Linework Lets Artists Focus on What They Do Best—Making Art


To the uninitiated, being a tattoo artist may seem like the simplest job in the world. Who wouldn’t want to get paid well to draw on people? The reality is far more complicated. The best way to think of it is to imagine an iceberg. The tattooing represents the part visible above the water line, but underneath is where the bulk of the job lies. From scheduling appointments to handling payments to record keeping to handling all of the legalities that go with running a business, there is a tremendous amount of mind-numbing work that must be done before an artist’s station is even set up. Precious hours that could be spent creating are wasted juggling all of these tasks.

Shouldn’t artists spend the bulk of their time making art? Linework Tattoo Software aims to allow artists to gather all of their menial chores in one place, streamlining the process and shaving hours off of the time spent on them each week. Designed entirely with tattoo artists in mind, the software is unlike any of the other similar systems out there. 

In order to understand exactly what Linework is doing, we spoke with the founder of the company, Kai Ree. Ree is a veteran tattoo artist who understood the struggle artists endure, and instead of waiting for someone else to come up with a solution, he created one of his own.

What exactly is Linework Tattoo Software?
In short, Linework is a software solution for tattoo artists and shop managers to manage the core aspects of their business. Linework aims to be the inverse of the generic beauty salon software you typically find today—focusing strictly on ease of use and supporting artists with industry-specific tools to streamline the most critical tasks required to operate their business. 

Linework offers a user-friendly web app for studio managers and artists—plus a convenient iOS/Android app for artists—including tools for things like appointment management, collecting payments and deposits, bookkeeping, keeping client records, including collecting consents with digital waivers and sending out text reminders and aftercare instructions.

What sets Linework apart from similar solutions is that it really puts an emphasis on artists’ autonomy and aims at supporting them in managing their own independent businesses— meaning that as an artist, you can work anywhere, at any time, both in and outside of a studio setting. By using Linework to manage a studio, shopkeepers have a choice to either co-manage artists’ studio-based appointments, payments, etc. or the artists can just manage their studio-based work themselves. Linework always ensures that data stays in sync and is properly shared between the people that should have access to it. The artists benefit from this by remaining in control of their books, while studio managers have what they need to calculate commissions and stay in the loop on artists’ appointments.

How did Linework all come together?
I started Timeless Tattoo in Oslo back in 2011. I found it very time consuming and frustrating to both tattoo and manage a studio without software designed for either artists or studios. After trying several potential solutions that did not work out for us, we ended up with a software for hairdressers. First of all this one was studio based, so it gave the artist very little. It lacked tattoo-specific features so we still had to do a lot of the work with other systems and manually on paper. The financials were maybe the worst headache. Numbers had to be double checked and there was always some mismatched number that had to be corrected. It took so much of the time I could spend on tattooing or improving the studio. In 2017, I started sketching what Linework is today. I collected feedback from hundreds of artists and studios in different countries. I found that their problems were the same as I had experienced myself. The goal was to make a system that both worked for artists with their own profiles as well as the studio account, and then was able to connect them to avoid double work. In 2019, after speaking with many development companies, I met with an industrial designer, Marius Haaverstad. It took him just a few moments to figure out how this could be made and he immediately started mapping out all the industry-specific challenges. Marius wanted to co-found Linework with me, and the idea started to move forward. After this we have expanded our team with dedicated partners and people who have been developing nonstop, allowing us to finally launch this year.

Linework – Tattoo Business Software from Linework on Vimeo.

Can you tell us the thought process behind the name Linework?
It was most important for us to come up with something that was recognizable and easy to remember. We also wanted it to reflect what our solutions aim to accomplish for our users—streamlining the repetitive, yet critical, aspects of running a tattoo business. Of course, there is also the obvious nod to a certain aspect of the craft itself that requires extra attention to detail to make a tattoo stand the test of time.

As a veteran tattoo artist, what were the factors that led you to understand something like Linework was needed?
Well first of all, I was really surprised that no one had made a professional software for tattoo artists. At least a software that can match the quality of softwares in other industries like hairdressers, dentists, you name it. I eventually understood the difficulties by changing the ways that an unprofessionalized industry like the tattoo industry had to offer. Tattoo artists very often come with the same background like me, starting with dropping out of school to become an apprentice when I was 18. Having no clue how to run my own business as an independent contractor, and even less of a clue how to run a business when I started a studio. Experiencing all this and trying to navigate a sea with very few guidelines was one of the factors that led to making a tool that could help with all these things I had to spend so much time figuring out. When I say the tattoo industry is not professionalized, I mean it in a sense that being a tattoo artist has not been considered a profession. There’s no official educational guidelines, that does not mean tattoo artists have not professionalized the art themselves. So many artists and studio owners have come up with creative ways and routines for hygiene, apprentices, administration, and the community has in many ways made its own “unwritten rules” that work really great. 

The challenges of making software for everyone is that even though we find a red thread in the industry, most artists and studios have a slightly different approach in their whole setup. Take aftercare instructions, for instance. Ask 100 random artists how to take care of the tattoo, and I’m pretty sure you will find 100 different answers. Some are close to each other but not exactly the same. This also goes for the studio—artist rent setup, release forms, payments, booking routines and everything else. The endless possible combinations makes it a lot more complex to make functional software for the tattoo industry than for other industries. Another factor was that I was really sick of all the benefits artists forego working as independent contractors. I felt we were the least prioritized by banks regarding loans or credit, to insurance companies where employees in a big company got much better terms of coverage and price. It was time for the tattoo industry to be acknowledged for what it is, one of the greatest industries there is.

What prompted you to be the person who actually went and made it happen?
I saw thousands of pieces of software for the hairdresser industry, and just decided that if no one else made one for tattoo artists, I’m going to. I think what software development companies struggle with is finding someone with domain knowledge of the industry helping them develop the right tools. For me it was the opposite. I knew how it should work, but for me to get these companies to understand why was hard until I met Marius. As soon as I understood what software tattoo artists used that were not made for them or systems that solved a fraction of what they needed it was a no brainer to go all in making it. I really needed it for the artists in my studio as well. Without the people on the team believing in the idea and the industry Linework wouldn’t happen at all. That goes also for the many investors that saw this opportunity that others couldn’t.

How has Linework affected your day-to-day?
In regards to my everyday work life, it is very time consuming starting a software company. This is quite the opposite of running a tattoo studio. I thought it would take a year perhaps, but it ended up with seven. And we are not finished yet. But I think it’s a lot of fun as well. I talk a lot with tattoo enthusiasts around the world and work with people from the industry with the same interests. It has been more of an office job than I would perhaps wish for, but I have got used to that. 

Why is it important to streamline everything into one program?
We believe that consolidating tools can be extremely beneficial in order to simplify the tattoo business workflow, especially since the nature of the services provided follows a repeating pattern of tasks for each project. Having all the tools needed to facilitate this in one solution not only makes things more efficient and easier to manage, but also helps in providing a more professional experience for the client. There are, of course, additional cost-benefits to this, both in direct costs, like not needing to pay for a certain tool, but also indirect costs, like less time needed for training staff.

On this topic, it’s important for us to avoid having Linework become a “jack of all trades/master of none,” meaning that there will always be certain tasks that should be left for specialized tools. We are building Linework with this in mind, being conscious of not building walls around our systems. In these instances we will be looking to integrate with other tools that naturally compliments ours. An example of this is our Zapier integration, which allows users to trigger events in other apps when something happens in Linework. We will be looking to do more of this going forward. 

What have artists told you about how Linework has improved their work flow?
We learn a lot from artists and we will never stop learning. We had a test phase where we collected feedback to improve our software and we have done a lot of adjustments. Now it seems like we finally have software that is working really well, but artists still come up with ways to improve features. One of our first users, Ricardo Sturdivant says, “Linework does it all.” 10KF studio owner Manu Cruz tells us that after using it, both the artists and the studio save a lot of time every day, and they can spend more time making art and not paperwork. All over, saving a lot of time and hassle with paperwork and finances is the common feedback from users. Also, being able to check out clients via mobile or iPad seems to be welcomed by artists.

How do you think Linework will be able to change the industry?
Hopefully the dialogue with the industry and community will help us continuously improve and be the preferable solution for all artists. I also think that the bigger Linework’s community gets, the more leverage we will get to, for example, push insurance companies to give tattoo artists better terms. 

Where do you see Linework in 10 years?
Hopefully our software is in countries all around the world and making life easier for millions of people. We have interest from players in other industries that also want to use Linework, so we are probably going to find solutions for everyone that works as an independent contractor. For now our focus is tattoo artists. Somewhere in the meantime I will retreat to making art again.

Click here to learn more about Linework and use one of the codes below to save some cash.

Exclusive offers for Linework Artist Accounts:
For Artists:
Use code inkedartist to get 50% off on the monthly plan for 6 months.

For Apprentices:
Use code inkednoob to get 90% off on the monthly plan for 6 months.
– Redeem your code when activating your subscription before your 30 day free trial expires.

Exclusive offer for Linework Studio Accounts:
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– Redeem your code when starting your 30 day free trial.

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