We Asked 3 Tattoo Shop Owners How To Open a Tattoo Studio

We Asked 3 Tattoo Shop Owners How To Open a Tattoo Studio
Want to know how to open a tattoo studio? Find out what 3 successful tattoo shop owners recommend to those just starting up.

If tattooing is your passion and you want to take it further by opening a tattoo shop, we’ve got priceless insights for you. We interviewed 3 tattoo shop owners to understand the most important aspects of this business. In this article, you’ll find a step-by-step guide on how to open a tattoo shop and what challenges you should expect.

There are things every entrepreneur needs to know, no matter what industry you’re in. So, we’ll start with the fundamentals—business plan, vision, and accounting—and then move on to nuances that are unique to the tattoo business. Finally, there will be a couple of expert tips you need to know before you open a tattoo shop.

Representing the top of their field, Nick from New York’s Manhattan Tattoos LLC, Gifford from Chicago’s Logan Square Tattoo, and Crystal & Jiwon from LINES New York know how to open a tattoo shop and turn it into a flourishing creative space, and we are extremely grateful to feature their insights on InkMatch!

How To Open a Tattoo Studio: The Essentials

How To Open a Tattoo Studio: The Essentials

Running a successful business involves many aspects, from marketing to managing human resources. Some things are specific to the industry you’re in, but others are essential for any kind of business. When we asked Nick, Gifford, Crystal, and Jiwon what skills and knowledge they needed to open a tattoo shop, they all mentioned the same things.

Business Plan

Even a simplistic business plan can help you navigate through your entrepreneurial journey. A traditional business plan includes numerous sections, including market analysis, financial breakdown, competitors’ outlook, legal considerations, and more.

You don’t have to dig too deep—after all, a tattoo shop is a straightforward and reliable business model—but you should be able to answer the most basic questions. For example, ask yourself:

  • Do I want to get more appointments or walk-ins?
  • How much do nearby tattoo shops charge?
  • Where do I get my supplies from?
  • How many tattoos will I need to do every month to break even?
  • Do I have all the necessary permits?

Business Plan

Not having a plan at all lowers your chances for success. It doesn’t mean that you will necessarily fail, but it will force you to solve many issues on the fly. Considering your budget will probably be very tight, you might or might not manage to stay afloat. On top of that, having a good business plan means that you can get better loan or property lease terms.

More about the business plan...
Here’s a great article where we take a deeper look at the legal and financial side of how to open a tattoo shop. These nuances will help you make your business plan more detailed and accurate!

Vision and Value Proposition

Usually, defining a value proposition is part of creating the business plan, but due to its critical importance we wanted to cover it separately. Whether you own a tattoo shop or a multinational corporation, the point stands—you must understand what value you create for your clients. If you want to know how to open a tattoo shop, start by exploring the vision you have:

  • What is going to be unique about your tattoo shop?
  • Will clients return for your tattooing style, the shop’s atmosphere, or something else?
  • How do you want to develop this uniqueness?

The tattoo shop owners we talked to approached their businesses very differently. But all of them knew what made them unique and recognizable. For LINES it was curating a warm, welcoming environment of wellness and fashion aesthetic, while Logan Square Tattoo is famous for its diverse style palette and constant flow of guest artists.

Our studio is an oasis of art, fashion, and wellness. We want to change the narrative of the industry from being underground to something considered high fashion. After all, tattoos are some of the most valuable clothing anybody will ever wear.

—Crystal from LINES New York

The elegant aesthetics of LINES New York

The elegant aesthetics of LINES New York


Running a business without having basic accounting knowledge is like trying to cook while not knowing how to cut vegetables. Accounting skills will always be valuable and will actually save you money.

I used various services that did my financials for me, and they were helpful in the beginning. But when I learned how it actually works, I realized I could save thousands of dollars by doing it myself.

—Nick from Manhattan Tattoos LLC

It will take some time to figure out all the nuances of the tax code that apply to your situation. Accounting is a large field of knowledge, so we can’t cover all of it. Instead, we’ll mention just a couple of specific aspects you need to research if you want to open a tattoo shop.

  • Employees vs. independent contractors

As a tattoo shop owner, you need to know how to classify tattoo artists working in your studio. Generally, it depends on the way artists get paid. If they manage their incomes and expenses separately (for example, they buy their own supplies), you can classify them as independent contractors. On the other hand, if the tattoo shop owner handles all the expenses and payouts, they should register tattoo artists as employees.

  •  Tax deductions for small businesses

The IRS offers dozens of tax breaks for small businesses. If you want to open a tattoo shop, knowing about them will save you a lot of money. For example, the costs of inks or needles are tax-deductible, and so is the rent you pay. The first step to receiving those tax breaks is to track all the expenses (and save the receipts, too). Don’t forget to keep them separate from your personal expenses!


Step-By-Step Guide From Tattoo Shop Owners

Let’s now look at the 4 specific steps you need to take to open a tattoo shop. All of them are both crucial and challenging, so the expert knowledge of tattoo shop owners will help you get these things right.

Finding the Location

A good location is an enormous part of a tattoo shop’s success equation. The choice of the place affects every other aspect of the business: atmosphere, clientele, fixed costs, and pricing strategy. Ideally, you want to open a tattoo studio in a place that is neat, good-looking, easily accessible, and relatively inexpensive to rent out.

Also, think about the potential clients walking past your storefront. For example, if they are students who study nearby, you might be getting quite a few walk-ins from them. But be prepared—checking all these boxes is not going to be easy.

I’ve found several locations on Loop.net, but it was hard to actually get one. Some landlords didn’t like the tattoo shop idea, some didn’t have the necessary permits. Also, there are lots of stereotypes about tattoo artists. Everyone assumed I was doing the typical old-school shop, and one person asked if we’re going to have parties all the time.

—Nick from Manhattan Tattoos LLC

The front door of a hidden gem of New York, Manhattan Tattoos LLC

The front door of a hidden gem of New York, Manhattan Tattoos LLC

Setting Up the Space

This aspect is about the atmosphere and image you create. Think about how to open a tattoo shop that will be unique and memorable for anyone who comes inside. It is important to have a clear vision of your studio before you commit to the venture. So, here are a couple of points to consider:

  • What will be the first thing the client notices?
  • What vibe will the studio have?
  • Is there a specific artistic style you’d like to implement?
  • What kinds of creative collaborations can you think of?

Our parlor doesn’t look like a typical tattoo shop. We have art classes and workshops right next to the tattoo chairs. There is something new every week, and this positive energy around multidisciplinary artists is a big part of our vision for the space.

—Crystal from LINES New York

Traditional Japanese Tea Ritual being held at LINES

Traditional Japanese Tea Ritual being held at LINES

Bringing and Keeping Clients

When you open a tattoo shop, two things can help you ensure a solid flow of clients. First is the clientele you’ve already established. Second, focusing on and mastering 2-3 marketing channels. Having a clientele you can carry over to your new place is a must, and we’ll explain why that is in our expert tips section. As for marketing channels, we certainly recommend putting your business on Google Maps and using paid promotion tools offered by Google, as well as social networks like Instagram or Facebook.

Marketing is a huge field of knowledge that is beyond the scope of this article. But if you do want to dig into it, we recommend checking our in-depth guide on how to get new tattoo clients. There, we help tattoo artists be efficient with their marketing and target the right people.

The simple fact is that a person who gets a tattoo and loves it will probably come back for another one. This is why it’s so important to focus on customer experience. When we asked Gifford about what makes his studio stand out, he said that part of it is impeccable client relations management.

We are working hard to show our clients that they are part of the process, and we care about them. There’s always someone to pick up the phone, talk to you, and answer your questions.

—Gifford from Logan Square Tattoo

Logan Square Tattoo is open 7 days a week

Logan Square Tattoo is open 7 days a week

Building a Team

To open a successful tattoo shop, you need to design your own recipe for fruitful teamwork. We all like working with different people, so this part is more subjective. We asked Nick, Gifford, Crystal, and Jiwon what they look for in fellow tattoo artists, and they highlighted slightly different aspects.

📚 Teachability

I look for teachability. The most important trait anyone can have is a willingness to learn. I’m learning from everyone around every day, and even when I’m teaching somebody, there’s always something I’m learning from them.

—Crystal from LINES New York

⏳ Patience

Patience is essential with apprenticeships. Learning a new craft doesn’t happen overnight, so being patient throughout the process is a must.

—Jiwon Ra from LINES New York

❤️‍🔥 Passion

What I want foremost is passion. Many good artists do the work just to get paid, but that’s not the vibe I’m looking for. I want the person who’s going to do their absolute best even on a small piece.

—Nick from Manhattan Tattoos LLC

🎨 Innovation

We invite very different artists, but what is important is maintaining the freshness of ideas. We want new people to contribute to the image we’re building.

—Gifford from Logan Square Tattoo

4 Tips Future Tattoo Shop Owners Need To Know

4 Tips Future Tattoo Shop Owners Need To Know

Finally, we asked the tattoo shop owners about common pitfalls and ways to avoid them. If you are going to open a tattoo shop, these insights are essential to know.

🙋 Have established clientele

It will be very hard to open a tattoo shop without established clientele. As Nick says, you’ll need to be getting walk-ins 24/7 to make ends meet unless you have an established clientele that will provide you with some baseline cash flow.

🤓 Learn about legal nuances

We mentioned it in the business plan section and will add a bit more context now. In general, you must have a permit to work as a tattoo artist and to tattoo in the building you’re in. This article outlines the most typical requirements, but keep in mind that there might be some differences depending on the state you live in.

🤝 Build trusting relationships

Micromanagement is bad for business. Becoming an entrepreneur means delegating many tasks instead of trying to do all the work yourself. With this comes the need to entrust other people with important matters. For many entrepreneurs, this is a tough psychological shift, and yet it’s necessary.

When you open a tattoo shop, there are so many things you need to be doing simultaneously. When you’re being pulled in so many directions, it’s important to remember to establish trust.

—Jiwon Ra & Crystal Ink from LINES New York

🧑‍🎨 Don’t forget you’re an artist, too

Both Gifford and Nick mentioned this aspect. As you open a tattoo studio, you undertake a lot of responsibility, which can distract you from your own creative development. If you hate the management part of the business, it will start consuming too much energy, and your tattooing will suffer. This is why it’s so crucial to have a clear vision of the place you’re building. Opening a tattoo shop simply to earn more money is usually a bad idea that has drowned many talented artists.

😎 Would you like to hear more from tattoo professionals?
If you’re looking for unique insights, first-hand knowledge, and tips from experts, we’ve got a lot in store for you. We interview tattoo artists regularly and welcome you to explore our conversations with Melise Hill, Jonny Hall, and many other talented artists.
4 Tips Future Tattoo Shop Owners Need To Know


In this article, we’ve covered the essential basics of how to open a tattoo shop. If you want to turn your passion into a successful business venture, the first thing you need is to learn the fundamentals. Creating a business plan and knowing basic accounting principles is a must for any entrepreneur. 

When you have that baseline knowledge, you can look forward to the 4 steps of opening a tattoo shop. You need to know how to find a suitable location, set up the interior, get new clients, and build a team of tattoo artists. To answer these questions, we interviewed 3 successful tattoo studio owners and relied on their unparalleled expertise. They also shared a couple of helpful tips you want to know before launching a business.

We hope our article has answered the questions you’ve had about how to open a successful tattoo shop. We’d love to thank Nick, Gifford, Crystal, and Jiwon for their time and knowledge, which made this guide much more engaging and insightful.


💰 Is Owning a Tattoo Shop Profitable?

Yes, a tattoo shop is a reliable business model that can also be very lucrative. It is relatively inexpensive to start (usually around $50,000) and can bring around $5,000 of net income every month.

✅ What License Do You Need To Open a Tattoo Shop?

To open a tattoo shop, you need to get a tattoo studio license, a certificate of occupancy for a building you’re in, and sometimes retail or other building permits. You can learn everything about the legal aspects of opening a tattoo parlor in this guide.

🖌️ Can You Open a Tattoo Shop if You Are Not an Artist?

Yes, it is very much possible. On one hand, you need to learn more about tattooing itself, but on the other, not being an artist will make it easier to focus on the managerial aspect of the business.

🤔 Is It Legal to Tattoo at Home?

Usually, it is not. You need to make sure that the place you work in has a certificate of occupancy, which means that you’re allowed to have commercial activity there.


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