Should you become a tattoo artist? Everything you need to know

Working as a tattoo artist can be an immensely rewarding occupation, but it is not always an easy career path. 

If you are an artistic person and you enjoy sharing your creative side with others, then it can be a deeply satisfying job. Essentially, every customer acts as a canvas for your artistic expression, which makes every day a new challenge.

On the other hand, life as a tattoo artist can be difficult – especially when you are starting out. Many tattoo artistry businesses start out as solo projects, which can make it tough to source initial clients and scale up the enterprise. 

This, coupled with the pressure of ensuring every tattoo is as perfect as it can be (and the possible consequences of it going wrong), means that tattoo artistry can be labour intensive.

Overall, there are certainly many pluses and minuses associated with being a tattoo artist, which are crucial to learn about before you embark on your career as a tattooist. 

This is what you need to know:

Many tattoo artists are solo businesses

One of the positives of being a tattoo artist is the work structure itself. Many tattoo businesses are one-person operations. This means that you can choose your working hours, the number of customers you process, as well as the type of designs you ink. 

Even within businesses, there is often a great level of autonomy. Individual tattoo artists can sometimes process their own regular customers, as well as charge their own rates. This can make it easier for aspiring artists to carve out an income. 

The flip side to this is that all the emphasis is on you to source customers, buy equipment (such as tattoo machines, pens, needles and gloves), and market yourself. This can lead to wildly inconsistent income on a monthly basis – especially if you live in a city with intense competition. 

It may suit you if you are into drawing or design

If you enjoy drawing, designing or generally being artistic, then tattooing is a fantastic career option. It allows you to lose yourself in creating new designs, concentrating on making each tattoo exceptional and giving each customer exactly what they asked for.

This creative process is almost unrivalled in conventional careers because tattoo artistry really is just that – art. 

Unlike most forms of art, you have a genuinely strong opportunity to earn a meaningful income from immersing yourself in creative expression daily. You could argue that when you are doing what you love, it ceases to be a daily grind like most vocations.

You will need to build a body of work

If you are just starting out as a tattoo artist, it will be difficult to source customers. A tattoo is a big commitment, and no one wants to try an inexperienced tattoo artist.

Therefore, when you start out, it is best to serve an apprenticeship, which will help you create a portfolio of work, or use loved ones as initial customers.