s not uncommon in the beginning to not make a lot of money. You have to build your “book” by doing test shoots.

What education or skills are needed to do this?

To become a manicurist, you need to get a manicuring license through your state by going to a trade school or college that offers manicuring. You can also learn manicuring in Cosmetology school.

What is most challenging about what you do?

The most challenging thing about what I do was learning how to communicate with each client to make sure they get what they want and need. It is a process that can take time to learn. The more you work with people the better you become at communicating.

What is most rewarding?

The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to make people happy and feel pretty. I also enjoy working with a team to create an ultimate “look” for what they are creating.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

The best advice I can give someone who wants to lead a similar career path as I, is to practice and get really good at the skill of manicuring. Find additional education in your area. Learn to listen to what the client wants and explain to them how you are going to achieve it. Use patience in the slow times and stay positive!

How much time off do you get/take?

Time off varies and can be inconsistent when being a freelance manicurist. All the jobs are on a job-by-job basis and it takes awhile (sometimes years) to get work consistently. In the beginning of my work in Los Angeles, to make ends meet, I worked at a salon a few days a week.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

There are a few misconceptions that come with my industry. One small example is, people think that polishing nails is easy! It’s not! Try it yourself, then you’ll see it takes lots of practice and patience.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

My goal and dream as a manicurist is to ultimately have my own product line and company.

What else would you like people to know about what you do?

I would also like to share that it’s crucial to enjoy what you do. It makes any job easier if you never get bored of the career you chose. I feel my success as a manicurist is directly related to my passion for manicuring.