Free Delivery over £100*
Same Day Dispatch before 4pm*
Price Match Guarantee

How to open a successful tattoo shop in the UK


Are you an aspiring tattoo artist with dreams of opening your very own successful tattoo shop in the UK? While the world of body art can be incredibly rewarding, the journey to establishing a thriving business in this industry has its challenges.

In this article, we'll explore the stages you're likely to encounter on your journey to opening a successful tattoo shop in the UK, and we'll provide valuable insights and strategies to help you achieve these stages and turn your dream into a reality.

Why should you start a tattoo studio business?

Starting a tattoo studio business offers a unique blend of artistry and entrepreneurship that caters to an enduring and growing market of individuals seeking to express themselves through body art. Unlike many trends, the demand for tattoos spans centuries and cultures, indicating a stable and expanding industry, particularly in regions like the UK, which boasts many tattoo artists.

As a studio owner, you can capitalise on this popularity without being an artist yourself, focusing on curating a team of skilled professionals to provide high-quality, personalised art in a field that cannot be outsourced or automated, ensuring a business venture that resonates with personal expression and contemporary relevance.

With the potential for diverse income streams, including aftercare products and branded merchandise, a tattoo studio business stands as a creatively fulfilling and economically promising enterprise.


tattoo artist preparing her tattoo tools


How to open a tattoo shop in the UK

Develop a business plan

Before diving into the tattoo industry, it's essential to have a clear business plan. This should outline your own business concept, the services you'll offer, your target market, financial projections, and strategies for growth.

Consider how you'll differentiate your shop from competitors and detail the costs involved, such as rent, supplies, salaries, and marketing. A plan will serve as a roadmap for your business and is often required if you're seeking financing.

Secure a location

Finding the right location for your tattoo shop is crucial. It needs to be somewhere accessible to your target clientele, compliant with zoning laws, and suitable for your business needs.

Factors to consider include foot traffic, the surrounding area's demographic, rent costs, and the size of the premises. Ensure the space can be adapted to meet health and safety standards for a tattoo studio.

Do you want to have the perfect location for your tattoo studio? Don't miss our next article, "How to Identify the Perfect Tattoo Studio Location," where we dive into the strategic considerations that can make or break your tattoo business's success.

Obtain necessary licenses and permits

You must register your tattoo studio with the local council, which will inspect your premises for health and safety compliance. Without these licenses, operating a tattoo shop is illegal.

Set up your shop to meet health and safety standards

The interior of your shop must meet stringent health and safety regulations. This includes having a clean, sterile environment with the necessary equipment like autoclaves for sterilization, proper waste disposal systems, and individual tattoo stations.

You'll need to invest in quality tattooing equipment, including tattoo machines, inks, needles, and protective gear. The setup should also be customer-friendly, with a comfortable waiting area and clear signage.

Hire qualified staff

Your tattoo artists are the heart of your business. Hire experienced, talented artists with a portfolio that matches the style and quality you want for your shop. You may also need support staff, such as receptionists or shop managers. Ensure all staff are properly trained in health and safety procedures, customer service, and the specific operational practices of your shop.

Market your tattoo shop

Create a marketing strategy to build your brand and attract customers. This can include building a professional website, maintaining an active social media presence, and possibly working with influencers in the tattoo community. Don't underestimate the power of word-of-mouth; encourage satisfied customers to spread the word. Offer promotions or discounts to first-time clients or for referrals to generate more business.


tattoo artist doing tattoo to his client


Tattoo shop business registration process

Registering a tattoo studio business in the UK is a multi-step process that involves making key decisions about the nature and structure of the business, ensuring compliance with health and safety standards, and staying up-to-date with licensing requirements.

  1. Decide on the business structure: Choose whether to operate as a sole trader, partnership, or limited company. Each has its own implications for tax, liability, and administrative responsibilities.
  2. Register your business: For a limited company, register with Companies House. As a sole trader or partnership, register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
  3. Premises and inspection: Prepare details about the premises where you will be operating. This includes ensuring the location is suitable for public use and adheres to local zoning laws. An inspection will be carried out by local authorities to ensure compliance with hygiene and safety regulations.
  4. Licenses and permits: Apply for a Tattoo, Piercing, and Electrolysis Licence from the local council where your business is based. You must also register yourself and any employees as tattoo artists with the local authority.
  5. Compliance with health and safety legislation: You will need to comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), among others.
  6. Changing business details: If you relocate, introduce new management, or add services that were not included in your initial registration, you will need to notify the local authority, and you may be required to re-register or amend your existing license.
  7. Renew your license: Be aware that tattoo business licenses are not indefinite and need to be renewed periodically as required by your local council.
  8. Record-keeping: Maintain accurate records, not only for tax purposes but also for the annual accomplishment report and any inspections by local authorities.

It’s highly advisable to work with a corporate service provider in the UK to navigate the complexities of legal requirements and to ensure that you are fully compliant with all regulations.

What are the needed tattoo shop business licenses and permits?

When starting and operating a tattoo studio business in the UK, it's essential to understand and comply with various laws and ordinances to ensure safety and legal operation. Here are some key regulations you should be aware of:

  • Business license: This is the standard operating license that authorises you to conduct business in your city or county.
  • Health department permit: Since tattooing involves needles and blood, it falls under health department regulations. You’ll need a permit from the local health department, which will conduct an inspection of your premises for hygiene and safety compliance.
  • Tattoo and body piercing studio license: Some areas require a specific license for any establishment that performs tattooing, body piercing, or other body art.
  • Tattoo artist license: Each tattoo artist working in your shop may need to be individually licensed, which usually requires proof of training, a bloodborne pathogens certification, and sometimes passing a written exam.
  • Planning and zoning permits: Your tattoo shop location must be in compliance with local zoning laws, which might restrict where businesses like tattoo shops can operate.
  • Waste disposal permit: You will need to follow specific protocols for the disposal of clinical or hazardous waste, such as used needles and ink caps, which typically require a permit from the local environment health department.
  • Sign permit: If you plan to put up a sign outside your shop, many local governments require a permit to ensure the sign adheres to size and safety regulations.
  • Building permit: If you need to do any construction or significant renovation on your shop space, a building permit is usually required.
  • Fire department permit: Depending on your location, you might need a permit from the fire department, especially if you’re going to be using any flammable materials.
  • Employer identification number (EIN): If you have employees, you’ll need an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax purposes.
  • Age verification systems: To comply with laws that prohibit tattooing minors, such as the Tattooing Of Minors Act 1969 in the UK, you must have a reliable system in place to verify the age of your clients.
  • Insurance: Not a permit, but equally important, you’ll need various types of insurance to protect your business from lawsuits and workers' compensation insurance if you have employees.


tattoo artist drawing her tattoo design


What are the laws and ordinances related to tattoo shop businesses?

Operating a tattoo shop in the UK is governed by several laws and local council regulations aimed at ensuring safety, hygiene, and the protection of the public. Here are the primary laws and ordinances you should be aware of:

  • The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969: It is illegal to tattoo individuals under the age of 18 in the UK, even with parental consent. Tattoo businesses must implement stringent age verification procedures to comply with this law.
  • The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982: This act requires tattooists in England and Wales to register with their local council and to obtain a license to operate. The local council may set bylaws outlining the conditions for the premises and the practitioners.
  • The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982: Specifically for Scotland, this act mandates the licensing of tattoo and skin piercing businesses.
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations: These regulations require businesses to control substances that are hazardous to health, including tattoo inks and cleaning products. Tattoo shops must conduct risk assessments and implement measures to reduce the risks associated with these substances.
  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974: Under this act, tattoo shops have a duty to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of employees and clients. This covers a wide range of safety aspects, including the prevention of infections and the management of risks in the workplace.
  • The Environmental Protection Act 1990: This act relates to the disposal of waste, including clinical waste produced by tattoo shops (like used needles), which must be handled and disposed of correctly to avoid problem to the environment and public health.
  • The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations: These regulations require that the equipment used in tattoo shops, such as tattoo machines, meets certain safety standards.
  • Planning and Zoning Ordinances: Local planning and zoning rules may affect where a tattoo shop can be located, and specific planning permission may be required for a change of use of a building to a tattoo studio.


Remember, successful business is not guaranteed overnight, but with careful planning, continuous learning, and a commitment to delivering exceptional artistry and customer service, you can build a tattoo shop that stands the test of time.

The tips and insights provided here can serve as a valuable roadmap to guide you on your journey to opening and operating a successful tattoo business in the UK. Embrace the challenges, stay true to your vision, and never stop refining your craft – the rewards of established tattoo studios await those who persevere.


Previous Post Next Post

  • Mark Joshua Luz