Tattoo Business – Secrets To Success

The tattoo industry has been growing rapidly the past few years - and is expected to continue, making it a great time to jump in.

In this article, we’ll explain how to:

  • Start a new tattoo business
  • Make more money through expanding your services
  • Improve your tattoo business’ performance

What Makes A Tattoo Business Successful?

While a successful tattoo shop can’t be boiled down to one key factor, there are a few things shop owners need to do:

1

Find a stellar business location

Before you fall in love with a location, you need to check your state and county rules. They will have specific standards about zoning, the tattoo studio layout, ventilation, signage, etc.

Places with high foot traffic, easy parking access, nearby businesses that attract your potential customers like bars and restaurants are all good indicators that you’re picking a great spot.

tattoo shop business

Before opening a tattoo shop, check out the tattoo studios around you. Even if you are the best artist on the block, the more tattoo shops you have nearby, the harder it will be to get clients, as many of them will already be loyal to a certain artist or shop. That’s not to say you can’t create a successful tattoo business there, but too many shops can make it difficult to keep consistent business coming in the door.

Note

Many tattoo artists think having a shop in a big city will mean easy money because there are so many people there. In reality, all the best artists are in big cities, and the competition is much harder. In smaller towns of 50,000-100,000 people, the competition is low, but there are still enough people in the area to keep all the tattoo artists in the shop busy all day, every day.

2

Hire other people

It’s tempting to go it alone to cut down on costs at the beginning. But hiring a part-time bookkeeper to help with accounting and getting someone to work the front desk or counter (at least during your busiest times) will save you time and money in the long run.

tattoo shop owner writing a business plan

Sponsoring (and showing up at) community events and posting on social media platforms are great ways to build a presence on your own. However, outsourcing your marketing can be incredibly helpful. Hiring a marketing company may be a frustrating up-front cost, but the clients they bring in can be well worth the investment.

3

Treat your shop like a business

Being your own boss is an exciting journey. But when it comes to owning a business and employing friends while creating a relaxed atmosphere, there’s a fine line. 

While you certainly want to enjoy the people you work with and allow for a creative environment, you’ll want to be real with yourself about which friends might slack off and who might take advantage of an “easy-going” shop to avoid paying bills. 

You’ll also need a solid business plan (keep reading!).

How Tattooing Businesses Are Different

When it comes to how to start a tattoo business, you’ll find that it’s very different from how you start in any other industry.

The Up-front costs are higher

Most small businesses can get by with cheaper materials, computers, etc. This is not the case with tattoo shops. You need high-quality tattoo machines and materials to make your best work. Without them, you risk your shop going under altogether. 

tattoo machine used by professionally trained tattoo artists

If you’re thinking about beginning in a private studio space in your home to save money, check your state and county regulations. Some places allow this practice, while others will permanently ban your tattoo license. 

You can expect the initial equipment expenses to between $5,000- $25,000 for a fully outfitted shop. (This gap is so large because rent and materials depend on your area, and many shops hire artists that already have their own machines and equipment.)

Pro Tip:

Set up a business bank account as soon as you can. This helps you keep your personal expenses separate from the money you put into new tattoo equipment, paying other tattoo artists, and other expenses related to your business growth. This will also make things easier for you come tax time.

Expanding is Easier

Lots of small businesses have to narrow their focus to one type of service, or even one type of product. Tattoo shops, however, have a lot of built-in opportunities for expansion because many members of the tattoo community are also interested in piercing, art, etc.

ear piercing at a tattoo parlor

Piercing:

Tattooing and piercing go hand-in-hand. Hiring a piercer to work in your space is a great way to offer potential clients another service they’ll probably be interested in.
tattoo art created by tattoo artist

Artwork:

People who get tattoos are - to an extent - interested in art. Selling local art, prints of designs from the shop, and clothing or stickers representing your shop will get a good amount of attention, especially when clients are sticking around for a few hours to get tattooed.
tattoo artist numbing cream

Aftercare:

Additionally, tattoos and piercing require careful aftercare. Selling products to help them do that in-house takes away the hassle of searching out products after they leave the shop and brings additional income for your business.
tattoo removal procedure at a tattoo shop

Laser Tattoo Removal:

Some of your clients will have tattoos they want to cover up. In some cases, getting them removed first is the best bet. Being able to offer laser tattoo removal to clients is a great way to provide all the services they need in one place - making it much easier for them to pick you over another shop.
tattoo artist tattooing permanent lip liner

Cosmetic Tattooing:

Offering cosmetic tattooing services opens up an entire new market for your shop. Some people won’t want body art, but they’ll want cosmetic tattooing to apply semi-permanent makeup.
tattoo business logo

Merch:

Merch is easy to produce and clients walking around wearing your logo can assist in marketing. T-shirts, hoodies, and stickers are an easy way to appeal to your customers, and it’s an easy add-on “souvenir” to their tattoo session. 

Engaging with the community around you will not only spread the presence of your shop through word of mouth, but you’ll also get a stronger sense of what other services could benefit them most.

Why You Need A Tattoo Business Plan

The tattoo industry has steadily grown over 3% each year since 2016, and is expected to grow another 6.6% in 2021. That means a lot of new customers - but also more new shops. Having a business plan prepared before you open will help your shop stand out from the beginning, putting you above the competition. 

tattoo artist writing a business plan

Your business plan will help you figure out where to find customers, decide on a budget, and clarify your goals and values as a shop.

Get a Business Plan for Your Own Shop Inside the 2-Week Studio Course

Almost every tattoo artist dreams of opening their own successful tattoo studio…but most never do. That’s usually because it feels like opening a shop takes too much money or too much time. 

But it doesn’t have to. Inside the 2-Week Studio Course, our Professional Tattoo Artist Instructor, Brandon, takes you along for the ride as he opens his third studio in 2 weeks for less than $5K so you can do it too:

  • Find a Good Studio Location on a Budget

Zoning regulations, realtors, and local competition can make finding a studio location overwhelming. We’ll show you how to find the hidden gems so you can start your shop in a location that’s surrounded by customers without paying a fortune.

  • Skip the Frustrating Legal Research

Opening a shop usually requires weeks of difficult research and searching through legal codes. Instead, just get step-by-step instructions on how to handle:

  • Business Registration
  • Insurance
  • Shop Health and Safety Regulations and Renovations
  • Tattoo Shop and Artist Licensing
  • Health and Fire inspections
  • Host a Grand Opening that Makes $1K Your First Day

Part of opening a successful tattoo shop is getting customers through the door. We’ll explain the best way to make $1K your first day and get your artists booked out so you can make a return on your investment fast.

Get our easy-to-follow social media templates and customer forms that show clients they can trust you as a professional:

Ready to get the roadmap to opening your own tattoo studio?

Click here to join Tattooing 101’s 2-Week Studio Course.

Useful Articles For Tattoo Business Owners

Tattoo business management is complicated. Whether your tattoo business is still a growing idea, or you’re looking for advice before expanding, these guide-style articles will give you the tips you need to take the next step.

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AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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