Balancing a Tattoo Career & Family Life

carreer Dec 08, 2020
As a Tattoo Artist, Balancing Career & Family Life is not always easy. Compare it to the music business. If you want to be a Rock Star and get rich, you gotta work for it! You see, I got this question from Linda Meurer on my Youtube Channel:

"I've been watching your videos while I'm starting to get ready to begin my hunt for an apprenticeship. I have a question I've been wondering the most: How do you balance your career with family life? I want to get my career started before I start a family, like kid-wise. But I want to know all about balancing between the two."
Balancing between a tattoo career and family life is not easy.

I think I would like to compare it with other businesses. Like if you are a musician or an artist, or a photographer... Art is a difficult business to get into, even if it's music or other kinds of art forms. Because it's very difficult to get to the point that you know for sure that you have work every day and that you are fully booked. Because then you can depend on your salary. But even then you can't really depend on it because you can get sick and your clients can get sick.

It is a difficult career to depend on.

I'm trying to back up and trying to get this as systemized as I can. But it's a difficult topic because it's very difficult to get all of this into one post. I think basically, you have to decide, where do you want to go with this?

It's like I said, in the music business or any other business: Where do you want to go with it? How far do you want to go? How far are your goals? Do you want to be fully booked, have long waiting lists, and have expensive rates and tattooing celebrities? Being, you know, the most famous tattoo artist in your city, or country? How far do you want to go?

How far are you willing to go to get there?

I kind of worked my ass off to be where I am. And I'm so fine, where I am right now. I've worked hard. I am at that position that I am fully booked for at least six months ahead. Where do you want to go? What's your goal? Are you going to work in your own shop? Is it going to be small? Is it going to be big?

Or do you want to work in another shop, which is often the safest way? Especially as a parent, because you are depending on income! So if you work in a shop that does bookings for you, and they just provide you with clients, that will be the best way. Even though you have to pay percentages to them. It's so worth it. Because running your own shop is so much more work. And that work is not only nine to five, it's around the clock. Having children and running your own tattoo shop is so difficult. You have to be really, really tough, and work so effectively and have everything in order.

How far are you willing to go to get to that point where you are content and happy with your situation? It's easier and safer to just work in a tattoo shop that is renowned. They have clients and you can just go in there and work.

But are you good enough to get a job at that shop?

I've talked about this in other videos, good and bad tattoo artists, good and bad tattoos. You have to kind of know your place. Where are you on that scale?

It's like those youngsters that want to be on X Factor or Idol. On those kinds of talent shows, you have all of those people that aren't really good, but they think that they are The NEW STAR! They're gonna come in here and take over the show. And become the next Michael Jackson or whatever... They really do believe this in their heart. And they go in there and they sing and the judges like - "Are you kidding me?"

And when they get feedback, they're like: "What? NO, there's something wrong with you, judges. I'm the shit this is what I do. I am your biggest talent here. I'm going to win. If you don't see that you are messed up!" I mean, you're the judges here. I just want you to know where you stand, know where you are, and know where you want to go. And to get there might be tougher than you imagine.

Someone I knew, she was an apprentice at another tattoo shop. It wasn't going very well for her. She didn't get that many clients and she had a daughter that she wanted to provide for. It was very tough for her. So she had to take multiple other part-time jobs and tattoo in the evenings.

Because clients are often picky.

If you're not the top tattoo artists in the city or country this year, but just another tattoo artists, they're not going to be so happy with following your rules. But if you're the top artists, they're going to be like: "Oh, I'll wait forever, I'll pay whatever, I'll take a day off from work to come into the shop and get tattooed. Because this is like a rare opportunity." It's not a rare opportunity to get tattooed by this normal typical tattoo artist down the road because they are sitting there waiting for a client. "I'm not going to take a day off to get tattooed. But I would like you to tattoo me on Sunday or Friday night because that's when I can."
Beggars can't be choosers.

That's practically what I'm saying. You have to decide where you want to go with this. If you are super talented. And if you promote yourself, and you work hard and you devote yourself to this business more than 100%. Don't think about families yet. You can't prioritize that.

And as an artist, it's very rare if you get employed by a tattoo shop. Most artists that I know rent their space in a tattoo shop. Some pay a fixed rate for that space. But mostly it's paid by percentage. The more you tattoo, the more you earn, to provide for a family. That means you have to work a lot.

Disclaimer: I live in Norway. Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, we pay a lot of taxes, but those taxes go to school, police, free health care, free dental work until you're 18, we have many awesome bonuses here because we pay a lot of taxes. But we do also earn more money so we can afford those taxes.

What I'm saying is that I don't know how things are where you are. So you have to really put yourself into all of those business information, taxes, fees... So keep all of that tight and organized. That's one of my biggest tips. Nothing comes for free. And nothing is done overnight. Everything takes time.


One piece of this cake is energy. I want you to focus on what you want. Focus on one thing at a time, and give it all you got. If it's your apprenticeship and you need to learn about line work, well, do it 100%! Don't go home when the shop closes to go on a date or go visit friends. Your wasting energy, I'm sorry.

I'm so strict about this. Because if you really, really want to make it, then you stay at work. And you do more lines and you draw stencils. And you really show your mentor: "I'm going to nail this!" Do you see the difference? So spend your energy wisely. Think about your goals and use all of your energy to get in that direction.


Priorities is another piece of the cake. Where do you want to go? What is the most important goal? You have to think about it. Visualize yourself. Where do you want to go? Run your own tattoo shop and having a family? That's kind of a No, no, in my opinion, but I did it, so it's possible.


The next one is: Be effective! And I mean everything at work, at home... Choose what you want to do and do it effectively. "Effective" is one of my favorite words. When I come to work, and I have a client waiting, I'm doing the stencil as fast as I can. I don't want to waste my time or my client's time or my family's time. I want to get home after work and spend time with my family. And then also be effective by doing designs for clients that I have next week so when I get back to work, I'm effective again.

I'm doing the stencils. I'm not sitting there and spending hours on a design. So effectiveness is key. Know your qualities and flaws. Like I said before, you have to know where you are on the scale.

Do what you do best! Period!

Do what you do best, and leave the others to do the rest. I ran my own shop for many years. But eventually, I found out that this is not what I do best. What do I do best? I tattoo! I make designs for clients. I mentor my colleagues and apprentices. But I'm not good with the economy, bills, planning things, dealing with taxes. And those things are so important when you run a shop.

Eventually, I had my boyfriend run the shop for us. And he loves doing those kinds of things. He loves it, he enjoys those things. He knows numbers. So do what you do best. And leave the rest to other people. You should check out our shop: Attitude Tattoo Studio

Save up money for rainy days

Your family or your kids can get sick. You have to take a day off. What if you break an arm? You can´t tattoo! And since we only get paid when we actually tattoo we are relying on every tattoo in a way for the future. Always remember to save up some reserve money for when you break an arm or something. It can happen. If you're not prepared for those kinds of things, you're going to have a hard time paying your rent.

As I said, you're probably not employed, and therefore having the tattoo shop run your salary and paying your taxes for you. You probably have to pay your taxes yourself. Find all of that information and do it properly. So that you don't get these surprise big bills or taxes or fees or anything else. Know what you're doing when it comes to running your own business. I was bankrupt once because of a fee that I didn't even know was coming. It was such a big fee for something that I didn't know it even existed. So it actually left me bankrupt.

If you have a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife... Work together, plan your future together, be united about this. If you are going into the tattoo business, make sure that you are supported at home by your closest family.

If you are talented and you are going to be an apprentice, and you want to be a tattoo artist, you need that support because it's kind of an investment for the rest of your life. It's mostly free to be an apprentice. But you'd have to do a lot of free work, you know. So it's not like when you go to law school, you have to pay a lot of money for that education. Tattooing is actually a free education but it takes time and you have to invest so much energy and love and devotion into this and you will get highly paid back once you are good enough.

How do you balance your career and family life? Do you have kids? Tell me in the comments below! I would really want to know more about you.

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