Wanna open a Tattoo Shop?

I opened a Tattoo Shop, it was more than just Tattooing.


Many tattoo artists think about opening their own shop at some point. They have worked for people and see obvious changes that need to be made - the owner's personality, inefficiencies, not enough work or too much work, problems with advertising. The artist thinks "I could do this better if I opened my own place." Maybe they want to avoid dealing with other personalities and distractions and just focus on the tattooing.

So they go open their own shop, not realizing the huge difference between paying rent to a shop versus paying rent to a landlord.  From the outside looking in, it may seem like owning a shop is a more direct way to operate as a tattooist.  With being the owner, your no longer shackled by the systems of anyone else. You are free!

Unfortunately, being the owner there are a lot more responsibilities that will require you to play multiple roles.


The Three Roles

In the book “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It” by author Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth refers to the "entrepreneurial myth" that many people who start small businesses fall victim to. They go into business doing what they're good at or enjoy (say, tattooing or piercing), and assume that's all it takes to be successful.

But in reality, every business requires you to master three distinct roles in order to thrive: the Technician (working in the business doing technical work), the Manager (working on the business to build systems and processes), and the Entrepreneur (innovating and moving the business forward).

The Technician

This is the artist's strongest trait - the actual act of tattooing. When working at a shop, you are solely the technician. This role comes most naturally to tattoo artists. When we are tattooing, we thrive.  When we are not tattooing, we don’t understand why business suddenly dropped off!

We blame the slow season, to many tattoo shops, Instagram and what ever else can take the burden away from anything that is actually in our control.


The Manager

As the owner, you now have to work on the business, not just in it. You need to develop systems and processes to keep the business running - paying rent and bills, scheduling, cleaning, advertising, etc. Most artists don't realize the distinction between owner and employee roles.  You are actually an employee of your business when you are tattooing.

For some people it is hard to distinguish between being the artist and being the owner.  It seems to be one in the same but it is defiantly not!

As a manager, you are making sure the lights stay on and the doors stay open.  You are creating systems that will one day be taken over by an employee as your business grows.  It is imperative to create systems and process that will be easy to follow when you are not the one doing them.  Clarity is key.

The Entrepreneur

To succeed, you can't just do the same thing forever. You need to innovate, stay current, and keep moving the business forward. As the owner, you have to think about the shop's impact and place in the community. How will you bring in new customers and stand out?

Businesses close their doors when they fail to see past them.  Working in your shop will offer an endless number of trivial tasks that seem to get in the way of tattooing.  As an entrepreneur, you must step out of the daily grind and look to the future.  Focus on what is happening outside the shop! What impact are you having on the clients and customers that do business with you?  When you fail to pay attention the outside of your business you miss opportunities to grow.  Rinse wash and repeat will not create a long term strategy.


Why It Takes All Three

Many artists think that if they open a shop, customers will just show up. They believe they can remove what they didn't like from their old job and everything will work smoothly. But business takes more than just being a good technician. You have to balance and blend the roles of technician, manager, and entrepreneur.

Most businesses fail because they only focus inward, on what happens within their four walls. You have to also look outward and make an impact. Tattoo artists often don't realize there's more to running a shop than their existing tattoo skills. Just copying what you did at your old job isn't enough. Opening the doors does not mean success will follow automatically. It takes consciously developing all three roles.



To run a successful tattoo shop, artists have to expand their thinking. It's about more than avoiding annoyances or doing what you're already good at. Ownership requires you to intentionally cultivate new mindsets and skills. Understanding the technician/manager/entrepreneur roles is crucial. A shop needs all three perspectives working together. This takes planning and strategy, not just optimism. With realistic expectations and preparation for the manager and entrepreneur hats, tattoo artists can open thriving businesses. But it takes forethought and effort to move beyond relying solely on their technical tattooing abilities.

Matt Hodel

28 years of tattooing

Business Coach


Photo Jul 25 2023, 2 08 33 PM

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