Top Tips for Reducing No Shows and Cancellations | Painful Pleasures Community

Top Tips for Reducing No Shows and Cancellations

No-shows and cancellations are sometimes inevitable, but there are ways to keep them to a minimum. Check out our tips in this blog.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: May 16, 2024

No-calls, cancellations, and no-shows… they happen. Life throws curveballs, people get cold feet, the list goes on and on. But there are simple ways you can keep cancellations and ghosters to a bare minimum. With a few respectable policies (and a few reminders to yourself!) you can ensure most of your clients turn up the day of their appointment. Here are our top tips for minimizing no-calls, no-shows, and cancellations.


Business handshake between tattoo artist and client

If you’re not already doing this, it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent cancellations and no-shows. Asking for a deposit upfront is like saying, “Hey, let’s commit to this thing.” A client who’s already put money down on an appointment will take that appointment much more seriously. And remember, the deposit is typically used toward the total cost of the tattoo, so it isn’t an extra fee—it’s just a security measure. But there are a few ways you can make your booking fee even more impactful:

Ask for a Higher Cost Deposit

This one’s a no-brainer: when there’s more money at stake, clients are more likely to keep their appointments!

On the other hand, if you ask for a lower cost deposit (say $20 to $50), you’re not doing much to prevent client cancellation. A lot of people (more than you think) consider anything within the $20 ballpark to be throwaway cash. However, if you ask for a much higher deposit (say a third of the cost of the tattoo), your client will be far less likely to throw all that away. So don’t be afraid to ask for a higher deposit, your time and skill are worth it!

Make Your Cancellation Policy Crystal Clear to Deter No-Calls/No-Shows

Be sure to spell out your policy to your client so they can’t refute it! Include the terms of the agreement on your website, in your contract, and verbally over the phone (if your client makes the deposit via phone call).

Pro Tip: You can also include a rescheduling policy as a caveat to the non-refundable deposit. This ensures your client has the flexibility to change their appointment if something unexpected comes up. That way, they won’t lose their deposit, and you won’t lose your client.


Tattoo artist working on a leg tattoo and smiling at the camera

Now, about those forgetful clients. We all have them. That’s where text reminders come in handy. No need to chase forgetful clients down–just set it and forget it. There are loads of apps out there that can handle this for you, easy peasy. Here are a few we recommend:


Go Appointment Reminders

Pro Tip: Text reminders work wonders, but nothing beats good old-fashioned, direct, personal communication. We highly recommend calling your client directly a day or two before their appointment to confirm their attendance. It serves as a gentle but effective reminder. Plus, once someone verbally confirms something over the phone, they’re held even more accountable for their timeliness and attendance. So don’t sleep on the direct phone calls!


Frustrated tattoo artist crying out loud while holding a tattoo machine

Make your late policy crystal clear. A late policy ensures your client has to respect your time. Otherwise, they’ll either lose their deposit OR have to pay more as a penalty. So, what’s a good late policy, you may ask? Well, you could require clients to call you and give notice when they know they’ll be late. If they don’t call and give you the notice you require, you can cut their appointment short. Consequently, they’d have to pay for an additional session to finish their tattoo.

If you enforce a policy like this, most clients are happy to call in advance and let you know if they’ll be late.


Tattoo artist working on a leg tattoo

At first glance, this might sound counterintuitive. But it actually encourages more business and better rapport with your clients. And, yes, it reduces no-calls and no-shows in the long run.

To that end, you can offer discounts or small perks (think $10-$20 off a tattoo) whenever clients reschedule their appointments with ample notice. This encourages your clients to respect your time rather than straight-up not showing up to their appointments. Just know that you shouldn’t make these incentives abundantly clear in your contract or on your website. That might have the opposite effect and encourage clients to reschedule all the time. So, let these perks and rewards be a surprise whenever a timely, respectful reschedule arises.


It’s one thing for a client not to show up for an appointment. It’s another thing entirely for a client not to show up for an appointment after someone’s referred them to you. In that instance, there’s accountability involved (who wants to be a no-show after telling a friend they’d definitely show up?)

When you offer rewards for successful referrals, you’re not only increasing your client count. You’re also boosting your chances of clients showing up for appointments because referred clients are even likelier to show up on time. They’ll feel more accountable to do so, having been referred. So offer gift cards and other small perks to existing clients who give you a successful referral!


Tattoo artist and client bonding at a front desk

It’s not all about policies and regulations. Relationships are important too and there’s nothing more valuable than having happy tattoo clients.

This is true for any client who makes it to your chair. But it’s especially true for “tattoo virgins” having an initial consultation with you. Mutual respect is important, of course, so we’re not saying you should suck up to a client, particularly if they seem like they’re going to disrespect you. But if the client is respectful—albeit a little nervous about their first tattoo—kindness, respect, and making them feel comfortable do wonders. They’ll be way less likely to cancel come the day of their tattoo appointment.

And, it goes without saying, when clients like you, they’re more likely to book additional appointments with you in the future.


When you have a waitlist, it lets clients know they can’t schedule with you whenever they want. When your client only has a small window to book with you, it revs up urgency. And even if you’re not swamped or overbooked, a waitlist gives you an exclusive, high-demand vibe. So a waitlist not only works to prevent cancellations but likewise improves your image!

Let your clients know about your availability on social media so they know when to book with you.


Not every client is too nervous, too forgetful, or disrespectful of your time. Oftentimes, shit happens, and your client has to cancel. With clear policies in place, you’ll have plenty of allowances for these types of emergencies or unexpected changes of plans.

However, if a client experiences a crisis and doesn’t abide by your policies, sometimes it’s okay to make an exception. Deaths in the family, sudden health challenges, and other obstacles can prevent a client from reaching out to you. Making an exception for these folks will benefit you because you won’t lose business—you’ll be fostering a positive relationship with your client (a little empathy goes a long way).


Putting even one of these tips into practice can improve your business! But we highly recommend literally all of them for preventing no-calls and no-shows.

Oh, and if you do find yourself in a no-call, no-show sitch (it’s bound to happen), you can still make great use of your time. Grab a coffee, practice tattooing, doodle on a sketch pad, or rearrange your workstation. Or just chill. Sometimes a no-show can be a blessing.

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