Business ideas
8 min read

How to Start a Profitable Tattoo Business [11 Steps]

Learn how to start a profitable tattoo business with our 11+ step guide. From finding the perfect location to marketing your services, we've got you covered.

By Nick Cotter
Updated Feb 02, 2024

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This page may feature products from our affiliate partners, which could influence the products we discuss due to potential compensation. Despite this, our evaluations are impartial, based solely on our independent analysis. The content here is intended for informational purposes and should not be seen as legal advice. For professional guidance, consulting with a legal expert is recommended.
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1. Perform market analysis.

Embarking on a tattoo business venture requires a thorough understanding of the market landscape. This initial step is crucial for identifying the demand for tattoo services, understanding the competition, and uncovering potential niches. Below is a guide to performing a comprehensive market analysis:

  • Research your target demographic: Gather data on the age, interests, and spending habits of potential customers within the area you plan to operate.
  • Analyze competitors: Identify existing tattoo parlors in the region, examine their services, pricing, and customer reviews to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Explore market trends: Stay informed about the latest trends in tattoo designs, techniques, and industry innovations to ensure your business stays relevant and attractive to clients.
  • Assess demand and market saturation: Determine the demand for tattoos and the number of providers in your intended location to evaluate if there is a gap in the market you can fill.
  • Examine legal requirements: Understand the licensing, health and safety regulations, and any other legalities specific to the tattoo industry in your area.
  • Consider economic factors: Evaluate the economic climate, including disposable income levels and employment rates, as they can influence the frequency and type of tattoos customers might get.
tattoo business image

Are Tattoo businesses profitable?

Yes, tattoo businesses can be profitable depending on the location, type of services offered, and other factors. Typically, tattoo businesses can generate a profit of anywhere from 10-30% of their total revenue. Many tattoo businesses also rely on repeat customers and referrals to help drive profits.

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2. Draft a tattoo business plan.

Starting a tattoo business requires careful planning and a clear vision. A well-crafted business plan lays out the roadmap for turning your artistic passion into a successful enterprise. Here's a concise guide to drafting your tattoo business plan:

  • Executive Summary: Summarize your business concept, the market need it fills, your target clientele, and financial projections.
  • Company Description: Outline the details of your business, including location, services offered, and what sets your tattoo studio apart.
  • Market Analysis: Research the tattoo industry, identify your competition, understand your target market, and position your business to stand out.
  • Organization and Management: Describe the structure of your business, your team, and how the business will be managed.
  • Services Offered: Detail the types of tattoos you'll offer, any ancillary services, and how you plan to keep up with industry trends.
  • Marketing Plan: Develop strategies for attracting and retaining customers, your brand identity, and advertising channels you'll use.
  • Financial Projections: Present realistic revenue forecasts, a break-even analysis, and projected expenses. Include startup costs and ongoing operational costs.
  • Funding Request: If seeking financing, specify the amount needed and how it will be used.

How does a Tattoo business make money?

A tattoo business typically makes money by charging customers for each tattoo they do. The cost of a tattoo will depend on the size, complexity, and location of the tattoo, as well as the artist’s skill and experience level. Many tattoo businesses also make money through the sale of additional products and services, such as aftercare products, custom-designed tattoo art, and body piercing services.

3. Develop a tattoo brand.

Developing a tattoo brand is a critical step in distinguishing your business in a competitive market. It's about creating a unique identity that resonates with your target audience and reflects the style and values of your artistry. Below are key points to guide you through the process of building a strong tattoo brand.

  • Define Your Brand Identity: Establish the core principles, ethos, and aesthetic that will define your brand. Consider what makes your tattoo business unique and how you want it to be perceived.
  • Design a Memorable Logo: Create a logo that encapsulates your brand's essence and is easily recognizable. This will be a visual representation of your brand across various mediums.
  • Create a Consistent Image: Use consistent branding elements like colors, fonts, and style across all platforms, from your shop's interior design to your online presence.
  • Engage with Your Audience: Build a brand voice and personality that connects with your clientele, whether through social media, community involvement, or customer service.
  • Protect Your Brand: Trademark your brand name and logo to protect them from being used without your permission.

How to come up with a name for your Tattoo business?

When coming up with a name for your tattoo business, consider ideas that are creative and memorable. Think of words and phrases that represent your business’s values and mission. Brainstorm potential names and then narrow it down to a few that you really like. Finally, do some research to ensure that the name you choose isn’t already in use by another business.

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4. Formalize your business registration.

Starting a tattoo business requires not only artistic skill but also adherence to legal formalities. Registering your business is a crucial step to ensure compliance with local laws and to establish your brand. Follow these guidelines to formalize your business registration:

  • Choose a business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation) that best suits your needs and understand the tax and liability implications of each.
  • Register your business name with the appropriate state agency, ensuring it's unique and not already in use.
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes, especially if you plan to hire employees.
  • Apply for the necessary business licenses and permits. Tattoo businesses often require a specific health department permit due to the nature of the work.
  • Check with your local city or county clerk's office about additional requirements, such as zoning permits and business operation licenses.
  • Consider registering for state taxes, including sales tax if applicable, and understand the tax obligations for your business structure.
  • Keep all registration documents and certificates in a safe place and display any required licenses prominently in your place of business.

Resources to help get you started:

Explore pivotal resources designed specifically for tattoo entrepreneurs, offering market trends, best practices in operations, and strategic business growth advice:

  • Tattoo Artist Magazine: A publication delivering in-depth industry insights, artist interviews, and trends shaping the tattoo world.
  • International Tattoo Suppliers Association: Provides reports and resources on supply chain best practices and innovative products in the tattoo sector.
  • Ink Inc.: A newsletter offering regular updates on market trends, business strategies, and operational tips for tattoo studios. Link unavailable
  • The Tattoo Industry Report: Annual report detailing market analysis, consumer trends, and financial benchmarks for tattoo businesses. Link unavailable
  • Tattoo Business Mastery: An online course and community hub giving strategic business advice and marketing strategies for tattoo shop owners.

5. Acquire necessary licenses and permits for tattoo.

Starting a tattoo business requires careful compliance with local and state regulations. To legally operate your business and ensure the safety and trust of your clients, obtaining the necessary licenses and permits is crucial. Here's a guide to help you through Step 5 of the process:

  • Research local and state regulations: Different states and municipalities have varying requirements for tattoo businesses. Contact your local health department or business licensing office to get the specific details for your area.
  • Obtain a business license: Apply for a general business license through your city or county. This is a basic requirement for operating any business legally.
  • Secure a tattoo artist license: Most places require individual tattoo artists to be licensed. This often involves age requirements, a background check, and proof of completed training or apprenticeship.
  • Health department permits: Since tattooing involves skin penetration, a health department permit ensures your business meets health and safety standards. This may require an inspection of your premises.
  • Other possible permits: Depending on your location, you might need additional permits, such as a sign permit, a sales tax permit, or waste disposal certification.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a tattoo business?

Depending on the state, licenses and permits may vary. Generally, tattoo establishments typically require a business license, as well as a statewide tattoo/body art establishment permit and a local health department permit. An artist may also need to have a bloodborne pathogens certification in order to work in the shop. Many establishments also require proof of insurance.

6. Open a business bank account and secure funding as needed.

Starting a tattoo business involves careful financial planning, and two critical steps in this process are opening a business bank account and securing funding. A dedicated business account will help you manage your finances effectively and is essential for receiving payments and paying expenses. Here's how you can approach these two important steps:

  • Research banks and credit unions that offer business banking services. Look for accounts with low fees, easy access to funds, and good customer service.
  • Gather the necessary documents to open a business bank account, such as your business license, Employer Identification Number (EIN), and Articles of Organization if you have an LLC.
  • Consider different funding options such as small business loans, lines of credit, or business credit cards. Crowdfunding or seeking investors may also be viable options for your tattoo business.
  • Prepare a detailed business plan that outlines your financial projections and funding requirements, which will be essential when applying for loans or presenting to potential investors.
  • Keep in mind that your personal credit score may affect your ability to secure funding, so maintain a positive credit history.
  • Explore any grants or funding opportunities specifically available for artists or small business owners in the creative industry.

7. Set pricing for tattoo services.

Establishing the right pricing for tattoo services is crucial for the success of your tattoo business. It balances customer satisfaction with your business's financial health. Consider the following guidelines when setting your prices:

  • Cost Analysis: Calculate the cost of supplies, equipment, rent, utilities, and artist salaries to determine your baseline for service pricing.
  • Experience and Skill: Set higher prices for experienced tattoo artists with advanced skills or specializations, reflecting the quality and intricacy of their work.
  • Size and Complexity: Offer pricing tiers based on tattoo size and complexity, ensuring customers pay fairly for the time and artistry required.
  • Custom Work: Charge a premium for custom designs, as they require additional time and creativity from your artists.
  • Hourly vs. Flat Rates: Decide whether to charge by the hour or offer flat rates for certain pieces, considering the pros and cons of each approach.
  • Market Rates: Research local market rates to ensure your pricing is competitive yet profitable.
  • Discounts and Promotions: Consider implementing occasional discounts or promotions to attract new clients and retain existing ones, without undervaluing your services.
  • Clear Communication: Always provide clear and upfront pricing to avoid misunderstandings and maintain trust with your clients.

What does it cost to start a Tattoo business?

Initiating a tattoo business can involve substantial financial commitment, the scale of which is significantly influenced by factors such as geographical location, market dynamics, and operational expenses, among others. Nonetheless, our extensive research and hands-on experience have revealed an estimated starting cost of approximately $11000 for launching such an business. Please note, not all of these costs may be necessary to start up your tattoo business.

8. Acquire tattoo equipment and supplies.

Starting a tattoo business requires not only skill and creativity but also the right tools and equipment. It's essential to invest in high-quality supplies to ensure safety, hygiene, and the best results for your clients. Here's a list of the essential equipment and supplies you'll need:

  • Tattoo Machines: Purchase both a liner and a shader to cover different aspects of tattooing.
  • Power Supply and Foot Pedal: Reliable power sources and a foot pedal for controlling the tattoo machine.
  • Needles: Various types and sizes for lining, shading, and coloring.
  • Ink: High-quality tattoo inks in a variety of colors from reputable brands.
  • Ink Caps: Small cups to hold your ink during the tattoo process.
  • Disposable Gloves: Plenty of latex or nitrile gloves to maintain hygiene.
  • Disposable Tubes or Autoclavable Grips: To hold the needle on the machine, choose between disposable options or ones that can be sterilized.
  • Medical Supplies: Disinfectants, bandages, and aftercare ointments to ensure a clean work environment and proper healing.
  • Stencil Products: Transfer paper and stencil solution for outlining tattoos.
  • Ultrasonic Cleaner and Autoclave: If using reusable equipment, these are necessary for sterilization.
  • Studio Furniture: An adjustable tattoo chair or table for clients, artist stool, and workstations.

List of Software, Tools and Supplies Needed to Start a Tattoo Business:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Inkjet printer and compatible inks
  • Vector design software
  • High-quality tattoo needles
  • Transfer paper
  • Disposable razors
  • Latex gloves
  • Sterilization equipment
  • Tattoo gun
  • Tattoo ink
  • Tattoo stencils
  • Tattoo chairs
  • Cleaning and disinfecting supplies

9. Obtain business insurance for tattoo, if required.

Securing the right business insurance is a critical step in setting up a successful tattoo business. It not only helps protect your investment but also provides peace of mind for both the business owner and clients. Below are key steps to obtaining the necessary insurance for your tattoo studio:

  • Research local regulations to determine the specific types of insurance required for tattoo businesses in your area, such as liability, property, and malpractice insurance.
  • Consult with insurance agents who specialize in small businesses or specifically in the tattoo industry to get professional advice tailored to your needs.
  • Compare quotes from several insurance providers to find comprehensive coverage at a competitive price, taking into account the unique risks associated with tattooing.
  • Ensure that your policy covers all aspects of your business, including equipment, employees, and any additional services you offer, like piercing or permanent makeup.
  • Consider adding a clause for guest artists if you plan on hosting visiting tattooists at your studio to guarantee coverage extends to all practitioners.
  • Review and update your insurance policy regularly to keep up with changes in your business structure, services offered, and local legislation.

10. Begin marketing your tattoo services.

Successfully marketing your tattoo services is crucial to attract clients and build your brand. A comprehensive strategy that leverages both online and offline channels can help you reach your target audience effectively. Below are some key steps to kickstart your tattoo service's marketing efforts:

  • Develop a strong brand identity: Create a memorable logo, choose a distinct color scheme, and develop a brand voice that resonates with your target market.
  • Build a professional website: Showcase your portfolio, provide booking information, and include customer testimonials to build credibility.
  • Utilize social media: Regularly post your work on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, and engage with followers to grow your audience.
  • Network in the community: Attend local events, participate in conventions, and collaborate with other local businesses to increase visibility.
  • Offer promotions and discounts: Attract new customers with introductory offers, referral discounts, or loyalty programs.
  • Collect and share customer reviews: Positive testimonials can be powerful; encourage satisfied clients to share their experiences online.
  • Invest in local advertising: Consider flyers, local newspapers, or outdoor advertising in areas popular with your target demographic.
  • Collaborate with influencers: Partner with local influencers or tattoo enthusiasts who can help promote your services to a broader audience.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a tattoo business?

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Inkjet printer and compatible inks
  • Vector design software
  • High-quality tattoo needles
  • Transfer paper
  • Disposable razors
  • Latex gloves
  • Sterilization equipment
  • Tattoo gun
  • Tattoo ink
  • Tattoo stencils
  • Tattoo chairs
  • Cleaning and disinfecting supplies

11. Expand your tattoo business.

Once your tattoo business is up and running, it's time to think about growth and reaching new heights. Expanding your business can take many forms, from broadening your services to scaling up your operations. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Open additional locations to serve a wider geographic area.
  • Hire more skilled tattoo artists to increase appointment availability and introduce new styles.
  • Offer apprenticeship programs to train new talent and build a loyal workforce.
  • Expand your service offerings to include related services such as piercing or permanent makeup.
  • Invest in marketing to reach a larger audience, both online with social media and locally through community events.
  • Collaborate with other businesses to offer joint promotions and expand your customer base.
  • Upgrade your equipment and technology to improve the quality of your services and customer experience.
  • Develop a line of merchandise or aftercare products to generate additional revenue streams.
  • Utilize customer feedback and data analytics to refine your business strategy and offerings.
  • Stay on top of industry trends and continuously educate your team to remain competitive.