As a tattoo artist, one of your goals must be to start a tattoo business. One that is profitable-most certainly.

But the road to becoming one of the highly paid tattooists like Scott Campbell and Ami James is not an easy one. It takes patience, hard work, and commitment. Being the earliest stage of your startup, planning too becomes essential. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?

Let’s go over some of the main steps involved in starting a potentially long-lasting body ink business.

Steps on how to start a tattoo business

  • Think about location

Of course, capital comes first. But since you are thinking about starting a parlor, it means you have some stacks stocked somewhere, which is why location becomes the next important thing.

Tattoo shops are mainly for the bold urban dwellers. As such, you want to target high traffic zones-particularly where there are plenty of nightlife activities. Campuses, flea markets (swap meets), and heavily packed retail centers are ideal as well.

You need to abide by municipal rules before selecting a location to open a tattoo business. Ensure you are familiar with those regulations and, if necessary, get legal help to smoothen any possible bumps. 

One last thing about location. Urban centers may come with strict rules and steep rental charges; they are the perfect spot to get clients fast. Remote areas don’t come with so many hassles, but you are likely to witness a significant amount of customer dry spells.

  • Decide what to sell

Tattoo shops do much more than just inking. There is tattoo removal, body piercing, cosmetic tattooing, tattoo cover-ups, design work, and much more. Focusing on a few niches helps you become an unmatched expert.

The level of competition in your area should help you decide what to offer. Also, with statistics pointing out the lucrative nature of removal services, it might be worth looking into it.

Wondering how to start a tattoo removal business? Well, it’s a little complicated. Most tattoo removal laws demand the use of FDA-approved devices, laser training, safety certification, and that a trained medical director in laser procedures should handle the process. If you can navigate these regulations, then there is nothing significant to stop you.

  • Draft your tattoo shop business plan

You know what you want to sell, right? Excellent. It’s time to put that idea down into a business plan. Why? You ask. For starters, studies indicate that having a business plan increases the chances of starting a successful venture.

Secondly, most financial institutions will demand to see a business plan to support your business. As such, you need to draft it with the same precision as your tattooing skill.

Here is what a tattoo shop business plan should entail:

  • An executive summary
  • Company overview
  • List of your products and services
  • Pricing strategy
  • Operational costs 
  • Marketing strategy
  • Sales forecast and much more

Quite frankly, not many people can put together a good plan. If you feel incapable, then find a tattoo shop business plan. Templates can show you every step of the way and reduce some of the massive legwork involved in preparing such documents.

It massively helps if you have tattoo studio software to assist with your daily ops, such as managing customers, sales, marketing, and even your employees.

  • Begin marketing & advertising

You could have the best product in the world, but it will not sell if customers are unaware of its existence. Similarly, it doesn’t matter if you offer affordable services or are the most skilled artist in the area. You still have to market yourself aggressively if need be.

Do some t-shirt printing and sell them to your existing clients at a lower price so they can popularize your shop. If you have lots of bucks, why not advertise in the local newspaper or print some leaflets for distribution?

Better yet, launch your website and showcase some of your exceptional designs in a gallery. Other affordable ways to advertise your tattoo business include listing your shop in tattoo directories or asking your customers to spread the word about your shop. Be creative in your marketing efforts; don’t just stop with standard methods.

  • Get your prices right

How would you like to go about pricing? Before we answer that, note that prices are determined by an artist’s skill, tattoo store hygiene standards, economic standards of the community, tattooist reputation, and much more.

Here’s some eye-opening truth; Clients already know what your competitors are charging. This means you have to set your prices based on what already exists. If you must offer discounts and promotions, make sure not to dig too deep into your profits.

  • Get licensed to ink

Just because you are supremely skillful at tattooing doesn’t mean you can open a shop whenever you want. Some states insist on licensing ink artists after they have proved to be worthy through several years of apprenticeship. If this step is not a barrier, then you can proceed with opening your tattoo business. 

Depending on where you live, it can take a lot or less to start a tattoo parlor business. You may need to fulfill other things, including hiring a team, fulfilling all legal rights, getting all the necessary certification, looking for funds, and coming up with a great name.

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All set to start your tattoo business?

All businesses come with challenges.

If you know someone who has done this before, talk to them for guidance. They might just save you thousands of dollars in either pointing out pitfalls or directing you to a place you can buy affordable equipment.

Secondly, anticipate downfalls by setting up a safety net. This could be in the form of savings, a tattoo community, and anything else that will save your tattoo business from going under.

Be ready for the change. 

As we speak, the tattoo industry has been ravaged by the pandemic, and many artists have lost a lot. But it’s not all doom. The tattoo industry is projected to grow by 8% for the next couple of years.

See more tattoo industry statistics here.

So to remain afloat, you must be willing to adapt. This could mean jumping on board with the new tattoo industry trends or teaming up with others (shop bonding activities) to keep your talent and name alive for as long as necessary.

Last but not least, spend when necessary. If it is not yet time to upgrade your computers and chairs, then wait. There is no point in spending more when your business is still trying to take off. There will always be other good times and opportunities to spend more. For now, be frugal.

Common FAQs on How to Start a Tattoo Business

How much does it cost to start a tattoo business?

Conventionally, many studies estimate that it takes around $50,000 to start a tattoo parlor. Here’s something we both can agree to; it is nearly impossible for most beginner tattooists to fetch such an amount.

The best way to know what your startup costs will amount to is by totaling the expenses. Let’s find out what you might need to launch a profitable tattoo business successfully.

What do I need to start a tattoo business?

Here are some of the equipment you’ll need and their approximate costs (per item):

1. Tattoo gun-( $400-$900)
2. Ink-as little as $7
3. Tables/chairs-$300+
4. Autoclaves-$100+
5. Needless-$10+(set)
6. Mirrors-$100
7. Sanitizer-$10+
8. Disposable razors-$10 (set)
9. Disposable latex gloves-$15 (set)
10. Business permit-($200-$300 in the US) check rates with your local authorities
11. Insurance policy-($55-$75 per month in the US)
12. Furniture for the waiting area $200+
13. Working capital for the first couple of months
14. Computers and scanners-$1000+
15. Tattoo Software

As for legal documents, variations exist from country to country. You might need to have things like a business plan, employer identification number, shop employment policies and procedures, operating agreement, and more in the US.

Is owning a tattoo shop profitable?

Research shows that it is easy to start a tattoo shop and take a short time to recoup all your expenses. On average, established tattooists earn upwards of $50,000 a year. So yes, it’s a profitable business.

How can I start a tattoo business from home?

With Covid 19 raking havoc to many parts of the world, it makes sense to see why anyone would want to start a tattoo business at home. The truth is, it is very much possible. You don’t need to worry about steep rental costs, daily commute, and other costly local government requirements in this model.

However, you will still need to market yourself and have all the necessary equipment and legal papers. Keeping yourself on the right side of the law means protecting your assets from unnecessary costly lawsuits.

How much do beginner tattoo artists make?

Honestly, this isn’t a question one should be obsessed with when starting. However, for the sake of having a figure in mind to work, let’s answer that. Beginner tattoo artists in the US earn between $15,000 and $23,000 annually. This figure tends to vary from one country to another.

When starting, it will be hard to charge those insane hourly rates as an accomplished artist. You need to start small and expand your audience before you can reexamine your rates. Also, you’ll be forced to charge depending on the economic lifestyle of your region.

Alright, get going then and good luck!