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Starting a Tattoo Business at Home – A Complete Guide

Do you want to start a tattoo studio at home? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a tattoo shop business with NO money and no experience.

Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample tattoo studio business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample tattoo studio marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for tattoo studios. In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting a tattoo business. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.

Why Start a Tattoo Business?

If you have artistic tendencies and have dreamed of making art come to life on skin, then it may be time for you to consider tattooing as a profession. Tattoos have become very popular in America and are used by people from all walks of life and for different reasons – religious, personal, professional, cultural etc. More and more people are acquiring tattoos everyday which means that if you are thinking of going into this business, then this is certainly the right time for you.

Before you can start this business, you would need to be familiar with the tattoo industry and get properly trained by enrolling in a tattoo artist apprenticeship program which can take a year or two to complete even though you might not start tattooing immediately after the program.

Try and get to know where you can get this training done, how much it would cost you and the best place for you in terms of distance and their programs. This would help you acquire all the experience needed to start and run the business. If you however, will not be drawing tattoos but just want to set up a shop, then you need to pick an experienced tattooist to run your business.

Regardless of whether you will be a practicing tattooist or just a non-practicing tattoo shop owner, it is vital that you get in touch with the health department in your state or county to know about the regulations regarding the tattoo business in the area where you intend operating from.

In the United States, the law regarding tattooing and sanitation may vary depending on the state or county where you intend operating from, which is why it is necessary that you make your findings first. Once you are able to find out the tattooing regulations and prohibitions, you will then be directed to where you can get appropriate information on how to apply for the necessary permits and licenses.

If you need further convincing regarding opening a tattoo shop in the United States of America, then the article below would help you out.

Starting a Tattoo Business at Home – A Complete Guide

  • Industry Overview

According to IBISWorld, there are no tattoo shops or parlors with a dominant market share in this industry. The revenue generated by the industry amounts to $1 billion and there has been a 13 percent growth in the industry from the periods of 2011 to 2016. There are more than 38,000 tattoo shops in the United States of America employing more than 45,000 people.

The revenue in this industry has grown so much and has expanded in a significant way. The profit margin enjoyed in the industry has grown tremendously over the period of 2011 and 2016 especially as more customers are opting for complex tattoos given their greater purchasing power which has been made possible by the growing economy.

One reason that has seen tattoo shops generate so much revenue over a five year period is that mainstream Americans have started embracing tattoos especially with the help of the media which has made tattoos seem less strange.

IBISWorld predicted that the industry’s revenue is likely to increase more in the next five years (2016 – 2021) as more people will be getting tattoos. However, new entrants into the market are expected to face stiffening government regulations which will increase operational costs.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, it is estimated that about 45 million Americans have tattoos. Also, the growth in population especially for adults between the ages of 30 to 39 – the largest share of those with tattoos – has seen the industry generate more revenue.

Between the periods of 2010 to 2015, the revenue generated by the industry amounted to more than $722 million which means that it grew at a rate of more than 9 percent annually, with the rate expected to rise to 11.6 percent in 2015. The growth in revenue has been mainly attributed to the number of adults between the ages of 20 to 64, in addition to their demand of high margin and customized tattoos.

Between the periods of 2015 to 2020, revenue for the industry is expected to grow more especially as demand for complex and intricate designs such as 3D tattoos are on the increase. Also, the invention of tattoo removal technologies (will see more people getting tattoos and then removing them when they want) will lead to more people demanding for tattoos.

According to Inc. there are about 15,000 tattoo parlors in the United States of America generating revenue of more than $2 billion annually. Also, a study from Pew Research Center states that more than one third of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 have a tattoo, while 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 40, and 10 percent between the ages of 41 to 64 have tattoos.

Marketdata Enterprises, Inc in its 95 paged report after examining tattoo shops in America stated that tattoo and body art has soared especially amongst the millenials which has seen about 20,000 tattoo shops come into the industry in order to meet with the growing demand.

The tattooing industry also includes tattoo removal business and body piercings and is worth more than $3 billion. According to Marketdata, the revenue from tattoo shops and body piercing shops amount to $1.35 billion, while that from the tattoo removal shops amount to $694 million annually.

The industry according to estimates grew by 9.5 percent in 2014 with the same rate expected for 2015. However from 2016 to 2021, it is estimated that the rates will nearly double to 18 percent annually. The industry is not one that deals in franchises especially due to the independent nature of the business and the artists in it.

The boom experienced by the industry is largely due to tattoo artists that are becoming better trained and more professional in design. The tattoo industry is a fragmented one even though they are getting more approval from municipalities in order to operate within the city.

Starting a Tattoo Business at Home – Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographic composition of those who require the services of a tattoo shop vary for those in certain professions such as those in the military, trainers, street fighters, and other sorts; those in gangs, certain religious people, couples, business executives and all sorts of people.

This is not in any way limiting those that get tattoos to just certain groups of people as anyone – male, female, young adults and middle aged adults can all get tattoos as more and more people in America are seeing tattoos as something they should get, even if it is a small one.

List of Niche ideas Within the Tattoo Business That You Can Specialize in

Tattoo shops have become an avenue for tattoo artists to express their artistic abilities and for people to express themselves. Tattoo artists have to get trained in order to be able to draw on the skin of their clients in an industry that is highly regulated.

However, with more artists offering intricate and complex designs, a rise in the purchasing power of customers and innovative technologies regarding the removal of tattoos using lasers, there has been a surge in demand for tattoos. However, concerns about who owns a tattoo shop, where it can be located and other such concerns are making it hard for tattoo shops to flourish well.

There are however some who are offering services that would make them stand out. Therefore, some of the niches that a tattoo shop might decide to major in to stand out include;

  • Predesigned tattoos
  • Custom designed tattoos
  • Tattoo removals
  • Piercings
  • Sale of jewelries

The Level of Competition in the Tattoo Shop Services Industry

The level of competition in the tattoo shop industry depends entirely on the location of the business since this is a business that demands clients physically meeting with the tattoo artists in a tattoo shop.

This therefore means that competition in this industry is localized as distance is a barrier for competitors that are located far away, which is why the industry is described as a fragmented one. To give excellent services and compete favorably against its competitors, tattoo shops have to be ready to improve on their services.

Even though the industry is fragmented with no companies dominating the market, several tattoo shops have been able to stand out due to the services they offer. Larger tattoo shops with a huge capital base are usually able to offer more services with trained professional tattoo artists, while small tattoo shops with a small capital base offer their clients personalized services and better customer relationship in a bid to compete with larger tattoo parlors.

List of Well – Known Brands in the Tattoo Industry

Becoming a well-known brand has to do with a lot of factors, and even though the tattoo industry is fragmented there are tattoo shops that are standing out due to their activities in the industry such as their marketing and publicity strategies, how long they have been in the business, and what services they offer to their customers.

Below are some of the most popular tattoo shops in the United States of America;

  • Old Larimer Street Tattoo
  • Th’ink Tank Tattoo
  • Dr. Tattoof
  • LA Ink
  • Best Ink
  • Ink Master
  • East River Tattoo
  • Leathernecks Tattoo
  • Excellent Tattoo Studio

Economic Analysis

Tattooing dates back many centuries; and though it was seen previously as an art reserved for radicals in the society by Americans, more people have come to embrace tattoos and it has become one fashionable way for people to express themselves. However for most people, it is important that the right design is picked so that the decision does not lead to one of regret.

According to statistics, close to 20 percent of adults from the age of 18 up have at least one tattoo with close to 14 percent having more than one. 40% of American households have at least one person with a tattoo, which is an increase from 1999, when 21 percent of households had such. Women have more tattoos than men and statistics put them at 58 percent even though most have visible or hidden tattoos in comparison to 41 percent of men who mostly have visible tattoos.

According to statistics, even though there were more than 21,000 tattoo shops in the United States by 2013, Miami – Florida had the highest number of tattoo shops per capita with 24 shops offering service to every 100,000 people.  Cities like Kansas had the least amount of tattoo shops with one tattoo shop offering service to about 47,000 people, which is very low when compared to that of Miami.

The tattoo industry has grown to the extent that it is offering certain services such as the tattoo flash days, where tattoos are sold at a discounted price for those that arrive first. This is popular due to the fact that not only are people ready to get tattooed, they are also getting it from prominent tattoo artists, which ordinarily might not be possible.

According to the result from The Harris Poll as at 2015, 30 percent of adults in the United States of America had at least one tattoo. Also, IBISWorld reported that the tattoo industry will grow to more than $1 billion by the year 2020, which would mean the industry seeing a more than $400 million increase by the time it gets to 2020.

Starting a Tattoo Shop from Scratch vs Buying a Franchise

When starting a business, the decision on whether to start your business from scratch or buy a franchise is usually very important as no one plans to start a business that would fail halfway. However, in the tattoo industry, there are no franchise options yet and this is due to the independent nature of the tattoo artists who would prefer to work out their own designs or that of their client without having to be subject to decisions from a franchisor.

Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face When starting a Tattoo Shop

The tattoo shop, just like every other business is prone to challenges and threats. As an entrepreneur, you should ensure that you are ready to face whatever threats and challenges that may come your way. First off, you should know that while there are some challenges you might be able to prevent or change to your advantage once they occur, this will not be so for all kinds of challenges and therefore you should take it as they come and hope for the best.

Some of the challenges that you may likely face when starting your tattoo business are; growing government regulations and prohibitions, intense competition from new and already existing competitors as well as a downturn in the economy which might affect the number of people that come to your tattoo shop.

Starting a Tattoo Business at Home – Legal Matters

  • Best legal entity to use for this type of business

In choosing a legal entity for your business, you need to consider factors such as ease of set up, ownership and control, liability, taxation and flexibility. You need to realize that your tattoo shop may face lawsuits from issues such as employment, professional liability or premises liability and therefore if you decide to start as a sole proprietor, you will have no form of protection personally and for your business as well.

Another legal entity that you should not bother with is partnership because even though it is easy enough to start up, you are also offered no protection personally should your business encounter problems. Therefore, most tattoo shop owners usually prefer to incorporate their businesses by either going for a corporation or a Limited Liability Company (LLC).

A corporation is a form of legal entity where the business is regarded as being an entity of its own and separate from the owners of the business. The corporation form of legal entity usually requires a number of people to be shareholders and decisions must pass through the board of directors. It is usually complex to form and usually requires the professional input of an attorney.

The LLC is usually preferred by most tattoo shop owners because even though it is not easy to set up like a sole proprietorship and a partnership form of business, it is usually easier than a corporation. Also, the owner of the tattoo shop in an LLC is regarded as a separate entity from that of the business, and so while the business can sue and be sued, the owner is not personally affected. The LLC also offers owners relief in terms of taxation as owners are taxed on their personal income.

Catchy Business Name Ideas Suitable for a Tattoo Shop

Before starting a tattoo shop, it is essential that you think of what name you intend to use for your business. This is because the name you choose goes a long way in determining how customers will perceive your business. Therefore, you should ensure that you pick names that are memorable, unique, creative and easy to pronounce.

Choosing the right name for your business can be very difficult especially if you intend to stand out from others. If you are stumped on names, below are some names you can pick from;

  • Greyhound Tattoo Parlor
  • Tata Tattoo Shop
  • Shangri La Tattoo Shop
  • Triple T Tattoo Shop
  • Cena’s Tattoo Inc
  • Stand out Tattoo Shop

Insurance Policies

Having insurance policies before starting any business in the United States of America is very important especially if you are starting a business that is sensitive in nature like the tattoo shop where you have to use tools on the skin of humans. The insurance policies help to protect you from any liabilities that you might incur whilst running your business.

It is therefore important that you get the advice of an insurance agent or broker so as to know what basic insurance policies you would need to purchase and how much you will need to set aside. Below therefore are some of the basic insurance policies you will need to purchase in order to start your tattoo business in the United States of America;

  • General Liability Insurance
  • Medical Insurance
  • Professional Malpractice Liability Insurance
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance
  • Errors and Omission Insurance
  • Overhead expense disability insurance
  • Business Owner’s Policy Group Insurance
  • Employment practices Liability Insurance
  • Property Damage Insurance

Intellectual Property Protection/Trademark

As a tattoo artist, it might be necessary to seek for intellectual property protection for your art work, however, you would need to investigate copyright and trademark laws. You may decide to protect a tattoo style or some pieces of work from other artists who would need to seek permission before using it. The copyright and trademark laws are usually complex and would need you to get the counsel of an attorney.

There are entrepreneurs who apply for intellectual property protection on their company logos, slogan and production materials, and if you have any interest in protecting yours, you could get a lawyer to apply for intellectual property protection but you should know that not all entrepreneurs consider this a priority.

Is Professional Certification Needed to Run a Tattoo Business?

Tattoo artists usually use needles and pigments to permanently design the body of a client. Tattoo artists usually have to be creative and have artistic skills in order to advise clients on the color, size, design and placement of the tattoos needed.

For one to be able to become a tattoo artist, certification is usually required which comes after the intending artist has completed training in an approved setting under supervision within a period of 1 to 2 years.

List of Legal Documents You Need to Run a Tattoo Shop

When starting a business, it is important that you get all the necessary documents in place before opening shop because the authorities take legal documentation for businesses very seriously and a tattoo business which has more regulations is expected to have all documentations in place.

Failure may lead to penalty that might not only be financial in nature but can lead to a total ban from running that sort of business again. In order not to be in conflict with the authorities and have your dreams squashed, it is important that you adhere to all the things required of you before starting your tattoo shop.

Some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place in order to legally run your own tattoo shop in the United States of America are;

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Operating Agreement
  • Business Plan
  • Business License
  • Business Permit
  • Employment Contract for Apprentices
  • Insurance Policy
  • Shop Employment Policies and Procedures
  • Federal Tax Identification Number
  • Employers Identification Number (EIN)
  • Seller’s Permit

Financing Your Tattoo Shop

Every business idea requires finance to bring it to reality and the tattoo business is not different. However, while most entrepreneurs usually have an amount of money that they would use in starting the business, after careful research, they usually find that the amount is not sufficient to run the business and therefore would seek other sources where they can raise the needed capital.

Below therefore are some of the options to explore when sourcing for finance for your tattoo business;

  • Raising part of the start-up capital from personal savings and sale of certain properties
  • Sourcing for soft loans from family members and friends
  • Applying for loan from the bank
  • Approaching private investors for loan

Choosing a Suitable Location for your Tattoo Business

You should note that because of government prohibitions regarding businesses such as yours, you may have to locate your business in an area designed for businesses such as yours which would mean facing other tattoo shops and engaging in stiff competition with them in order to stand out.

If however you are willing to get appropriate municipal variances, permits and approvals in order to locate your business in a desired location, then you must be ready to part with a significant amount of money. Before engaging in this move, you must ensure that you are going to generate enough revenue to cover for expenses.

Only few tattoo shops get to buy a property for use in starting their business. Majority of tattoo shop owners usually lease space. Therefore, if you intend to lease space for your tattoo shop, you must ensure that you get a properly structured lease agreement so that you do not face liability to pay rent to your landlord if your shop fails.

Therefore choosing a good location for your tattoo shop depends on factors such as the proximity of the shop to your target market and how many employees you intend to hire.

Starting a Tattoo Business at Home – Technical & Manpower Details

In starting your tattoo business, it is vital that you get a location that has high traffic of people either vehicular or foot within the perimeters where your permits are valid. This means you must team up with a real estate agent that has knowledge of the tattoo business to help in picking a spot that would be highly beneficial to your business.

If you aren’t taking over an existing tattoo shop, then whatever building you intend getting must have alterations made – such as partitions, sinks, electrical outlets and plumbing – in order to enable you run a standard tattoo shop.

While some of the equipment you would get have to be brand new, there are others that can be gotten as fairly used either within your locality or online. You shouldn’t compromise on getting new tattoo instruments but equipment like office supplies can be gotten as fairly used especially if you are running on a strained budget.

The equipment (office and tattooing) you would need in order to run your tattoo shop efficiently are; reclining chairs, tables, supply carts, lighted tracing tables, mirrors, counter, display cases, couch shelves, chairs, computer, telephones, printers and file cabinets. The tattooing equipment you would need are; autoclave, needles, tattooing machines, latex gloves, ink paper towels, and plastic spray bottles.

Also, the people you need to employ in order to run an efficient and successful tattoo business are; chief executive officer (owner), at least two professionally trained tattooists, a front desk officer, marketing and sales executives, admin and human resources manager and cleaner.

Therefore from the above analysis, you would need at least 7 key staff to be able to run your tattoo business successfully.

The Service Delivery Process of a Tattoo Shop

Giving tattoos usually require that set procedures be carried out such as preparing the work area by spaying the counter with disinfectant before taking on a customer. Then you would need to ensure that all the needles and rubber gloves you intend using are sterilized.

Tattoos are usually made from specialized tattoo ink or India ink and are regarded as safe to use for anybody. It should however be noted that most people react to ink colors. Once the client has chosen a design and the tattoo area, the tattoo artist will clean the tattoo area and then apply the design on the skin.

Starting a Tattoo Business at Home – The Marketing Plan

  • Marketing ideas and strategies

Marketing your tattoo shop is very important especially as this is the avenue where you will not only generate revenue for your business but also create awareness for your business. Due to the importance of marketing, entrepreneurs usually take their time to draft marketing strategies that will not only be strategic but also effective in achieving the goals and objectives of the business.

However, before any marketing strategies can be drafted for use; it is vital that a thorough market survey be carried out so that the entrepreneur can use the information and data to find out who the target market is, what their characteristics and buying patterns are, what they expect from the tattoo shop and what the entrepreneur should expect from them as well.

The data is usually gotten from reliable sources such as already existing tattoo shops within and outside the environment, various research materials and online sources. The entrepreneur has to use reliable research if he or she intends to get reliable results.

Location also has a huge role to play in how an entrepreneur can market his products and/or services. This is why it is necessary that you locate your tattoo shop in an area that has high traffic and is easy for clients to access. Once you are located in a very conspicuous area, you would spend less in marketing your tattoo shop to your intending target market.

Some of the ideas and strategies that can be used in marketing your tattoo shop are;

  • Introduce your tattoo shop to community and industry stakeholders by sending out brochures about your tattoo shop along with your services, rates and contact information
  • Ensure that your tattoo shop is listed in online directories as well as yellow pages
  • Distribute handbills and paste fliers about your tattoo shop in different strategic locations
  • Advertise your tattoo shop in local newspapers and related magazines as well as on radio and television stations
  • Engage in direct marketing in order to generate revenue and increase awareness for your tattoo shop
  • Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube in order to market your tattoo shop

Strategies to Boost Your Tattoo Shop Brand Awareness and Create Your Corporate Identity

If you have the intention of making your tattoo shop very popular so that people would want to come to your shop no matter the distance, then you must be ready to engage in activities and spending money to ensure that you are able to achieve recognition for your tattoo shop beyond your locality.

There are several ways by which you can promote your tattoo shop to potential clients and one of them is the internet, which allows an entrepreneur a cheaper and effective means of reaching more people. This therefore means that in addition to the website that a tattoo shop might have, social media platforms on the internet can also be utilized optimally to achieve the desired goals and objectives of the company.

Some entrepreneurs during the start of their business usually employ a publicist who has vast experience to help in creating strategies that would help increase the right awareness for the business. Below therefore are some of the platforms that a tattoo shop can leverage on in order to promote and advertise one’s business;

  • Encourage loyal customers to engage in word of mouth publicity for the tattoo shop
  • Place adverts in local newspapers and related magazines as well as on radio and television stations
  • Use the website of the company as well as social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Google Plus and YouTube to promote the tattoo shop
  • Distribute handbills and paste fliers in different strategic locations
  • Position flexi banners in strategic locations all around the city
  • Join local associations and attend tattoo related events in order to network and promote the business
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