The Art of Business: Managing a Successful Tattoo Artist Career

tattoo artist career

If you’ve recently completed professional training in how to become a tattoo artist, you likely can’t wait to start inking clients and establishing your artistic career. 

But where does a fledgling tattoo artist go? 

Beyond developing technical skills, becoming a tattoo artist requires strategic planning and business savvy. 

This article explores tips for new artists on launching a profitable, sustainable tattoo artist career after completing their training program.

Getting Started in an Established Shop

Once you’re ready to become a tattoo artist, joining an existing reputable tattoo studio can provide a stable environment to refine your tattooing skills and build a clientele. Look for a shop that:

Provides Mentorship

Working alongside veteran artists allows you to expand your skills through collaboration and learn tattoo-specialized techniques firsthand.

Their connections and industry reputation can also help you network and establish yourself. Clarify the available training opportunities and if the shop pays for continued education.

Matches Your Style and Values

Ensure the shop’s artistic style, brand image, and values align with yours. This creates synergy between your work and the overall studio, so clients attracted to your brand will likely resonate with your aesthetics, too.

Ask to see portfolios of their current artists to assess compatibility.

Offers Fair Compensation

Understand the shop’s commission structure and what percentage of profits you keep.

Look for a tiered commission system where earnings increase as you build seniority. Inquire about tipping policies and if the shop provides supplies/equipment or deducts those costs.

Provides Admin Support

Working as an employee means you can focus on honing your craft while benefiting from established administrative systems.

The shop handles tasks like scheduling, marketing, record keeping, and inventory management, so you avoid the stresses of running a business solo.

Has a Good Location and Environment

Consider the shop’s location and surrounding demographics. Is it easy for clients to access? Also, assess their space’s cleanliness, layout, and overall professionalism. These factors impact the client experience.

Attracts Your Target Clients

Observe what styles and age groups the shop’s current clientele favors. You want alignment with the types of clients you aim to attract. Having a shared customer base makes it easier to build your portfolio.

Offers Growth Opportunities

Ask about possibilities for taking on more clients, collaborating with shop owners on designs, learning new techniques from senior artists, and other paths to progress your skills and responsibilities.

Launching Your Own Shop

Once you gain adequate experience and connections, opening your own tattoo shop allows for complete creative control and profit potential. But first, weigh if you have:

Enough Savings

Expect upfront costs from leasing retail space to buying tattoo stations and equipment. Create a detailed budget and have a business plan before signing any leases or filing paperwork. Factor in at least six months of operating capital as a financial cushion.

Strong Business Expertise

Owning a shop requires extensive non-artistic work like bookkeeping, hiring staff, marketing, ensuring safety compliance, ordering inventory, and managing day-to-day operations. Consider taking business management courses and recruiting a skilled accountant/consultant for guidance.

The Desire for Entrepreneurship

Working for yourself can be rewarding but also stressful and risky. Be honest if you have the drive and comfort with uncertainty needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. If not, you may thrive better by remaining a shop employee.

Researched Laws and Licensing

Be aware of all licensing, permits, zoning laws, and health regulations for operating a tattoo shop in your area. Some municipalities restrict locations or have extensive application requirements.

A Good Location

Choose a spot with plentiful parking, foot traffic, and signage visibility. Being near public transit or tourist destinations helps. Understand area demographics to identify your client base.

A Well-Planned Shop Layout

Design your floor plan, accounting for optimal workflow between artists. Invest in high-quality tattoo stations and equipment. Create a welcoming ambiance for clients.

Qualified Staff

Consider bringing on apprentices or experienced artists as employees, especially if you tattoo yourself. Develop thorough training protocols to onboard new staff.

Marketing Yourself as an Artist

Promoting yourself is vital whether you work for yourself or for a shop. Dedicate time to making sure people can find you when they search for a tattoo artist.

Building Your Portfolio

Assemble a diverse portfolio showcasing your style range; this gives potential clients a sense of your capabilities.

Photograph healed tattoos with the client’s consent. Continue expanding your portfolio as you master new techniques and trends.

Establishing Your Brand Identity

Determine your artistic specialty and brand position. Get a logo designed that reflects your style. Be consistent across your website, business cards, social media, etc. Respond to all inquiries to provide excellent customer service.

Optimizing Your Web Presence

Create a professional website that outlines your services, displays your portfolio, and enables bookings/deposits. Ensure it follows SEO best practices and drives traffic through Google My Business, paid ads, and social media.

Leveraging Social Media

Post your work on Instagram and TikTok. Engage with other artists by commenting on their posts. Use relevant hashtags. Run occasional social media contests/giveaways to grow followers.

Print Marketing

Distribute flyers and cards to local businesses. Seek partnerships with complementary brands. Advertise in local arts publications and tourism magazines. Sponsor events related to your target market.

Networking and Referrals

Attend conventions and follow other respected artists on social media. Offer guest spots at reputable shops. These industry connections can help drive new business through referrals and word-of-mouth.

Financial Considerations

One of the first steps towards financial stability in your tattoo artist career is understanding how to price your work.

This involves considering several factors, like the complexity of the design, the size of the tattoo, and the time required to complete the job. Charging by the hour rather than a flat rate can compensate you for your effort and skill.

Remember, your pricing should reflect the physical product- the tattoo- and the intangible aspects of your service, such as your experience, creativity, and the unique style you bring to your work.

Secure Payment Methods and Cash Transactions

In today’s digital era, accepting secure payment methods is crucial. Credit cards, debit cards, and online transactions through platforms like PayPal offer convenience to your clients and provide an extra layer of security for you.

While cash transactions may seem straightforward, they can pose challenges. Large cash transactions can be risky, and tracking cash income for tax purposes can be cumbersome.

You can streamline your accounting process and reduce risk by minimizing cash transactions.

Budgeting and Saving for Slower Seasons

The tattoo industry, like many others, has its highs and lows. Preparing for slower seasons is important by budgeting during busier times and building up an emergency savings fund.

This fund can act as a safety net, covering your personal and business expenses during quieter periods or unforeseen circumstances.

Understanding Taxes and Deductible Expenses

As a tattoo artist, you’re a creative professional and a business owner. This means you’re responsible for understanding and meeting your tax obligations.

Educate yourself on tax requirements for small businesses in your area. Remember that certain business expenses – like tattoo supplies, equipment, and even a part of your rent if you work from home – may be tax-deductible.

Managing Debt and Financing

Avoid excessive debt when purchasing equipment or financing your studio. While loans can help you get started, they also come with interest and repayment obligations that can strain your finances if not managed well.

Consider buying second-hand equipment or leasing your shop space to keep initial costs low. You can invest more in your workspace and tools as your business grows.

Tracking Income and Expenses

Last but not least, meticulous tracking of your income and expenses is vital for managing your finances.

Accounting software can automate this process, making monitoring your financial health easier, preparing for the tax season, and making informed business decisions.

Remember, managing your finances is critical to a thriving tattoo career. It requires diligence, planning, and a good understanding of your profession’s artistic and business sides.

Strategies for Tattoo Artist Career Success

Artists can build lucrative lifelong tattoo careers with dedication, talent, and smart strategy. Follow these tips:

Comprehensive Training

Graduate from a thorough tattoo training program that covers technical skills and business knowledge so you can launch your career.

Business Expertise

Continue to build your business, marketing, and customer service skills. Consider ongoing classes, mentors, books, or consultants to strengthen your weaknesses.

Safety and Professionalism

Commit to upholding safety procedures, ethical practices, and professionalism at all times to build a stellar industry reputation. This leads to referrals and loyalty.

Artistic Evolution

Successful artists always continue learning. Take on new styles, attend conferences, and stay on top of tattoo trends. A diverse, high-quality portfolio is your best marketing tool.

Build a Thriving Tattoo Artist Career

With dedication and hard work, you can build a thriving tattoo artist career that showcases your unique talents and makes a lasting impact on clients. Start by researching shops, attending conventions, and building your portfolio-success awaits you!

So keep pushing yourself, stay inspired, and never stop learning.

Why not take the first step toward your dream career? Contact us today to learn about our comprehensive tattoo training program. Graduate prepared for success!