Hey, it’s the most amazing job ever but IT IS NOT a walk in the park.
I know, I know – from outside, it looks like tattoo artists are a unique species; they’re inaccessible if you’re not one of them, if you don’t have and want the right tattoos.
They dress different, they look different, and in general it seems like their trade gives them the luxury of being… free from any conformism.
Well… it’s all true to a certain extent.
THEY MAKE A LIVING FROM BEING CREATIVE, EVERY DAY
Everyone’s dream-job is doing something they love and enjoy, so much that it doesn’t feel like work. Getting up every morning to make art is a privilege, and make no mistake, it must be earned.
A SAFE LADDER UPWARDS
You can start by cleaning toilets and washing floors, but if you work hard with enough perseverance, motivation and humility, you can climb this ladder all the way to the top and find yourself owning a shop with several artists working for you.
TRAVEL ALL OVER THE WORLD
Once you have an established reputation and an impressive portfolio (this takes time of course), you can begin traveling and working anywhere you like, meet new people, new styles, new kinds of clients. You can work conventions which is a unique experience that we’ll explore in another post.
And then there’s the COMMUNITY.
As a tattoo artist, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who love what they’re doing, you’ll find yourself inspired by them and motivated to improve yourself all the time.
Tattooing is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. It resonates in everything you are, everything you do, and how people approach you and perceive you, for better or for worse. It takes over your life completely.
Tattooing is so much more than all that. Let’s look at the “behind the scenes” here:
Work days are long. Very long. And it doesn’t end when you leave the shop, because there are designs to make for tomorrow’s clients, and tending to your website/social media pages for promotion.
The pressure of being able to creatively and artistically improvise, right here, right now, constrained to a list of requirements from your client takes a highly skilled and talented artist. You have to be able to draw anything on point, not when you have the time or the muse.
NO MISTAKES OR BAD DAY ATTITUDE
Since you are marking people for life in a process where they get naked, you cause them pain for a few hours and they pay for it a considerable amount of money, you are expected to deliver with perfection. There is no room for error or excuses. This means technically and personally.
Clients don’t care if you have a headache, slept bad, are having your period or broke up with your girlfriend/boyfriend. They expect you to deliver, no matter what. You just HAVE TO make them happy. You’d better.
They can be nice, intelligent and interesting people or they can be annoying, smelly, uneducated (tattoo-wise) and incoherent as to what they want. You have to listen between their words to understand what they really want (unless they shove a Pinterest pic in your face with their phones), which means you’re actually an illustrator, because you don’t draw whatever you feel like. You have a list of requirements and they should all be incorporated in the design.
Once they take off their clothes and you start hurting them, they tend to talk. You have to be a good listener because if you keep them relaxed and trusting, your work will be so much easier.
FITNESS AND NUTRITION
You will have to find the time to sleep well, eat properly and work out, because you will be hunched over, rotating your wrist and stressing your eyes, back and shoulders for hours… for years.
If you don’t find a way to take care of yourself you will not last.
YOU THINK THAT’S IT?!
Planning, matching, mixing, layering of ink.
Today, it could really set you back if you don’t master digital art tools, which can save you time and open a whole new spectrum of skills and styles that take hours of rendering manually.
BUSINESS MANAGER (MONEY, TAXES, EMPLOYEES, SUPPLIERS)
I got tired just writing this line.
You’re dealing with the human body. There’s blood, sweat (and tears); people faint, pee on themselves, puke. You have to know how to deal with that calmly and professionally.
Then you have to clean it, safely dispose of contaminated disposables, sterilize your work-space and non-disposable equipment before and after every client.
ELECTRICIAN & TECHNICIAN
You have to know how to fix your gear, or have a spare of everything (machine, power supply, cables, pedal, working light…)
PHOTOGRAPHER & LIGHT EXPERT
This is crucial for your portfolio and promotion. Even the most beautiful tattoo looks bad from the wrong angle and in the wrong lighting, and will not get you further bookings.
MARKETING & PR
The internet has changed the tattoo industry’s life dramatically. Know where and how to post your work, using pictures and words that sell you the best. This shouldn’t be taken lightly as it makes the difference between a numbed local artist who does the same things for years without improving or reinventing themselves, and an international scale talent who continuously attracts more and more tattoo collectors and produces an impressive, unique and captivating portfolio.
And last but not least
No financial security here. You never know what tomorrow brings.
If no one comes through the door today, if you’re sick, if you’ve hurt yourself and can’t tattoo – you’re left hungry.
So… Are you SURE you’re up for all this? Can you commit to it?
What scares you the most?
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Love & Ink,