Career advice: How to make it as a successful nail educator

Michelle Brookes, founder and manager of the Michelle Brookes Training Academy in Doncaster, breaks down the responsibilities and benefits of being an educator.

1. Be driven to keep achieving

“I began training in a small way back in 1998 and as it developed I got my own courses accredited through Professional Beauty Direct and ABT. Now, I’m a BrillBird educator and distributor, but I also teach Government-funded courses through Skills North East.

“When I was first training with BrillBird I remember thinking, ‘What am I doing here? I’m not good enough’. I got it into my head that I couldn’t post pictures of my work online because I wasn’t ready. However, not long after that I was invited to the educators camp where I received a Master’s certificate in nail art, which is something I never believed I could achieve. It really boosted my confidence.

“Even now, I’m always pushing myself to learn. Working with beginners is so valuable, but I really enjoy teaching the more advanced nail techniques because it tests my skills as well.”

2. Learn to motivate others

“I’ve always said that being a good nail tech doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good educator. On top of having the right nail skills, you’ve got to be kind, considerate and have a level of authority about you.

“I get techs to fill out reflective journals after each session and I usually see things written down like: ‘I’m not confident enough,’ or ‘I could cry’. As an educator you have to be strong enough to say: ‘This is where you’re going wrong and I want you to try again. By the end of this course, I guarantee you’ll be confident’. Constant feedback and support throughout the process is crucial.”

3. Stay in touch with your salon roots

“Monday to Wednesday I’m based at my academy, where I teach a range of courses including BrillBird, VTCT and Skills North East. Then, Thursday, Friday and sometimes Saturday, I work in my salon doing treatments on regular clients. Even though I’m teaching a lot, it’s important that I still have that presence within the salon because it means I can support my staff and keep up to date with what clients want, which is so crucial when you’re teaching.

“Sometimes I think I take a little too much on, but it’s about being honest about how much you can actually do. Having close contact with regular clients means I can say, ‘unfortunately, I’m not available this week, but I can do the week after’, and they understand.”

4. Get organised

“It’s important to remember that you’re doing more than just teaching somebody how to do nails. You need to make sure you’ve planned the course content, have the correct handouts, have filled out the paperwork and have done the required research, as well as everything in between.

“Especially with our VTCT courses, we have to teach things like equality, diversity and safeguarding – i.e. doing treatments on under-16s and the insurance requirements – and I like to contextualise it within the industry, which means finding different sources and articles that are current. Time management is vital because there’s so much to do outside of the classroom.”

5. Share your struggles

“I always talk about my experiences as a learning technician, specifically what I’ve struggled with when I’ve trained in different techniques. I also make my learners reflect on where they’ve started and where they are currently, sitting their designs side by side and pointing out how much practice can improve their work.

“I always say it’s a journey and eventually they’ll get to where they want to be. I enjoy inspiring others to do what I did six years ago. The best thing is seeing students finally believing in themselves; seeing their work on social media and thinking, ‘I taught you that.’ It’s so lovely.”

Read Michelle Brooke's guide on dealing with abusive Instagram DMs from clients.