Tattooists are amazingly talented people, and deserving of the title of artist. They help make many customers extremely happy and can even become world-famous if they strike the right balance between talent, attitude and work ethic. They can also help turn a mediocre tattoo studio into a extremely successful one.
But that doesn’t mean everyone involved in a tattoo studio knows how to tattoo. In fact a sizeable amount of shop owners don’t. Tattoo artists cannot do it all and their creative personalities are often better suited away from the more mundane tasks of making a business work. And that’s where people as business-minded as you, the tattoo shop owner, can step in.
This has been the case at The Black Hat and that’s why as tattoo shop owners who don’t tattoo, we make to sure to provide our artists with a setting where they can grow, develop and thrive. Our philosophy is to create a feeling of good vibes for our customers, artists and staff. To do this requires everyone to work together. We know artists need a tattoo studio owner who understand their needs and how they work. Learning how best to deal with them as been crucial to our success to date.
The tattoo industry can be quite lucrative. Profits are considerably higher than other retail outlets and incomes can be relatively good. There is also an inherent personal value in getting a tattoo, and as their popularity grows so does the demand. More and more people are deciding to get their first one and plenty more are coming back to get a second or even a lifetime of designs. Owning a tattoo shop has a few other advantages too. Overheads are low. Because you are essentially a space that allows tattoo artist to operate from you won’t have high numbers of staff or supplies to deal with. Artists are almost always freelancers who bring their own equipment and they will either pay you a commission or an agreed fee.
This allows the tattoo shop owner to focus on developing your studio as a respected and loved space. Building a brand that makes customers trust and feel safe in is essential. Artists will seek out these spaces too. After all they want the opportunity to do their best work in a place they are happy. So achieving this means getting the balance right between skilled, hard working and happy artists. Once you find them you’ll learn that tattoo artists are generally peaceable. They will stay around somewhere they feel has a great atmosphere and is well managed. Word of-mouth is also crucial to how your studio will be perceived. Nobody will want to get a tattoo from an artist with a bad attitude or a place with a bad atmosphere, so it’s up to you to ensure that doesn’t happen.
This means, that as a tattoo shop owner, it’s one of your trickiest jobs to maintain a good vibe in the studio and keep artists happy. As owners of a tattoo shop we can tell you this can be a very delicate balance and you often may have learned the hard way. But here are some pointers.
Talent is not enough. Over time, hard work will generate more value than talent and artistic talent can often be misleading. Some really good artists can have serious behavior issues not only toward the management but also toward their fellow artists. All artists need to have a certain amount ego to be able to express themselves - but some artists’ egos can be toxic. Just like some shop managers’ egos can be toxic too.
You’ll generally find that the toxic ones will eventually end up working alone or in low quality places, while a young immature artist might not just be ready for a studio yet. Ideally anyone you’d want to hire should be solid and experienced artists who you know are great personalities. They should understand how a studio works and know what they want to get out of the experience.
You will need to learn from them as much as they will from you - so it’s matter of hiring based on personality alongside skill.
While we are all for giving novice tatooists a chance, young and inexperienced artists can have also start off with huge egos. And when the artist’s ego grows faster than it's skills, it's always a dead end. A big part of being becoming a highly successful tattoo is attitude. Generally the better the artist, the better the attitude. The most amazing artists out there are also some of the most humble and professional
We’re not saying because you are the boss that you should only hire sycophants. But to make your studio a success you need artists that you like and trust and vice versa. Even then some artists might not handle pressure well and they could lose their temper with you. But it’s okay if they have the occasional blowout. If the trust is there you can work out the problem. If it’s stays simmering you have a bigger problem.
Most artists are reasonable people and you will never find one that is always happy. Having the trust and likeability there is crucial to navigate issues. After all artists can be under a lot of pressure. The amount they earn is related to how many customers they have. Jealousy can arise in a tattoo shop environment too So, it’s essential to have sufficient distance to handle these types of situations.
While potentially lucrative, tattoo shops are difficult to run. Although they can be amazing human beings artists can also be a demanding bunch. Tattoo Shop owners are dealing with very expressive and often rebellious personalities, and often you can be dealing with these emotions on a daily basis.
Many owners will appreciate just how contemptuous a minority can be. And they can throw all sort of hate at you if they don’t share your motives or vision. It can be hard - but worth it for all the amazing artists you will meet.
The tattoo industry is so people orientated so you have to be literally ready for anything. Tattoo artists change, their aspirations grow and as a tattoo studio your mission is to help them to grow from one level to the next. If you’re doing your job right you can provide them with the perfect environment - while still leaving it up to them to flourish or become independent.
Some manage it really well in a mature manner while others may end up leaving and not always on good terms. This should not be an issue, after all they are independent workers who are free to go as they please. And it can actually be more of an issue if they stay but hold you in contempt.
However, most artists will look to you and your studio for structure, so they may feel they have to stay because they need the shop to work and grow a client base. Some will get frustrated with you for that instead of seeing the whole collaboration as a win-win. However, you canʼt make everyone happy and they will need to stick to the processes you put in place to remain at your studio. It’s up to them to make it work.
They understand that they canʼt do it all and choose to focus on their artistic skills. Most tattoo artists need you more than they will ever admit. First of all they tend to be terrible at managing money.
We know this is a general statement but they are good reasons why. Their personalities tend toward being kind, peaceable and emotionally smart. But that can also make them sensitive to the harsh realities of life. They need happy environments to do their best work and paperwork, taxes and other down-to-earth topics can be stressful for them. And as we know, this is what business is all about.
Well most importantly, owners like us can provide a helpful structure for them. We can give them a safe and happy environment that helps them grow their clientele and reputation.
This is on top of them managing the whole tattoo experience for their customers, and managing any shop staff.
Sometimes it just won’t be worth trying to build a relationship with a tattoo artist. It won’t just be better for you, it will be better for them and more importantly all the other artists in your studio. It’s never easy to communicate termination of a working arrangement - but you should consider terminating for any of the following reasons:
This last complaint can be a common one with idealist artists who think money is the root of all evil and you are doing the devils work. However, most tattoo artists donʼt know how much you make and wonʼt care. Most tattoo shop owners with no tattooing experience really do want to help the artists. And often an artist doesn’t see what needs to be done to make the studio a success.
Of course, negativity might not always be communicated to you. If you are busy enough to have a shop manager then often it will be them who might face the artists annoyances or complaints. So, you need to ensure they are also okay and motivated.
It’s very important that we deal with the issue of respect in our industry. There is so much diversity in the industry and is has a long tradition of welcoming people who struggle to be accepted for who they are. So, we find that bullying and harassment is extremely difficult to tolerate, especially when it’s coming from tattoo artists themselves. And that’s why good relationships are key when working with tattoo artists.
If you’d like to know what else to expect from artists or what it’s like to run a tattoo franchise or business then we’d more than happy to discuss it here at The Black Hat Tattoo. We look forward to sharing what we’ve learnt.
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