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How much money does a tattoo artist make?

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With the growing popularity of tattoos, many people are considering becoming a tattoo artist. The question on most people's minds is how much money can a tattoo artist earn?  We reveal how much money a tattoo artist can make in the UK, what the highest paid tattoo artist in the world earns and ways to maximise your income as a tattooist.

How much money does a tattoo artist make

How much money does a tattoo artist make?

Tattoo artists in the UK can make between £20k and £60k a year.  The average tattoo salary UK is currently about £37k per year; that’s about £18 per hour for a 40-hour working week. 

Celebrity tattoo artists can charge as much as £350 per hour for their work. The potential when you reach this status level is a 6 figure annual salary!  

A tattoo artist's salary will depend on several different factors including location, reputation, experience and specialisation.  We’ll cover the variables in more detail, the highest paid tattoo artist and tips to maximise your earnings in this article.

Factors that affect how much money a tattoo artist can make

According to Indeed, the average salary for a tattoo artist in the UK, as of 25th August 2022, is £37,500.  This figure was based on 22 salaries reported across the country.  However, the amounts reported varied wildly from £11,299 per year for a tattoo artist in Derby to £55,347 for a tattoo artist in Leeds.  So why such fluctuations in pay?

As mentioned above, different factors can affect how much money a tattooer can earn.  Most notably, experience is the main factor.  There will be a vast salary difference, just like in any other employment, between a tattoo apprentice to an experienced tattoo artist with decades of high-quality work in their portfolio and clients to boot.

Another factor that will affect earning potential is their employment status. Is the artist an employee, self-employed or are they also a tattoo studio owner?  

Self-employed artists need somewhere to work and if they can’t afford their premises they will likely rent a chair, room or section of a studio from the owner.  When renting a space an artist can expect to split their fee 50/50 with the tattoo shop.

A shared ownership studio might also be an option for many artists.  Pooling money with friends or business partners can help to pay for commercial space and equipment.  This does however mean that a proportion of the artist's profits need to go towards the business overhead costs.

How much do most tattoo artists charge per hour?

The standard fees around most of the UK are around £80-£100 per hour except for London and many of the southern counties which can charge around £150 per hour. 

Some artists may have a minimum charge, even if the tattoo takes less than one hour.

The amount a tattoo artist can charge will vary on location, but also expertise.  A newly qualified tattoo artist (qualified in the eyes of the studio they work in) won’t be able to charge as much as someone who has perfected their skill and has been tattooing for several years.

Also, a renowned reputation for high-quality tattoos or a distinct art style can increase the charge.  Many people are willing to pay more to get inked by a popular tattoo artist or by one whose work is the exact style they desire.

Who is the highest-paid tattoo artist?

According to numerous online sources, Scott Campbell is the highest-paid tattoo artist right now, charging $1000 per hour which he revealed in an interview with Page Six.

Scott tattoos many celebrities and famous people and proves you can even get rich from this passion if you get in with the stars!

Starting out as a tattoo artist - What to expect in terms of earning

$1000 per hour might be the salary of dreams, but it’s very unusual for tattooers to make anywhere close to this amount.   You should also be prepared for some hard slog in the first few years with minimal earnings as you learn the ropes.

If you’re thinking of getting into the business then there are a few things you should be aware of.  Most artists are likely to start their careers as an apprentice, working for someone else whilst earning a very low income, if anything at all.  This generally lasts for about three years.  There can be high competition for apprenticeships so make sure you have a good portfolio to get your head in the door.

And before you think you’ll be handed a tattoo gun and inking people right away, it could be at least one year before you are allowed to tattoo your first client.  Before this you’ll be shadowing the tattoo artists, learning important health and safety information, practising your art (most likely in your own time), assisting with admin duties such as booking appointments and taking payment, and housekeeping.

It’s important to think about how you will earn a living while completing your apprenticeship.  If you are still living at home with your parents then this can be a massive help.  If not then you’ll likely be working two jobs to pay your way.

Even when you have completed your apprenticeship and you find employment you should expect to start on a low wage.  Most entry-level tattoo artists will be earning around the £20k mark in their first year.

How to make more money as a tattoo artist?

Tattoo artists can make a lot of money, but it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and skill. However, there are some tips to help you stand out from the crowd and maximise your earnings.

  • Pick a style and be unique - aim to be a specialist in your chosen theme and pick a style to become renowned for.  For example, perhaps you could be the artist everyone knows and recognises as the best tribal tattoo artist, or maybe feminine dainty tattoos with fine lines, or maybe watercolour tattoos could be your theme.  If you stick to a general theme then your work will be recognised more easily and if you’re good, you’ll be in demand for your style of tattoo and unique technique.

  • Have a prominent social media presence - share your designs and completed work on visual-based platforms such as Instagram targetting the tattoo community and your locality.

  • Get celebrity and influencer endorsements – offer free tattoos to socialite celebrities and influencers with a lot of followers in exchange for promotion.  Offering a free tattoo to the right person who is influential means they’ll be a walking billboard for your service, forever more!

  • Practice your skill every day to improve -   Even when you’re not tattooing someone you should be drawing and designing every chance you get.  The better your art and creative ideas are, the more appealing you’ll be when looking for employment and to your customers.

  • Follow up - make sure you follow up with potential customers who are interested in your services after your initial conversation. Whether it’s email, direct message on social media, text or whatever way they first contacted, if they haven’t responded to your initial reply then politely follow up to check if they need any more information.  They could be busy and missed your first reply or it may have even gone to spam.  Also, follow up with your customers after they’ve had a tattoo.  Make sure the aftercare is going as expected and provided a friendly caring aftersales service so they know you care about their new tattoo.  This will help encourage repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations.

  • Don’t undersell yourself - respect the hard work you’ve put in to hone your skill to get to the level you are at today.  It can be tempting to compete with all the other nearby tattoo artists, but if you are the cheapest then you may even turn away the more lucrative customers who won’t perceive your work as the best quality.  Your pricing should reflect your skill level and the time and effort taken to be a great tattoo artist.  There are also factors to consider such as the time taken to create a unique design for a customer.  This could be several hours of your time that the customer doesn’t see.  Explain to customers the value they are getting from your pricing and they will be happy to pay.

Final word

Tattoo artists can earn a lot of money. They can make over £100 per hour, or even more if they are skilled and become a sought after artist. There is no set salary for a tattoo artist and it depends on the type of work they do, their location and other factors. Starting out often requires an apprenticeship with low earnings at first, but for those with artistry skills who are dedicated to the cause, this can be a very lucrative career choice.

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