How To Get The Most Out Of Your Tattoo Apprenticeship and How To Not Get Fired


So… You landed an apprenticeship, but that’s only half the story. Once you get your foot in the door you need to make the most of the opportunity you have been given. I have seen plenty of apprentices mess up and get ejected from the studio within six months. This is probably a once in a lifetime shot so what do you need to know to make sure you don’t screw it up and to maximise your learning?


You are now right in the middle of the environment you want to learn. You learn by watching. Don’t expect this to be like school where someone sits you down and injects information into your head. It’s very rarely that someone is going to have the time for that. Instead just watch what is going on around you, what people are doing, what they are saying to clients, how they set up their station. Absorb it all. If you don’t understand something ask someone to explain it. Every little gem of information is adding to your library of tattooing skills.


There’s a lot to take in and remember. Buy a notebook and keep it with you at all times. Make notes in it. It’s amazing the details you will forget. What size needle does that guy use for outlining? What liquid does she keep in that bottle? In what proportions? Write it all down.


Here’s a biggie. You’ve got to look like you are doing stuff and being helpful or people will question what use you are to have around. If you have a slot of time where you have nothing to do make sure you fill it with something useful. Draw up some flash, clean out a cupboard, organise the paperwork, just do something. Whatever you do, do not just sit around looking at Facebook or YouTube until someone gives you something to do. At that point they are already pissed off with you and wondering why you are there. Make yourself indispensable and extremely useful around the studio. That way they will want to keep you on.


You’ve always got to keep the ego in check. Just because you have started tattooing doesn’t make you some kind of tattoo rockstar. Above all do not think anything is beneath you. I have seen an extremely promising apprentice get fired from a shop because he refused to do any tribal after tattooing for only 6 months. Nothing is beneath you. Some of the hardest tattoos to execute well are the tiny wrist tattoos with hearts, names, infinity symbols etc. They may not be the height or creativity but man, you gotta get those lines crisp, sharp and perfect or that lady is going to come back and shout at you!. Tribal may make your brain go to sleep but this is where you learn to lay down a perfect velvet black. These tattoos are where you learn your craft. Take them seriously. Maybe one day you will have an apprentice to do them for you.


Why do you think tattooists have drawers of different tattoo machines? They are always looking for the perfect machine that suits them. It may take you a while to find this. If you can borrow machines from other tattooists in the shop to try that will save you money.


It goes without saying that you get what you pay for. You can only progress so far with a cheap machine and it will hold you back. Ask for advice and invest in a really good quality machine and power supply. Make sure your cables are good quality too. Everything has to work together to make a set up that’s fine tuned to perfection. Get the best you can afford.


Different shops have different things that they expect from their apprentices. Some expect more, some less. As a general rule you will probably be covering some of the following roles

– Cleaning – mopping floors and cleaning surfaces. Cleaning toilets.

– Reception – answering phones and booking clients in for other tattooists.

– Workstations – setting up and tearing down after a tattoo.

– Drawing up flash.

– Preparing stencils.

– Making tea and coffee.

– Autoclave – cleaning tubes and bagging up ready for sterilisation.

These jobs, although they may seem trivial, teach you the basics of how a studio works. They are an important part of the learning process.


When you start to tattoo full time it can take a while to start to build up a solid client base. This can be much easier if you are in a walk in shop, but if your shop creates custom work it can be an uphill struggle. Here are a couple of tips.

Use Social Media – Make sure you have a Facebook page in your own name. You get a lot of tattoo clients by word of mouth so Facebook works really well for this. Put up good quality photos of your latest work. Make sure, as you progress that you also take down your earlier work that can look a bit rough as you get better. Post regularly on your page. Instagram is also a good platform to join and show your latest tattoos. Tag everything with relevant tattoo tags and the name of your local town.

Charity Tattoos – Not everyone wants to get tattooed by apprentice so you may need another way to attract your first clients. Running a charity tattoo day works well. Tattoo for free and donate the proceeds to a relevant local charity (that your potential clients like). That way, you get to tattoo and attract your first clients and get your confidence up, and a charity gets a donation. Win win.

Flyers – Get some flyers printed offering a percentage discount. Post them through doors around your studio location. Put some out in clubs and bars local to you.

The above are just a few ways to start attracting more clients. Make sure your mentor is happy with you using these tactics. Word of mouth is the best way to attract new clients so once you start producing consistently good quality tattoos, clients will find you.

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