7 Things Great Tattoo Artists Do Every Day
It’s a hot debate these days on how to go about becoming an expert at something.
In one camp are those who say “talent” is grossly overrated. With dedication and deliberate practice, you can accomplish anything.
Across the pond is the “you’re born with it, or you’re not” camp.
Hours of sacrifice, blood, tears, and practice won’t make you an artist. You need to be driven by natural forces beyond your control.
What does this have to do with the habits of great tattoo artists? Being known as an “expert” pays off – no matter how you get there.
It buoys your reputation, increases your value and boosts your self-confidence to be mastering a skill. Not to mention it gives you credibility and helps you build a business you love.
So, we’re going to look at 7 things great tattoo artists are doing every day as they work towards mastery.
1. Check their personal issues at the door
Let’s face it; in 2019 the majority of our connection comes from a digital community that’s not so warm & fuzzy.
But as tattoo artists, you’re in a unique position. You play the role of sounding board, confidence builder and even healer to your clients in real life. You form a tight bond as you create one of a kind pieces from personal stories, struggles, experiences & memories.
Your clients are earnestly searching for closure by the time they end up in your shop. There’s no room for the drama playing out in your life to rear its ugly head. Finding a way to enter the shop free from anyone’s personal issues will elevate your mood, clear your head and separate your work from the pack.
And hey, when you need to talk, that’s what your hairstylist is for right?
2. Own up to their mistakes
We all make mistakes. You’re not a robot (right?), and neither am I, so until the time comes when we’re all replaced by the machine race we need to accept perfection doesn’t exist.
To state the obvious, tattooing a symbol backward or misspelling a name is terrifying because it’s permanent. There’s no delete button or eraser – but even after you’ve triple checked it happens to the best. Growth occurs between your error and the solution.
The best option is to face the situation head-on (I mean, it’s going to be obvious but don’t ever play the blame game), provide a fix immediately and apologize. You need to swallow your pride and ego; doing whatever you can to make it right.
3. Deliberately practice their art
Malcolm Gladwell famously stated you need at least 10,000 hours to master a skill. Well, oh boy. As tattoo artists, you’re trying to become a virtuoso at many: color theory, drawing, concentration – all on a living, breathing, sweating, target. 10,000 hours is barely scraping the surface.
You need to crave the art of tattooing to be happy. Those who do it, do it for love – not the money, and certainly not the fame. When they’re not tattooing, they’re sketching or trying their hand at painting as a side hustle. They live, eat and breathe the art as a form of self-expression.
4. Establish clear boundaries with their clients
Setting clear boundaries should never be considered a bad thing. Respectfully communicate with your clients, treating them how you’d want to be treated. It’s unnecessary to justify why you make the decisions you do in your business, but sometimes sharing a little background information can help your clients understand your situation.
For example, if you have a policy that requires your clients to pay an up-front deposit so they can secure a tattoo appointment, feel free to explain why. Establishing clear boundaries is all about creating habits. If you don’t stand your ground on the policies that mean the most to you, it’ll be hard to rally your clients to respect them or your business.
5. Never stop setting goals
The best tattoo artists aren’t bubbling over with creativity at every moment, and they definitely make mistakes (see #2). The difference maker is they always set concrete goals to improve – even if it’s just by the smallest amount.
No matter where you’re at in your career, evaluate your progress. Think about how you can push yourself further.
Have short term goals you set and shatter in a day, then long term ones you might never fully realize – and be okay with that. Know you’re pushing forward and always progressing towards a target. The most successful tattoo artist will step out of their comfort zone and focus on areas that need improvement.
By avoiding the cocoon of familiarity and continually seeking to improve, you’re ultimately going to reach maximum personal potential.
6. Prioritize their physical and mental health
As tattoo artists, understanding and improving what fuels your work, the part that makes it unique and stands apart from everyone else’s takes time and can be insanely stressful.
Keep your mental health in check by:
- Not letting your job title/career define who you are
- Work on creating the optimal work/life balance for you – it’s different for everyone
- Automate your processes to give your mind a break and save time
- Build a team of support around you
- Do what you love
On the physical side of things, tattooing is back-breaking work – in the most literal sense. When you’re hunching over for hours at a time, it becomes unsustainable if you neglect your body. Staying bendy and healthy is a must-do if tattooing is going to be a lengthy career choice. Those in it for the long haul make time to hit the gym and also toss in some yoga classes now and then.
Related: 9 Lessons for Living a Balanced Life
7. Adapt and embrace change
The times they are a-changin’…and you either hitch your ride to the wagon, or you’re gonna get left behind.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up your values (hold fast to your boundaries) or throw your artistic style out the window. But to stay relevant, you’ll need to move with the times to avoid stagnation.
Research where your clients are hanging out and connect with them in that medium (ex. Instagram vs. Facebook). Or give your clients the option to book appointments with you 24/7 by setting up online scheduling.
Stay current with the newest updates in ink, tools and tattoo trends. You may not be a “walk-in” studio that deals in off the wall flash, but you don’t want to wake up and realize you’re entirely out of the loop.
Now it’s your turn
As a tattoo artist, you’re ultimately competing against yourself to improve over time. Each piece you create is a reflection of your practice, dedication and powerful love for the medium you’ve chosen.
What makes you a great tattoo artist? Let us know in the comments.