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Opening Your Own Business

Opening Your Own Business

Starting a new business is a topic of frequent conversation in the showroom, from new and experienced tattooers alike. Every state has different laws and regulations. For this post, we used Washington state requirements. More specific information about any of these steps can be easily accessed via state and municipal government websites for your area.

It's advisable to consult with a qualified attorney and accountant to ensure compliance with all applicable state and federal requirements before starting your business. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a general breakdown of steps to make the process simpler to understand. This won’t make your business instantly successful; rather, it just makes sure you have the basic legal requirements covered.

  • 1. Choose a Business Structure: Decide on a legal structure for your business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation. Consult an attorney or accountant to determine the best option for your situation.
  • 2. Choose a business name: Select a unique and distinguishable name for your business that complies with the Washington Secretary of State's guidelines.
  • 3. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): Apply for an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This number is used for tax purposes and is often required when hiring employees or opening a business bank account. Understand federal tax requirements: Familiarize yourself with federal tax obligations, such as income tax, self-employment tax, and payroll taxes. The IRS provides information and resources for businesses on their official website. Verify eligibility for federal programs: Determine if your business qualifies for any federal programs, grants, or certifications, such as small business certifications or veteran-owned business programs. These can greatly reduce your startup costs. If you need assistance with writing grant proposals, there are many free writing tutorials available.
  • 4. Register your Business entity with the Washington Secretary of State. 
  • 5. Business License: Apply for a business license from the Washington State Department of Revenue. You can do this online through the Business Licensing Service website or by mail. The license fee will vary depending on your location and the specific services you offer. Check on local regulations in the county and city you are in; you may also need to apply for a business license in those places.
  • 6. Understand employment obligations: If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need to comply with state labor laws. This includes workers' compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, and withholding state taxes from employees' wages.
  • 7. Zoning and Permits: Check with your local zoning office to ensure that a tattoo shop is allowed in the chosen location. Obtain any necessary permits, such as building permits or signage permits, as required by your city or county. As localities have different timelines and procedures for granting permits, this may impact your target opening date.
  • 8. Bloodborne Pathogen Training: Undergo bloodborne pathogen training and certification. The Washington State Department of Licensing provides a list of approved training providers. All tattoo artists and staff members who may come into contact with blood or bodily fluids must complete this training.
  • 9. Health Department Requirements: Contact the local health department to understand the requirements for opening a tattoo shop. This includes obtaining a Body Art Facility permit and a personal tattoo license. These can both be obtained from the Department of Licensing. You must comply with health and safety regulations, including proper sterilization procedures and maintaining a clean and sanitary environment.
  • 10. Business insurance: While insurance can be costly, it offers peace of mind in the event of an incident. Depending on the terms of your business space lease, it may be required. It's recommended to consult with an insurance professional to tailor coverage to your specific needs.
  • 11. Sign up for a business checking account and/or credit card if you don’t have one: Business checking accounts help you track and organize your spending, making it easier to file taxes. While not required, business credit cards often offer welcome bonuses and rewards for using them, so they can be a great asset when used responsibly.
  •  12. Consider setting up a business email address and digital storage: If you’re in a business partnership with one or more people, a shared email address for the business can help with keeping shop specific information organized in one place, such as receipts for business purchases or. Cloud storage allows you to store all business documents in one place for easy access when needed.
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