7 THINGS TV DOESN’T SHOW YOU ABOUT BECOMING A TATTOOIST

So you have seen every TV show they make about tattooing and your BFF says you are the best artist she knows and she wants you to draw her first tattoo, you are pretty confident you have what it takes to become one of those tattooist you see on those TV shows. Guess what sweetie, most people can’t make it through the apprenticeship. I am sure you think you can attend some sort of tattoo school, yeah sure if you have the money for it and then are they gonna set you up with a job when you are done and give you your start up equipment….nope I don’t think so. Below please read 7 things you should know before becoming a tattooist that they won’t show you on TV!!!

1. JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DRAW DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN TATTOO

Let me get this first myth out of the way and I am saying this because this is usually how people start the conversation of how to become a tattoo artist. Just because you are an amazing artist on paper does not mean you will be one on skin. It is a completely different medium and another world altogether when talking about techniques. Now I am not saying that if you can draw you won’t be able to tattoo I am just saying don’t think it will be easier for you.

2.THE APPRENTICESHIP

This is the start of your journey into the tattoo world so again do your research and not just online, get up go out, walk in the shops that you have thought about, go see how the artist you want to mentor you works, get a tattoo by them, ask them if they are looking for an apprentice and if they aren’t is there anyone they recommend. Then do your research on that person, I cannot stress this enough. Then once the arduous task of finding the right mentor is complete, the next thing that will scare you away is..

3. THE PRICE OF AN APPRENTICESHIP

If you are still reading this then you may be one of the few people who believe that tattooing and body modification are real careers and just like many other careers, you either have to pay tuition to go to college to get to the career you want or pay to go to a trade school so that is what you will be doing when paying for your apprenticeship. The amount and stipulations vary from artist to artist so if you are not happy with the amount of one particular apprenticeship or the terms of it, go to the next artist on your radar.Remember the better the artist the more it will probably cost which is not a bad thing. “You get what you pay for” and “good isn’t sheep and cheap isn’t good” These are two quotes you will hear often in this industry.

If you don’t listen to anything else, please take this piece of advice, get everything in writing! I don’t care how well you know the person or what the deal is, get it in writing, this not only binds them to their part of the apprenticeship but it also binds you to a contract. And guarantees what the expectations of both parties are and what will happen an what is forfeited f said expectations are not met, you dig?

4. DID I MENTION YOU DON’T GET PAID AS AN APPRENTICE

Yeah if you didn’t figure that part out yet, you are paying the artist to teach you a skill, a trade a whole lifestyle if you are lucky, you are not getting paid to be a grunt. So on top of not getting paid you are also the shop bitch, which is a term of endearment really, lol, no it’s not, it is exactly what it sounds like, you are the gopher, the janitor, the chauffeur, the girl Friday, the delivery boy, the errand person, etc. and that is just the first few months. Once you know how to set up a station and a machine, your life will be- set up / break down, set up / break down- until you can do it in your sleep. A lot of what you are made to do honestly only prepares you for things that will happen in the future at some point and once your apprenticeship is over that treatment is over too. If your mentor is the type of person you should be learning from then they went through the same thing probably way worse, this generation gets disposable tubes and grips, I scrubbed those things for years. OK, so you think you can still handle this industry? There will be many days where you feel like saying fuck this, I don’t need this shit, they can’t treat me like this but if you decide to walk away, remember you will more than likely forfeit your tuition.

5. ATTN LADIES: THE TATTOO INDUSTRY IS NOT MALE DOMINATED ANYMORE

I feel the need to put this out there for any young or older women looking to enter this industry, this used to be a male dominated industry but has slowly become a pretty equal one. When I started in the industry, not tattooing, there were not many female tattooists but now there are thirty times as many. I never want to hear that you didn’t get a job because you are a girl, well guess what, that kind of girl wont get hired at my shop either, because I am gonna hire the best person for the job no matter who or what they are and that is how any real business person is gonna make their decision. There is no crying in tattooing unless its a client. So please don’t offend those of us who have busted our asses to make the path for the ladies, now and in the future, to be taken seriously as artists by acting like a spoiled little brat who got their feelings hurt.Which leads me into number six…….

6. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE THICK SKIN (NOT LITERALLY) YOU WILL NOT MAKE IT

If you cant handle getting your feelings hurt, having someone tell you your work sucks, having someone tell you that you only got your job becasuse of some sexual favor you did, if you cannot handle dick and fart jokes or people with drug habits or people with real face tattoos or other people’s bad body odor. If you can’t swallow your pride and admit that you made a mistake and then correct and learn from it. If you or your significant other are not mature enough or secure enough in your relationship to be able to handle the fact that your hands (gloved hands) will be on different parts of other peoples bodies. If you can not budget money or deal with making cash everyday, if you can’t work independently, if you call out or miss days from work often, if you are doing this because you think someone in the shop is cute or because you are rebelling against mom and dad, then in no way shape or form is this industry for you.

7. TATTOOING IS NOT A CAREER, IT IS A LIFESTYLE

The tattoo and body modification industry is also not a job, its not a career, its a lifestyle. You will eat, sleep, poop, talk tattoos, every one that talks to you will want to talk about tattoos, so if this is not your passion, you will be sick of tattoos in the first five years. This is all or nothing, there is not a middle ground, you have to be able to sell yourself and your art to every client/person you meet and some of them are not going to choose you and some will straight out reject you You will never be perfect you will never really be the master at anything, you will always have something new to learn, there will always be haters. It doesn’t matter how well or how bad you do, you will have haters [people who are so mad that you had the balls to do some crazy shit and be successful at it and they did’t]. Your first few years of tattooing will be about getting your name out there, you have it a lot easier now with social media but don’t filter your pictures. People are gonna show up expecting to get what is on your media posts and pics and when their tattoo heals, it will not look like the filtered pics, don’t rip people off. It’s not about getting a bunch of money from one person once, it’s about creating a relationship with your client so you have them for a lifetime. People turn 18 everyday so there is plenty of skin for all of us to tattoo, but don’t scar someone for life because you thought it looked cool when you saw someone on TV do it, Remember it is called TV magic for a reason.

Now after reading this, which is pretty mild, you still think you want to become a respected person in this industry, then may the tattoo gods shine on you. However if you think that you can’t handle or deal with one part of any of this then don’t waste your time or money and don’t waste the mentor’s time, you will not make it and quite possibly may go insane.

As I leave you to contemplate your future, please remember research research research. You have a guide to the world at your fingertips, use it!!!! If you have a question about this industry either as a client or an artist fell free to email me through my contact page. Happy Holidays!!!

Yours In Ink,

KC

Author:

I am a female tattoo artist of six years, I have owned my tattoo shop since 2009 when my husband, Tony, and I opened DeVille Ink in Baltimore. I am a mom to three amazing sons, you will learn about them in my posts, at this point in my life I dont think there are many things I have not done or at least attempted to do.

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