Picking Your Studio

for Piercing Industry Professionals

This resource is intended for piercing industry professionals, including piercers, front of house staff, and other studio workers. This will include information on what to look for, questions to ask, and general considerations when making decisions about picking a studio or employer.

Environmental standards

The answers to these questions should assure you that the business is already meeting or is working to meet your personal standards and goals as a professional. If interested in APP Membership or looking for studios that meet some of the criteria, you can reference the APP Membership Requirements.

What is the quality of jewelry in stock? 

Does the studio meet or exceed local health and safety requirements?

Is equipment well-maintained and in working order?


Roles and responsibilities can differ from studio to studio, even when holding a similar job title. It is important to know the responsibilities expected within a particular studio as well as how you will be compensated.

Will I be paid per service, salary or hourly? Are there commissions or incentives based on sales or volume?

Are there benefits provided such as

  • Health Insurance?
  • Parental Leave?
  • Paid vacation?
  • Continuing education?
  • Retirement plan?
  • Relocation assistance? 
  • Professional Liability Insurance?
  • Disability Insurance?

What responsibilities will I have? Are these reflected in the compensation?

Is there anything I’ll need to do on my days off? Examples: responding to work related texts or calls, unpaid studio side-work, posting on social media, or answering messages from clients

How often are worker performance reviews held? Are there opportunities for raises or changes in position?

Will I be paid as a 1099 or W-2? In the United States workers fall into two categories, contractors (1099’s) or employees (W-2’s). There are some significant practical differences between the two. You should discuss these in depth with a financial advisor or CPA local to your place of work. Here are some key considerations for each. Try to make sure AHEAD of time if the status you’re being given is correctly applied to the position you’re being offered.


  • Pay will not have income, social security and medicare taxes removed.
  • May be able to write off travel and expenses
  • Considered self employed and are responsible for paying your own taxes
  • May need to provide or pay for your own supplies
  • Advisable to maintain your own unemployment insurance
  • Advisable to maintain your own professional liability insurance if not covered under a studio policy


  • Taxes are withheld from pay and paid on your behalf
  • Unemployment benefits are provided
  • Supplies should be provided
  • Depending on location and company size disability insurance may be provided
  • State and federal employee protections are mostly geared toward this status

Studio Culture

These questions are intended to help determine the studio culture and if it is a good fit for you. Many of the answers can be readily apparent during a guest spot.

Will there be support and training for 

  • the piercings you’re not currently versed in?
  • tasks you’re not currently versed in?
  • things you are struggling with?

Will there be support to improve when you’re struggling?

How long term are workers? Is there a high turnover?

How long has the studio been in business? There is no ‘right’ answer here. Longer standing businesses will tend to be more consistent in terms of management and business flow but can be more set in their culture. Newer studios could feel more ‘now’ in terms of business practice but be less reliable in terms of management while new business owners/managers are learning their rolls.

Is there a dress code? Being asked to wear non offensive, clean clothing in good repair is appropriate. Being asked or required to conform to a studio ‘aesthetic’ based on skin color, gender identity or body size is not acceptable. 

Look at current and past workers, is a good cross section of the community represented?

Do the business owners/managers have experience in body art? If not, do they understand the industry culture?

What is the studio volume? Generally, how many services or client interactions will I provide daily? Is there an amount of time allotted per client? There is no right or wrong answer to this question- it’s just another indicator of whether the studio is a good fit for you.

How often is the owner or manager in the studio? Are they absentee or do they micromanage? Are they accessible by phone?

Is there a clear management hierarchy? Example: who hires and fires? Who do you ask about time off? Who do you go to with concerns?

How often are shop meetings held? 

Are workers encouraged to receive continuing education?

Is the studio not only following local laws, but also proactive in maintaining legal and ethical standards?

Have current or past employees been supported in broader professional interactions or endeavors? Some examples would be

  • Becoming educators locally, nationally, internationally or online.
  • Serving on a committee or board at the city, state or national level.
  • Jewelry, display or other product production or distribution.

How does the owner present employment?
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Look for pros AND cons being presented. No city/town is perfect and no business is either. Having as clear a picture of what you are signing up for is crucial. 

Speak to past workers and current long term workers and ask the following questions.

  • What was/is their experience like? 
  • People leave positions for a variety of reasons- were these reasons concerning?
  • For long term workers, what has kept them working at the studio?
  • Employer responds to feedback fairly. This doesn’t mean they do everything that an employee wants, however, they do listen and show an openness to new ideas?
  • Employers consider employees as valuable, not just for the work they bring to the shop, but as human beings deserving respect?
  • Employers are eager to prevent miscommunication and attempt to put as much in writing as possible, including rules, responsibilities, payment, etc.?
  • Employers have their own healthy boundaries, and respect their employees and customers' healthy boundaries?

Does the new job require you to relocate? If so, here are some considerations. Do as many guest spots as possible ahead of any move.

  • Cost of living in the new area?
  • Distance from family/personal network?
  • Other interests available for activities or entertainment? How late are restaurants open?
  • Healthcare needs well met?
  • Can I afford to move WITHOUT or minimal couch surfing? 
  • Am I breaking a lease or obligation by leaving my current location? 
  • How does my money look? It’s safe to assume that if you’re between jobs or looking to change jobs that you may not have huge sums set aside. That said, it’s prudent to have enough set aside before you enter a new situation, to exit it if things go badly. 
  • How will this move impact my mental health? Sometimes a move has a good impact and sometimes not. Self assessment can be tricky and new beginnings are exciting. Try to keep your expectations of yourself and the new situation as realistic as possible. 

Do you have friends working at the new studio?
Many people move on the advice of a friend, only to find that being friends long distance is different than actually working together. This can be quite distressing all around. Ultimately, it’s ideal to be on good terms with co workers while maintaining healthy interpersonal boundaries. Build a friend/support network outside of the studio if at all possible. 

Get it in writing
Request for pay and benefit offers in writing. You should receive this and any other contracts you are expected to sign before relocating or accepting positions. Make sure you fully understand what’s provided. Negotiate terms as needed.

Community standing
We hear time and again of workers leaving bad situations who felt they couldn’t speak up because their boss was well known or popular. Speaking up regardless of perceived status is important.  Understand also that professional credibility isn’t necessarily linked to social media following, the person's ability to self promote, or the fact that they ‘seem’ to know a lot of people. Do a little digging! 

Ask other reputable piercers outside of your area. Check into the past studios they worked and their co-workers.

Most piercers will naturally talk about the people they have worked with, worked for and network with. Don’t be shy about reaching out to those people to confirm that relationship. If that person has not in fact worked with, employed, or networked with your potential employer It’s a clear sign of dishonesty in an effort to appear more ‘well known’ or ‘important’. At best this is the sign of a fragile ego at worst someone willing to lie for any reason.

Red flags

  • The Owner or Manager wants too much control over your life which can include
    • requiring you to live with them
    • wants you on-call at all times
    • will pay your bills or expenses rather than a paycheck
    • manipulates your finances until you are dependent on them 
    • seeks to control your outside social interactions in inappropriate ways including your personal friendships, romantic relationships, or family relationships. This does not include appropriate requests such as not dating clients or coworkers.
  • Refuses to provide an offer in writing.
  • Owner and/or workers presenting themselves as able to ruin someone else's career- this person will eventually threaten to ruin YOUR career.
  • You’ve witnessed your possible new employer lying.
  • You can’t find any former workers that left on good terms. The owner may say things like every former worker is a backstabber or other shops stole our employees
  • You are asked to perform piercings or task with insufficient training
  • Studio is not following local laws or health and safety requirements. Look at local regulations yourself to confirm.
  • Does not have good relationships with other studios, prohibits visitors or shadowing, guest spots, etc. (Either hosting or staff going to shadow/guest/visit another studio).

Reporting problems
Many people are hesitant to file reports to government agencies, often because they feel nothing will be done. While that may be the case, putting a report on record documents the issue in a legal sense. Those affected should gather or save as much supporting documentation as possible to be included. 

Who do I contact?

  • Problems with employment - Contact Department of Labor
  • Studio is not following local regulations - Contact the Health Department
  • Victims or direct witnesses of an assault - Contact law enforcement

For additional information and resources on harassment and abuse from the APP, including what to do if you feel that a member of the APP has violated the terms of their membership, please visit www.safepiercing.org/harassment_abuse.