Getting business as a tattoo artist isn’t always easy. First, depending on where you live, there might be fierce competition from other tattoo shops; this is especially true if a nearby school is offering a degree or certificate in tattooing. Next, there’s the fact that tattoos are a one-time product. Some customers come back for a full sleeve, but most people are perfectly satisfied with the single tattoo that they’ve wanted for their entire life.
When your product is hard to market and most customers are referred by word-of-mouth, finding new clients can seem like a daunting task. In addition to creating a great tattoo shop website that showcases your work, and integrating a powerful local SEO strategy, you’ll find the most success by developing a marketing plan that focuses on your shop’s reputation. If your community knows that you’re the best and safest place to get a tattoo, the clients will naturally start to come your way.
Tattoo clients always want to know what they’re getting into. That’s why most successful tattoo artists have an active social media presence with images of their work. Take photos of your best designs, and ask permission from your clients to post them online. You should also encourage clients to post their own images after the ink color has finally come through.
Instagram and Pinterest will help you see the most success on this front, but Facebook and Twitter are important too. In addition to posting photos, you should also stay active in the online community; many tattoo artists find their customers by word-of-mouth. Try coming up with a hashtag that’s unique to your shop, and find excuses to share work from local musicians and visual artists.
Focus on Your Branding
The tattoo market is fiercely competitive. If you want to stand out from the rest, you’ll need branding that makes your company look reputable and well-established. Pay for a smooth website with a professional portfolio of your work. Have consistent colors and imagery across your promotional materials and social media profiles. Your goal is to create a brand that your customers will recognize from a mile away.
You can do a lot of this work yourself, but if you really want to be successful, look for a professional designer. As part of the first project, ask for a design briefing that you can give to future consultants. If you have a standardized logo and color palette, all of your print materials will always be perfectly on-brand.
Sell Promotional Items
You probably didn’t get into the business to sell hats, t-shirts, lanyards, and fridge magnets. However, creating branded versions of these items is actually a great way to promote your tattoo shop. Your favorite clients might have to cover up their sleeves for work, but they’ll be proud to rock a t-shirt with your company name on it. Get creative with your swag, and you might create an entire secondary market for your brand.
Don’t forget to sell your promotional items both in your shop and online. If you find success selling this kind of item, try partnering with other local musicians and creatives to sell their swag, too. Customers who browse your online store looking for a cool hat might end up coming in for a tattoo later down the line.
Create a Presence at Local Events
You have a brand, and you have swag, so now you need to get the word out there. Try opening a swag table at local concerts, festivals, or tattoo conferences. Think about the kinds of events that your ideal customers might like to attend. If your parlor has a presence at every metal concert in the city, you’ll be the first place they think of when it’s time to get a tattoo.
As an additional method of promotion, consider giving free swag items to the artists who are performing at the event. Audience members will see their favorite singer wearing one of your shirts on stage. Then, they’ll see your booth outside of the event. They might buy a t-shirt or another item, and they’ll definitely keep the name of your business in mind.
Offer Cheap or Free Cover-Up Tattoos
Bad tattoos damage the reputation of the tattoo industry as a whole. You can increase your business and help the unfortunate bearers of these designs by offering cover-up tattoos for free or at a reduced price. These clients have already shown that they like tattoos; after they’ve paid for a cover-up, they might come back for the good design that they’ve always wanted.
Cover-up work is also a good choice to promote on social media. There’s something magical about seeing a poor drawing replaced with a design that the wearer can be proud of. Let your audience share in the magic, and they’ll think of you as their favorite tattoo shop for the rest of their lives.
Host a Charity Event
Tattooing for charity doesn’t always bring you immediate business, but it’s an excellent form of publicity and a good way to improve your reputation in the community. Think carefully about which services you’re willing to offer and what causes you want to promote.
One popular cause that tattoo artists like to get behind is the support of breast cancer patients. Women who have had a mastectomy are left with an unsightly scar and a traumatic memory. Consider offering free or reduced prices to cover mastectomy scars; you might even partner with a breast cancer organization to help find clients who are in need.
You can also host tattoo events that support any charity of your choice. Promise to donate a portion of your profits if clients show up on a specific day or get a specific thematic tattoo. As an example, try supporting a wildlife charity with a tattoo of a wolf or a bear. Remember to work with the organization to create an event that’s on-brand for both of your companies.
Hold a Friday the 13th Special
For some reason, Friday the 13th is a particularly popular day to get a tattoo. Try offering a $13 promotion for a small tattoo off of a set list. Include classic “lucky” imagery like dice, eight balls, and four-leafed clovers. You should also include a few cute options like flowers, kittens, or hearts. Make sure that your offerings match your unique visual style. If you do a good job, those same clients will be back for more.
Remember, most of a tattoo artist’s business comes from referrals and community reputation. Do a great job with each of your clients, and stay in touch with the local art scene. Your marketing efforts might not see immediate results; but if you follow these steps, you can expect to see a steady increase in business across the board.