When you are first starting out, the supply of clientele will be scarce. You have not established any type of name or reputation for yourself, so it is a completely understandable that no one wants to get tattooed by you. They don’t know who you are…YET.
The question is: how do you get those people to want you? How do you get to the point where you are literally turning people away because you are booked 3-6 months in advance?
The average hourly rate for a tattoo in my area is at least $125 per hour. Three in ten Americans today have at least one tattoo, and that number is only growing as the years go by. That number may be more or less depending on where in the world you are reading this from, but the result remains the same: tattoos are in high demand, are a luxury commodity, and growing at an incredible pace.
It is important to remember (especially when first starting your apprentice journey) that you are the salesperson. Your work is the product that you will be selling. If marketing/selling yourself and your artwork is something you are uncomfortable with you might as well stop reading right now.
So what are some of the things you can do to get clients in the door and build a loyal following that will be coming to you for years to come?
1) Leverage Social Media: Whether you are in a real-world apprenticeship, are trying your hand at an online education, or a seasoned tattoo artist, the strategy is the same. Draw, draw, draw…promote, promote, promote!
Back in the day, it was tough to get your work in front of people who were looking for it. Now there are websites, apps, and algorithms that literally get them in front of hundreds (even thousands) of targeted people looking for exactly what you have to offer.
You should be posting at least once a day on at least one platform. This will not only keep you relevant, but also keep your impact up. Impact leads to impressions, impressions lead to exposure, exposure leads to more customers.
2) Put out good work: Building a solid reputation is key in this business so putting out good work is a must if you want to be successful. Shopping around and looking at artist portfolios is one of the first steps a client should take when considering a tattoo. So how do you want to stand out from the rest?
Even if your portfolio doesn’t have much tattoo work yet (which it won’t if you are a newbie to the business), showcase your talents in other mediums. Take high quality photos of your drawings, paintings, watercolor, color pencils pieces, etc. Anything that demonstrates your ability to understand linework, color, light, and form will be beneficial .
3) Be personable: You are in customer service. Whether you like it or not, dealing with people on a daily basis is your new line of work. Smile, be polite, welcoming, and maintain a professional demeanor. You want to address and speak to people coming to you as if they are your friend or member of your family.
This is a pretty intimate process, and most of the time people are nervous. It is your job to guide them, and your responsibility to make sure they are completely satisfied every step of the way. The majority of this business is based on word-of-mouth referrals. This person will be a walking billboard for you, so making sure they get exactly what they want along with giving them your best work should be the goal every time.
Having a conversation with a client is also pretty commonplace, especially when you are working on someone for a number of hours. It not only will make the client feel at ease, but will also build a rapport where they feel like they could trust you. This builds loyalty, and is also a great way to get to know interesting people.
4) Respond to every inquiry: This is just good business practice. If someone is trying to get in touch with you, give them the courtesy of responding back.
Now this doesn’t mean becoming a personal consultant at the beck and call of every individual. It means you are able to offer help to someone who may have a question or solve a minor issue, and also allow for the opportunity to open up a relationship toward turning them into a paying customer. Take it.
5) Business Cards: Like I said earlier most of your promotion will be through social media and word-of-mouth referrals, but that does not mean you should abandon this age old tactic of business relations. There’s a reason why people still use business cards today…they work.
Some people think they need to own a business to have a business card. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Individuals make them for services they provide. It is actually a very simple and effective way to get into the pocket of a prospective client, and it requires minimal effort.
All you need is your name, title (in this case tattooist or tattoo artist), email, cell phone number (if that is your preferable means of communication), and a link to where they can find your work (personal website or social media page). That’s it.
Networking and talking to people about tattoos will naturally open up opportunities to offer a business card. Do NOT just throw them at people with no genuine interaction first. They will be thrown in the trash.
*You can find out how to incorporate these tips and more into your arsenal to become a well rounded tattoo artist by clicking here. Now get to work!