You can be a good tattoo artist. It depends on you

Tattooing today has taken on a whole new meaning than it has, let’s say, just ten years ago. It’s growing by leaps and bounds, and will continue to grow. Statistics say that in the United States, better than one out of every ten persons has a tattoo. This breaks down to one out of every five men and one out of every fifteen women. With the population rising as it is now, more people than ever are going to want to be tattooed. Somebody has to put those tattoos on. There are a lot of great tattooists out there, and there is room for more. Let’s hope this site meets its goal by turning you out as one of them. If You read, study and practice the things outlined in this site, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t be a good tattoo artist. If you are real serious, you must be devoted to the art. After all, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

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Tattoo payment

In the tattooing trade, payment for tattoos is in cash and in advance. It is hard to take back a tattoo if the customer won’t pay. Same deal for checks. Accept only cash in advance – nonrefundable. A sign up front, “no checks,” also helps. Also, if you do work by appointment, deposits are required to secure it. The appointment goes into an Appointment Book the minute a deposit is received. This deposit is nonrefundable if they do not show up. Usually, a twenty-four cancel notice is required and then deposits are returned. The deposit for an appointment can be taken off the top of the tattoo price. Sometimes a deposit is necessary in the case of special design requests. This is to cover the time involved in the design or the extra to pay an artist to draw one up special. When doing a large piece that requires more than one sitting, always get fifty percent up front and divide the balance up between the following sittings.
Sometimes people will surprise you with really outrageous requests for tattoo work. Usually in weird places that are out of the ordinary. Once again, payment in advance, and for appointments. If you don’t feel comfortable tattooing, let’s say, genitals, for instance, set your price extremely high and out of range. If the customer agrees to pay it, well do it. A private booth or section may be essential when doing bashful customers or women. Some people do not want to be stared at, and you should honor all requests and do your best to please the customer at all times. Never tattoo minors, even when they have parental approval. It is just bad policy and stay away from it. It is also not too smart to tattoo certain exposed body parts. Reconsult chapter on “Skin” for more wisdom on this.
Do not tattoo people who for whatever reason are not capable of making a free informed choice in having a tattoo or not, such as the mentally handicapped. Don’t tattoo minors even with written permission, it isn’t very professional. Tattooists who tattoo small children need counselling and help.
Don’t tattoo pregnant or nursing women. It’s also not a good idea to tattoo vulgar words or dirty pictures. Tattooing should be an honorable art, not a barbaric ritual. A professional attitude draws a line. Never compromise or cross over it. Business is business and don’t deviate from the rules. Names and biker club insignias are a definite no no. The only exception is if you have undeniable proof of biker club membership. Remember, these fellows are very proud of their designs and guard them rather jealously. You are responsible for indiscrete tattooing and will have to answer for it.
It is best not to tattoo in the window of your shop. Regardless of what you may think, there are people out there who consider tattooing obscene. If you flaunt your wares in front of their face, they will remember you for the wrong reasons. It’s not good to attract bad attention to yourself.
Don’t exhibit reptiles, white rats, shrunken heads, skeletons, etc., in your studio as come-ons. The reaction of most people to such props are negative and they are usually repulsed. What you intended as a come-on may be a turn-off. Tattooing can stand on its own merit and such window dressing announces to the world that you may be involved in some strange sect besides tattooing. That hardly inspires confidence in the people you seek to do business with.

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Tattoo Business Procedures

Just in case you don’t think you can handle all this on your own, employ the services of a good local attorney. He will always know people in the right places and whom to contact for the information you require. Let him do the leg work, after all, that’s what you will be paying him for and he won’t get the run around as you might get in some instances.
Always keep a receipt for all of the work that you do. Even for the smallest tattoo or whatever services you render. Remember that you are self-employed and you have to pay taxes. A course on bookkeeping would be practical in addition, just to keep your head on straight. There are a lot of deductions a business person can legally make, and one book on small business and another on tax information (from the I.R.S.) is a must. You have to know what you are doing here. It is not as complicated as you might think, but it is absolutely necessary to understand these things if you are going to survive as a self-employed business person.
One more thought about insurance. Today is the day of the lawsuit. People are very excited about getting a tattoo and will brag about them and pay large sums of money for them. But if something ever goes wrong, these same people will not give it a second thought to turn around and sue you right out of business. Some type of thought should be given to protect yourself from this ever happening. This type of protection is called the “trade release form.” This is a legally binding piece of paper between you and your customer, waiving any kind of responsibility on your part for damages or lawsuits of any kind after they leave the shop. It must be signed before you commence tattooing. An example of such a sheet is included at the end of this chapter. It should not be directly copied, it is just an example. Since it is such a great legal document, it is up to the tattooist and his lawyer to make one up. The price paid for this paper is worth it. Once made up, it will last you forever. Just have them copied or printed in quantities. Basically, the release form will cover topics like age and physical requirements, it will release you from liability from lawsuits and damages after the visit and anything else you and your lawyer can think up to protect yourself and keep yourself covered at all times. If a person takes one step into your shop and trips and falls and chips his teeth, you just might be liable (this even before the signing of the release). A sign “Enter at your own risk” in front of the store is at least some kind of coverage releasing you from a possible lawsuit. This kind of “insurance” is a must to have, but remember, it still does not release you from your responsibility. You owe it to everyone to do your best. You must ioW.ow ail the procedures in this site such as bandages and sterilization techniques and it is your responsibility to see to it that you perform them.

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A Word of Advice about tattooing industry

Whether we like it or not, the tattooing industry has a lot of jealousy within its ranks. There is countless reasons for this and some of them will give you the impression that a certain individual should have his head checked. His attitude won’t really register with you until you have been into tattooing a short period of time. Some people will think they own a whole town, city or county and tell you there is no room for another artist in that area. In some cases there isn’t enough business for only one, but if he is established and doing good work, he really has nothing to worry about, but you can’t tell him that. He already has all the answers. Just be very selective here, you pick your location. Never knock your competition even though he might be giving you the bad mouth all the time. It only makes proposed customers curious and they will check it out, believe me. Some tattooists get along fine together, they sort of run in a click, and if you fit into that particular click and are accepted, you’re all set.
One thing in this business that will get you accepted quickly is to turn out exceptional tattoo work. At this point, your competition knows that you’re better than he thought and his attitude towards you might even change, especially if he figures he can learn something from you after seeing some of the super work you’re turning out. Don’t brag about your work, you get a reputation in the tattoo business from other artists, not the customer. Strange as it seems, this is true. Always do your best, conduct yourself in a professional manner and above all, be a nice guy. Public relations is a very important part of tattooing, it has a lot to do with how much you have in your pocket at the end of the week.

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Prices and Selling tattoos

What will you charge for a tattoo and what will it work out per hour? Walk into any legitimate tattoo shop and you will notice that the price of a good tattoo is not generally cheap. That is, not inexpensive. When considering the price of equipment, today’s inflation, the skill involved, and the cost of overhead and floor space, tattoos are not exactly a bad deal either. The fact is that they are a permanent artwork investment that will go everywhere the customer goes. Other than the free tattoos on friends in the beginning in trade for advertisement, the prices of your work should be consistent. Don’t start off underselling yourself and then later raise your prices. People will come back years later and expect the same low prices. Try to set a standard as soon as possible. One way to do this is to visit the good tattooists in your area, and take a look at what they are charging. Compare different tattoo sizes and try to get a pricing guide down pat in your head. This can be used as a reference for your own prices. Don’t try to undersell the local established tattooists in your area, because besides being unfair to them, you don’t want to cause an uproar as the new kid on the block. It can cost you many friends.
Also, it’s not too good to quote prices over the phone. Most people that call are just curious, anyway. Some are shopping for the cheapest price. Just tell them to come down and visit you and that it will be worth the trip.
Another way of pricing, which is very popular, is called the A-B-C method. The basics to this are quite simple. Make up a card or posters to hang over the design sheets with the following information on it. Let’s say you have figured out that your basic commercial designs come in three size ranges. Small work is $25.00. These you list as “A” designs. Medium size work is $35.00 and is listed as “B” designs. Larger pieces are $50.00 and they will be put down as “C” designs. Make this large and plain on the poster, the price and letter designations. Now all that is left to do is to place the appropriate letter sticker on your corresponding flash sheet designs. On one sheet, for example, you will have some that have an “A” next to them, some with a “B” or a “C” depending upon their size. This way, prices don’t clutter up your flash sheets, and it gives the customer a chance to decide what they can afford to work around their pocketbook. An alternative method is to have designs illustrated in books. This is useful if you lack sufficient wall space.

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A good idea is to visit other tattoo studios

A door leading off the waiting room gives access to the booth where the equipment and table is set-up and where the actual tattooing is done. If you have windows in the wall so that customers can watch you work, have curtains on the inside that can be drawn as women usually prefer to have their tattoos done privately.

A door at the back of the tattoo booth gives way to the workshop. This is where the tools are kept, and the equipment maintained. Here, there should be a sturdy workbench with a good vise with replaceable three or four inch jaws. Get the best quality vise you can afford, you’ll be glad you did later.
Keep the soldering outfit and all the tools here. The variety and quantity of tools required depends upon whether you buy parts, etc., from tattoo supply houses or make your own. This should be kept locked when not in use.
To really form the best conclusion about shop layout, it’s a good idea to visit a few and see how all the tattooists set-up their own. Everyone sets up a little different. Once you’ve learned the basics, it’s up to experience and personal preference to determine what suits you best.

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The space and location of the tattoo studio

Space and location have a large bearing on the amount of rent you’ll be paying. It’s nice to have a place with some elbow room. Some shops are too small to change your mind in. If you’re stuck with an arrangement like that, you can have a workshop at home and do sterilizing and many other chores there, as well. You’ll require a small toolbox for transporting items back and forth. It is not convenient, but it can be done in a pinch. Former barber shops make good tattoo studios. If you keep your eye open, you might find one that requires very little renovation.
You can also go on housecalls, that is, you go to the customer’s house instead of them going to you. House calls can bring you top dollar. But, you’ll have to assemble some sort of complete travelling kit for this. Try to keep them outside off regular business hours.
The ideal arrangement for a studio is to have it partitioned into three rooms.
The room adjacent to the street entrance will be the waiting room and should be the largest of the three. Have some chairs there, perhaps a coffee table and some magazines, a deck of cards or a chess board.
All your flash will be displayed on the walls of this room. If they’re in frames, they can be either hung up or screwed fast to the wall. It’s nice to have a place with high ceilings, but they’re becoming hard to find.
At the rear of the waiting room, or off to the side, there should be a fully equipped, clean, working restroom.

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Tattoo Bandaging Summary

1.    After tattooing, clean whole area with green soap and white paper towel.
2.    Spray it with alcohol and hold a paper towel on it.
3.    Apply film of Bacitracin ointment.
4.    Cover with bandage of Handi-Wrap and securely tape it on.

General Healing Instructions
1.    Bandage should stay on for at least two hours.
2.    Remove bandage, rinse gently with cold water and blot dry.
3.    Apply Bacitracin ointment four times a day and blot out the excess.
4.    Keep tattoo fresh and open to the air. Do not bandage.
5.    For the first week, avoid swimming or long soaking in water.
6.    For the first month, avoid too much exposure to the sun.
7.    Do not pick or scratch scabs.
8.    Itching is relieved by slapping or alcohol.
9.    Keep tattoo covered with clean loose clothing.

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Advices for taking care of the tatttoos

Do not pick any scabs, no matter how tempting. Let them fall off naturally. Even if it is just hanging there, do not touch it. The part that is not hanging there is still healing and if picked, it will bleed, making a faded spot that will stand out. They have got to take it easy on a fresh tattoo.
New tattoos itch while they are healing. Hitting the tattoo with a quick slap will usually stop the itching. Sometimes wiping it with a little rubbing alcohol will relieve it.

It must be explained that a new tattoo will look flaky and gross looking for the first week. After the scab falls off, there is going to be a white scaly layer on top of the tattoo. This is dead skin and it will peel off in a couple of days. Sometimes by rubbing a little Vitamin E on it, will improve its looks.
Sunlight is not too great for a tattoo and exposure should be avoided for a few months, if possible. You want the color in it to remain bright and sunlight will bleach it out. Black tattoos are all right in the sun, but colored ones are a little more touchy and need to be babied. A high number sunscreen may help, but some lotions containing PABA may aggravate the tattoo. Color tattoos must settle in, and the sun just helps to age them very quickly.

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Different materials as tattoo bandage coverings.

Many people use different materials as bandage coverings. Some use a non-stick bandage like a Telfa-pad or Release, (a non-stick dressing). For larger work, a Pamper makes a great covering. They don’t dry into a tattoo and at the same time, provide a padded cushion. You can even halve or quarter them for smaller pieces and secure with Dermalite tape.

The most popular covering though, is Handi-Wrap. The reason for this is that people who have just received a tattoo want to show it off. If they can’t see through the covering, they are going to open up the bandage so they can sneak a peek. Then the bandage gets handled too much and becomes dirty. Handi-Wrap is ideal because some other brands are a little too sticky to work with.
The trouble with using gauze is that in a couple of hours when the customer begins to remove their bandage, the cloth sticks to the clotting scab. When they pull it off, it starts the tattoo to bleed all over again and they have an unwanted mess. It will also pull out more ink and weaken the tattoo design. Handi-Wrap is great in that it just slides off the tattoo with no hang-ups.
As soon as you are done wiping the tattoo clean and have wiped a big enough area for the tape to stick, and you’ve just covered the tattoo with some Bacitracin, take the Handi-Wrap and carefully pull out a nice strip and throw it away (This step is to make sure you have a clean piece.) Tear out another strip big enough to cover-up the entire tattoo with, about one inch extra on all sides. Tape it securely with Dermalite tape (a hypoallergenic paper tape that sticks great to skin, but can be taken off without too much pain).

When all this is done, the customer is ready to go home. If it bleeds a little on the way, tell them that this is all right and to keep it wiped up and clean until the bandage comes off.

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