This is one of the most classic side hustles that has ever existed. Tattoos have been used to decorate the human body for up to 3,000 years! Of course, the equipment has changed a lot; though the basic premise still remains the same. But in today’s modern world, can you really make money as a tattoo artist?
In all honesty, there are two different tropes that tattoo artists generally fit into. Most people who have tattoos know that good tattoos actually cost quite a bit of money… while there are also people out there who tattoo other people for little or no money at all.
But people who have good tattoos also know that one of the cardinal rules of tattoo work is that you get what you pay for!
In other words… just because your cousin’s boyfriend bought a tattoo gun on Amazon does not mean that you should get him to tattoo you for free!
In fact… you should never get a tattoo from someone who is not a licensed, experienced professional with a good reputation and a thorough portfolio of work history to back up their skills!
Tattoos are a long-lasting body modification. And when done well, they can be beautiful. But on the other side of the coin, they can also be an everlasting mistake if you don’t get them done by someone who actually knows what they are doing!
And that is why making money as a tattoo artist is a time-consuming process. This is not the kind of side hustle you just ‘jump into.’ Most successful tattoo artists begin their career by practicing art long before they ever pick up a tattoo machine.
And even then, they usually need to apprentice with a professional tattoo artist to start learning how to give tattoos the right way.
I’ve heard of people paying $50 for a tattoo, and I have heard of people paying $4,000 dollars for a special piece by a world-class tattoo artist!
But the whole point of being a tattoo artist is to be a good tattoo artist… because the good ones are the ones who make the most money.
So how do you start this process? Here is a general breakdown of what you have to do to get started.
Step 1… Develop Your Artistic Talents
Almost all successful tattoo artists began by drawing or painting.
So if you want to be a tattoo artist, the best thing you can do today is to start drawing!
Being a tattoo artist is actually quite an artistic vocation. True, many artists print designs out, apply them to the skin, and follow the lines that way… but it is really important in this industry to be able to come up with your own designs as well.
If you can’t, you will always have less to offer than artists who can.
So start now, and keep working on your artistic craft. The better you get at that, the better chances you will have of becoming a successful tattoo artist!
Step 2… Get A Job At A Tattoo Parlor
Many of the best tattoo artists became professionals by working at entry-level positions in tattoo parlors first.
For example… I know a girl who worked the front counter of a tattoo parlor. She wanted to be a tattoo artist, but didn’t know anyone to teach her. So she got an entry level job at a parlor just to get close to people in the industry.
Then, after working for over a year and proving that she was committed… one of the artists there took her under his wing and started teaching her.
She apprenticed for about a year before a bench opened up in their shop. When it did, the boss offered her the job. Now, she is a professional, trained, licensed tattoo artist!
At the same time, I also know people who got friends to tattoo them with cheap machines for free.
And the results?
Well, let's just say that getting those tattoos covered up and fixed was a more troublesome ordeal than it would have been to just go and get them done professionally in the process!
Which tattoo artists do you think are making the most money here?
The fly by night artists quickly disappear, while the girl who took her time and did it the right way now has a flourishing career ahead of her!
Or… Go To School
If you literally cannot seem to find a way to break into the industry and become an apprentice, then you may, instead, want to get an education.
Unfortunately, however, your choices of schools that teach tattooing is pretty limited.
There is, for example, a school called The World’s Only Tattoo School, located in Shreveport, Louisiana. This is one example of a school that you can attend to get the training you need to start your tattoo career.
But aside from schools like this, getting an apprenticeship is the best (and really only) way to break into the business.
Step 3… Research Health Codes and Licensing
Tattooing is pretty regulated in all of the states, for good reason. It involves sticking people with needles to inject ink into their skin!
Obviously, health and safety is a really big part of this.
So if you are serious about trying to get into the tattooing world, you are going to need to know and understand the licensing requirements.
Most of this will be learned when you either attend school or become an apprentice. But even if you haven't gotten an apprenticeship yet, there is still good reason to look into it and do your research anyway.
The more you know going into it, the better.
What NOT To Do To Become A Tattoo Artist
As a general rule, here are some things that you SHOULD NOT do to learn to be a tattoo artist!
- Do not buy a tattoo machine and start tattooing your friends out of your own house
- Do not buy a cheap tattoo kit on the internet and expect to become a tattoo artist with it
- Do not enroll in any sort of tattoo course unless it is being taught by a licensed, certified instructor who is also a professional, successful tattoo artist
- Do not get into tattooing just because of the money. Yes, you can make good money doing this, but it is a passion and an artistic form. If you are not passionate about the art, find something ‘less permanent’ to get into!
It is very true that breaking into the tattoo industry can be a challenge. Finding an apprenticeship can take a lot of work. You might have to work for a year or more at a reputable parlor before they will even consider making you an apprentice.
But this is also an industry that you can really destroy your reputation in if you don’t respect the art and do things the right way.
How Much Money Can You Earn?
The median annual earnings for most tattoo artists are about $30,000. But of course, this can range across the board, depending on how successful you become at the craft and how well you are able to market yourself.
Your geographic location can also play a big role. Obviously, you may be able to earn more in some locations than you would be able to earn in others. In larger cities, there may be bigger clients who have bigger wallets, etc.
My Personal Feelings About Becoming A Tattoo Artist As A Side Hustle
I actually don’t think that becoming a tattoo artist qualifies as a ‘side hustle,’ unless you can legitimately find time to do it during ‘side hustle’ hours. The majority of tattoo artists are actually full time professional who have dedicated a tremendous amount of time and training to their craft.
Sure, there are some who are better than others. But as a general rule, this is a profession where respect for the craft itself will go a long way.
If you are thinking about becoming a tattoo artist, there really isn’t a way to just ‘dip your toes in,’ other than to start drawing and making your own tattoo-design artwork. If you start to feel good about it and decide that you might like to pursue it, the most consistent course of action would then be to seek out a tattoo artist who might be willing to take you in as an apprentice.
You could also try to take classes if you live near a school that’s worth the money.
But as far as a side-hustle is concerned, tattoo work is really a full-time venture. Maybe if you could apprentice in the evenings while keeping your day job, it could work. But the simple truth of the matter is that you are far more likely to succeed in this business if you commit to pursuing it as a full-time endeavor.
With that being said, some tattoo artists make really, really good money! Tattoos have never been more in-style, and they continue to grow in popularity. So if there was ever a time to jump into the industry… now may actually be the perfect time.
Our Final Opinion About Making Money As A Tattoo Artist
Should you try to learn how to tattoo so that you can make extra money with it?
There are a lot of ways to make money online. Some are good, some not, but ALL of them are still just trading hours for dollars.
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