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What to Look for in Your Next Tattoo Shop

There comes a time when every tattoo artist must leave the shop they’re working at for one reason or another. Whether the shop is closing down, you were fired, you’re relocating, or it’s just time for a change, the process can seem daunting.

How do you find the right shop — one where you are happy and are getting exactly what you need? Then once you’ve found your ideal shop, how do you make sure you get the job?

Step 1: Think About Your Dream Shop

Close your eyes and imagine what your ideal work environment is, whether that’s your own studio or just the ultimate space for yourself. Do you prefer closed private rooms or an open concept? Do you prefer mornings or nights? Do you handle your own bookings or is the shop fully managed? Do you bring your own supplies or is the shop completely stocked with everything you need? How much do you want to make — 50%, 60%, or just pay a chair rental fee? Do you want to just go to work and then go home, or do you want a friendly work environment where the artists spend time together?

Step 2: Start Your Search

Unfortunately, there isn’t a job posting site made specifically for tattooers. And I doubt I need to explain why it would be a bad idea to make a public social media post asking to be hired for a multitude of reasons.

So, where do you begin?

While you were thinking about everything you’d want in your dream shop, I’m sure some potential shops raised major red flags and had you thinking, no f----ing way. Compile a list of all the shops that didn’t give you bad vibes.

Step 3: Compare

Once you have a list of potential shops, compare them to your "dream shop.” Rank them from 1-10 based on your list of “must-haves” and other contingencies.. Now, keep in mind, there is a high probability that you won’t check off every box unless you open your own shop, but there should be at least one or two shops that stand out as the most promising leads.

Optional Step:

Go spy. Either you or a friend can visit the shops you like the best and get a feel for the environment. Is it what it claims to be or looks like online?

Step 4: Reach Out

As a business owner, I personally prefer getting a neatly composed email from artists introducing themselves — who they are, what they do, how long they’ve been doing it, where they’re from, why they’re leaving, and what they’re looking for. Links to digital portfolios and pages, whether they’re on Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram or a portfolio website (if you really want to make an impression), are also preferred.

However, some shops prefer the good ol’ fashioned resume and portfolio in hand and in-person interaction. Make sure you bring a full portfolio (or attach a large portfolio to an email). Dedicate the time into thoughtfully curating as many pieces to represent your work and run spell check if there’s any text. I personally don’t even bother replying to portfolios with minimal work or missing pages. Also, put effort into your presentation — comb your hair, brush your teeth, put on deodorant... whatever you need to do to make a good impression, do it 100%.

Step 5: Be Patient

If you send an email, don’t send another five hounding them for a reply. If you meet with someone, thank them for their time and maybe call back in a few days to see if they had a chance to go over things. Silence typically means you won’t be offered an interview or the position. However, pestering a shop — especially a busy shop — can eliminate your chances altogether.

Step 6: Prepare for the Interview and the First Few Weeks

Make sure you put forward the extra effort if and when you get a callback for an interview, a trial period, or the job. This should be common sense: don’t be fake. Being honest and genuine goes a long way; the truth has a way of surfacing, so if you lie during the interview and the shop finds out you’re full of shit, you will lose the opportunity.

Remember to bring your portfolio with you, dress appropriately, be polite by shaking hands and introducing yourself to other artists in the shop as well as staff. Being cool goes a long way when it comes to hiring someone to join the team, at least at Grim City Tattoo Club. Talent and artwork will get you in the door, but your attitude and potential will ultimately influence our final decision.

If you don’t manage to get a callback from any of your top shops, you may have to re-evaluate your art and skill level versus where you want to be. Unfortunately the top shops only want the top artists. Take a step back to really tighten up and develop your tattooing; if you’re just not quite there, you will have to settle for the best shop that will take you until you can grow to become a stronger artist. If it’s not your art that’s holding you back, then reflect on what you might’ve possibly said in your email or how you might’ve handled yourself during the interview. We can smell a shitty, douchey person from a mile away and you’re probably beyond my level of expertise.

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