Can You Get Rich As A Tattoo Artist?

If you’re passionate about art and tattooing, becoming a tattoo artist can be a rewarding career choice. However, this creative trade is not easy to pursue; it requires a huge amount of time and dedication to success.

For those considering choosing this career path, it’s certainly intriguing to know the potential payoff that the profession offers for these endeavors they have to pour into. Can you get rich as a tattoo artist? Here is the answer!

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Tattooing can be a lucrative business

Can You Get Rich As A Tattoo Artist?

Yes, it is possible to get rich as a tattoo artist. You can make good money for a variety of inking jobs, from tiny symbols to stunning large-scale tattoos. 

The only way to build wealth as a tattoo artist is to become excellent at what you’re doing. Besides gifted artistry, you’ll need to have steady hands, great mental concentration while tattooing on the skin, and great interpersonal skills to build rapport with clients. 

If you rise to the top of the industry, you can expect to make up to $500 per hour. But, while you’re still honing your stuff, you can work for a tattoo studio and earn around $100-$150 per hour

can-you-get-rich-as-a-tattoo-artist

New tattoo artists can make around $100-$150 per hour

What Factors Contribute To The Earning Of A Tattoo Artist? 

Reputation

The popularity of the shop and the tattoo artists themselves can be the key player in their earning power. Many artists build up their reputation over time, up to the point that there is a waiting list of prospective clients for months. 

Some artists even rise to the global stage and effortlessly possess a huge clientele.

For example, the Mexican-American tattoo artist Kat Von D. is one of the most requested artists in the US, with an hourly rate that can reach up to $500.

tattoo-artist-Kat-Von-D

Mexican-American tattoo artist Kat Von D.

Using social platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook is a great way for tattoo artists to market themselves and their work and gain more traction. 

Experience & Working Status

Apprentice

The most common way to become a tattoo artist is to work under the instructions of a seasoned artist, and often, this position is unpaid. 

Before getting to the real skin, an apprentice has to work with synthetic material, animal skin, or fruit peel. It also requires plenty of time and dedication to drawing and creating their own designs.

When things progress, you can start to offer to create tattoos free of charge for your friends or loved ones. Clients with old tattoos might let you rework their old tattoos, or you might start to practice filling in tattoo outlines at this point. 

The apprentice finishes when your instructor feels that you have enough skill and confidence to tattoo for clients. This often takes you around 12 months. You can start to make money as a new tattoo artist until this point.

Tattoo artists

At the early stages of their careers, most tattoo artists cannot afford to establish their own parlors. Often, they work for a shop owner and have to pay them a portion of their earnings. The commission can vary, which can amount to 70% of the fee of a completed tattoo.

For instance, for a finished tattoo that you charge your client $100 for, you’ll take home around $30 or $40, and the shopkeeper will take the rest. 

Tattoo shop owner

If you operate your own tattoo shop, you can keep the full earnings to yourself and take a commission for other artists. However, there are various expenses for you to pay for keeping the business running, such as the rent, tools, supplies (ink, needles, gloves, etc.) and taxes, etc. 

Fortunately, tattooing is a potentially lucrative business, so it’s very likely that the total income of running the studio (commission for other artists included) can recoup these costs and still leave you ahead of contractors.

Location

The actual wage for tattoo artists can be different from state to state. There are a lot of factors in play here. For example, areas with a higher cost of living tend to have higher hourly rates. 

It’s also about the popularity of this body art in the area you run the studio. There are places with many religions not in favor of body art, and the traffic is significantly lower than in other areas. This can affect your earning potential. In hot spots such as Los Angeles, where tattoos are more prevalent, you can expect more appointments and thus can raise your hourly wages depending on the demand. 

Unique work or style

You can charge your clients more if you offer them unique designs or services. For example, some pro tattoo artists focus exclusively on doing full-body art and refuse to do anything else. These full-body works are large-sized chest, leg, or back pieces. 

The highest hourly rate for these artists can get as high as $500 (tattoo artist Kat Von D.is, for example). Other artists have an aptitude for drawing and painting, and they can bring out one-of-a-kind designs that not everyone can think of. Due to the uniqueness of their work, these artists can charge significantly more.

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A large-scale tattoo


Is It Hard To Make A Living As A Tattoo Artist?

Tattoo artists can make a steady living. The average hourly charge is at least $100, and a reputable artist can charge significantly above this. After paying for all the overhead expenses such as supplies, tools, licensing, and rents, this hourly wage still allows you to pay for entertainment and put aside for retirement.  

However, with this hourly wage, we would not say that you can build up your wealth easily. If you want to get rich going down this path, you may want not only to trade time and skills for money but also reputation. 

Top players in this industry have garnered a massive reputation and always have a long waiting list of clients. According to the demand-and-supply principle, their hourly charge can be raised to a whopping number. 


Where Do Tattoo Artists Make The Most Money?

Currently, the highest paying city for tattoo artists is New York, according to zippia. The average earning of artists in this state stands at $99,900. The top 10% of the earning spectrum brings home $182,000, and the 10% bottom end earns $54,000.

New Jersey ranks second on the list, with an average annual salary standing at$99,732. The highest 10% rake in $181,000, and the lowest 10% makes $54,000. 

The third highest-paying city in the US is Connecticut. On average, tattoo artists in this state make $97,442 annually. The figures for the highest 10% and lowest 10% are $179,000, and $52,000, respectively. 

This is followed by Rhode Island (annual salary $97,421), Massachusetts (annual salary $95,419), and Alaska (annual salary $94,850). Finally, the lowest paying state is Florida, with an average annual salary of $53,403. 


Is Tattooing A Profitable Business?

As the stigma surrounding this body art has waned significantly, tattoos have earned more popularity among Americans than ever. Therefore, the tattooing industry is easy to enter and likely to be lucrative. 

The starting cost is often around $50,000. However, if you welcome a steady stream of clients, it will take quite a short time to compensate for all the expenses. 

The earnings can come from different sources. Besides charging your clients for your own artistry, you can have many tattoo artists work in your parlor and take their commission. Most tattoo shop owners often take around 40% or more of the fee from the additional tattoo artists.


How Much Do Tattoo Artists Really Make?

Tattoo artists typically charge their clients by the hour spent carving out the design. This wage will likely go up when the artist becomes more well-established, experienced, and famous. 

According to zippia, the average earning of tattoo artists in the US is $63,584 in a year. In terms of an hourly wage, the number averages $30.57. Of course, this depends on where the artist stands in the earning spectrum. The report shows that around 10% of tattoo artists are at the bottom of the salary range and earn approximately $27,000. In contrast, the other 10% on the higher end rake in up to $148,000. 


The Bottom Line

So, can you get rich as a tattoo artist? Becoming a tattoo artist might seem demanding at first. Still, the job will eventually pay off once you build up your confidence, experience, and reputation (all of this often means a growing clientele). The demand for body art is projected to grow by 6% between 2016 and 2026, and job opportunities and annual wages will likely increase accordingly.

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