Some advice on pricing tattoos

Working in a street shop in the tattoo industry has most likely put me in more of a customer service role than I ever anticipated when I set out to be a tattoo artist. Remaining friendly and courteous can be quite challenging at times, especially when people are trying to get tattooed for less than the price I gave them. My thinking is: your boss does not ask you to work for less than your hourly rate, and if they do, you probably won’t be happy about it. So why is this person asking me to work for less?

America has grown into a country of people trying to get more for less, I get that. The more you have in this society, the better off you are and are worth more and therefore are more important having more.

I myself have been guilty of trying to get more for less. Buying a used printer, hoping to get by without spending the money for a new one. Or maybe buying the blender made in China hoping it give me the same results as the one that is 50% more made in the USA. Without fail, the end result is that I end up having to buy the better quality product after all is said and done because the other product broke down prematurely. I don’t know how many times I have done this but I find it difficult not to do even today with the programming that is in my head to try and spend less on something.

The problem is that people now do this with tattoos as well. A tattoo is not a blender, you can’t just go buy a new one. You can often get the tattoo covered up or have laser surgery to remove it but most of the time, it will never be as good as if you just payed what the better artist was asking and had him do it in the first place. You most definitely will end up paying more than the original price you did not want to pay to have the better artist do it since covering up a tattoo with a quality tattoo is much more challenging than designing an awesome tattoo from scratch.

Another piece of the puzzle people do not often put together is WHY the artist is quoting people the price they are. Most folks have no idea how many drawings have had hours put into them, only to be crumbled up in frustration due to the intense self-criticism most good artists sugject themselves to. They also have no idea how much of that money goes to that tattoo shop they are working at (which is usually 40-50%), or to the overhead they have to incur to keep the shop running. Years have been spent hunched over a drawing table and a person all the while learning from every piece of art so that this education can be put to use in the present to perform a good tattoo that will last a lifetime. Tattoo artists spend hours and even days sitting around, waiting for a client to walk in so that they can earn enough money to put some food on the table. That price they are quoting people is NOT what they are making all day, every day.

Most of the time, the difference between someone’s price is $20 or maybe $50. Is the lack of quality and expertise when doing something permanent to someone’s body worth that money? Especially a year or ten later, when the tattoo has not held up to someone’s body aging?

So my suggestion is to do yourself a favor when getting something placed on you that will be with you FOREVER, and don’t try to save some insignificant amount of money on it. You are only hurting yourself and a really good tattooer most likely. Put yourself in the artist’s shoes and think about when you get paid for the job you do. Your wages aren’t negotiated and the tattoo artist’s shouldn’t be either.

Most tattoo artist understand tattoos are a luxury. Telling an artist that you really like their work but that your budget won’t allow this right now even though you would feel privileged to have work done by this artist will get you a lot further than jumping from shop to shop, looking for the lowest price all the while, not bothering to glance at anyone’s portfolio so see if they can even do work that is worth a damn and that you want to look at FOREVER,


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