How to Run a Tattoo Shop


A successfully run tattoo shop requires an owner who can balance a positive environment for both clients and tattoo artists. Owning a tattoo shop that has a welcoming, professional lobby with a tattoo artist to answer a client's questions honestly and promptly makes clients more comfortable, leading to a positive experience. Clear, concise policies concerning subjects such as pay and scheduling will raise tattoo artist's morale. High morale among artists in a tattoo shop results in solid work ethics and more revenue.

Things You'll Need

  • Tattoo shop
  • Employees
  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Calendar
  • Open the tattoo shop on time and be prompt with drawings and appointments for clients. Get to the tattoo shop at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled opening hour for scrubbing and sterilizing equipment to be used for the day. Having a drawing completed and ready for the client to approve will instill in the client confidence in their tattoo artist.

  • Pay your employees promptly for tattoos that they have executed. Tattoo artists can be paid in one of two ways: The artist can be paid a percentage---in tattoo shops, the artist generally makes 50 or 60 percent of the total price of each tattoo---or a fixed-fee weekly or monthly booth rent.

  • Create a cleaning list for each day that the shop is open. In addition to normal cleaning, such as mopping the floors and wiping down countertops, add tasks such as wiping down the phone and door knobs with a germicidal spray.

    Cleaning schedules are important and mandatory in a tattoo shop to prevent the spread of diseases such as Hepatitis C. Clients may touch their tattoo after it is performed and can leave infected bodily fluids on surfaces in the tattoo shop.

  • Make a schedule for weekly and monthly tasks. Cleaning and spore testing the autoclave should be included on this schedule. An autoclave is a machine that sterilizes needles and equipment by using a combination of heat, pressure and steam. Spore tests are monthly tests that are run inside the autoclave to ensure that it is sterilizing properly. The spore test strip will be sent off to a lab after the testing cycle. Keep a binder with these test results, because the Board of Health must see and approve your spore tests. Check the dates of sterilized instruments and needles to be sure they have not expired.

  • Put a large calendar in the employee break room or at the front desk. Have employees write their initials on days that they would like to take off. When an employee agrees to cover the shift, ask that employee to initial that date. This will prevent miscommunication regarding work shifts. For example, if a tattoo artist does not show up for a scheduled shift, several clients may have to have their appointments rescheduled, resulting in a loss of revenue for the day and possibly losing the client to another shop.

  • Upon hire, brief employees about the policies of the tattoo shop. If possible, provide a shop handbook that an employee can easily reference. Policies that are common at tattoo shops include: Clients cannot be tattooed without state-issued, valid identification; minors cannot be tattooed without a parent or legal guardian present; and the tattoo artist needs to complete ongoing health and safety education on subjects such as sterilization of tools and bloodborne pathogens.

  • Discipline employees accordingly if the rules are broken. A common disciplinary practice in a tattoo shop includes suspending the tattoo artist for two or more consecutive shifts if they are on a booth-rent pay system, or reducing their take-home percentage for a week.

Tips & Warnings

  • Take a college course in business to better understand the skills needed to run a tattoo shop.
  • For legal reasons, make sure that a third-party employee is present whenever you conduct a disciplinary meeting with an employee. Ask the third-party employee to take notes of what happens at that meeting.

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