Tattoo Shop News

Posted by: Brian Pollard on May 30, 2016

So, you’ve decided against the daily grind of a mundane 9-to-5 job and instead opted to put your creative talents to good use and pursue a career as a tattoo artist. But just how do you end up like your idols Kat Von D and Scott Campbell? What does it take to go from doodling your designs on the back of scrap paper to having your very own studio with all the tattoo supplies you could dream of?

With the help of some wise words from some industry pros, here’s a guide to what it takes to make it as a tattoo artist and how to ink your way to the top!

Be prepared to study

Just because you’re entering a creative, non-traditional industry does not mean you can wave goodbye to academia and exams the second you finish your GCSE’s. The easiest way to start your career is via an apprenticeship with a tattoo shop and an art related qualification from a college will make your application far more desirable.

Plus, during your time on the course you will be expanding and honing your skills and building up a portfolio of design ready for when you’re let loose with a tattoo gun.  


Have a strong work ethic

It’s a long road to becoming a tattoo artist but the hard work doesn’t stop when you become qualified. Phil Kyle, tattooist and owner of Brighton’s Magnum Opus Tattoo is one of the UK’s leading artists and his typical day sees him running around dealing with paperwork and admin, consultations and tattooing clients until 7pm before going home to work on more designs throughout the evening. “When you’re in, it’s your life. You don’t clock out,” he says. “You have to be inquisitive and eager to master new skills. You need determination and tenacity, too, because it can be hard to get started. You’ve got to be like a dog that won’t let go of a bone.”

If you want to succeed as a tattoo artist you need ambition, dedication and willingness to work hard; from the second you start as apprentice right through to the days where you run your own shop.

Get a portfolio of work together

Louis Molloy, the man responsible for most of the Beckham’s tattoos, is constantly asked what his advice for aspiring artists is. “The first thing I’d say is to get a portfolio of your work together,” he revealed in an interview with The Independent. “Don’t just copy designs out of tattoo magazines. That won’t impress anyone. A lot of people want to get into the industry because somehow they think it’s a glamorous rock’*’roll lifestyle. It’s not. It’s bloody hard work.


Learn all about taxes and being self employed

Even though you may end up working in a shop, complete with a boss to answer to, you will more than likely be self-employed. Most tattoo artists are regarded as freelance contractors and need to file their own taxes etc.

For many, this can be daunting so if life administration and maths aren’t your strongest skills, it may be worth finding a mini course to teach you what you need to know about invoices, how to deal with HMRC and just how many of your tattoo supplies are tax deductible.

If you’re lucky, artists that have been working in the industry for a while will happily help point you in the right direction of what to be doing and help you along the way when you first start out.

Be prepared to constantly develop your skills

Even top artists will tell you that they are forever learning and looking how to better themselves as tattooists. It isn’t enough to just pass your qualifications; you need to practise, keep on top of the latest trends, research new methods, experiment with new tattoo supplies, push your limits – this isn’t a job with set hours, it will become a part of your lifestyle.

While it’s not a career you clock off from, it’s certainly creative and rewarding and you certainly get back from the hours you put in.

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