grow your business, Howto, small business

How to Manage a Tattoo Shop – The Right Thinking to Get You Inking

Artist Tattooing the Arm of Another Person

Management tends to be a combination of many things – which can be specific, vague, and are usually hard to quantify. 

You think you’re doing everything right, but nobody is coming to your store. On the flip side, you’re charging $100 for a tattoo that all the other stores charge $80 for, and customers keep coming.

It’s hard to tell if you’re getting the most out of your business, so, if you’re not sure you’re going down the right path, don’t worry – there’s no right path in the first place. 

Managing a tattoo stop is variable, and depends from person to person. As long as you’re following what your customers, employers, and the brain tell you to, you’re going to be just fine.

But in case you’re looking for something beyond “just fine”, or if you’re not sure which direction to go and looking for a guide or some sort of “how-to” list – we’ve got you covered.

Here are a few key things you can add to your tattoo shop management style, to make your shop run as smoothly as possible:

  1. Setting Up the Shop Itself
  2. How to Manage A Tattoo Shop
  3. A Little Extra to Set Your Shop Apart
  4. Same Formula, Different Result

1. Setting Up the Shop Itself

For those of you who aspire to run a big, famous tattoo shop one day, with your ink plastered across the news and people’s skin, but aren’t sure where to begin – we can show you the starting line.


Location – All roads, do NOT, in fact, lead to Rome

Locations that are hard to reach don’t sell well, simply because people won’t spend that much time looking for the shop, especially first-time customers. An ideal location is:

  1. Easy to reach,
  2. Well connected by public transport.
  3. Has foot traffic nearby, like a shopping district or mall.
  4. Doesn’t blend into the surroundings, or is easily forgotten in favor of the surroundings.

Beyond that, it’s important to know who you’re selling to! Setting up a tattoo shop near an old-age home might seem like the perfect way to spite your Grandma, but the only thing you’re going to get is an open door with no customers.
It’s best to set up shop in a place with a lot of prospective customers.  A study shows that people from ages 15-29 are more likely to get tattooed, so setting up near a college or a university, or perhaps even a few malls might be advisable.

Source: YouGov 

Tattoo shops – places that deal heavily with skin and piercings – need to prioritize cleanliness over anything else, to avoid infections (and potential lawsuits!). Looks like the garbage disposal plant might not be the best neighbor for your store, after all.

If you’ve already set up your location, and are looking for a way to bring more foot traffic into your shop, a simple way would be to set up a tiny, mobile stand on the closest main street – showing off your tattoos, artists, and maybe even having a live demonstration or two, if possible.


Business Name – “Hello, this is [name not found] speaking.”

The most recognizable aspect of a business is – its name. Sure, we’ve heard of and seen some funky names over the years, but having a tattoo shop called “Tattoo Shop” might not be the best idea. The name is a representation of how your store will be remembered. Whether it’s a funny name, a pun, a serious design, or just something that means a lot to you personally, the name should be memorable

Although, there’s a fine line between memorable and confusing. The name should be easy to spell, and unique too, otherwise, your customers might end up at your competitor’s shop instead of yours. You want your customers to remember the name, and be able to tell their friends and family about it. Not go on a quest for a shop whose name sounds like it came out of some ancient fairy tale.

Some “punny” names you can consider are:

InkIt, Monsters Ink., The Inkredibles, Inkorporeal and Inkdeep.


2. The Meat of the Matter – How to Manage A Tattoo Shop

Now, for the actual management part of the shop. You’ve set up, everything is good to go, and now you’re looking at the store, unsure of what to do next. 

Who do you hire? What do you pay them? What about your customers? 


Employees – You Can’t Do Everything Yourself

It’s hard managing a tattoo shop when there’s nothing and nobody to manage. First things first, you need to make sure you’re hiring the right employees.

While it is enticing to work with friends and family, the border between professional and personal is hard to maintain, especially for a business as subjective as tattooing – so hire friends at family at your own risk.

Your employees should ideally have their own styles, preferably bringing their own techniques and portfolios to the table. Maybe a certain artist is skilled in shading-based tattoos, while another is skilled at spacious line art – make sure you have a full roster.

Building on that, an artist must know their own limits, and those limits must be imposed by YOU! If an artist is unsure about a piece (perhaps it is too complex to make), or the person they’re tattooing (maybe someone too young), then the artist should be given the final say. No ifs and buts.

On the flip side, a tattoo artist should not go the other way and try to experiment on customers – it might be their canvas, but it’s another person’s body.

It might also be helpful to hire a dedicated cleaner – if your artists are busy and swamped with appointments, those extra 15-30 minutes they would need to clean the area up would distract them from their work and reduce the number of appointments coming in, too.


Paying employees

Employees, once again, can be paid depending on a variety of things – maybe you want to pay by the number of customers, the number of tattoos, time spent, or the tattoo’s complexity.

A simple way to pay the employees is by giving them a percentage cut of the tattoos they’ve made, or perhaps just keeping a salary that everyone involved is okay with. Being transparent with your employees is the first step to being an effective tattoo shop manager.

For other employees such as cleaners, paying them depends on how they’re working – do they work a variable number of hours, or are they there at a fixed time, every day? You could choose to pay them hourly or pay them a fixed monthly wage as well. 


Tattooing Tools

Now that you’ve got the “Who” sorted, you need to figure out the “How”. 

Tattoo guns, tattoo ink, cleaning materials, needles, etc., all need to be kept track of, and most notably, kept clean.  If a customer is allergic to something, or if a needle wasn’t disposed of properly and instead, reused, it can lead to big problems – possibly even lawsuits. 

Keeping track of all the tools can be hard, and tedious at times. A great way to do it is this easy-to-use service called Appointy. Not only does it let you keep track of your resources and assign them as and when required, but it also makes your tattoo shop management process easier than ever.


Marketing and Advertising

For a design-based business, social media is your best friend. Word-of-mouth is still powerful, and good reviews from customers will only bring you more customers. However, with art, the simplest rule is “show, don’t tell”.

It’s cost-effective, it’s fast, and it’s easy. Not only that, it’s POWERFUL. Want to advertise your business the most effective way? Take the beautiful tattoos your artists make, or some they’ve worked on in their portfolios, and put them up on Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Facebook.

You don’t need JUST tattoos either. Do your artists have really interesting stories, or do customers have some anecdotes they may be comfortable sharing? Maybe your method of caring for tattoos is better than any other competitors’. Put all of it online! 

Hashtags are the yellow brick road to success – make sure you have the right hashtags, after doing thorough research, and you’ll be trending in no time.

Want a more detailed guide on how to market your tattoo shop? You can find out more here: 8 Best Tattoo Shop Marketing Strategies to Grow your Business 


Managing your Digital Footprint

Having a well-made, fast website that people can use to contact you, find your shops, or just browse tattoo designs is a great way to get more traffic. It also reduces the load of handling all the marketing by yourself, and makes managing your tattoo shop easier.

When a customer talks to a friend, looks at reviews, and STILL can’t decide, the best place to go is the community. Having a community posting page on your website, where people can post their tattoo designs, ideas, results, and other thoughts/concerns/feedback they had, can go a long way.

On social media sites such as Instagram or Facebook, comments are seldom completely positive – people will rarely ever go out of their way to post, unless they had a truly amazing experience. A workaround to that is offering discounts and incentives to people who post a review – maybe a 10% off on their next tattoo, or a free piercing – anything goes!

As your number of happy customers increases, their posts increase, and their interaction increases, you’ll find new customers coming in, because they “heard nice things about this place”. And the best part? It’s far more inexpensive than going and advertising using standard means.


Contract Liability – Make Sure Everyone is on the Same Page

Contracts and agreements are usually needed, just in case of any mishaps, which state that anything out of the control of the artist, the parlor, and the tools, is the customer’s liability.

For example, not informing the artist about any allergy or choosing a tattoo that they liked and then deciding against it after it’s been inked. 

Since tattoos are essentially permanent (barring an expensive removal procedure), the agreement should be drawn up beforehand and agreed upon by all the parties involved, i.e., the artist, the owners, and the customer (who can sign a standard template of the agreement). 

While it is not entirely necessary to have a legal procedure, it can help in the long run in case of any unforeseen circumstances.


Using the Right Software

Using books and written records works just fine, and will keep your business in check. But, when you have more employees and customers than you can count, keeping track of appointments, employee in-times, out-times, tools, holidays, and much more, things can get a little bit complicated. 

You could try using Excel spreadsheets and asking everyone to update their information regularly, but there’s always going to be that one customer or one employee who tends to forget or slips up, or just doesn’t have the time to do it.

Appointy is a tattoo shop scheduling software which exists to make that load on your shoulders a little bit lighter. It allows your customers to schedule appointments easily and lets you keep track of your employees’ timings and their availability, as well as their services. Not only that, you can keep track of your tools, supplies, and many more management-related activities, all in one place. 

Why stop there? Payments can be made fully contactless and cashless, and be done through the booking portal, provided the price is decided upon beforehand.

Do customers have a history of forgetting appointments, or need help to keep track of their schedule? Appointy can send reminders at given times to the customers, through SMS and even E-Mail, depending on what the customer and the manager decide.


3. A Little Extra to Set Your Shop Apart


Finding the Right Pricing for your Services

Prices are tough to decide because of the variability of tattoos – some can be really large but simple and not take much ink, while some can be small and detailed and take hours. The most common way of charging is per square inch.

Some places charge per hour for a certain tattoo artist, depending on their skill level and renown. It can vary from $100 per hour, for a novice artist, to $350 per hour, for a famous artist.

Most places tend to keep tattoo prices variable. The square inch guideline is just a metric used often, which can be marked higher or lower depending on the design, the time, and the complexity.

This is where the manager, i.e., you, come in. You need to know whether to go higher or lower based on the complexity, and whether you’re getting back the price of the materials you’re using. Find a sweet spot that you, your employers, and most notably, your customers agree on.

Keep in mind that prices vary from place to place! Charging $300 for a mid-size tattoo might be acceptable in some places, but it’s practically robbery in others. Make sure to check the local prices and land at a price that’s both profitable and feasible.


Add-Ons

Maybe you have a little extra something on the side which you’ve been wanting to sell – a special tattoo cream, maybe some rings, who knows. 

Offering add-ons allows your customer to explore a variety of things without going to multiple different shops, and all from the comfort of their own home.


Removal and Cover-Ups

Sometimes, despite all the precautions and steps taken, a tattoo could be done incorrectly or some unforeseen mistake could happen. Maybe it might not be at your store, maybe it might be at another person’s.

A simple way to put your name out there could be to offer Cover-Ups as a cheaper service, and maybe offer a discount to the people who get a cover-up done, for the next time they eventually come by. 

Ideally, there should be no mistakes in the tattooing process, but in case there are, your customer won’t go home feeling unhappy. Furthermore, if it’s a mistake made in-house, then the cover-up should be offered free of charge.

Removal is a completely separate procedure, and not something that you might be thinking about when you open up shop. Having a provision available for removal, or having contacts who could offer a safe, cheap tattoo removal would definitely build some rapport with your customers.


Conclusion: Same formula, different result

We’re not here to tell you “HOW TO MANAGE A TATTOO SHOP TO GET A MILLION CUSTOMERS”, or promise you something equally unreasonable. Everyone has their own marketing, their own skills, and most importantly when it comes to tattoos, their own style.

We’re just here to show you some steps that you can take – if you weren’t already doing them – and how we, at Appointy, can make those same steps easier than ever before. 

Keeping true to technological advances, we aim to make your job easier, faster, and better, in hopes that we can make your tattoo shop management experience more enjoyable than stressful.

Keep inking, we hope your shop is as permanent and loved as your tattoos!


About Appointy

We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, and resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day. 

If you have any thoughts on this blog or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below. 

We love a good talk!