How to Start a Body Piercing Shop

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Our guide on starting a body piercing shop covers all the essential information to help you decide if this business is a good match for you. Learn about the day-to-day activities of a body piercing shop owner, the typical target market, growth potential, startup costs, legal considerations, and more!

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Start a body piercing shop by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your body piercing shop. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you. Skip on ahead to the Business Overview for more detailed answers to all your questions.

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your body piercing shop is sued. Consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7: Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8: Define your brand.

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Business Overview

Body piercing, also known as body modification, has become a popular form of self-expression for individuals of all ages. A professional piercer offers a wide variety of piercing options, from a simple ear piercing to more complex areas, such as the eyebrow, tongue, and nostril.

Who is this business right for?

Piercing shop owners who have realized long-term success are fully engaged in the art and body modification community. They value the freedom to express oneself and embrace art in its many different forms. Individuals who encompass these values and possess the entrepreneurial spirit and drive to elevate the careers of other artists should consider opening their own body piercing business.

What happens during a typical day at a body piercing shop?

Before opening your business, you’ll want to determine how large of a role you’d like to take in running the shop. Some owners are only interested in handling the business aspect of the shop, while others wish to be fully immersed, piercing clients a majority of their day.

When a customer comes in for an appointment, the piercer meets with the client to discuss their needs. In this consultation, they’ll determine piercing placement and jewelry. Once the specifics have been ironed out, the piercer will gather the necessary tools and perform the piercing. After the piercing is complete, the piercer will spend some time educating the client on proper aftercare procedures. Depending upon the piercing placement, this whole process can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

In addition to piercing, you’ll also need to place inventory orders, sterilize needles and equipment, and handle any administrative tasks that need your attention. Downtime is spent marketing the business and networking within the community.

What is the target market?

A piercing shop’s largest customer demographic is 18-30 years old. For this reason, many owners choose to set their business up in an area where younger people frequent or live, such as near a university. Some shops cater to a much younger audience, targeting girls who are getting their ears pierced for the first time. To realize long-term success, however, you’ll want to cater to consumers of every age, as body modification has gained popularity amongst individuals young and old.  

How does a body piercing shop make money?

Piercing shops generate revenue from each piercing performed. There are generally several artists sharing studio space, often with varying specialties and talents. Each artist either pays rent to the owner or offers the owner a percentage commission of each customer they serve.

What is the growth potential for a body piercing shop?

Body modification has become increasingly socially acceptable, allowing consumers to freely express themselves without fear of repercussion in the workplace. As a result, the growth potential for the body piercing business has expanded. While many owners choose to keep their business small and intimate, there are some, such as Sweet & Sassy, who’ve found success opening multiple locations and targeting a specific audience.  

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful body piercing shop?

Whether your business plan includes you piercing clients, or remaining behind the scenes running the shop, your days will be spent working with people. Strong communication skills and the confidence to offer advice when necessary would serve you well in this industry. It also requires a certain amount of finesse and a calming nature to ease a customer’s worries as they sit in your chair for their first piercing.

In this industry, a high level of cleanliness at all times is paramount. Organizational skills and high standards of hygiene will be part of what defines the long-term success of your business

Regardless of your role within the organization, spending at least a year as an apprentice is highly recommended. This is a great way to pick up invaluable skills that will help in setting up a successful shop.  Once you’ve gained success, consider passing on this knowledge to other aspiring piercers. Additionally, there are a number of opportunities, such as Association of Professional Piercers that educate members on safety, the latest modification trends, and offer advice on how to expand your client base.   

As the entrepreneur, your responsibilities encompass more than piercing and require a certain level of business finesse. This industry is very tight knit, so you’ll likely employ several friends and/or acquaintances. Strong leadership skills will help you keep business and personal separate, ultimately saving both your friendships and your business.  

What are the costs involved in opening a body piercing shop?

Many piercing shop owners have indicated they were able to open their shop with less than $2,000 in capital. As the business started to roll in, they reinvested their earnings, expanding the shop as time went on.  

When choosing your location, carefully research the areas you’re considering. Many shops make a bulk of their earning from walk-ins, so try to pick a space that has a good deal of foot traffic. If possible, set your space up with multiple rooms. You may want to add other piercers or artists as time goes on.  

The following are a few items you’ll need to invest in before opening your shop:

  • Piercing equipment
  • Body jewelry
  • Sterilization & hygiene supplies - A new autoclave can set you back anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000. Shopping for used equipment can help cut down on those costs.
  • Piercing aftercare products
  • Medical supplies/first aid kit
  • Furniture - Piercing chairs cost $250-$500 new, but can be found at a reduced price if purchased used.
  • Displays and cabinets for inventory

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a body piercing shop?

Many piercing shops impose various age restrictions on different types of piercing; for instance, offering upper carilage ear piercings only to people 12 years or older. Know what your age rules will be and make sure they are clear to customers. 

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Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a body piercing shop

As a body piercing shop owner, it’s important to devote a portion of your time to marketing. Prospects will often spend hours combing social media, looking for a shop that appears friendly and knowledgeable and expresses the importance of cleanliness. Make sure to maintain a social media presence at all times. The Association of Professional Piercers is also a great marketing and networking resource.  

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Word of mouth will be your most valuable business tool in attracting and retaining customers. Work to establish a name for your shop - make sure your staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and that the shop is spotless at all times. This will set you apart from the competition and will attract customers from all over.  

How and when to build a team

It’s recommended that you maintain a staff of at least two piercers at all times. To ensure every customer feels comfortable, consider having both a male and female piercer on your team. A team member to handle the front-end services would also prove beneficial, but isn’t required. Since most states require consumers to be at least 18 years old, your staff should be of age as well.  

Each piercer/artist should have their own workspace and will either pay rent for use of the space or pay a portion of their commission to you as the owner. Following this business model is a great way to cut down on overhead expenses and integrate yourself further within the modification community.  

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a body piercing store. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

For information about local licenses and permits:

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Maintain Personal Asset Protection

Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
A smiling man sits at a computer and learns about corporate veils

CORPORATE VEIL

To learn more about maintaining your LLC's corporate veil, read our guide and protect your personal assets.

Release of Liability

To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, XXX businesses should have their clients sign a release of liability. Here is an example of one such form.

Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional release of liability form for your body piercing business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.

Certificate of Occupancy

A piercing business is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease office space:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a piercing business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build office space:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your piercing business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

Informed Consent Agreement

It is recommended to provide clients with informed consent agreements to decrease legal liability and encourage transparency.

  • More information on informed consent agreements can be found here.
  • Particular attention should be paid to minors, who need to have a parent or guardian’s permission for any piercings.

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

The fees for a piercing will vary from customer to customer, depending upon the jewelry they choose and the body location. Pricing starts at around $35 and can go upwards of $90.  

What are the ongoing expenses for a body piercing shop?

In addition to the standard overhead expenses, your greatest ongoing expenses will be marketing and supplies.  Cleaning supplies, gloves, and jewelry will be used daily.  When first starting out, piercers report spending an estimated $1,000-$2,500 per year on supplies.  

How much profit can a body piercing shop make?

Professional body piercers report earning an average of $26,000 - $37,000 annually. This is their profit, after paying a portion of their earnings to you each month. The more piecers you employ, the more clients you’re able to serve, driving your profits up exponentially. As your shop builds a reputation within the community, the potential is there to make well over $100,000 annually.  

How can you make your business more profitable?

Many piercing shops expand their goods and services to more than just piercing.  To make your business more profitable you could:

  • Sell jewelry for piercings - many customers enjoy changing out their jewelry periodically
  • Carry an inventory of aftercare products
  • Sell local art
  • Maintain a staff of tattoo artists

Next Steps

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