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Full-service cosmetic tattoo studio vs. independent artist

It is common for an artist who has had their own independent business to come work for us. If you queried them, they would tell you they are happier, have more spare time and make just as much, if not more income. They will also tell you about how much they love to work and collaborate with the team of artists and customer support staff that surround them every day.

As an example, two of our master artists came to us straight from obtaining their Oregon Tattoo licenses and then trained with Erica Johnson, Founder of Daela Cosmetic Tattoo. They worked for Daela for 4 years as master artists and enjoyed a very nice work-life balance along with a strong annual income with none of the ins-outs of having to forge something from nothing. Then they got the itch to open their own studio in Scottsdale Arizona which will be, in spring 2023, the first Daela Cosmetic Tattoo franchise. Their Daela will be locally owned and operated by two of the best artists in the nation and they will have our full support. That’s just one example of many.

Another simple truth is that, for years, there have only been a handful of full-service cosmetic tattoo studios.  Most artists around the nation have had no choice but to go it alone, working from a hair salon, tattoo shop or lash studio. That’s changing as more full-service studios are emerging, there are more choices, and sometimes it’s a better choice to join a team, collaborate and take a breather.

What is it like to be an independent cosmetic tattoo artist?

For some people the allure of working for themselves is intriguing. It sounds fun, no one to answer to, you get to call the shots…but it doesn’t take long to figure out that owning a business is not for everyone. For most, it is simply too exhausting, and stressful. It’s not the actual work with clients that’s tiring, it’s all the other stuff that will get to you. It’s the day-to-day workload of owning and managing a business alone. When an artist is working on a client it is all intensive for 2-3 hours.  If you see the goal 4 clients a day, your day has evaporated and you haven’t done any accounting, ordered any supplies, paid any bills, returned any client calls, scheduled, and rescheduled any lingering appointments or responded to any of your Instagram or other social media posts. It’s grueling! It’s also really hard to get new customers and hard to retain clients when you just can’t follow up with them quick enough.

All the trainers out there will tell you how much money you are going to make!

We see it all the time. What you may not understand is that they are talking about gross revenue, not income. They are likely also quoting the very most successful artists, not the average. Here is some easy math:  Let’s say you are an independent and charge $700 for your cosmetic tattoo service and that includes a touch-up. (This puts you slightly above average for retail pricing) You will schedule, in a perfect world, two new and two touchups per day. That’s $1400 per day gross revenue. As an independent it would be amazing to accomplish that perfect schedule, 3 days a week, using the other 3-4 days to manage the business (and book all those customers!).  In that perfect world your business will have a gross revenue of $218,400 a year, if you never get sick, take time off, travel or actually do anything else besides work.

Now start subtracting business costs from gross revenue!

Rent, supplies, advertising, insurance, printing, website expenses, accounting expenses, licenses, health care, social security & Medicare for self-employed, the list goes on.  If you are a good businessperson, you’ll clear $109,200 pre-tax income. But remember, you just worked 52 weeks straight without any vacation or being sick, so start subtracting again.

You also really do have to subtract some due to cancellations, illness, vacation. There is no perfect world, especially if you have children.

If you want to hire an assistant to help with scheduling, ordering, checking clients in and out and helping in general so you have some time off, then subtract not just their wages, but employer tax contributions and their health care (if you are offering it.)

All of this boils down to this reality:  Independent artists make somewhere between $35,000 and $140,000 a year after all of expenses are paid and work very hard. Averages posted on the web are somewhere between $45,000 and $75,000 a year.

Subtract some more if you forgot about start-up costs.

Don’t forget you also invested a chunk of money to open your business. Opening your shop will come with expenses. Depending on where you land you may spend $5000-$40,000 or more to open shop.

There is one other thing: The rate of failed start-ups is staggering.

You can read hundreds of articles and studies and they all say the same, somewhere between 85%-95% of all start-ups fail. There are about 5 major reasons for this failure: Not enough capitol, lack of business & accounting knowledge, difficulty in gaining customers in a saturated market, location, lack of proper marketing. Failure is almost never because it was just a bad idea.

What’s it like to work with Daela Cosmetic Tattoo?

You can learn more on our careers page or franchise page, but in a nutshell: Daela Cosmetic Tattoo offers a very healthy work-life balance for our artists and staff. We offer health care, sick and vacation pay, and artists are paid a percentage, so the more they work, the more they make.  Plus, and maybe the most important plus, is that artists work in a collaborative atmosphere. They all learn and grow with each other. We also have exacting standards for our artists and expect them to have natural talent and a kind spirit.

We are a luxury full-service studio. We have exacting standards for our artists, something very comforting when having your face tattooed! Our clients know and trust us and can get multiple services in one location.  They are all treated with respect and kindness by a highly trained front desk staff.

Kim Orr


Daela Co.


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