It's difficult to determine your potential earnings as a tattoo artist with so many factors of the business to consider. Your hourly, weekly and yearly wages will depend on many things such as experience, skill, whether you work for or own a studio and what level of commission you agree to. Career resource "Simply Hired" reports that the average all-around salary for tattoo artists in 2010 was about £20,800 annually, and other employment statistic websites offer reports on what the average salary of a tattoo artist in your niche may be.
Your wages as a tattoo artist will depend partly upon the hourly rate you -- or your employer -- charge per hour. As of 2010, the general hourly rate charged by tattooists ranged anywhere from £52 to £81 per hour. However, very few tattoo artists actually take home that amount. There is typically a "split" between the artist and shop owner that may vary from 50/50 to 40/60 in the owner's favour. Experienced artists who create original custom designs often charge higher rates, up to £130 per hour. Well known celebrity artists like Paul Booth or Kat Von D. reportedly charge up to £325 per hour for their artwork and services.
Tattoo Shop Owners
PayScale reports that the median annual salary for tattoo shop owners ranges from £21,533 to £36,725 -- slightly more than their employees. As a tattoo shop owner, you are able to retain 100 per cent of your hourly fees, as well as up to 70 per cent for each of your employees, making for considerable additional income. However, the cost of running a tattoo shop such as rent, utilities, liability insurance, advertising and supplies must be absorbed by you as the employer.
According to PayScale, as a studio artist working in a tattoo shop in 2010 you could have expected to earn £14,562 to £29,725 annually. You will typically be required to pay the shop owner anywhere from 30 to 70 per cent of your hourly earnings; however, you are usually provided with all necessary working materials, minus tattoo equipment. Most tattoo studios will also provide you with marketing and advertising materials such as business cards and website or social media exposure. No matter what the agreed-upon commission between you and your employer, well known and experienced tattoo artists can often charge the highest hourly rates.
The law does not require any type of formal education to practice the art of tattooing and body modification. The most common training for professional tattoo artists is to complete an apprenticeship with an established studio. Apprenticeships are internships, and you can expect to earn minimal salary, if any. Depending upon the status and prestige of the shop you train in, you may even be required to pay your mentor. During a tattoo apprenticeship you will be required to work in the shop -- for a predetermined amount of hours -- performing basic tasks such as cleaning, receiving clients, answering phones and assisting tattoo artists in exchange for your training.
As a tattoo artist, you usually will be required to carry your own health insurance benefits and will not be offered any paid vacations, holidays or retirement plans. Like most independent contract positions, you will also be responsible for paying your own taxes. PayScale's 2010 statistics show that about 91 per cent of all tattooists employed by studios receive no benefits. Of the nine per cent who did, only five received dental and five per cent received vision benefits. 31 per cent of tattoo shop owners carried health insurance and related benefit plans.