Tattoo parlors can be busy, colorful places celebrating body art, personal ornamentation and a centuries-old craft that has given millions of people creatively branded arms, legs, backs and shoulders. More lenient cultural attitudes toward tattoos have led to increased acceptance in communities, resulting in higher customer volume. While tattoos aren’t the taboo they once were, people will always want to get tattoos to make a statement about their personal style. If you’d like to start a tattoo parlor, understanding the costs involved can help you prepare to establish a successful business.
The overall cost for starting a tattoo parlor as of 2011 can hover around $27,000, according to Bplans.com, a website for entrepreneurs. However, it’s possible to open a business for less — around $15,000 — by cutting costs (for example, paying for a smaller location), according to Start Up Biz Hub. It may cost more if you’re planning to launch elaborate marketing campaigns or hire several full-time staff members. Some business owners get their start-up capital through a combination of personal savings, credit card purchases and small-business loans.
Rent costs vary drastically depending on your geographic location and how much your business requires. Tattoo businesses may pay $1,500 per month for rent as of 2011, according to Bplans.com. Remember that not all areas may welcome a tattoo business because of the late hours and a clientele that is sometimes rough around the edges. Utilities may run around $150 per month, including electricity, Internet access and telephone.
Tattoo parlors require professional-quality tattoo guns, ink and sterilization equipment. As of 2011, you’ll pay a minimum of $100 per month to replenish supplies; more in busier months, according to Bplans.com. Tattoo parlors tend to be busier in summer months and slower during wintertime. The overall cost of starting a tattoo parlor also includes furniture, racks to hold albums of tattoo image ideas and chairs for people to sit in while waiting for friends to get their tattoos. Depending on health codes, you may need to purchase dividers between areas of the room where individuals get their tattoos.
If you’re a licensed tattoo artist, you may not have to factor in payroll costs other than your own wage. The cost of employees may vary depending on how you structure the tattoo business; some locations may pay artists a commission based on the cost of tattoos completed. Other tattoo parlors employ salaried artists or pay an hourly wage. As of 2011, a tattoo parlor with two highly skilled artists may expect to pay $136,192 in payroll costs during the first year, according to Bplans.com.
Expect to spend a minimum of $150 per month, as of 2011, on basic marketing costs, including printing business cards, fliers and storefront window signage, according to Bplans.com. You’ll pay significantly more when building a business website featuring bios of your tattoo artists, photographs of their best work, contact information, basic pricing information and customer testimonials from satisfied tattoo enthusiasts. Maintaining a business website also incurs an online hosting fee. Radio spots, newspaper ads and professional photography add to the cost for more sophisticated campaigns.
The cost of starting a tattoo parlor includes fees for business licenses, permits and liability insurance. Tattoo shops with employees pay payroll taxes of about 15 percent and employee benefits (for example, health insurance) of about 10 percent as of 2011, according to Bplans.com.
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.