14 Pros and Cons of Being a Tattoo Artist

Tattoo Artist

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation of “tattoo artists use stencils and draw by hand to create original images and text on skin…with specialized needles, these artists use a variety of styles and colors based on their clients’ preferences.”

If you have a tattoo or have visited a tattoo parlor to watch someone else get a tattoo, then you have seen this art in action.

Lots of people have tattoos, with this being an increasingly accepted form of body modification in the world today.

If you are considering a career as a tattoo artist, here is everything you need to know to help you decide if this is the right field to choose as a visual artist.

Pros of Being a Tattoo Artist 

1. Satisfies Creative Urge for Artists

A tattoo artist is someone who can draw really well and make art come alive on a human body.

This is 50 percent of what a tattoo artist does for the customer.

The other half of the time they spend inking or imprinting the image they have drawn onto the person using a needle.

As a result, tattoo artists are constantly creating and making art.

This is most often in a variety of styles and colors that are not usually their personal preference, which stretches their creative abilities.

2. Provides Meaning to Clients Using Art

When a customer comes into a tattoo studio wanting to get a tattoo, they are interested in expressing something through a permanent design on their body.

This is a lifelong commitment and it may even sting some when the needle goes into their skin.

There is also the healing process to contend with, which is why getting a tattoo is a big deal.

These customers come in with the intention of going through all of this to express themselves through a tattoo.

This is where the prestige of being a tattoo artist comes into the picture.

3. Offers Entrepreneurial Opportunities

The entrepreneurial spirit of an individual can shine when they become a tattoo artist.

Tattoo artists are independent workers who typically rent a booth space in a studio managed by several tattoo artists.

This allows the tattoo artist to work in a more flexible manner, rather than being forced to spend only 9 to 5 tattooing.

After all, some works of art take longer than others, both mentally and physically.

Those who give tattoos become their own boss and set their own hours, choosing when to work.

This gives way to an entrepreneurial spirit that cannot be tied down to a set working schedule.

You also have the option of opening your own studio quite easily as a tattoo artist.

4. Allows for Personal Career Growth

When you become a tattoo artist, you start out at the beginner level and work your way up to a master-level tattoo artist.

This is easily achievable through experience giving tattoos and creating artwork for tattoos and other projects.

As a result, it is easy to climb the career ladder in this field, and you do not have to get any specialized degrees or training.

5. Does Not Require Post-Secondary Schooling

Do you want to avoid college or tech school?

You can become a tattoo artist without going to a university or getting a degree.

That is excellent news if you cannot afford college or don’t want to spend four years in a classroom in order to start a career.

You do want to find a training program under an apprentice, and you will be expected to spend independent time drawing and practicing your artwork.

That being said, those are activities that anyone can do with the right abilities and tools.

6. Can Pay Well Depending on Factors

If you are good at tattoo art and enjoy giving tattoos, then you can expect to work expediently and to have many customers, who most likely will leave you larger tips as a result of your work.

This leads to more money earned for you in this job.

According to the BLS, a craft and fine artist, which includes a tattoo artist, earns $24 an hour median pay.

This is $49,960 a year and allows for growth potential as the industry is expected to climb by 14 percent growth through 2030.

7. Is a Culturally Significant Occupation

For someone who wants to be actively involved in their social culture, the occupation of a tattoo artist is one to consider.

A tattoo is a visual symbol that is a permanent expression of an individual.

Over time and throughout history, tattoos have told stories and marked traditions for the cultures of their bearers.

This gives tattoo artists the opportunity to become involved personally in influencing their culture, which adds to their personal status and wealth over time.

Cons of Being a Tattoo Artist 

1. It is Physically Demanding

The first thing you have to know about working as a tattoo artist is you are required to sit still for hours at a time.

Often you are holding pens and paintbrushes, or vibrating guns filled with ink-soaked needles.

Either way, you must be paying attention and be able to keep up with the physical demands of this setting.

This can be taxing on the body, especially the spine and lower back, as well as on the eyes.

Tattoo artists must consider routine physical fitness to improve their stamina and have good hygiene in order to be accepted by clients.

2. Must be Artistic

If you are going to draw and paint artwork that will be transferred to a person’s skin and then applied permanently through needling, you must be artistic.

It goes without saying.

First off, you are the one creating the artwork from scratch most of the time for your clients. Individuals will often enter a shop with an idea.

Also, they will go to specific tattoo artists with the hopes that based on other tattoo art these artists have done in the past, they will make a personalized tattoo for them.

As a result, you want to be impressive as an artist, which can be even more challenging for some people. 

3. Need to be Marketable

In order to attract the attention of customers, especially when working at a storefront you own or with other highly valuable artists, you must be marketable.

The customers have to see you, and you need to stand out in some positive way.

Typically, this happens through being super creative with artwork or having a funky edge that draws people in.

If you are not someone who is into marketing yourself as an artist, you will have trouble here.

4. Should Understand the History of Tattoos

To become good at tattooing, you must know where tattooing comes from and be well abreast of the history of tattoos.

When you do, you are going to get more status and prestige from your co-tattoo artists and your customers.

If you take this industry lightly, you will struggle with being successful. 

5. Must be a Hard Worker

Do you like to slack off or hide behind the water cooler?

If so, this industry is not going to work for you.

The only way to make money as a tattoo artist is by giving them tattoos.

It is a fun job, but even fun is hard work for some people.

If you are someone who likes to do nothing on the clock and get paid, you are better off in a cubicle position.

6. Must be Hands-On

This might be the biggest problem with being a tattoo artist, especially since the pandemic.

You are going to have to get up close and personal with your customers, each and every one of them.

By giving these people tattoos, you are touching their skin even with gloves on, and you are within their personal space.

For someone with high anxiety or fibromyalgia or other nervous issues, this can be tremendously difficult to deal with on a daily basis.

Even if you love to see and draw tattoos, if you cannot handle the hands-on aspect for any reason, you will not be able to do this job.

7. Pay Varies on Location

If you want to make the most money as a tattoo artist, expect to live where there is an overabundance of customers.

This typically means a touristy area or a big city, since more rural places tend to lack the income level needed for more expensive tattoos.

You may be required to transfer to a new location in order to make any money as a tattoo artist, which can be the breaking point for some individuals.

Pros and Cons of Being a Tattoo Artist – Summary Table

Pros of Being a Tattoo Artist Cons of Being a Tattoo Artist 
1. Satisfies Creative Urge for Artists1. It is Physically Demanding
2. Provides Meaning to Clients Using Art2. Must be Artistic
3. Offers Entrepreneurial Opportunities3. Need to be Marketable
4. Allows for Personal Career Growth4. Should Understand the History of Tattoos
5. Does Not Require Post-Secondary Schooling5. Must be a Hard Worker
6. Can Pay Well Depending on Factors6. Must be Hands-On
7. Is a Culturally Significant Occupation7. Pay Varies on Location

Should You Become a Tattoo Artist? 

In the world of craft and fine arts, tattoo artists have a unique job.

These are individuals involved with needles and ink, two quite intricate tools.

Tattoo artists must also be artistic and capable of drawing anything a customer expects and then tattooing that onto the person’s skin.

This enters the world of medical care and can be dangerous if not taken seriously.

Becoming a professional tattoo artist can be a profitable and rewarding career, if not taken lightly.

Jamie Willis