Becoming a Tattoo Artist, (Freelance Contractor)

Posted by Dragon Tattoo on

When it comes to tattooing, you may think that it’s all about the art, but there are quite a few steps that need to become as routine as washing your hands. If you’re not too excited about a routine daily schedule of a 9-to-5 job, becoming a tattoo artist might be a satisfying, lucrative and energizing job choice for you.

The demand for tattoo artists is higher than ever because more and more people are choosing to have tattoo work done. Tattoos have become more widely accepted today than it was a few decades ago. So, if your choice is to become a tattoo artist, the timing is in your favor.

Although you may be an awesome artist, there are a couple of serious subjects that must become the norm for you in this profession. The two areas to learn inside and out are to practice proper sterilization and safety. You must master the sterilization techniques until they become second nature to you, also knowing all of the risks involved with handling sharps or needles for example, blood, transferrable diseases, allergies or reactions from products. These are necessary for you to know in order to protect both yourself and your client.

This is Not a Get Rich Quick Career

Some artists that have been practicing in this business for awhile are able to earn more money than those starting out...obviously. They have built their clientele, sharpened their skills and have put in the time and practiced and added more skills along the way. They have earned credibility and a following, with that they are able to charge anywhere between $300 and $600 per hour and get it. When you start out, you will notice the sheer volume of tattoo shops in any given area, this is who you are competing with, not on a personal level so much, but, how are YOU going to attract those customers and gain that business that are walking into other shops? How are YOU going to stand out from the rest? After you get that customer through your door, how will you make them your client? This is when it does become personal. I'm saying this because when most people go to buy anything, especially something as significant as a tattoo, it is your personal care toward them that you are showing along with your personality. There are an estimated 20,000 + shops around the United States. Some shops are even in the same neighborhood. The ONE thing that is for certain, they are ALL trying to prove to their clients and customers that they are the best choice for permanent body art. It is a competitive line of work, but honestly, that's a good thing. Most artists have that 'something' that they might do better than others in that area. Let that 'something' be your shining light. It's what capitalism is all about.

The truth is, you will eventually need to be a tattoo shop owner to make higher earnings. It requires many years of experience, being exceptional at your art, earning a good reputation and learning how to operate a business. You see, as an Independent Contractor, you in fact are running your own business to an extent. You have many of the same responsibilities. For example, always keep your receipts that pertain to your business, you'll need those each year. As for the money pouring in, it will take time and tenacity. The first few years will be a financial struggle as you solidify yourself in your profession. Do you remember ever participating in any team clubs? Some of them had a curriculum to join that seemingly was at such a high standard for you to match. Some did fine, others not so much. This is intentional. It is because they want to know what you have in it...kind of their thinning out the herd. People want the best that they can get. They want the ones that will show up and perform their best because they have their heart into it. When becoming a tattoo artist, this is what you have to have...heart. You will need to make sacrifices perhaps taking on another job to subsidize your income until you have built your practice.

Self Employed

Tattoo artists are considered self-employed or independent contractors. Regardless of if you do or do not work for someone else, you will be responsible for budgeting the money for your own taxes each year. This includes the part of your social security that your employer would normally pay.

Self-employed also mean that there is no hourly wage. Most artists get paid on commission or a percentage of whatever the tattoo artist charges for the tattoo is given to the business where they work. A standard rate is that the artist gets to keep about 50%, but it varies depending on the shop.

You will need to purchase your own supplies. The shop may have an autoclave there and a couple of other business shared tools, but not always. You may have to purchase your own furniture, such as your stool, work table and seat or table for your client. Definitely, count on buying your own machines, needles, etc.

Hard Work Ethic

When it comes to tattooing, you are in charge of your future and your success. The only thing holding you back is you and your drive. It will not be easy and there will always be a lot of pressure to improve and keep up with trend. You really have to have a passion for tattooing in order to succeed. You’ll constantly be working to improve your skill and you won’t always get to tattoo what you want. Just like any other profession, there will be great days, and there will be some not so great days...so, this is why yet again, that work at times is still a four letter word!


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