How to become an independent tattoo artist

There is more to establishing yourself as an independent tattoo artist than just designing and doing tattoos alone. This ranges from drafting a business plan and handling marketing to filing tax returns and doing admin. These are all things to keep in mind if you are looking to become an independent tattoo artist.

Working as a tattoo artist, you turn your clients’ wishes into lasting memories. If you start your own business, there are other issues you need to consider as well. For one, we recommend writing a business plan clearly outlining what you intend to do. You also need to think about rates and choose a location – where would you like your business to be based? You also need to comply with certain laws and regulations and keep records. This article will take you through all the issues you need to consider once you decide to set yourself up as a tattoo artist.

Writing a business plan 

In your business plan, you will need to develop your current plans in detail. You will be expected, for example, to describe who you are as an entrepreneur, what your marketing plan involves, and how you intend to fund your business. 

Although you are not required to write a business plan, it does give you an idea of the viability of your idea and what you need to do and find out before you get started. Note that you do need a business plan if you are looking for funding, because a bank will use your plan as a basis for assessing your loan application. 

Another key component of your business plan is a competitor analysis. This analysis will help you identify the opportunities available to you. Did you know, for example, that the number of tattoo shops in the Netherlands has increased by 56% over the past 6 years? 

Number of tattoo shops in the Netherlands (2017-2022) 















Should you start a business? 

The law states that you can be considered to operate a business if you independently provide goods or services to others with the intent to make a profit. It can be difficult to determine exactly what constitutes an active business. Check whether your activities satisfy the criteria for a business and/or if you are required to register with KVK. 

Tip: test your business skills with the KVK Showdown (in Dutch) and discover if you are ready to be an entrepreneur. 

Calculating rates 

The rates you will charge your customers for tattoos depends on a variety of factors. You want to avoid charging too much, but you do not want to be cheap either. You can set your rates by asking how much you would like to keep for yourself every month. You should also check what rates competitors are charging. 

Gerrit Grootenhaar, deputy chair of NBTK, has some tips on setting rates: “It is very tempting to save expenses by using cheap products, but this means quality tends to fall by the wayside.” NBTK believes that regulations should provide for quality standards for products. “As a tattoo artist, you are responsible for your work and for your clients. You take responsibility by using high-quality products that will improve overall results for your clients. Although the rate may be higher, you will find it is certainly worth it.” 

Choosing a location 

Your tattoo shop could be in a building located in a high street, but you can also choose a different type of location, for example in people’s homes (home visits), from your own home, or by renting a chair in someone else’s tattoo shop. 

Starting a home tattoo shop 

The benefits of running your own home tattoo shop are that you eliminate travel time, travel expenses, and additional rents. One of the cons is that it can blur the lines between your business and your personal life (work/life balance) and that your clients will get a glimpse into your personal life. If you are considering starting a home business, ask yourself whether this will project the kind of image you are looking for. 

If you are starting a home business, check the terms and conditions with the local council, as well as the zoning plan and whether you are permitted to hang a sign outside your home. If you are renting, you should check the terms of your lease to see if you are permitted to start a home business. You should also remember to take out the appropriate insurance policies: you may need to purchase additional insurance products if you decide to start a home business. 

Renting or buying a building 

If you are renting a business premises, check to see whether this space meets your needs and requirements. For example, does the space enable you to create the right mood? Is the waiting area large enough, and are there opportunities to add an extension down the line, should you wish to? Check with your local authority to see whether your business activities comply with the zoning plan. 

Renting a chair 

Chair rental involves a collaboration between two or more independent entrepreneurs who offer their services to customers at their own risk and expense from the same commercial unit. 

Chair rental may be a practical way to reduce your accommodation costs, buying costs, and marketing expenses. It also provides you with opportunities to expand your services, for example by working together with businesses operating in other sectors and industries, such as barbershops. Another example is working with guest tattoo artists, who have built a reputation for themselves and are invited to do tattoos at a shop on certain days of the week. Clients can sign up for the days when a guest tattoo artist is available.


In order to be able to open a tattoo shop, you must apply for permits with the GGD (Gemeentelijke Gezondheidsdienst – municipal health service) in your place of residence. These regulations are related mainly to hygiene, including the layout of the space, the hygiene of the people present, and the sterilisation of the various tools and utensils used. Check with NVWA (Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) (in Dutch), GGD (Municipal Health Service) (in Dutch), and RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) (in Dutch) for the requirements your tattoo shop must satisfy. The input you obtain could have an impact on the investments you make to furnish and lay out your shop. 

Additionally, you must be aware of laws on issues such as age limits when applying tattoos and piercings. Young people aged 16 and up are free to decide themselves whether to get a tattoo; those aged between 12 and 16 must always bring a parent when getting tattoos, and they are not permitted to get tattoos on their head, neck, wrists, or hands. Children under the age of 12 are not permitted to get tattoos full stop.

Requirements for tattoo ink from 2022 

On 4 January 2022, new European rules were introduced for the use of tattoo ink, including a ban on certain colourants. You will read more about the additional requirements for tattoo colourants on the (Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) (in Dutch) website. 

Training and Education 

Anyone who wants to, can set themself up as a tattoo artist, which means no specific training is required. If you lack the basic knowledge, skills and expertise, you may end up with disgruntled clients or dangerous situations, for example because you fail to meet the hygiene standards. Grootenhaar, commenting on the subject: “NBTK (Netherlands Industry Association of Tattoo Artists) is hoping to see training and education that incorporates hygiene, human anatomy, and tattoo techniques as the main focus areas. Another key factor is practical experience: it would be great if every tattoo artist were to be coached by an experienced tattoo artist for a minimum of two years.” In doing so, NBTK hopes to see an improvement in overall quality standards, and there will no longer be a need for TV shows about tattoo disasters. 

Registering with the Chamber of Commerce 

If you register with KVK, you need to choose an appropriate legal form. Most tattoo artists just starting out opt for an eenmanszaak(sole proprietorship), because it is so quick and easy to set up. The main disadvantage of this legal form is that it means you are personally liable for any debt your business runs up. 

To register with KVK, you must complete an online registration form. Next, you must schedule an appointment at one of the KVK offices to make the registration official. 

After registration, you will be given your Chamber of Commerce number right away. KVK will then share your details with the tax authorities, who will send you your VAT number and sales tax number by post within two weeks. You will be required to pay a one-time registration fee of €51,95. 

If you are under 18 (in Dutch) years of age, you will need permission from your parents or guardian. 

If you need a KVK number before launching your business 

You may also find that you need a KVK number before your business is actually operational, for example to rent a building, apply for permits, or start buying stock. You can register with KVK in advance

Industry association NBTK 

The Nederlandse Brancheorganisatie Tattoo Kunst (Netherlands Industry Association for Tattoo Artists – NBTK) (in Dutch) was established for people operating businesses providing tattoo, piercing, and permanent make-up services. NBTK is looking to cooperate with governments and provides information on methods and techniques, protocols for tattoos, and consent forms. In addition, NBTK is committed to improving bottlenecks such as insurance products, work-related disability, and VAT rates. 

Administrative records 

Entrepreneurs are required to keep administrative records. You can choose to either do this yourself or outsource it to a bookkeeper or accountant. They will organise your accounts for you, provide you with advice, and they are aware of the various tax benefits out there. Grootenhaar believes outsourcing your accounting is certainly worth considering: “It enables you to focus completely on the creative side of doing business, and you will not need to worry about it.” 

Check for possible deductibles and investigate if the small business scheme might be worth your while. This is an exemption from VAT, and you can use it if your sales revenues (turnover) exclusive of VAT are less than €20,000 on an annual basis and if the Dutch tax authorities have classified you as a entrepreneur for VAT purposes. 

Although it is not required, it is recommended that you open a separate business account for your business. This will allow you to keep track of your purchases and sales and keep your business and personal expenses separate. 


From the time you are registered as a entrepreneur, you will have to deal with taxes. You will usually need to file a VAT return every quarter. This involves reporting the VAT you have charged to customers or clients and deducting the VAT you have paid to your suppliers/vendors. The VAT rate on tattoos is 21%. 
Tip: download the VAT Alert app (in Dutch) offered by the Dutch tax authorities to remind you when to file VAT returns. 

In addition to your VAT returns, you will also need to file income tax returns once a year. You will pay income tax on your profits, and the amount you are required to pay in income tax will be calculated afterwards. This amount will increase once your profits increase. It is important that you set aside money for VAT every month. 

Hedging risks 

One of your clients may end up regretting their tattoo, or they may be dissatisfied with your work. You can reduce the likelihood of this happening by preventing ‘impulse tattoos’ by not accepting walk-ins (appointments only) and giving your potential client some time to consider their decision. 

Before you do the tattoo, you should always go over the consent form with the client, as drafted by the Landelijk Centrum Hygiëne en Veiligheid (National Centre for Hygiene and Safety), and have them sign this form. By signing the consent form, you confirm that you comply with the applicable hygiene standards. In signing the consent form, the client confirms that they have decided to get a tattoo of their own volition. You should always give the client a copy of this document. 

Find out what other potential risks you might be exposed to and how you can mitigate them. You can do this by drafting a set of general terms and conditions and supplemental insurance. 

General Terms and Conditions 

You can draft up a set of General Terms and Conditions. These are rules which apply when someone signs a contract with you, including on warranty, liability, and payment. You can either draw up your own general terms and conditions, or assign a solicitor to do it on your behalf. 


You should take out insurance for risks you are unwilling or unable to bear yourself. There are some types of insurance you are required to take out by law (such as health insurance), while other insurance policies are voluntary (like income protection insurance/disability insurance). You should also consider taking out business liability insurance. Suppose you slip while using your pigment pencil? 

KVK Insurance Check

While some insurance policies are compulsory, others are simply practical and convenient. Which ones do you need? The KVK Insurance Check helps you choose your insurance products. 

What  else? 

Have you given some thought to... 

  • ...a name for your tattoo shop? Your trade name should be recognisable and have the right look and feel. There are also a number of official rules you need to follow.
  • ...maintaining and updating a client database, including for sending newsletters or discount cards? And did you know that you will be expected to comply with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)?
  • … what payment options will you offer your clients? Cash, POS terminal or Tikkie? What are the current payment trends, and which ones do your clients find most convenient?
  • ...will you play music in your tattoo shop? In this case, you will need to deal with music rights. Check with Buma/Stemra what the costs are.
  • you know what your opening hours will be? The Winkeltijdenwet (Trading Hours Act) states that tattoo studios can be open Mondays to Fridays from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. If you would like to use alternative hours of operation, you need to contact your local council to apply for permission.
  • … the exemption of permit obligation (in Dutch) you need if you are looking to provide tattoo, piercing, or permanent make-up services at trade fairs, exhibitions, or other events?
  • ...hiring staff? The action plan for hiring new staff contains all the information you need.

For more information, check out our menu for starting a business (in Dutch), to discover exactly what you have to do when you start working for yourself.