Tattooing is considered to be a “dream job” by many. Tattoo artists have a sort of underground fame and can move in many different strata of society, and it seems like an easy yet lucrative job. There’s many reasons why people think they would make a great tattoo artist but many apprentices have thought the same thing and never made it to being a fully fledged artist. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be a tattoo artist compare yourself to this list and see.
There are two types of tattooer in this world – tattooists and tattoo artists. A tattooist takes an image off a drawing and copies it on skin, while an artist can create a design from your ideas. Either way, tattooing means drawing and art, over and over, often for 12 + hours a day. If you’re not artistic or you don’t enjoy doing art do you think you’ll be happy doing that?
Tattoo artists should have some ethics. Whether it’s simply not tattooing an underage child without their parents consent, or choosing not to tattoo something stupid on a client that you’ll know they will regret. Tattoo artists are confidants, therapists, listeners, and often the time between client and artist has a sacred feel. It’s also protected by things like HIPAA so there is legally a level of client confidentiality too. Can you keep a secret? Can you make a decision to ruin someone’s life?
My first day as an apprentice I tattooed someone. My boss then congratulated me on being able to hurt someone. I have never had issues with physically inflicting pain on a client but I remember a piercing apprentice who would flinch and draw away at the slightest inkling he was causing pain. He couldn’t touch a client who was tense because he didn’t want to hurt them. Not everyone can physically hurt another human being. You shouldn’t necessarily be sad about it if you can’t but you’ll also be a poor artist if you can’t hurt the client to tattoo them.
It’s amazing how nice you have to be as a tattoo artist now. The days of scary bikers and foreboding studios have gone. Tattoo artists have to be the best friend, the therapist, and the listener. Can you deal with clients? Can you deal with customers asking stupid questions? Drunk people? Can you deal with liars? Can you trust yourself not to lose your temper and ruin a tattoo if your client says something stupid which may ruin your reputation? Can you be friendly enough to make people want to come back?
Tattooing is a cyclical business. You will have weeks where you make no money or less money than usual; you will have weeks where you make double your normal pay. Since tattooing is based entirely on client whim having a good client base is essential to keep the money flowing. Can you trust yourself to balance your books enough to keep money back? Not to mention having to pay taxes yourself out of your paycheck.