Tattooing is comparable to most other creative professions. Whether you are a hairdresser, photographer, musician or artist. A newly graduated hairdresser who gets a job in a recognized salon will earn money from day one, but not necessarily get rich. While for an artist it’s harder to make money from the start, he must slowly build up a name before getting well paid, and eventually might even become a millionaire, with hard work, a network and a little luck.
Tattoo artists are somewhere between a hairdresser and an artist, at least in my eyes. Yes, we can earn a decent salary from day one as a tattoo artist, and we can build a name and actually earn better than lawyers and such.
Everything is all about doing all of the following:
The harder you work, the greater the chance that you will be better at what you do and be recognized for it one day. Adding all the energy and love of what you are doing, no matter what it is, chances are that you will succeed. It does not pay to sit on the lazy side if you want to be successful. If you were a singer, you know you wouldn’t make any good money if you weren’t really good at singing, right? So keep on tattooing, make tattoos for free or super cheap just to make those awesome tattoos that you really love doing, and nobody asks for in the shop. Practice makes perfect.
Do not be afraid to show yourself and your skills. If you want customers, you must be able to promote yourself. You’re in a way a product that is better than many other products. You must be able to show why and in what ways. Simply market yourself, no matter what level you are in, as an apprentice or tattooist. Use social media. The more the better. Yes, there is a lot of work. But there are so many others like you out there that make it even better than you, faster, cooler etc. Should they get all the customers? Or do you want a piece of cake? Then you have to get out there too.
Join the Evolution
Times are changing all the time. One of my greatest idols is Madonna, who has been in the music industry since I was 5 years old. She changes over time and follows the market so that she does not become a “previous trend”. What if she would still be creating those typical 80`s hits? It wouldn’t work in the long run. I look very up to her and I want to do the same in my industry. I try to follow the evolution, I am learning new techniques, try new equipment, materials, and working methods.
Back in the day, I designed designs on paper, I now make them on Photoshop. Many tattoo artists choose to do things in the “old way” to maintain a certain charm. It’s understandable and sweet, but it does not work in my busy everyday life. Should I be able to focus on making the best tattoos I can, it’s a good idea to make the working day faster and easier with newer ways. I enjoy coming home to my family before the children go to bed in the evening.
As I mentioned above, there are changes within working methods, machinery and techniques that help artists to work more efficiently. Like creating designs on photoshop, etc. But it’s also a lot about how to spend the day when you’re at work. Perhaps you get a cancellation in the last second, what do you choose to do then? Do you go shopping for a few hours? Or do you choose to make a cool design that you want to tattoo? And put it on social media and tempt followers with a great offer? Maybe you can get a new customer who can come in that very same day! What do you think is the most beneficial for your income?
Yes, everyone can make money from the start. I, unfortunately, fell in the trap when I was 20 years old and newly self-employed. When I realized how much I made tattooing, I went straight and spent all the money. I thought I was rich! Eventually, I realized that I had to pay taxes and other expenses came crawling. If you are frugal and save for unexpected bills, and keep back on unnecessary purchases, you will get rich. Simple math really, you earn more than you spend, you just get richer and richer!
A lot of tattoo artists, as well as photographers, hairdressers, and other creative service professions, are often way too nice with the prices. They underestimate their own professional value and undermine themselves. Many give free or cheap services to friends and acquaintances, for what? To be kind? Everything you do has a value and has to be paid for. Of course, I’m not talking about when a hairdresser cuts her childs hair at home or when the photographer takes pictures in her best friend’s wedding. I’m talking about those daily events.
Sometimes I make tattoos cheaper, but if it’s through a competition, promotion or something else that lets me use the material for marketing, which also has a value. I was very soft on it before and gave away money, by being nice on the prices. It was only when I calculated on how much I had given away, and the tax department came to collect my debt, that I realized that it’s actually a shop and not a friendly club I am running.
You can earn some serious money if you work hard and do what I have mentioned above. How much you can make is unlimited, so it’s impossible to say an average amount. The sky is the limit. Make it rain!
At our shop Attitude Tattoo Studio, in Oslo, Norway, every artist is fully booked and works very effectively. We have a solid booking system and a very organized shop in general. That way we don’t have to bump up the prices too high, and still make a good living tattooing.
Check out All my posts on being a Tattoo Artist