Changing careers and becoming a Tattoo Artist at any age is absolutely possible. A career as a Tatto Artist is not relegated to recent college grads who found out they hate their graphics design job at their cousin’s “fashion” company. Even if you spent your 20s figuring out what you want to do with life, it doesn’t mean you only had that decade to find happiness.
Maybe you found a job that allowed you to use your creative talent? Maybe you were able to use your drawing skills and extensive knowledge and training in the arts? Or perhaps you just found a job that just gave you stability?
As you went through life, trying, testing, and then eventually accepting a career, something inside of you changed. What came with the promise of stability was also the feeling that this wasn’t what you wanted. Why? Because in your mind, it was too late. But deep down, all you’ve wanted to do is hold a tattoo machine in your hand and create a masterpiece on your new best friend. Really, what you want to do, is become a tattoo artist. We understand!
Switching careers later in life can be scary, especially if you’ve already spent years, maybe even decades in a different field. As far as jobs go, becoming a tattoo artist is seen as an unconventional path, which is probably because it’s so frickin’ cool.
Tattoo studios can be unique and wonderful places to work. They are often full of art, and interesting people, and while there is a minimum age requirement in most states for licensing, it’s not like sports where once you hit 30 you’re probably over. Like with many trades and professions, there is a step-by-step process you need to complete to obtain a tattoo license and “go pro.”
We’ve been training tattoo artists in tattoo apprenticeships for decades and running our formal tattoo school for over a decade. We never turn anyone away for their age or lack of experience. If fact, non-conventionally speaking, there is an advantage to you being more mature and not bringing back tattoo habits to the studio.
What we’re here to do is to help you fulfill your dreams to become a tattoo artist, and train you to the highest levels so you can deliver amazing tattoos to our clients. As long as you show up with the hunger to learn and a passion for tattooing, and follow what your trainers teach you, you’ll be tattooing relatively soon, and at any age.
So what do you need to know to help prepare yourself to switch your career as a tattoo artist, and is it worth it? (Spoiler alert: Absolutely!) Here you go. Here’s what you need to know about learning how to tattoo, no matter which decade you start.
Tattooing is an art in itself. Like with most art, you must have or develop an understanding of color theory, perspective, and form to be a successful tattoo artist. You also need to be able to think on your feet and create something new with every tattoo you do. Some of the best tattoo artists are former art students and naturally talented artists who started with a different medium. But just because you’re good at drawing doesn’t mean you will immediately become good at tattooing. Tattooing is a skill that takes time and dedication to master. So if you’re thinking about becoming a tattoo artist, it’s essential to set aside the time and energy you want to invest in perfecting your art.
Becoming a tattoo artist takes time and money. Changing careers and becoming a Tattoo Artist at any age requires an up-front investments in equipment and an apprenticeship will be required before you even begin tattooing. The shops won’t provide you with machines, needles, tubes, foot pedals, inks, etc., and everything you need to tattoo. The shops will likely maintain paper towels, dental bibs, masking tape, MadaCide, and other health and safety inventory, but the tools of tattooing are specific to each tattoo artist.
You will need to learn from the person mentoring you, what you specifically need to buy, then you will be expected to come in with your own tools for the trade.
Starting prices for professional tattoo machines can cost anywhere from $500 to $700 each.
Ink can run at least $50 per bottle (and that’s only if you buy in bulk), then need needles and a power supply… yep, these things add up.
The next step is finding an apprenticeship program or school where you can learn everything, and we mean everything, you need to know about tattooing and working with clients. These are not things you can Google or learn on Youtube. Seriously, you need the be trained one-on-one, or you’ll be stuck in the basement making mistakes tattooing your own legs for the next decade.
If you’re concerned about making an investment, we understand, yet is college free? The average undergrad degree is now over $100,000! And by the way, check out the money you can make without getting into six figures of debt.
On average, tattoo artists make $63,584, yet on the higher end, tattoo artists can make up to $150,000 plus, while being their own bosses, making their own schedules, going on vacation when they want, and tattooing clients anywhere in the world. How’s that when compared to other creative jobs like graphic designers, who earn an average of $53,000, and interior designers, whose average is $61,000? We bet you didn’t know that good Tattoo Artists are among the higher earners in the creative fields.
Again this will all depend on where you’re based and how effective your marketing is, which again are all things you can learn with good training.
Whether it’s experience as a food service worker or managing a team at an office, being able to communicate and relate to your customers is a skill needed in tattooing. When tattooing clients, you’ll sometimes need to play therapist. If you’re already in a career where you can talk with others, you’re already ahead of the game.
It’s not just about knowing how to draw or apply ink into skin—you also have to have the patience and understanding that comes with being in a very personal relationship with your clients. The time and money they’ve invested in their tattoos mean they will be trusting you with some of their most intimate stories. So it’s crucial to be able to listen without judgment and care deeply about what they want out of the experience.
This means you must communicate clearly, listen well, and build trust with your clients. In addition, you will have to understand the importance of making your clients feel safe and comfortable to ensure they get the best experience possible when getting tattooed. But, in most cases, interacting with clients can be a positive experience.
Understanding how shops work and how you can market yourself is essential for becoming a tattoo artist. This is why tattoo apprenticeships are important. Not only will you be learning how to work with industry veterans, but you will gain hands-on experience on how things work behind the scenes. Plus, in the tattoo industry, who you know also matters. Yes, networking and sharing tips, and tools for marketing and client development, is a big factor in becoming a successful tattoo artist.
Marketing yourself is a crucial skill. These days, potential clients are more likely to find their tattoo artist through Instagram and TikTok. Having a background in social media as a marketing platform could be a huge plus, especially when you’re starting out.
If you have any experience in marketing of any kind, especially in the digital age, you’ll already be set up for success. Have you had sales experience? Communications training? All of these things can help on the business side of tattoos. Of course, the tattooing business has its own set of quirks, so yet again another reason you’ll need to start your career with the training of a tattoo apprenticeship.
The key to making it in this industry is learning the basics and practicing them until they are second nature to you. You’ll need to learn to draw well, understand your client’s needs and desires, and know how to use and clean equipment. It takes time and effort—and a lot of trial and error to become a professional in this field, yet because you already have had success in another field, you totally understand this fact.
Yes, tattooing looks and is frickin’ awesome, yet there are no shortcuts. No matter which career you’re switching from, even if it is a creative job, every new tattoo artist must start from the beginning. Apprenticeship is a mandatory step for all aspiring artists. Plus, Most states require you to complete at least 1-3 years of apprenticing to obtain a license.
Changing careers and becoming a Tattoo Artist at any age can be daunting, but becoming a tattoo artist does come with some great perks. Being a tattoo artist is more than just a job. It’s an adventure, and you’re going to love it!
There are so many rewards that come with being a tattoo artist:
Tattooing isn’t just a job—it’s a lifestyle. It’s fun, it’s creative, and it’s rewarding. So, if that sounds like something you’d be interested in, we’d love for you to join us!
We know that getting into this industry requires technical skills— a strong work ethic and dedication to your craft. That’s why we ensure all our students have access to mentors who can help them develop those qualities.
Body Art & Soul Tattoo’s Tattoo School is the only nationwide trade school for the tattoo industry and the only formal apprenticeship program that Guarantees a Job Offer after you successfully complete your training.
Call or Text 1-310-413-0709 to move to the front of the line and interview for an apprenticeship today.