Learn Tattoo Business 15 Steps To Growing Your Tattooing Business in 2021

Ever wondered how to get a steady stream of clients rolling through your door? Relying on walk ins (especially in quiet shops) or trying to build up a presence from scratch is hard! That's why our team at Tattooing 101 is here to help

In this article you'll learn:

  • How to get more clients
  • How to increase the size of your clients’ transactions
  • Get clients to buy from you more often
  • Marketing: Showing Customers Why You’re the Right Choice

Letting your business grow passively through word of mouth is slow and it leaves success to chance. Taking action to grow through marketing grows your business much faster. This gives you complete control of the outcome, and it leads to repeat clients because you’ll be constantly proving why they should get tattooed by you instead of anyone else. 

To make that happen, we’ve put together a list of marketing tactics you can use as a tattoo artist to get more clients

The 15 Steps To Market & Grow Your Tattoo Business

To be a successful tattoo shop, you need potential clients to trust you in two ways:

First, they need to trust your skill. The work of both you and the artists in your shop should speak for itself and their ability to create great tattoos.

Secondly, customers need to feel cared for. While this might not have been the case a few decades ago when tattooing was more underground, nowadays tattooing is more mainstream. And a more mainstream audience is going to look for a place that looks clean and sanitary and promises to treat them well.

These 15 marketing and growth strategies will help you prove your shop to be trustworthy to not only deliver a great tattoo, but to offer a great customer experience as well.

  1. 1

Be Local

Unless you or one of your shop’s artists has a huge following, the clients you’re going to see on a regular basis are locals. Let them know you’re invested in their community, and that you’re here to stay.

Promote other local businesses.

Displaying posters, business cards, and coupons for nearby local businesses shows customers that you’re an active member in the local area and makes them more interested in your work. Additionally, if you can get other businesses to promote you as well, you can share customers and both grow.

Host a flash day.

Get new customers in the door by doing simple flash designs for a fixed price. This lets you build relationships with new clients in the community. If they spend time in your shop and see your skill in a flash design, they’re much more likely to pick you when they want to get a larger piece done. 

  1. 2

Build Your Website

Being on social media isn’t enough. To really make sure you have a presence online, you need to have a website where potential customers can get all the information they need from you. Remember, a professional website is yourname.com. Do not use the “free” version where the website builder’s name has to appear in the url. 

Photo Gallery

The #1 thing potential customers want to see is pictures of your past work! Make sure you display work from all your artists so customers can see each of their styles. The background of every picture should show a plain, sanitary environment or a uniform background that gives your gallery a cohesive feel.

If you don’t have a branded background yet, getting pictures of each finished tattoo against a plain wall before the client leaves is a great way to build up this gallery.

These pictures should be well lit and unedited.

The only part you can edit is the background, like the image to the right. However, you’ll lose credibility fast if someone figures out you’ve Photoshopped your tattoos.

Contact Form

Very few clients will want to drive to the shop just to set up an appointment. Make sure your phone number is listed on the site and that you have a way for them to chat online with someone immediately, whether it’s through your site, Instagram, or Facebook. Having live chat on your site through a software called ManyChat allows clients to send your shop a Facebook message from your website.

Online Booking

Letting a customer book their consultation online makes it easier to get them in the shop and takes pressure off your artists to constantly message back and forth with clients to find a time to meet. Calendly is a free scheduling tool clients can easily use to book a consultation.

Testimonials

Social proof is powerful. Having as many glowing reviews as possible builds trust in potential clients. It also relieves the anxiety of clients who think “I hope this artist doesn’t mess up my tattoo.” 

Plus, it reassures people that you know what you’re doing. Having someone else say that you are the best is far more convincing than when you say it.

Not all testimonials are created equal. Video testimonials are the most convincing to potential clients. An image with the client’s written testimonial is second-best. Text-only reviews are less effective, but still helpful.

  1. 3

Build an Email List

An email list allows you to reach out to existing and future customers without paying for ads. Once you have someone's email, you’re able to establish a relationship with that person and get them to feel like they know you well. 

Consistently sending interesting tattoo stories, tips on tattoo care take care, etc. will establish you as an authority they can trust. No one likes to get spammed, but occasionally mentioning a special you have going on or that you’re open for appointments will encourage them to get more tattoos from you. 

Whenever someone gets a tattoo at your shop, they should be added to your email list.

Create a “Lead Magnet”

A lead magnet is simply something valuable (preferably digital so it doesn't cost you anything) that you can give away for free in exchange for someone's email address. Having a lead magnet on your site is much more effective than a plain newsletter sign up because the person is actually getting something in return for signing up. 

For example, you could put together a PDF of “100 Free Tattoo Design Ideas.” For the person visiting your site to get access to that content, they would need to enter their name and email address. They get the designs they want, and you get to add a new person to your mailing list.

At Tattooing 101, we offer our Linework Secrets Guide for free. This lets us help future tattoo artists perfect their linework and gives us the opportunity to keep in contact with people who share our passion for tattooing. 

Tips

(Psst! If you want to get the guide and get free tattooing tips to your inbox, you can do that here.)

  1. 4

Ask for Testimonials and Resolve Any Bad Reviews

While testimonials should be on your website, they’re getting their entire section in this article. Why? Because you can post as many testimonials as you’d like on your own website, but most clients will be looking for reviews outside of your shop’s online presence.

Although you will be posting honest reviews, not every customer is going to believe that they’re authentic. Plenty of businesses buy reviews or write reviews for themselves, and no business is going to post bad reviews on their site’s Testimonials page.

This is why Yelp and Google Reviews can make or break you. It’s where customers say what they really think - both good and bad. 

If someone writes a review about how clean the shop is and how great their tattoo turned out - you are instantly proven to be professional and an authority in tattooing. But if someone bashes your shop or your work, that’s all most people need to turn them off booking an appointment.

That’s why, if you do receive a bad review, you should try to resolve the issue as soon as possible. 

First, make sure the customer is talking about your shop. Some people might review the wrong place or have a personal problem with an artist and decide to badmouth the shop for revenge. Verifying that they did come in for a tattoo and that their complaint is valid is important.

If they do have a genuine complaint, do your best to reconcile. You can privately offer to touch up a tattoo or discuss a discount. If the problem is fixed this way, ask the client to change their review or add an edit noting that the problem they had was fixed. Publicly showing that you took action right away to fix the problem for the client will help future customers trust your shop. 

How to Get Google Reviews

If you ask someone to review you on Google when they get home, they will say that they will (and then immediately forget the second they step into the parking lot). 

To increase your chances of someone leaving a review:

  • Make it easy for them: Have a QR code in the shop that links directly to Google Reviews and ask them to review your shop immediately after their tattoo.
  • Use an email autoresponder like Active Campaign to set up an automation where customers get an email asking for a review automatically 1-2 weeks after their appointment. (You can use Zapier to connect your Google Calendar and Active Campaign together to do this.)
  1. 5

Interact on Instagram

Instagram is highly visual, making it a great place for tattoo shops to post pictures. Posting your artists’ best work and curating an online portfolio that regularly pops up in your followers’ feeds keeps your shop in their minds. 

Stories

Instagram also allows you to easily interact with your followers. Creating interactive Instagram stories with polls and open-ended questions gives customers an easy way to get involved without asking for much of their time. 

Local Hashtags

Having a big audience is great, but if none of your followers live nearby, it defeats the purpose. Using local hashtags will help you build a local audience. 

IGTV and Reels

Video marketing is the best way to get engagement from future clients and extend your reach. Ideas for IGTV videos and Reels can include:

  • Stencil reveals
  • Time lapse tattoos
  • Time lapse of the design process
  • Documenting the tattoo process

Additionally, going live on Instagram and Facebook lets customers get an inside look at the tattooing process and feel like they have a more personal relationship with the shop. 

  1. 6

Use Facebook to Advertise Directly to Customers

Using Facebook Ad funnels can help your potential customer get to know more about your shop and make them ready to book in for a tattoo. 

You can also run competitions on Facebook posts and use viral bots to message anyone who engages with them in their Facebook Messenger app. This turns them into “subscribers” that you can message in the future. 

  1. 7

Get Noticed with Google Ads

It’s rare for small tattoo shops to invest in Google Ads, but lots of people are searching for “tattoo shops near me.” By paying for a Google Ad to put your shop as the top-ranking search, you’ll get way more eyes on your shop. 

For example, in Denver, Colorado nearly 6600* people searched for that keyword in a single month. If a Denver tattoo shop wanted their shop to be listed at the top of Google, they’d only need to pay between $0.64-$3.79 per click on their ad. (Google places the ad at the top of the page when you agree to pay that amount every time that exposure causes someone to click on your shop.)

*According to Google Ads

For example, in Denver, Colorado nearly 6600* people searched for that keyword in a single month. If a Denver tattoo shop wanted their shop to be listed at the top of Google, they’d only need to pay between $0.64-$3.79 per click on their ad. (Google places the ad at the top of the page when you agree to pay that amount every time that exposure causes someone to click on your shop.)

  1. 8

Sell Gift Vouchers

Selling gift vouchers makes it easier to give tattoos away as gifts. It also acts as advance pay: you get the money for the tattoo before they’ve made up their mind on what they want done. 

  1. 9

Sell Merch In-Store

If your customers are spending a lot of time in the shop getting tattooed, there’s a chance they’ll want a souvenir from the shop besides the tattoo they’re getting. Merch is fairly easy and cheap to make, can generate extra income for the shop, and gets your logo (and some good word-of-mouth reviews) to new potential customers. 

You can use previous tattoo designs as graphics for T-shirts, sweatshirts, stickers, etc. 

Using a platform like printful.com lets you test to see if a merch item will sell before you invest money in a bunch of inventory.

Popular merch items include:

  • Tshirts
  • Sweatshirts
  • Bumper stickers
  • Stickers
  • Phone cases
  • Art prints
  1. 10

Offer Multiple Services

It’s not uncommon for tattoo shops to offer more than one service at their location. The most popular second service at tattoo shops is piercing. However, there are lots of other services tattoo customers might be interested in. If you already offer what they’re looking for, they’ll appreciate not having to waste time looking elsewhere. 

Potential services include:

  • Piercing
  • Selling tattoo aftercare products
  • Laser tattoo removal
  • Cosmetic tattooing
  • Selling local artwork for commission

Note:

Getting reviews on Google and creating content (YouTube videos, articles, etc.) about tattooing and your other services will get you more attention online, letting more potential customers find you.

  1. 11

Increase the Value of your offer with a Free Addition

Offering clients something for free (if they buy a certain amount first) encourages them to spend more. For example:

  • Book an 8-hour session and get one hour free
  • Buy a 1-hour gift voucher and get free aftercare/shirt/digital sketchbook/etc.
  • Get a tattoo and receive a lottery ticket for a free tattoo at the end of the year.

Avoid Discounts:

After you offer one discount, people come to expect it. Not to mention, if you lower your price, the next tattooer will go lower until it’s a race to the bottom and everyone goes out of business.

However, people never get used to having something for free added to their experience. Reducing your prices can make your work seem cheap. Throwing in a freebie to increase the value of your offer is more effective than reducing your prices.

Loyalty Cards

Loyalty cards encourage people to return to your shop instead of try out other nearby artists.  

Ask for a Referral

Also, if you know a client enjoyed their experience, you can ask them for their recommendation and offer a referral bonus (For example, a free shirt or free aftercare with their next tattoo). This encourages them to get another tattoo and bring a new client to your shop.

  1. 12

Follow Up With Customers

When you follow up with a client, it shows them you care and that you’re concerned with their satisfaction, not just the money they paid for the tattoo. However, messaging every client takes up a lot of time.

Luckily, there are tools you can use to automate these follow-ups and review requests. Get great reviews by automating follow-up emails using Google Calendar, Zapier, and Active Campaign. 

Zapier can connect Active Campaign to Google Calendar so that customers automatically receive an email a week after the date of their tattoo. asking if they’re happy with the shop’s work or if they have any questions or concerns. 

If the customer responds to the email, then there’s a good chance they’ll leave a review if you ask for one. Preparing a template email will save you time during this process, and programs like Active Campaign have settings you can use to auto-fill the customer’s first name. 

  1. 13

Find New Traffic Via Influencers

This one is a bit hit or miss because it depends entirely on who your shop caters to. However, if you find an influencer that fits well with your shop, it can be like having a glowing Google Review...times ten. 

An influencer is a person with a hefty social media following (usually 10,000+ followers) who actively hypes up your shop to their followers. Your shop might give them a free tattoo. In exchange, the influencer will make several Instagram stories about their tattoo experience and then post the finished tattoo on their page and tag your shop. 

Need Local Followers

In this situation, the person would need to have lots of local followers. Working with an influencer will only be helpful if they are directly connected to your target audience and their followers are active and engaged. (For example, an influencer who has a lot of under-18 followers worldwide won’t help you find many clients in your state.)

Before you reach out, make sure to look at their past posts and behavior. Make sure you’re comfortable being associated with them. And if the exchange is for a tattoo, create a contract stating exactly what you expect from them and determining what design they want before you agree. One mention from them on their Instagram is probably not worth a 10-hour tattoo.

  1. 14

Take a Deposit and Offer Multiple Payment Methods

A particular problem tattoo shops have seen post-pandemic is clients booking appointments online and then not showing up. 

Taking a deposit (either online or in person) when customers book an appointment not only makes sure the artist gets paid for their design work, but also ensures the client has some skin in the game, too. They’ll be much more likely to show up for an appointment if they know they’ll lose money for skipping.

It’s easier to get more deposits - and more clients - if you offer multiple payment methods. Some shops will stick with a cash-only policy, but this can really deter walk-ins not carrying cash and frustrate customers who would rather not make an extra stop at the ATM before going to the shop. 

Accepting online payments and all major credit cards makes you more accessible than the next shop - something that might just be the determining factor for a customer trying to choose where to get their next tattoo. 

  1. 15

Add a QR Code to Your Business Card

There are two ways you can use a QR code on your business card:

  • The QR code links to a messenger bot. (We recommend ManyChat. When they scan the QR code, it will open a Facebook messenger conversation with your shop.)
  • The QR code adds your business details into the client’s phone when scanned.

This is a tiny detail, but it makes a big difference with customers. Giving clients an easy way to contact you and get an immediate response goes a long way in establishing trust. 

Discover More With the Artist Accelerator Program

Your marketing efforts should show potential customers that you are different from the competition and they should get as many people as possible to like, know, and trust you for the lowest possible cost. At the end of the day, tattoos are a luxury service. No one needs to come get a tattoo, it’s your job to make them want to come get a tattoo from you, and proper marketing is the best way to do that and grow as a business. 

In Tattooing 101’s flagship program, the Artist Accelerator, students get a taste of what shops are like all over the globe through our interviews with top-notch tattoo artists worldwide. They learn from master tattoo artists and sharpen their skills so they can take on any tattoo that walks through the door...a surefire way to rake in more clients (and more money).

When you buy the Artist Accelerator Program, you also get full access to our full library, which includes accounting advice for tattoo artists and additional growth strategies. 

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years experience working at studios across the globe including Celebrity Ink the world's largest tattoo studio chain. When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry

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