How to Start a Tattoo Studio in the U.S. in 9 Steps

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According to MarineAgency, an established tattoo artist can earn over $50,000 per year. If making a good living exercising your art appeals to you, you will need more than your skill to make it. To start and maintain a successful tattoo studio, you should work through the following 9 steps.

  1. Branding
  2. Planning
  3. Choose a Business Structure
  4. Register for Tax Purposes
  5. Open a Business Bank Account
  6. Organize Accounting
  7. Obtain Permits and Licenses
  8. Get Insured
  9. Get Online

Step 1 and step 9 are arguably the most fun. However, steps 2 to 8 are critical to making sure you have a fully functioning, sustainable, legal business and not just a business idea. We will guide you through all these steps to help you turn your tattoo business idea into a reality.

1. Branding

Your business name will be integral to your branding, marketing, and, thus, your success. Make sure to choose a name that won’t get you into legal trouble by investigating federal and state trademark records.

People buy great potential business names and sit on them to charge exorbitant fees for the people who eventually want them. So if your business name and website domain name are available, grab them before anyone can use or hold them.

Developing your branding also means considering your target market. Do your ideal customers want standard art or custom art? Will you accept walk-ins off the street or will tattoos be by appointment only?

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Your pricing can help determine whether you appeal to the masses or your designs are more exclusive. Consider a niche or a specialty to differentiate you and your work from the competition.

However you develop your branding, be authentic. Stand by what you believe in. Don’t do work you think is poor quality to make money. Your reputation is more valuable and more important.

As an artist, you may want to design your own logo. Then again, you might want someone with a marketing and branding background to handle this. 

2. Planning

It is best to have a good idea of potential start-up costs before you start pouring money into your business idea. Costs, of course, don’t end once the business is up and running. 

Ongoing costs include marketing (digital marketing can be particularly affordable), supplies, and hygiene equipment. 

In addition to your location, you are going to need:

  • A sign — is essential to bring in customers
  • Tattoo equipment, including one or more massage tables
  • Storage space for supplies
  • Portfolio equipment, such as folders and wall art
  • Displays — you might sell magazines, the work of local artists, aftercare products, and jewelry for piercings if you work with someone who performs piercings

When it comes to the location where you will house all these items, consider the local competition. Will you benefit from foot traffic? Are there places to park?

It might also be a good idea to ensure you have room to expand or work with another tattoo artist, such as a guest artist or a complementary practitioner. 

Check out the authenticity of other tattoo artists and other professionals you want to engage with by checking them out with PhoneHistory, a reverse phone lookup service providing comprehensive information such as social media use, location, and phone history.

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Working with others may require different licenses, so this is something to investigate sooner rather than later. Normally, several artists share a location to share the cost and work together to build the brand and attract customers.

Also, plan how to charge before you open. Most tattoo studios charge by the hour — anything from $80 to $350 per hour, according to your experience and expertise — but you could also give quotes for completing work. 

3. Choose a Business Structure

Choosing a business structure is important for protecting you in the event that a customer sues you. The following business structures are the most common:

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership
  • Limited liability company (LLC) 
  • Corporation

LLCs and corporations provide protection if you are sued.

4. Register for Tax Purposes

Check out state sales tax for your state. Receiving a surprise bill or fine can jeopardize your business, so make sure that you are prepared for eventual taxes from the beginning.

5. Open a Business Bank Account

Having a business account separate from your personal account protects your personal assets. It also makes it more straightforward to do your accounts.

6. Organize Accounting

Get your accounting and bookkeeping organized from day one. To do so, be rigorous about maintaining accounts of your income and expenses. It makes annual tax filing far simpler if you start as you mean to go on. 

Being consistent with your accounting can be hard, but it is worthwhile. One of the things to keep track of is deductibles, including:

  • Ads 
  • Business insurance
  • Business loan interest and bank fees
  • Charitable donations and gifts
  • Depreciation
  • Education
  • Home office costs (such as cleaning, maintenance, rent, repairs, and utilities)
  • Legal and professional fees
  • Office supplies and services
  • Rent
  • Rented equipment
  • Startup expenses 
  • Travel costs
  • Transport
  • Utilities

7.Obtain Permits and Licenses

Investigate your state laws and regulations, and do so as soon as possible. This will help you avoid fines or, far worse, being shut down after you have shouldered the expense of starting your tattoo business.

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8. Get Insured

Start off with general liability insurance if you are unsure what insurance you need first. Look for an insurer that has tattoo studios as clients. Ask other tattoo artists for advice and recommendations. 

9. Get Online

You need marketing to spread your art and attract business. Many will be looking online for examples of your artwork. Don’t disappoint them.

Consider carefully what sites to be active on. Trying to be everywhere at once will wear you out, but it will also fail to serve your ideal customers, who are not everywhere at once. Think about focusing on the most visual social media platforms, including Instagram and Pinterest.

Maintain your own website, too, because you own the content, can monitor the traffic, collect email addresses, and develop relationships with your visitors. Fortunately, creating a website is easy and affordable with website template sites like Wix and Weebly. 

Have a Great First Year

Following these 9 tips will help you get through your first year as the owner/manager of a tattoo studio. The work is rewarding and exciting, but make sure you do the required research and paperwork so that you can keep sharing your art with the world. 

About the author

James is a talented tattoo artist with a passion for creating unique and personalized designs. With a focus on attention to detail and a deep commitment to his craft, he strives to create tattoos that capture his clients' individuality and self-expression.