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Art & Design

Tattoo Artist

Job Description

This is one of those ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of jobs – a tattoo artist, as you may have guessed, is a person who designs tattoos for people, and also changes those designs into the permanent images you see on the bodies of people around you, using needles and ink.

Tattoo artists can be independent or work for a studio, but most people start as an apprentice under a more experienced tattooist and learn their trade from their mentor. You’ll need excellent hand-eye co-ordination skills and a natural flair for design, as well as an extremely steady hand. 

Salary & benefits

Your earnings are very much dependant on a number of factors, like the numbers of clients you receive, the reputation of your studio, and your personal experience. A fully-fledged tattooist in a decent studio can expect to earn above £15,000, but the best artists are highly sought after and can earn huge amounts in just one sitting.

The real money comes in owning your own studio and developing the business model to accommodate your surroundings and other business ventures (many tattoo studios offer piercings as well, for example). Before you make these kind of moves, however, you have to build up a reputation and rapport with your clientele.  

Working hours

You’d be expected to work around 30 hours a week, but many tattoo artists find that Saturday is their busiest day, so a six-day-week might well be in order so that this can be accommodated.

You’d work fairly standard hours, but because the process is extremely taxing and you need to focus for extended and sustained periods at a time, this would likely be split up into smaller blocks to make sure your performance did not drop at any time.

Entry

The only real way into the profession is through an apprenticeship, because it’s such a niche craft and requires a bespoke period of learning from someone who has done it all before. You’ll need to show a real interest in the subject in order to be accepted as a trainee, and that you have genuine artistic talent.

Apprenticeships may not be paid, so you may have to hold down another job whilst you learn, in order to support yourself. To add to this, you may well have to purchase your own equipment, although this completely depends on who you’re working for. 

Training & progression

You will learn important aspects of the job such as different techniques, health and safety and designing skills, as part of your apprenticeship, which can last up to three years. Experts recommend that you will be able to strike out on your own after about five years of working under and alongside other artists.

Importantly, before you can begin tattooing properly, you will need a license from your local council, which provides a certificate for tattooing, piercing and electrolysis. You cannot work without one, but it might be worth speaking to the person taking you on before you do this.