Updated: Feb 3, 2020
Unless you’re a well-established tattoo artist with a long wait list and a schedule booked for months in advance, most tattoo artists find themselves slowing down from November to January, thanks to everyone saving money for the holidays. Here are a few of the best tips to help keep you tattooing every day, even when you’re not booked solid.
Use your down time
Instead of just sitting around scrolling through @monday_malarkey, use the time you’re not tattooing to work on things that will help you get busier and make money. I recommend spending as much time possible making tattoo flash sheets, making prints to sell online, and/or designing custom t-shirts (TeeSpring is an amazing way to sell your own merchandise without having to spend money on inventory). You can also offer free tattoos in your preferred style to friends or family (great for portfolio pieces), or put some serious effort into your social media presence.
Curate your Instagram page
The story feature on Instagram is a perfect place to show off who you are and show off that perfect portfolio. Use your feed for your tattoos and any related content, such as paintings, art, etc. Archive or delete any unrelated posts that you don’t want to present to clients, or any work you’d be embarrassed showing your favourite tattooers. Use your Instagram stories to post personal content, like what you’re up to that day, food, travel, family... anything that really shows off who you are and helps build yourself as a brand that people can relate to.
One piece of advice that really helped me out when I first got into blogging was to tell a story and evoke an emotion; people use social media to engage and make connections. It’s easy to do this face-to-face because humans are social creatures, but there are limitations to making connections online. Artists and social media “influencers” who are successful at this have built their social media presence by sharing and engaging their followers through the different features each social media platform offers. So, how can you utilize these features?
Go live daily: Even if it’s just for a few minutes, chat with your followers that come online, or show them what you’re doing.
Ask questions: Instead of posting just a picture, ask a question or start a poll. If it’s a tattoo, create a poll asking your followers if they like it or if they’d get it themselves. You can ask your followers anything: what they’re doing today, what their goals are, their fears, their proudest moments. Then comment back so they know you’re tuning in. A helpful algorithm tip is that Instagram rewards users who engage and comment back within 60 minutes.
Record or post stories: Post the tattoos you did that day even if it’s not a portfolio or feed-worthy tattoo, show off your stencil, or highlight what other artists are doing that day. You can even share your outfit or a funny story.
Invest a little
Facebook ads are an amazing and super-cheap way of promoting your work. You can target people based on location (proximity to your shop), interests, age, gender and more for as little as $1 CAD/USD per day. You can choose the call to action and the type of response you want to pay for, and you literally only pay per engagement. I personally spend most of my marketing budget on Facebook every month, because it’s where I see the biggest return on my investment.
Come up with unique specials
Every other shop offers flash for the holidays, cancer research, cancer ribbons, and/or buy-one-get-one sales. Dumping your prices way down, whatever the reason, is a terrible plan, because you look desperate and cheap. No one wants to date the person who reeks of desperation; why would they want to get tattooed by them? It cheapens your value and gives the impression that the shop is slow because you charge too much normally. Overall, that approach just doesn’t really work, so, come up with unique and clever solutions. For example. offer a sleeve special where the client pays a deposit of $300 and saves 20% on the overall price of the tattoo. Pay close attention to my word choice there — “save” on the price versus “get 20% off the price.” Both mean the same, but one sounds like you’re cutting your value while the other sounds like you’re giving clients a chance to save money.
Don’t expect these suggestions to be a miracle cure to the slow season, but if you put in consistent effort and time, you will be rewarded with a better online following and a more engaged client base. These are the people that will make a point to choose you as their artist.