COVID-19 Will Change The Tattoo Industry

I first wrote this piece (and filmed the above episode) just a couple of days before the UK was lockdown of March 24th 2020. It had been a crazy time in the world already at that point.

Terms that we’d never heard before were quickly becoming part of everyday life.
  • Social Distancing
  • Self Isolation
We were still filming our little Youtube show at this point so we decided to carry on. We had no idea at the time the way that COVID-19 will change the Tattoo Industry  was about to stall the entire world for (at the time of writing) nearly a year! Of course we had a lot of fears and concerns about our health, our future and our finances.
Most of us aren’t in the fortunate position of being able to withstand not earning a penny from our jobs for an indefinite period of time. Many of us – particularly in the tattoo world – are self employed and the equation is simple


The simple truth was (and is) that no amount of virtue signalling hashtags will pay the bills. Even then we knew we’d all have to find a way to make it work so that when this is finally over we wont be living out of our cars struggling to get back on our feet. On top of this if – like me – you own a small business, like many tattooists do. You have the added responsibility of making tough decisions that effect the people around you. In my case it’s the livelihood of 8 other people and 7 family’s.

Tough Decisions

I took the desicion to remain open until the UK government forced me to close. To allow the guys as much time as possible to save some money that would  hopefully help them ride out an enforced studio closure. A lot of studios were closing down leaving the artists with no income and – at the time – little or no financial support because they are mostly self employed.
I was happy that I was being responsible – I also have the health of our clients to think about. They still wanted to get tattooed and quite rightly agreed with me that any building that is disinfected every 12 hours is probably as safe a place as any to be during the early stages of a pandemic.

Private Studio

So I decided to return to operating the studio as a private studio with only 2 booths in use at a time. I took a look at restrictions around the world to find the smallest amount of people that were allowed (at the time) to gather together and came up with 5. I’m fortunate that the studio is a couple of thousand square feet so we’ve positioned the 2 booths at either end of the shop. Closed reception and the waiting area and locked the door to the public.

As my good friend Tallahassee likes to say
it was time to "Nut up or shut up".

cover-19 tattoo

“It all happened so fast! It was business as usual, and then we started to learn more about the virus and dangers in the news. All of a sudden, everything was done.” - TERRY DOWNS

But All That Was 115 Days Ago..

While the economy continues to feel the ripple effects of COVID-19, the tattoo industry is bracing for the worst.

It’s been a few months since I wrote those words. Actually the country was locked-down only 48hrs after we edited our last ever Modern Electric Show Episode. So much for nutting up…
COVID-19, which was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, is likely to change the the tattoo industry forever. It has gravely impacted lives and businesses across the globe. In the United Kingdom, there were 283,757 cases of the virus as of July 3, along with over 43,995 deaths. Some of the highest in Europe. According to the Centers For Disease Control, the novel coronavirus is spread through the transmission of respiratory droplets from an infected individual, which makes things like tattooing especially risky.
Because of the closeness of tattooing, tattoo artists wonder when they can safely get back to work — and if it will be within the timeframe to save their shops and careers.

How COVID-19 Is Impacting Tattoo Artists

The popularity of tattoos has never been greater. Today, research shows that Birmingham is the most tattooed English city. It leads the way with 48 per cent of “brummies” having an average of six tattoos. Norwich and Glasgow are not far behind.. Overall, the tattoo industry has grown by 6.1% since 2014, and it’s now estimated to be a $2 billion dollar per year industry. Still, it wasn’t ready for a global pandemic like COVID-19 that will change the Tattoo Industry

Looking To The Future

Most artists would appear to be taking it day by day, but many still worry about what business will look like after the pandemic. Luckily,independent contractors, including many tattoo artists, may now qualify for assistance, like unemployment benefits, but it doesn’t quell the fear of what’s to come. “If [people are] struggling to pay bills, they probably won’t be racing out to get a tattoo,” Sicklinger says. “They have to rebuild their lives and, even if shops open, there’s no guarantee that we’ll see the same volume of people who will be financially able to invest in work.” As a shop owner, Myles shares similar sentiments. “Our business is in a tourist-heavy area of the city,” she says about her Division Street shop. “Imagine if this thing wipes out tourism.”

COVID-19 Will Continue to Change The Tattoo Industry

Leaning on art doesn’t take away from the unpredictability of COVID-19, but it does lend perspective. “I’ve been thinking about what I want my life to look like after this,” says Sicklinger. “There’s tattooing, then there’s my natural progression as a human.” Time alone has given her an open mind about pursuing other passions, like therapy or counselling, which she’s developed an interest in through tattooing.
“I want to be able to have multiple income streams from creative outlets to protect myself better if something like this happens again,” she says. “Until then, it’s a matter of channeling that energy and focus into supporting each other. This is bigger than tattooing; it’s about humanity.”

COVID-19 will change the Tattoo Industry. Time for a Passive Income

Making money while you sleep” has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s also a good way to support yourself when your not tattooing. If your shop is shut up because of, say, oh I don’t know.. A Pandemic?

The golden rule of passive income – protect your time.

Passive income is more about time than anything else. You could do a lot of things to make money, but not all income streams are passive. I’m all for you actively building a business or a side hustle, but for the income stream to truly be passive, it must require less and less effort to produce income, eventually requiring no effort (or very little to maintain). IE:  If I build an online web course. At first, I’m earning no money and my effort is very high. I expend a ton of effort at first. Once the course is complete, I do some continued marketing and client support which amounts to just a few hours per week, while sales roll in month after month.

COVID-19 Will Change The Tattoo Industry

Hang on though! Could it be a good thing? How Your Business Can Survive The COVID-19 Crisis and then thrive after it.

Getting a grip on your business first is the top priority. If you don’t have cash, how can you get to a place of stability first? If you already have stability, then this is an amazing opportunity to transform what you do, and thrive for what is certainly going to be a changed world after this crisis.

There’s a popular meme circulating these days that asks: “Who is responsible for your company’s digital transformation?
  • A. CTO
  • B. CEO
  • C. COVID-19
As this joke shows, most entrepreneurs and businesses are struggling in the current environment, but every crisis offers opportunities, and this one is no different. But you MUST keep your team focused and engaged and ready to perform when they are needed
Here are four tips to help keep your team committed:
  • Communication is key
  • Ask for suggestions
  • Focus on your company culture
  • Celebrate success

No money? No hope?

Don’t give up! Your business can survive!

Even if you have totally run out of money and are completely without hope, your business can almost certainly survive the COVID-19 crisis. Furthermore, you can emerge with a business that is stronger than the business you had before the crisis.
Listen. This COVID-19 crisis really is different than any other. Everyone on the entire planet knows about it! And everyone is being impacted by it!
And that’s a huge benefit to you! Usually, your business problem is YOUR business problem. But this business problem is the WORLD’S business problem.

How To Make Money With Art Skills