Becoming a tattoo artist for many young people sounds like a dream job. Creating artistic tattoos, meeting interesting people and running your own business or being practically self-employed – it sounds completely awesome. But, as many professional tattoo artists will tell you themselves, it sure isn’t easy to get into the inking business. It requires a lot of hard work, dedication and a little luck.
But dreams most certainly can come true, so don’t be disheartened and throw away that scrap book of potentially sick tattoo designs! We’re here to offer some sound advice on how you can make owning your own tattoo parlour a reality, including all the boring bits and stuff most people take for granted. Here’s what you need to do to become a tattoo artist:
1. Possess Some Artistic Talent
It probably goes without saying but you need to be a skilled artist to make it in the tattoo business. It doesn’t matter if you’re not some kind of teen artist prodigy though, so long as you’re able to re-create and come up with your own competent designs. So practice, practice practice! You need to build up your skills and form an awesome portfolio of work which you can show to other tattoo artists and to hiring parlours. If you can’t prove you’ve got an artistic nature then tattoo parlours won’t even give you a chance.
2. Get An Apprenticeship
Like most skilled jobs you have to start at the bottom and learn your trade before the serious work begins. Tattoo artists usually go through an apprenticeship for several years before they can turn professional. The problem is in getting one. Tattoo parlours will rarely advertise for apprenticeships so the best way to get one is to simply ask around. Get friendly with tattoo artists, demonstrate a keen attitude to learn and show off your portfolio. If you’re lucky someone might offer you an apprenticeship, but that’s only the start of the learning process.
3. Hone Your Skills, Be Patient And Show The Right Attitude
Once you have an apprenticeship at a parlour, the real hard work begins. You probably won’t start out doing much inking to begin with, and most of your duties will consist of menial tasks and shadowing the tattoo artists whilst they teach you. Pay will probably be very little or perhaps even nothing at all in the beginning, so make sure before you commit to the apprenticeship that you can afford to do it. It can take several years before becoming fully qualified so be patient, show initiative and demonstrate your commitment. This will be the hardest part of the process of becoming a tattoo artist so if you can’t cut it then the job probably isn’t for you. You’ll also need to show you can be good with people, practice good hygiene and learn basic health and safety.
4. Get A Professional Licence
Once you’ve received several year’s worth of experience working as an apprentice you can apply for a professional tattoo licence from your local government authority. This licence allows you to practice and work within your own business or as part of another and is a legal requirement. It demonstrates that you are safe, hygienic and reputable in the eyes of your local authority. Applying for a licence costs money, and this will vary depending on where you live, but it’s not a huge expense. To get your licence all you need is to prove you’re working, have decent experience (which you will do from your apprenticeship) and have a clean record. You will also need to apply for a special licence if you wish to work from home or travel. Licences can be either short-term or long-term and will have to renewed usually every 18 months.
5. Live The Dream
Once you have your licence and completed an apprenticeship you can probably call yourself a professional tattoo artist. But the learning doesn’t end there. To be a really successful tattoo artist you still need to show the same keen attitude you did during your apprenticeship. Hone your artistic skills by practicing new designs, brush up on your customer service skills, get some basic knowledge in running a business and keep on top of your knowledge of health and safety and safe practices. Once you’ve built up a good reputation you can fly solo and start your own tattoo parlour, making your dream finally come true.
It’s hard work becoming a tattoo artist, but it is highly rewarding. You get a job with flexible hours, plenty of creativity, lots of people interaction and have the potential to run your own business. It really is a unique profession, but only the dedicated few will ever make it.
So follow our advice on how to become a tattoo artist and keep your dream alive, because at the end of lots of tough work you get to have one of the coolest jobs in the world!