Being a tattoo apprentice has its ups and downs, but the thing that will always stick with you are the lessons you learn along the way. Believe it or not, these lessons are not only artistic in nature, in actual fact, the industry also offers quite a few pointers for everyday life too.
In this article, you’ll learn about the top ten lessons you’ll learn as a tattoo apprentice, most of which are character based, after all, tattooing is not only about the art, but about how good you are at following instructions, taking initiative, and selling your dream to others. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
How to Deal With Difficult People
You meet a lot of colorful people in the industry, from artists to clients and sometimes they’re not the friendliest. Unfortunately, as much as you may want to tell them where to shove it, you need to keep your composure. One thing that being a tattoo apprentice will teach you is never to lose your cool, even if the client is being disrespectful.
Since tattooing is a service, you learn when to put your customer service face on. There are going to be difficult clients, clients that think they know more about tattooing than you do, frustrating clients that don’t know what they want, and the list goes on. Being a tattoo apprentice teaches you that your customer service personality will get you through any uncomfortable situation, something you can extend outside of the studio as well.
Another thing you learn is how to speak to people that are trying to get under your skin, and believe it or not, there will be many. One thing a difficult client dislikes is when they can’t get a reaction out of you, and the best way to do that is to be kind. Not only does this work in the studio but in real life too, nobody expects a calm and collected response when they’re throwing knives at you, you’ll get under their skin a lot more than they will yours.
Grow a Thick Skin
If there’s anything you’ll learn by being a tattoo apprentice, it’ll be how to grow thick skin, if you don’t the industry might eat you up. Learning not to take things to heart is vital if you’re going to survive as a tattoo apprentice, never mind as a full-blown artist. The best part is, once you’ve thickened your skin, nobody can get under it, which is a winner because people can be pretty mean.
Growing thick skin means not taking offense to things people say or do. As an example, if you have someone in your chair and they make an inappropriate comment, your first reaction should not come from a personal place. Take a deep breath and explain why that may be considered a problematic thing to say. As an apprentice, you’ll learn this and will be able to take it with you into the real world.
Finally, while the industry may teach you a lot, one thing you’ll learn quite quickly is how to let things go. It’s easy to get caught up in our own emotions and opinions about the actions of others, but being a tattoo apprentice will teach you that people are can be super mean, but also super cool, and that teaches you to let things go and not let them affect you.
There’s Always Room for Improvement
Something that a lot of people struggle with is accepting the fact that there is always room for improvement. You can do better, and this corresponds with learning to take constructive criticism, which is sometimes difficult to do, but essential to your apprenticeship. The reason you’ll learn how to take constructive criticism as a tattoo apprentice is because that’s how you will become a good artist, through the advice of your mentor. After all, it takes a lot to build up a studio, check out this article on setting up your own tattoo studio.
Not taking it and fighting with the person that’s educating you is detrimental to your goal, so either come into your apprenticeship accepting criticism or learn how to take it. This will also allow you to step out of your comfort zone because you will be challenged to do better and perhaps create art you wouldn’t normally.
Keep in mind, being a tattoo apprentice is all about growth, in any given situation you should know how to improvise, adapt, and overcome, which is a nice lesson to establish in your everyday life.
Vocalizing Your Needs
One thing many seem to forget when signing up to be an apprentice is, you have a voice and you should use it. If something is bugging you, don’t be afraid to step forward and speak openly to your mentor. Believe it or not, your mentor isn’t a monster, therefore you shouldn’t be afraid of them, in fact, a healthy working environment should encourage you to voice your concerns.
At the end of the day, a mentor is only human whose sole job is to make sure you can tattoo properly. Another thing to keep in mind is, your needs are important, how else do you expect to be a good artist if you’re not questioning or speaking up? This lesson comes in handy in real life, it teaches you how to speak up and have your needs met, rather than being that background person people walk all over.
This lesson ties in with the previous one because it stems from a similar place; not allowing people to walk all over you. Setting boundaries means learning when to say no. Let’s say you’ve arranged time off for something important, a day before, your mentor tells you that you actually need to come in. What do you do? Come in, or speak up and remind them that you asked for a day off? The correct answer is; you set your boundaries and remind them about your original arrangement.
Constant people-pleasing, especially in the tattoo industry, means you’ll never have your own needs met. At the end of the day you’re a human and just because you happen to be a tattoo apprentice, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taken advantage of. Another life lesson that pours over into your everyday life.
Stay Out of Drama
If you thought high school was dramatic, you haven’t seen anything yet. Believe it or not, the tattoo industry is full of drama, and it’s easy to get caught up in it. The best lesson you’ll ever learn is; don’t get involved in shop drama. That means no talking smack about other artists in the shop, and if other people get you involved, take a step back and disengage.
Another thing that usually happens is your mentor might bad mouth other shops unless you know for certain that another shop poses a health risk, stay out of it. You might want to impress your mentor with shop talk but the backlash you might experience from other artists in the industry is not worth it, keep doors open and you’ll go far.
The less drama there is in your life, the more you can focus on being a good tattoo apprentice and becoming an even better tattoo artist.
You’re Only Human
So, just like your mentor is only human, so are you, which means you will make a few mistakes along the way. Instead of feeling like a failure, an apprenticeship teaches you how to fix your mistakes which means you’ll always be improving your abilities. As an artist, you will always need to know how to fix a mistake because it will happen and you can’t freak out and break down because that’s unprofessional, especially in front of a customer.
Your mentor might have bad days and you may end up caught in the line of fire, don’t take it to heart. In all honesty, there may even be days when everyone at the studio is having a bad day, learn to brush it off.
There may even be days when your tattooing, drawing, or artistic skills, in general, are depleted. Don’t force yourself, sometimes we need a little reset and there’s nothing wrong with that. An apprenticeship teaches you to focus on doing something else, especially if you’re lacking in creativity.
Always Have a Side Hustle
Sometimes people are lucky and their parents are willing to support them while doing their apprenticeship, if you aren’t one of those people, then you’re going to need a side hustle or some form of passive income. Many apprentices start their journey with such passion and dedication only to find that three months down the line they need to leave because they can’t afford their lifestyle.
This is why a part-time job or offering some sort of service is a great way to continue your apprenticeship without having to worry about where you’re going to get your next meal. If you’re living at home, this makes things a bit easier but it’s highly recommended to still find a way to make extra money for necessities like spending money, transportation, food, and other essentials.
Check out this article on approaching a studio for an apprenticeship, it has some good pointers about making sacrifices, especially unpaid sacrifices.
A word of advice, if your parents are able to sustain you, let them.
Keep Your Chin Up
Emotions are normal, however, being an overly emotional person within the industry might not pan out so well. Some days are tough, you might want to burst into tears, or even curl up in bed and shut the world out. Luckily, being a tattoo apprentice teaches you how to put on a brave face, even when you want to scream and pull your hair out.
The most important lesson you will learn is to keep your chin up, and never give in. As the saying goes, fake it until you make it. Unfortunately, the industry has a reputation for eating people up, so remember, your future of being a tattoo artist depends on how quickly you learn to keep your composure.
Confidence is Key
You’re always told that confidence is key and that sentiment applies even more so when you’re an apprentice. Being confident in your skills and yourself will get you far, however, if you lack confidence, a tattoo apprenticeship is a great way to gain confidence because it will challenge you. Sometimes it comes naturally, other times you’ll have to force it, either way, your confidence will get you far.
Another reason being confident is important is because it teaches you to sell yourself to customers. When you eventually get to the point of tattooing for money, you’re going to need clients. If you know how to talk to people and sell yourself, you’ll end up establishing lifelong clients.
Being a tattoo apprentice is a lot of fun but also requires hard work. Through this hard work, there are many lessons to be learned along the way.
Being confident is the number one lesson you’ll learn as a tattoo apprentice and it will get you far in the industry. Mix that with all the other lessons mentioned on this list and you’ll be a tattooing machine in no time.
Remember, you, your mentor, and everyone else in your studio are only human, there will be bad days, good days, and weird days in between, just keep your chin up and fake it until you make it.