If you’re an aspiring business owner trying to figure out how to open a tattoo shop, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve done our best to break down the steps and requirements involved.
What You Will Learn
We’ll go over the basic tattoo shop requirements, provide a business overview including costs tattoo shop owners should plan for, and give you a checklist for opening a tattoo shop.
Jump to the Section You Like
- What Is A Tattoo Shop?
- What Licenses Do I Need To Open A Tattoo Shop?
- Opening A Tattoo Shop Checklist
- How Much Does It Cost To Open A Tattoo Shop
What Is A Tattoo Shop?
Tattoo shops (also called a tattoo studio or tattoo parlor) is a place where professionally trained tattoo artists use specialized equipment to apply permanent (most of the time) body art to clients. Some tattoo studios also offer body piercing services.
A tattoo parlor business can take many forms, but they all have to comply with local health regulations and business license requirements- more on this later.
Some common tattoo business ideas include:
- Tattoo Studio: Usually employing many tattoo artists, this type of small business is well-placed to take either walk-in foot traffic, appointments, or a mixture of both. Business location is crucial in order to attract new customers and jump into your local market.
- Mobile Tattoo Shop: This type of tattoo business often shows up at conventions, local events and might even be booked by clients or groups for private events. Mobile tattoo shop requirements are often a bit different than large or private tattoo studio requirements, so make sure to check your state’s regulations.
- Private or Home-Based Tattoo Shops: Aspiring artists looking to open their own studio sometimes choose this option, avoiding the need to pay rent on a separate location. That said, some cities and counties have zoning rules that prevent you from opening your own tattoo studio in a residential area.
Do not miss our post on tattoo shop decor.
What Licenses Do I Need To Open A Tattoo Shop?
Now that you have an idea of your options when it comes to tattoo studios, you’re probably wondering “Okay, so what license do I need to open a tattoo shop?”
The truth is that you’ll probably need more than one. Here’s an overview of the most common requirements:
Business Licenses and Permits:
- Tattoo Studio Business License: In the USA, every small business needs to be licensed. You can apply via your state department’s website or by going through the U.S. Small Business Administration. You’ll need to give them your name, your social security number, and the name of your tattoo business to get started.
- Certificate of Occupancy: This certificate shows that your new location complies with zoning laws, has the right square footage to safely serve clients, enough electrical outlets and water hookups, and meets local fire and safety regulations. Book an inspection through your local government agency or property department to get this done.
- Building Permit: If you’re planning any renovations to your tattoo business location, you’ll need to apply for a building permit first. An inspector will come out to check out the location and go over any plans before approving the work.
- Retail Permit: Most tattoo shops sell aftercare products, merchandise made by local artists (sometimes their own tattoo artists will create prints, posters or t-shirt designs), and jewelry for body piercings. Most states will require you to get a retail seller permit for this, and you can apply online on your state’s website.
- TIN: Sometimes called your Tax Identification Number, you can apply to the IRS for it. Even if you’re the only tattoo artist and you have no staff, you’ll still need this 9-digit number.
- EIN: Your Federal Employer Identification Number is necessary for doing payroll, filing state taxes and any other paperwork you file as an employer. You can apply for one through the IRS or your state’s website- they’ll ask for your business name, business license, your own personal info and a basic description of products and services offered.
Professionals Licenses and Certifications:
Anyone working in the tattoo industry needs to be aware of the unique professional and safety requirements before they start a tattoo business. Even if you’re a non practicing shop owner, it’s still your responsibility to ensure that your staff has the proper training.
Please note that tattoo regulations vary somewhat by state, so make sure to check local regulations for the most up-to-date information.
That said, here is what most people need to start a tattoo business:
- Tattoo Artist License: Depending on the state, you may have to complete a certain number of hours in a tattoo art training program or apprenticeship, sit an exam, pass a first aid and CPR course, or some combination of the three.
Pro tip: There’s not one specific name for this license across the tattoo industry, so make sure to check with your state for more details or before moving states.
- First Aid Certification: Many states require you to have completed a basic first-aid training course, so that you can assist clients in an emergency. Some of this training can often be completed online.
- OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Certification for Tattoo Artists: This is required in all states and covers things like common bloodborne pathogens, infection control, current safety standards and disinfection procedures.
Do not miss our post on tattoo shop names.
Opening A Tattoo Shop Checklist
Whether you’re an artist getting ready to open your own studio, or simply planning on owning a tattoo shop but not tattooing, there are some steps you’ll go through along the way. Here’s a basic roadmap to help you get from square one to the grand opening.
Choose a Business Model: You’ll need to decide on both a business model and your business structure- will you join a franchise of tattoo parlors, or will you run your own business? Also, will you employ other artists, do everything yourself, or rent chairs to local tattooists?
Write Your Tattoo Shop Business Plan: Every successful business venture has something in common- a solid business plan. This acts as a roadmap for creating your business and includes your marketing plan, a description of your target market, your budget and projected cash flow, and a description of your services and products.
You’ll also want to include a description of recurring expenses like staff salaries, insurance, supplies and marketing.
Pro tip: When choosing your target clientele, decide if you want to specialize in anything, especially if there’s a gap in the current local offerings. Some examples include tattoo cover ups, watercolor tattoos or portraiture.
Find the Right Location: While starting a tattoo business at home is one option, many people will search for the best place to open a tattoo shop. A lot will depend on your target clientele- do you want to be near a busy downtown area, or in a quieter neighborhood? Also, you’ll need to decide if you want to be the property owner, or rent it.
Plan Your Funding: Try to have some cash in reserve at startup (six months worth of expenses is a good number to strive for), then plan your funding- you can apply for small business loans through your bank or local credit union, and check for startup grants in your state. Make sure to budget for repayment, too.
Get a Professional Opinion: Consult a professional accountant and a lawyer about your business plan, budget and lease (before signing). This will help to ensure long-term success and double-check that everything is as it should be.
Develop Your Brand: Your brand image will influence everything from services to signage, decor and your marketing strategy. It’ll also be what brings clients in the door. You may want to create a Pinterest board to gather ideas.
Set Up Business Accounts: This is just as important as having a tattoo shop business plan. Set up a credit card and business bank account keeping personal assets and finances separate and making it easier to track expenditures. Plus, it’s important for your own sanity to separate your personal life from work- having personal and business accounts is really essential.
Create a Marketing Plan: Set up your social media pages and business website as part of your marketing efforts. Then, decide on your strategic marketing plan- how will you promote the business on social media platforms and offline?
Your friends and family can help you reach out to the local community and network, marketing your tattoo parlor to new clients on social media.
Set up your Google My Business account information with photos from your portfolio to help clients find you on opening day and leave reviews after. Tattoo studio software will help with creating automated marketing campaigns via email or SMS, and will make it easier to follow up with them, too.
Recruit Staff: Make a list of your staffing needs, then start advertising to fill them. Be sure to check everyone’s licenses, portfolios and training. You’ll need to decide if you’re willing to take apprentices who work under the directsupervision of qualified tattoo artists, too.
Buy Equipment and Products: Make a detailed list of the products you want to carry, and the tattoo equipment and supplies you’ll need. Make sure that you’ve factored these costs into your budget at startup. We’ve listed some of the basic items and costs below, to help you get started.
Assemble Your Portfolio: This includes photos of your previous work, plus basic art designs that clients can choose from. You’ll want to have examples of at least one tattoo that shows each artist’s unique style, plus samples of the work they commonly do.
Get Insurance: This can be liability insurance (also called general liability insurance) and personal liability coverage. One protects against damage or loss to the business itself, and the other covers any claims made against you (which might be necessary if you’re a tattooist).
Create a Health and Safety Plan: This includes a detailed cleaning and sanitization plan, along with policies to protect a client’s safety and privacy and deal with any incidents/ injuries that occur onsite.
Print Consent Forms: Create clear consent forms that outline the risks and what to expect during a session, along with detailed care instructions that clients can understand- make sure they can take a copy of the aftercare instructions home.
Choose a Payment Processor: There are many options available, from payment apps to machines that print receipts. Take a look at what each company offers, along with their rates before you decide.
Get Tattoo Shop Software: The best tattoo studio software will not only help you optimize your admin tasks like online payment processing, tattoo shop POS, reordering your supplies, and the ability to save and manage your tattoo shop expenses.
It will help you bring new clients in with customer reviews boosting tools, SMS marketing campaigns, fast online booking page, confirmations, automated waiting lists, and suggestive add-on sales (both services and retail).
How Much Does It Cost To Open A Tattoo Shop
So now you’re probably wondering “How much would it cost to open a tattoo shop?”
Many professionals estimate that it can cost around $50,000 to open a tattoo salon (not including buying a shopfront). Here’s a run-down of what to expect.
Please note- costs vary a lot by location, so how much to open a tattoo shop can depend a lot on your own state or local area.
- Business License: A small business license costs between $100- $400 including processing fees, depending on your state.
- Certificate of Occupancy: Expect to pay at least $250, depending on your state. You might also need to pay for a second inspection if they identify problems that need to be fixed.
- Legal Fees: Lawyers charge at least $200 an hour, but it’s a very good idea to consult one about state requirements and any documents you’ll need to sign.
- Property/ Rent Deposit: Depending on location, this will vary. You’ll either need to have a downpayment ready or pay your rent plus a security deposit.
- download Adjustable tattoo chairs can cost a few hundred dollars for a cheap one, with hydraulic chairs priced significantly higher. You can find good-quality items online through wholesalers, so be sure to shop around.
- Equipment: This includes tattoo guns, lighted tracing tables, needles, supply carts, sterilizers, alcohol wipes, gloves and just about everything else you’ll need to start a tattoo studio. To give you an idea, the average tattoo gun can cost between $400 to over $1000, while smaller supplies like gloves or disposable razors might only cost about $10 for a large box.
- Business Insurance: Depending on the policy you choose, this can cost anywhere from $65- $200 or more a month. Make sure to get multiple quotes for your business online or by phone before deciding.
- Marketing: Getting a website ready is crucial for marketing. You can either build one using a free template or hire a professional. They’ll often charge from $500 to several thousand dollars, but you’ll get custom results.
- Signage: Find a local graphic designer or sign company, or ideally more than one for multiple quotes- prices range from less than $100 to over $2000 depending on the size and design of the sign.
At the end of the day, questions like “How much is it to open a tattoo shop” and “What licenses will I need” really depend a lot on where you’re located- this will also determine your target clientele, the merchandise you sell and (to an extent) influence your art form.
When you’re researching how to open a tattoo shop, our best advice is to research where you’d like to start a tattoo shop at the same time. This will give you a better picture of what things will look like by the opening date.
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