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Independent Artist vs DAELA Cosmetic Tattoo Artist

Career as an Independent Permanent Makeup Artist:

Cosmetic Tattoo is a growing industry.  Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of full-service cosmetic tattoo studios that hire artists as employees. One of the only ways to join this field is to do it on your own.  Most artists around the nation have had no choice but to go it alone, working from a hair salon, tattoo shop or lash studio. So let’s discuss the reality of owning your own small business vs working for a larger studio.

What is it really 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 can be grueling. The flip side is when you aren’t busy enough, you may have a lot of free time, but it doesn’t take long for bills to come crashing down around you. It’s really hard to get new customers and hard to retain clients when you just can’t follow up with them quick enough.

Henna Brows Appointment


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 net 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.  In a perfect world, to make the kind of income you are looking for, you’ll need to find two new clients each day, 3 days a week (Eventually you will be adding two touch ups to that same work day. That’s $1400 per day gross revenue. That sounds like a lot.

As an independent this would be an amazing accomplishment: Work 3 days a week, using the other 3-4 days to manage the business (and advertise, answer questions, and book all those customers!).  In that perfect world your business will have a gross revenue of $218,400 a year. This is with you never get sick and not taking any vacations. Sounds good?

Now start subtracting business costs from gross revenue!

Aside from the thousands of dollars you spent getting trained, you will also have to come up with: Rent, supplies, advertising, insurance, printing, website expenses, accounting expenses, licenses, health care, the list goes on.  If you are a great businessperson, fully booked, you’ll clear $109,200 pre-tax income. Now, give the government 25% federal taxes, state taxes (whatever they are) and 15% self employment tax, we can just call that 50% of your net income. So you have taken home $54,000. But remember, you just worked 52 weeks straight without any vacation or being sick, no customers cancelling etc. I probably don’t have to mention what happens when you forget you have to pay taxes. That could be an entirely new blog topic!

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

All of this boils down to this reality:  Independent permanent makeup artists make somewhere between $35,000 and $140,000 a year pre-tax income. 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 if you are an independent.

cosmetic tattoo artist consultation

A very important consideration: 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, and lack of proper marketing.

Now let’s talk about being an employee. I know, ’employee’ is  like a dirty word in this industry. But think of it as a dirty word, wrapped in a really warm, fuzzy blanket and you have someone to wash that blanket for you when it gets dirty.

Faux Freckles Tattoo Appointment

3 Reasons You’d Love to Work at DAELA:

  1. We have created a special atmosphere for our artists and staff at DAELA Cosmetic Tattoo. We offer a healthy work-life balance for our artists and staff. We offer health care, dental & vision, sick and vacation pay, and artists are paid a commission plus tips, so the more they work, the more they make.  Our artists are on either a 4-day or 3-day per week work schedule. Time off is time off, aside from posting on IG. 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.
  2. Even better: We are a luxury full-service studio. This means we have a full staff of support. They take all incoming calls, emails, texts. They schedule appointments, reschedule appointments, order supplies, make trays, keep the studio clean and operational. The staff is dedicated to providing outstanding customer support. It’s a dream job, created by artists who worked as independents and learned, by real-life, how much better it is to work in a collaborative atmosphere with a lot of support.
  3. Paycheck: You’ll get a paycheck: Taxes already out, health care covered by DAELA, vacation pay and sick pay if you need it.  Two years of legitimate tax returns and you can start building your financial future from a very healthy work-life balance.

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 money, if not more. 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. The picture below, of the artists at DAELA Portland includes 6 artists who used to be independent.

DAELA is expanding nationwide. There are opportunities for artists, franchise owners, and support staff. If you are interested in learning more, reach out to us.

daela cosmetic tattoo artists


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