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How to Start a Tattoo Studio

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Tattoo Studio

Fast Facts

Investment range

$9,050 - $19,100

Revenue potential

$104,000 -- $195,000 p.a.

Time to build

3 – 6 months

Profit potential

$62,000 - $78,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Full-time

Seen any good tattoos lately? They seem to be taking over the world. The industry has more than doubled in the last decade, including 30% expansion in the past two years alone — despite the pandemic. If you have legit drawing skills, now is a great time to get in on the boom by starting your own tattoo studio. If you’re not already a tattoo artist, you can do the training and get there fast. It’ll take an investment to start your studio, but you can make fantastic money once you’re tattooing.  

But before all that, it’s important to learn what it takes to start a business. Lucky for you, this step-by-step guide details everything you need to know to get your tattoo studio off the ground. 

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting a tattoo studio has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you.

Pros

  • Hot Market – Demand for tattoos is growing steadily
  • Good Money – Make hundreds per tattoo
  • Creativity – Show off your art skills

Cons

  • Strict Regulations – Need licensing and health compliance
  • Crowded Market – Compete with many other tattoo studios

Tattoo industry trends

Industry size and growth

tattoo industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

tattoo industry Trends and Challenges

Trends in the tattoo industry include:

  • Millennials are most likely to get tattoos, with nearly half having at least one. 
  • Trends in tattoo designs in 2022 lean toward the nostalgic and abstract.

Challenges in the tattoo industry include:

  • Liability is always a concern, as mistakes or injuries can lead to lawsuits.
  • The tattoo industry has drawn negative press from allegations of racism and sexual abuse, which may drive some away from getting a tattoo. 

Demand hotspots

tattoo industry demand hotspots

What kind of people work in tattoos?

tattoo studio demographics
  • Gender –  25% of tattoo artists are female, while 71.3% are male.((https://www.zippia.com/tattoo-artist-jobs/demographics/))
  • Average level of education – The average tattoo artist is high school educated.
  • Average age -The average tattoo artist in the US is 41.2 years old.

How much does it cost to start a tattoo business?

Startup costs for a tattoo business range from $9,000 to $19,000. The largest costs are studio space rental and preparation, and tattoo equipment.

Each state has its own training and licensing requirements for tattoo artists or body artists. You can take courses through IBMS for a few hundred dollars if they are an approved education provider in your state. If you’re new to tattooing, you might want to consider a tattoo apprenticeship before starting your own studio. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your tattoo business, including: 

  • Chairs and Beds
  • Sanitary kit
  • Tattoo machine
  • Tattoo ink
  • Needles and needles sterilizer
  • Chemical for skin sterilization
  • Chemical for anesthetic
  • Tattoo scanner and design computer
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Studio space rental$2,000 - $4,000$3,000
Space preparation$3,000 - $6,000$4,500
Tatoo equipment$2,500 - $5,000$3,750
Total$9,050 - $19,100$14,075

How much can you earn from a tattoo business?

tattoo studio earnings forecast

While tattoo prices vary, the average is about $250. Your profit margin after rent and overhead should be about 60%.

In your first year or two, you might do eight tattoos a week, bringing in $104,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $62,000 in profit, assuming that 60% margin. As you begin to get referrals and repeat business, sales could climb to fifteen tattoos a week. At this stage, you’d hire staff, reducing your profit margin to around 40%. With annual revenue of $195,000, you’d make a healthy profit of $78,000.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a tattoo business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Meeting training and licensing requirements
  • Standing out from other tattoo studios

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a tattoo studio, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research tattoo studios in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a tattoo studio that offers tattoo design, or a cosmetic tattooing shop. 

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as small body art or floral tattoos.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your services

In addition to tattoos, you could also offer body piercing and sell jewelry and other items. 

How much should you charge for tattoos?

Tattoo prices will depend on the size and complexity of the tattoo, and how long it takes. The average price of a tattoo is $250. After the costs of rent and overhead, you should aim for a profit margin of about 60%.

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will probably tend to be younger, particularly millennials. You can find them on sites like TikTok and Instagram.

Where? Choose your tattoo studio location

Finding the right location for your tattoo studio is crucial to attract and retain clients. Look for a spot with high visibility and easy accessibility, preferably in a commercial area or close to other complementary businesses.

Ensure that the studio is visually appealing, functional, and equipped with high-quality equipment and materials.

By carefully selecting the perfect spot for your tattoo studio, you can establish a thriving business that provides clients with exceptional artistry and a unique experience. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
tattoo studio idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Tattoo Studio Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “tattoo artist” or “body art studio”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Eternal Ink Studios” over “Watercolor Ink Tattoo Studio”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Tattoo Studio Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: Summarize your tattoo studio’s vision, highlighting its commitment to artistry, safety, and creating a unique experience for each client.
  • Business Overview: Describe your studio’s focus on providing professional tattoo services, including custom designs, cover-ups, and touch-ups.
  • Product and Services: Detail the various tattooing services offered, along with ancillary services like aftercare products or consultation sessions.
  • Market Analysis: Assess the demand for tattoo services in your area, identifying target demographics and current industry trends.
  • Competitive Analysis: Compare your studio to local competitors, emphasizing your unique strengths such as artist expertise, studio ambiance, or specialized tattoo styles.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategy for attracting clients, using methods like social media presence, portfolio showcases, or community engagement.
  • Management Team: Highlight the experience and qualifications of your team, focusing on their artistic skills and professionalism in customer service and studio management.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the day-to-day operations of the studio, including appointment scheduling, health and safety protocols, and client management.
  • Financial Plan: Provide an overview of financial aspects, including startup costs, pricing strategy, and projected revenue.
  • Appendix: Include supplementary documents such as artist portfolios, health and safety certifications, or detailed market research to support your business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to tattoo studios. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your tattoo studio will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

types of business financing

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a tattoo business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept. 

Step 8: Apply for Tattoo Studio Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a tattoo business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments. Each state has different training and licensing rules for tattoo artists. Check with your state for requirements. 

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your tattoo business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as DaySmart, Vagaro, or TattooPro, to manage your appointments, customers, payments, and reports. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop your website

Developing a website for a tattoo studio is a vital step in showcasing your artistic work and reaching potential clients. You have two primary options: using a website builder or hiring a professional web developer. Website builders like Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress are user-friendly and cost-effective, making them ideal for those on a tight budget or with limited technical skills. On the other hand, hiring a professional developer allows for a more tailored and unique website.

Regardless of the method chosen, the website should be visually appealing and easy to navigate, with a strong emphasis on high-quality images of your work. Crucially, it should include clear call-to-actions (CTAs) such as booking appointments, contacting the studio, or following social media links, to engage visitors and convert their interest into action.

Marketing

Starting a tattoo business requires a strategic approach to marketing to attract and retain clients. Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  1. Optimize for Local SEO: Ensure your website is optimized for local search engine optimization (SEO). Use keywords relevant to your location and services, like “tattoo artist in [City Name]” or “best tattoos in [Area].” This helps your studio show up in search results when potential clients are looking for tattoo services in your area.
  2. Get Listed in Local Directories: Register your studio on local business directories and Google My Business. This increases your visibility in local search results and provides potential clients with essential information like your address, hours, and contact details.
  3. Showcase Your Portfolio: Utilize your website and social media platforms to showcase your best work. Regularly update your portfolio to keep it fresh and engaging.
  4. Engage on Social Media: Maintain an active presence on social media platforms, especially those with a strong visual focus like Instagram and Pinterest. Share your work, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and client testimonials to engage with your audience.
  5. Encourage Word-of-Mouth and Referrals: Word-of-mouth is particularly powerful in the tattoo industry. Encourage your satisfied clients to refer friends and family, and consider offering a referral discount.
  6. Host Events or Open Houses: Organize events or open houses in your studio to attract new clients. Use these events to showcase your artistry and the unique experience your studio offers.
  7. Collect and Showcase Reviews: Encourage your clients to leave reviews online. Positive reviews can significantly influence potential clients’ decisions.
  8. Engage in Local Community Activities: Participate in local events, festivals, or charity activities to raise your studio’s profile in the community.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your tattoo studio meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your tattoo business could be: 

  • Professional body art to make your statement
  • No-regret tattoos to add color to your life
  • Precise and stunning – tattoos that speak for you

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a tattoo business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in tattoos for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in tattoos. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a tattoo business include:

  • Body Artists – do tattoos and piercings
  • General Manager – scheduling, ordering, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Tattoo Studio – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

The tattoo industry is booming! Millennials are leading the way, with nearly half of them sporting at least one tattoo. If you have artistic skills, you can grab a share of the market with your own studio. It will take a passion for your craft and hard work, but you can make your dream come true with a small investment that could deliver financial rewards and the gratification of sharing your art with the world. 

You’ve got the business knowledge under your belt now, so you’re ready to find a great space and open your successful tattoo studio!

Tattoo Business FAQs

How profitable is a tattoo studio?

Tattoo studios can be very profitable, with high margins. The key is to be a great tattoo artist so that the word will spread, and you’ll get referrals and repeat business.

What is the process for hiring talented and skilled tattoo artists for my studio?

Start by advertising the job opening through various channels, such as online job boards, social media, or industry-specific platforms. Review portfolios and assess the artistic style, technical proficiency, and overall quality of their work.

How long does it take to learn tattooing?

The time it takes to learn tattooing can vary depending on factors such as the individual’s dedication, learning style, mentorship availability, and the complexity of the tattooing techniques. Generally, it takes several years of consistent practice, apprenticeship, and ongoing learning to become a proficient and skilled tattoo artist.

Can tattooing be self taught?

While it is technically possible to self-teach tattooing, it is strongly advised against. Tattooing is a complex and potentially risky practice that requires a deep understanding of hygiene, equipment sterilization, skin anatomy, and tattooing techniques. Proper training through an apprenticeship under an experienced tattoo artist or attending a reputable tattoo school is crucial to ensure the safety of both the artist and the client.

How can I attract clients and promote my tattoo studio effectively?

Develop a strong online presence through a professional website and active social media accounts to showcase your artists’ portfolios and engage with potential clients. Encourage client reviews and testimonials to build trust and credibility. Collaborate with local businesses, artists, or influencers in related communities to cross-promote each other’s work. 

What tattoo ink is best?

The choice of tattoo ink depends on personal preference, the desired tattoo style, and the client’s skin type. High-quality tattoo inks that are known for their safety and longevity are typically the preferred choice. Some reputable tattoo ink brands include Eternal Ink, Intenze Tattoo Ink, and World Famous Tattoo Ink. 

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How to Start a Tattoo Studio