Piercers: Earning a Living Wage?

I recently received this message from a reader who is an apprentice:

Hello! I bought your book at barnes and noble, also I have recently began a piercing apprenticeship and your book has helped very much! Thank you! Although I do have a question that I just can't seem to find an answer for...

...I plan to be a professional body piercer full time once my apprenticeship is complete, but do professional piercers (after completing the apprenticeship) generally make enough money to survive and live off of doing this alone?  How much does a newer piercer generally make in a year, on a commissioned basis (50/50 split)? Or Will I need a second job?

I figured you were the expert, and it couldn't hurt to ask.  Thanks so much!!!

My reply:

Hi J.,

Glad to hear that my book has been helpful for you.

I  know many, many piercers who make a living from the job. But...there can be big differences in how busy studios are (and thus earning potential) dependent upon geographic region, local economy and quantity and quality of competition, and countless other factors.

So, I can speak
only from experience within my studio, Rings of Desire, which was in New Orleans (it closed after Hurricane Katrina and I moved to Mexico).

My employees were well compensated and definitely earned a living by being piercers. I even provided them with medical insurance and other benefits like paid vacation time! However, I paid a salary, as I wanted my staff to be equally rewarded for sweeping, mopping, and tidying jewelry displays as they were for piercing.

In my experience, I found my piercers worked more consistently at all facets of their job when they were not provided with a share of the piercing fees. That system only rewards you when they pierce, but (for me, at least) there were so many other aspects of the job. Each of my piercers also did customer service, maintenance, and other chores, which I found helped to break up the day and prevent burnout. That is as compared with a studio in which the jobs are specialized such as counter help, cleanup crew, and piercers who only pierce.

So, in all honesty, I don't really know much about current industry standards on this topic (assuming there really are any). I'm aware that my way of working was somwhat different than what you find in many studios. And Rings of Desire has been closed for over 6 years now, so obviously many things have changed since I have employed piercers.

My best suggestion is to join a piercers' forum or two and ask around.