I’m back! So where were we?

Oh, ok… so you read the first post and now you’re ready to know some things to expect once you get your apprenticeship! Let’s get to it then…

If you’re passionate about art and making tattooing your career, which you probably are so far, then you might also be really excited to start tattooing….


First thing you should know is that you most likely won’t be tattooing for a while! Basically, you want to be the CEO but you’re gonna be starting out in the mail room.

Actually… mail room workers get paid…. you won’t be doing that yet either… so that brings me to a good point to start my first bullet list!

  • You need to have a job/source of income to support your apprenticeship.
  • Not only is an apprenticeship unpaid, but you will most likely need to pay for your own supplies, study materials, etc… You get paid in knowledge that will help you make money later on.

You might be wondering, “How am I supposed to work and maintain an apprenticeship too?”

  • It’s YOUR job to figure it out and make it work.
  • You need to have a conversation with the artist that will be teaching you and give them an honest, realistic schedule that you’ll be able to uphold.
  • You need to maximize your time at the studio and realize that if you truly want to be a tattoo artist, you can’t deviate from the grind of work – shop – work – shop – you get it….. for a long time!
  • Be where you should be when you’re expected to be there. If you need to make changes to your schedule, let the artist know as soon as possible. Don’t ever slack on communication or honesty. Your apprenticeship won’t last very long if you play games like that.
  • Have your own method of transportation. Don’t rely on anyone else, or think that it will make for a good excuse if you’re late or don’t show because “they couldn’t get me there”.
  • If you have any drama outside the shop, leave it outside the shop. As an apprentice you should add NOTHING but helpfulness and positivity to the shop environment. If you bring any detriment, be prepared to say goodbye to that apprenticeship.
  • Once again, don’t ever show up dirty/smelling like worm-dirt (or anything else that ain’t good).

Those are all things that should be organized before you even get in the studio. Once you’re in the studio, what could a day look like then? Well…

  • Be prepared to clean… A LOT… I mean sweeping, mopping, taking out trash, dusting, wiping counters and windows, cleaning toilets, disposing of biohazard trash once you’re trained on how to do so, cleaning the outside of the shop (parking lot, storefront and back if it’s that kind of building).
  • You may even be asked to do maintenance like painting, or fixing minor things in the shop.
  • You’ll also be the secretary, so you’ll be responsible for answering phones, or potentially emails, social media, etc… ( depends on what that shop specifically wants you to do or thinks you’re capable of)
  • You may be responsible for promotional tasks beyond social media too… expect to walk or drive around handing out cards/fliers, talking to people, etc… even if they aren’t in dire need of business, it might also just be part of hazing that comes with an apprenticeship.

“Hazing?? Why would that be part of it? I’m not gonna deal with that…”

Well… I’m sure there are places that don’t have any form of hazing whatsoever for an apprentice, and if you can find that, cool… I wouldn’t expect it though. An apprenticeship requires you to prove your worth. The artist wants to see that you won’t let anything stop you from achieving your goal of being a tattooer, and that includes being made to do things you probably don’t want to do. (NO I don’t mean anything sexual/inappropriate/harmful, so if you are put in a position where any of those types of things are suggested, then at that point YOU have the choice to walk away from that apprenticeship)

I understand everyone’s perception is different, so if you’re very highly sensitive, you most likely won’t fare well if you can’t handle hazing that’s in good fun. Here are just a few examples of things I’ve experienced or seen other apprentices experience:

  • Being made to sing in front of clients in the shop that you’ve never met before.
  • Having to wear a glove full of stencil paper/applicator for a whole work day. (stains your hand purple for at least a few days)
  • Male apprentice had to wear a dress to a tattoo convention.
  • Being made fun of or called names.

The list is much, much longer but I don’t want to ruin all the possible surprises.

Here are some other things to expect…

  • You’ll also be a delivery person, so expect to make food/supply runs for the shop.
  • When you’ve successfully completed your other responsibilities, the phone isn’t ringing, and you find yourself in a small window of “free time” you should be completing art assignments given to you by the artist, or if they don’t have one for you at that moment you should be working on, or educating yourself on art.
  • ADDENDUM: If the artist is tattooing during this “free time” you also need to maximize the time that you watch them tattoo and ask them questions!!

This is a good summary of what will happen during each shop day, but it shouldn’t end once you leave the shop. You should still be working on art/education in your own personal time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in breaks too, as you shouldn’t be completely burnt out ’cause that’s no good for anybody… but just understand that you should be putting your all into it every day to achieve your goal. Find a balance that works and still allows you to progress. You don’t get less busy when you actually become a full artist either, it’s just a different more enjoyable kind of busy, and if you really are passionate about it, the intensity of the schedule won’t matter anyway!

I spent the first 6 months of my apprenticeship doing things like I listed above without even really learning anything technical about tattooing. I had a very basic understanding of art, so my time aside from being the shop lackey, was spent doing drawing assignments and reading/watching videos about art. After 6 months had passed and I didn’t show any deviation from my commitment, I started to learn actual tattooing information that would allow me to eventually do my first tattoo, and continue into my full career as a Tattoo Artist. I’ll make a post eventually to talk about what the first time tattooing was like also!

My apprenticeship was 2.5 years in total.

I’ve seen some people complete one in 6 months, some in 4+ years. It all depends on the artist teaching you and when they approve based on the time and effort you’ve afforded to learning, and your capability to create.

At a certain point in your apprenticeship, after you have learned enough to be able to complete a tattoo that isn’t garbage, you’ll be able to work for tips, then eventually a small hourly rate, and then once you brink on being a full artist, you’re no longer being watched over and guided you are basically learning on skin as you go at that point and sharing knowledge with those around you as you also develop your own method of tattooing.

Ok… I feel like I’ve covered a lot of the basics well, but once again there’s also just so much to it… if you have any questions about what I’ve talked about or anything I didn’t cover, feel free to comment and ask!

I hope this is helpful, and if you know anyone else interested in becoming a Tattoo Artist, please feel free to share this with them too.

Thank you!

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