The other day I got another young kid that wanted to become a tattoo artist, and although his way of doing things and his perseverance was right his timing was a little off as he was only 16, and his question was something I heard way to often.
Can I work In A Tattoo Shop If I’m Not 18? Although it is legal to have a job before your are 18, getting a job in a tattoo studio will be impossible as your need to be at least 18 years old to be in the tattooing area of the studio. So the shops owners wouldn’t want to offer your a position there because of this.
So what to do if the tattoo life is calling your name. Here are a few pointers on how to start your journey into the tattoo world before your turn 18.
How to prepare to become a tattoo artist before your are 18 years old
Although I can only advise to start as young as possible preparing to become a tattoo artist, if your are not yet 18 years old, don’t need to be discouraged and give up on your dream. On the contrary, prepare so that when your do turn 18 and want to get an apprenticeship in a tattoo studio, your will be well ahead everybody else and finding said apprenticeship spot will be a walk in the park.
Here is what to do in order to be fully prepared and the most likely to get an apprenticeship as soon as your turn 18:
1. Research regulations – when we talk about research, I don’t mean in researching what tattooing actually is, as I suspect your already did that and your are looking for the next step.
In this instance, I recommend your research the laws and guidelines in regard to tattooing that are set by your local authority in your area. For example in the UK if your google “Skin Piercing and Tattooing License” followed by your area, the first result will probably be your local council and the section in regard to tattooing.
Here your will find all the legal requirements and the health and safety rules and laws that apply to this industry.
The reason I’m saying research these laws, is that by the time your can actually work in a tattoo studio, your will have these memorized and fully understood.
If a tattoo shop owner sees your have a clear understanding of the laws surrounding this industry, your are already going to be amongst the best candidates for the position the tattoo shop is offering, as not a lot of people looking for a job in a tattoo studio will actually be interested in the legal and health and safety aspect of their job, although it is actually crucial.
This however doesn’t mean that when your enter a tattoo shop and see that something is not following the local regulations, your will start screaming from the door, especially if your are looking to get a job there, but be more polite and discreetly point your findings out to a member of staff.
2. Art classes – no matter how good your are at drawing, your will never be the best.
Now, I’m not saying this to discourage your from drawing, I’m just saying that a true artist will always try to become better and evolve as much as possible and will try to excel in as many medias as s/he can.
I’m sure that if your look at your local schools, community centers or colleges your will find that there are courses available in relations to drawing. These courses will also look good in your CV later on in life, and that is and bonus to your evolution as an artist.
Although drawing is the main skill needed to create beautiful designs for your future customers, a lot of tattoo artists are quite good at painting, graffiti or other forms of art like sculpting. All these art forms will help your develop into a great tattoo artist when the time comes and will also shorten your learning curve.
3. Portfolio – I recommend your start as soon as possible in creating your portfolio, as this will be one of the most important tools your will need when applying for a tattoo apprenticeship.
A lot of people make the mistake of drawing a few tattoo designs and considering it a portfolio. This could me one of the most common mistakes I see when I get people in asking for a tattoo apprenticeship.
A poor portfolio, usually means that the person is not really interested becoming a professional tattoo artist and it could just be a spur of the moment decision in regards to wanting to learn such a difficult trade.
A good portfolio will contain everything from drawings to sketches to tattoo flash. We as tattoo artists want to see an evolution in your drawing skills just by looking at your portfolio, and not just some copied flash designs from the internet.
Quite a few times I turned down people for only doing one style of drawings and when asked what was the reason, they said they don’t want to do any other style. That would be fine if your are a professional tattoo artist with lots of years experience behind your and decided your want to specialize in just one style of tattooing. But when your are just looking to become an apprentice, that only comes across as stubborn and not open to learning new things or styles.
After meeting hundreds of people looking for apprenticeships over the years, I can honestly say that the people that are stuck in one way of drawing usually are quite hard, if not impossible, to work with and teach them anything other than the style they are interested in.
In order to become a professional tattoo artist, your will have to learn and be able to successfully tattoo all styles of this great artform, as each and every style comes with its own challenges and rewards.
4. People skills – in order to work in a tattoo studio your will have to deal with loads of people on a daily basis
You might want to look into getting a temporary job in a place where dealing with people is a normal accurance, as this will help your understand and make your more comfortable when applying for your dream job.
Working in a tattoo studio can be quite demanding in terms of customer relationships as regardless if your are a tattoo artist, a piercer, an apprenticeship or a receptionist, your will have to always ensure your customer is always happy and sometimes this might mean that your will have to deal with them when they have a complaint and/or are upset.
A tattoo artist usually resembles a bartender, as during the tattooing session, your customers might share with your personal or delicate information, and if your people skills are not on point, or your put on your headphones, your will come across as rude and chances are that customer won’t bring repeat business, as nobody wants to deal with a rude or unsociable tattoo artist.
How To Get A Job In A Tattoo Shop – Once You Turn 18
Regardless of whether your are looking to get a job as a receptionist, piercer, tattoo artist or manager in a tattoo studio, the main things that any tattoo studio owner is looking for are usually the same.
First of all your need to come across as an easily approachable person and quite fun to be around.
Nobody wants to hire a sad looking person that is shy and is antisocial.
This is something your can prove from the beginning (your first contact with the shop) by being happy and smiling and if there is a temporary barrier (shop owner not in) don’t be upset or discourage, just smile and ask when is it more likely for that person to be in and come again with the same positive attitude.
Any business owner will be busy running a company as there are so many things to deal with, and in tattoo studios is very likely that the owner is usually a tattoo artist, which means that they have to do two very demanding jobs (being a tattoo artist and also a business owner), so have patience.
As a business owner myself and watching other owners I came to the conclusion that the first thing we look at when hiring people is for us to “click” with that person, as if we feel that the potential employee loves dramas or is negativist, I am not even interested in anything else about them and we are looking to stop the interview as soon as possible.
The second very important thing that we are looking for is to analyze how the person is presenting themselves.
Are they clean? Are they well-spoken or using street slang? Are they shy? Are they rude or obnoxious?
These are the first questions we ask before we even consider an interview with a possible future employee.
Once these questions have been answered positively in our minds, we will continue to a proper interview where we look at work experience but also try to read between the lines to understand who the person before us is, but also to try to “weed out” the time wasters that only want a job in the tattoo shop just because they think its cool.
When I say ” we read between the lines” I refer to situation like when somebody has worked in a lot of places. For example if your had 4-5 jobs in the last year, this means that your might be really hard to work with or always think that the grass is greener on the other side. Maybe your are unreliable, we don’t know exactly, but we know that its not a positive attitude towards work.
Another thing we look at is body language when we interview possible future employees.
A lot is being said with your body when we interview people. A comfortable, honest and easy going person can be spotted quite easily and a nervous, awkward person can be also picked out from the crowd quite easily just by looking at their body language.
We don’t expect anybody to be stiff and have the perfect posture, but we also find quite unappealing somebody who sits during the interview as if they are about to fall asleep or as if they are at the cinema.
If the questions we ask are not replied straightforward and the answers don’t look sincere, we might not want to employ your. If we do hire your, your will have to talk to people and other colleagues, and this can create a great atmosphere in the tattoo studio, or it can create an unwanted tension. Not to mention, that if customers don’t get a good vibe from your, or your are being rude to them, your can have a negative impact on our shops reputation, and that is something we cannot have.
Hopefully these advices will help you get your dream job. If I missed something, or would like me to add to this article, please leave a comment below.
Is tattooing at home illegal? Tattooing at home without a tattoo license or permit is illegal in most countries and is also very frowned upon in the tattooing industry, as this usually means that Health and Safety standards are not adhered to.
Do I need a license/permit to open a tattoo shop? To own and operate a tattoo shop your will require a tattoo license/permit and it is illegal not to own one when providing tattooing or piercing services.