Is a career in tattooing for you?
Written by Sinéad Kennard
Tattooing As A Career – What You Need To Know…
Tattooing as a career is heavily reliant on your artistic talent and the time you are willing to devote. It requires constant commitment to maintain your customer base, keep up with drawings, execute an efficient social media presence, and deliver high quality pieces to your clients.
A good place to start is by asking yourself, am I self motivated enough? If already the grind of tattooing sounds like a lot, then maybe this is not the career path for you. If you answered yes, then you need to start building a portfolio. Research different tattoo styles. See what you align with, and begin accumulating a range of pieces that would work as tattoos. It also benefits you to include any other pieces of work that showcase who you are as an artist; these can be a variety from different artistic mediums.
You don’t need a degree in art, but you definitely need to be a highly detailed artist. Above all you need to be a creative and proficient artist – there’s no copying in tattooing. Finesse the basic elements of art and design and start with pen and paper so that you are not reliant on iPad features. It’s a competitive field, so try to establish your own ‘style’. Draw unique pieces that are not replicas from your instagram home page. This helps you stand out from the rest! A talented tattoo artist understands all aspects of tattooing, so make sure you’ve been on the other side of a tattoo machine. This helps you empathise and adapt to your clients needs.
Establishing your brand and online presence…
You also want to start building an online following through Instagram and TikTok for example. Make sure you regularly post your designs/flash. Establish yourself on social media, this helps potential clients discover your work by using hashtags and by others sharing your work. Spend time creating a name and logo for yourself. You can carry this forward throughout your career, which helps you gain a professional edge and sells your brand. It’s a great way for your future employees to see whether your style aligns with their studio. Along with also gaining a following for when you start tattooing.
Read this before finding an apprenticeship…
This is where the hard work really begins. Expect lots of duties around a studio to keep on top of. However, you must keep drawing regularly. You won’t begin tattooing straight away, and even when you do, you first practice on fake skin.
Depending on where you do your apprenticeship, affects how it unfolds. Some tattooists give 1 on 1 guided training and ‘homework’, while other apprenticeships may be more relaxed. You may even be expected to plan your weeks yourself. Once you’ve gained a strong foundation of knowledge and skills, you progress into more regular tattooing and eventually become a junior tattoo artist. Some tattooists stay with one studio while others may ‘spot’. This means they travel around different studios to reach a greater audience of clients.
You may be considering starting out at home. At The Old Stables Tattoo Studio we recommend an apprenticeship (wherever that may be) as there is a lot of information you obtain from the hands on experience. There’s no substitute to being in a studio and shadowing experienced artists. Certain skills and knowledge cannot be learnt online. In a studio you pick up health and safety knowledge, gain an understanding of how to avoid damaging the skin, and learn under a mentor. Some studios are more collective in your tattoo training and you gain tips and tricks from a team. In others you are directly shadowing one mentor.
Location, Location, Location…
It’s crucial that you get tattooed. Even better if it is by people whose work you like the look of. This is a good place to start when locating your ideal tattoo studio. You should ask artists if they’d look at your portfolio even if they’re not looking for apprentices. Alternatively high street tattoo shops are often looking for apprentices and the best way to secure an apprenticeship is visiting in person and leaving a copy of your portfolio. Expect rejection, keep hustling, and appreciate all the advice that is shared with you along the way. This job requires persistence and humility. You should also consider that each studio has different pricing structures. Some have a set fee that you pay the tattoo shop owner per day as a cut of your takings. While others may take a certain percentage of earnings.
Financing your tattoo career….
Most tattoo apprenticeships are unpaid so you really need to consider if it is a position you can financially maintain. Especially while starting out as you most likely won’t have time for another job. As a tattooist you are self employed, so you expense all of your own equipment; this includes ink, tattoo needles, tattoo machine, iPad etc. Each studio varies in terms of what they supply, it is common that items like a bed and seat are already be available to use/hire the seat for day sessions. Following on from an apprenticeship, you need to stay on top of your spending, deposits and income as a self employed person. It is key that you are organised, proficient at managing your inbox, and ensuring you have all necessary equipment at all times.
Work with us!
Tattooing at The Old Stables Tattoo Studio…
Whether you’re at the start of your tattoo journey or are already a qualified tattoo artist and want to work with us, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to your portfolio and a bit about yourself. We always try to respond and give advice where we can and most importantly see if you’re the right fit for our studio.
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