“You get what you pay for” is a necessary caveat in the tattoo world. People prefer discount prices all while you are striving for a profitable business. Nonetheless, you're a respected artist who just wants to be fair to your customers as well as your bottom line.
The Biggest Pricing Issues for Tattoo Shops
The most common profitability issues that plague a tattoo shop owner include:
The minimum cost of materials
Even if the tattoo is just a dot, the minimum cost of the materials must dictate a certain price whether the customer likes it or not. Small tattoos almost seem to be outrageously priced for this reason, while large pieces have the cost of the time added on top of this. To stay profitable, it's important to be fair but nonetheless say no to unreasonable counter-offers—there's no in losing money on a cheap customer.
The lack of pricing transparency
Customers will get pissed if you don't provide transparent prices before the job is complete. Some artists charge per piece, some charge per hour, and some have a base and build from there. The latter can be risky as the final price may not reflect what the customer was originally expecting.
Friends who think they should get discounts or free work
When you first started out, you were tattooing your friends next to nothing just to get some ink on human skin. Times have changed, and it can be hard to get friends (and sometimes even pushy acquaintances who think they're entitled) to understand that your time is valuable.
How to Negotiate With Tattoo Customers & Convey the True Value of Your Work
One of the best things that you can do is develop some skills to make customers "get it." Here are some ideas to support the prices of the luxurious tattooing.
- Be direct when explaining your pricing. If you have an hourly rate or a per item rate or base pay that build with size and difficulty, then let the customer know. If you charge for consultations and markups for custom pieces, be transparent. Honesty is key.
- Break the tattoo down into pricing brackets. If you and your client have a good relationship, then this is a good middle ground for the both of you. They respect your artistry, and you respect their budget. This mutually beneficial relationship is certainly going to come with glowing references for more work.
- Offer a standard "friend" discount. Maybe this is something that cuts into your margins just a little bit but not enough to make the transaction a waste of your time. Level with them and say that you're doing them a favor but won't come down on the price point past this standard "friend" discount you've already given them.
- Find out what competitors are charging. If you're on the more expensive side, ensure that you have a justification for it and leverage that (e.g. You have more experience, or your schedule is booked enough that you can pick and choose the clients who are willing to pay). If you're on the cheaper side, leverage that to your advantage instead.
- Really listen to your customer. If you're able to build rapport and trust, their issues about pricing might melt away in favor of their confidence in you.
There are many factors that go into pricing, but the most important factor is the conversation that the artist has with the prospective client. Honesty and respect speak volumes. If you're unable to resolve the issues on price, don't be afraid to walk away. Knowing your worth is important.
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