Typical Salary of a Tattoo Artist
Although it may seem like it, body modifications aren’t a new trend. In fact, it’s believed that tattoos first appeared over 10,000 years ago. While popular designs and styles have changed over the years and can vary across the planet, tattoos are still a hot subject of interest. Because of this, you may be considering a career change and want to know what the typical salary of a tattoo artist is.
But as with all professions, you can’t just do something you have interest in; you have to be able to put food on the table and pay your rent too. In this article, we’ll discuss the details behind this career, including the training and salary of a tattoo artist.
Training of a Tattoo Artist
If school isn’t your strong point, then being a tattoo artist might be a good career path to go down. You don’t need a college degree to become a tattooist.
However, you’ll see that many people in this field have degrees in fine arts; this profession does require you to have artistic inclinations, after all. Plus, having some schooling in art can be of great help when it comes to thinking up and carrying out tasteful and impressive tattoo designs.
Do an Apprenticeship
Although you don’t have to have a degree to be a tattooist, it’s still a good idea to do an apprenticeship. In fact, the Alliance of Professional Tattooists recommends that anyone who wants to be a tattoo artist take on an apprenticeship for at least three years. It may be required in some states as well.
When you’re doing an apprenticeship, you’ll get to shadow a professional tattooist to learn the ropes. The things you’ll pick up during the apprenticeship include techniques for design, proper sterilization of the studio and equipment, and operation of equipment.
This knowledge you gain during the apprenticeship will be invaluable in starting your own career. Not only will you know how to run your own studio, but you may be able to get referrals from the person you did your apprenticeship under as well.
Get a License
In order to operate as a legitimate tattoo artist, you’ll need to get a license. The requirements for licensing vary by state; for example, in Michigan, you need to take a 60-question exam and pass with at least 80% correct answers. You then must take the test every year to get relicensed.
Since every state has its own requirements, you’ll want to make sure you know them before you start your training. That way, you’ll be able to prepare for any exams ahead of time.
Salary of a Tattoo Artist
The salary of a tattoo artist isn’t exactly straightforward; how much you get paid depends on several factors. However, as of April 2019, the average salary was reported as $51,112 per year, with top artists earning over $100,000 and bottom-tier artists earning less than $23,000.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that affect how much you can potentially make as a tattoo artist.
Where You Live
Since minimum wage varies from state to state, you can expect wages for tattooists to vary in this fashion as well. If the cost of living in your area is high, the expected salary (whether starting or not) will probably be higher than in an area where the cost of living is lower.
Also, if you live somewhere where tattoos aren’t very popular (such as in a heavily religious area), you won’t have many clients, which can negatively affect your salary. On the other hand, if you live in a tattoo hot spot (like LA), you can expect to charge people more and book more appointments consistently.
A profession in tattooing works like other careers too; when you first start out, you won’t earn much. Most clients will prefer to go to more established artists with wider portfolios. But as you gain years of experience, you can start raising your fees to match your skill level.
As you build your portfolio and become better and better at what you do, you’ll find that people will be willing to pay more for your work, especially if you are constantly booked up.
You Have to Be a People Person
Being a tattoo artist isn’t just about the art. A major component of the job is the ability to deal with all walks of people. You may run into people who say annoying things or people who are extremely shy and hesitant to go ahead with their dream piece.
You have to have the flexibility to adjust your personality for the clients you’re working with. Not only do you have to show skill in inking, but you also have to show that you can make everyone feel comfortable in your studio chair.
Having the skill to carry out intricate and elaborate designs won’t mean a thing if you’re abrasive and cold towards your customers. They’ll end up choosing another artist they feel more comfortable interacting with.
Take a Step Towards Your New Career
As you can see, the salary of a tattoo artist has multiple factors that determine the exact amount you get paid. You can be a new tattooist and get paid $14,000 a year in one place and double (or maybe even triple) somewhere else.
If you’re on the fence about becoming a tattoo artist, check out the shops nearby, both physically and online. Are they bursting with business, or are they empty and waiting around for customers all the time? If they’re filled with customers at all hours and all days of the week, it’s a good indication that you’d be successful if you took up the profession.
At the end of the day, you should pick a profession you’re passionate about. If you have an obsession with tattoos and are willing to put the hard work into training, then you should be able to have a fulfilling career.
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