How to get a tattoo apprenticeship – 5 Tips Plus one killer secret to getting your foot in the door
Looking to Become a Tattoo Apprentice?
Training with a reputable Tattoo Studio is one of the best ways to learn to tattoo. However, you may be wondering how to get a tattoo apprenticeship.
For most people, getting an apprenticeship is in itself extremely difficult and involves approaching a lot of studios before you find one that will take you on. As they say, you gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince.
However, don’t let that put you off. There are things that you can do to put yourself in the best position possible to land that coveted apprenticeship and start your Tattoo Career.
Do You Keep Hitting the brick walls?
When I was trying to break into the Tattoo industry I came up against brick wall after brick wall, until I found a formula that works. I’m going to share that secret with you in this post. I really hope it will help you to move forward.
How to approach Tattooists to get an apprenticeship
It sounds simple, but how do you make the initial contact with your target tattooist? How do you move it forward?
There are loads of ways that people lose themselves an apprenticeship before they even start.
I have so many people approach my studio who just blow it straight away and I’m going to share with you where they go wrong so you don’t make the same mistakes.
Tattooists are busy people and they don’t have time to dick about.
You get one shot at this and you’ve got to get it right! So here’s how to go in for the kill…
1 – Approach the Tattooist in person
DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT approach them on social media! I cannot emphasise this enough.
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If I had a dollar for every person messaging me on Facebook asking for an apprenticeship I’d be a rich person! It automatically marks you as a lazy douchebag who hasn’t got the initiative and manners to get off your ass and come into my studio.
This approach DOES NOT WORK. All tattooists hate it and will get you straight onto their “do not apprentice” mental list. Be warned.
2 – Be well prepared
When you pop into someone’s studio make sure you are well prepared with awesome examples of your work. That way, whatever the outcome you have something to show or leave.
We have people who come into the studio to ask about apprenticeships and when we ask to see their work they don’t have any and say “Well I’m working on my portfolio at the moment”
That’s no use! Have it already and perfected before you go in.
3 – Make an effort
Look like you really want to do this. Like you love tattooing. Like you made an effort. Not like you just get out of bed or are drunk or stoned (tip – we don’t think that makes you look cool) Don’t look dirty or scuzzy. Look professional. Simple.
4 – Be appreciative
If a tattooist gives you half an hour of their time to look through your portfolio or chat be appreciative. It means they went home half an hour later in order to help you out. Remember what your Mom said about nice manners and say thank you.
5 – Be ready for rejection
Not everyone will be able to give you an apprenticeship. Not everyone will want to. Don’t take it personally. It’s just circumstances. Lots of rejection can get you down but you just have to let it go and keep trying.
Do not get down about it. You will get there in the end.
AND…The big secret to of how to get a tattoo apprenticeship
Everything that I share in this post are the things that landed me a great apprenticeship with an awesome mentor.
Everything I have said will get you a little bit closer to that coveted position. Every one of these little tips will help.
However, there is one thing I did that I think was the icing on the cake when it came to getting tattooists to speak to me and offer me apprenticeships.
When I used this secret weapon I got many callbacks from prospective mentors and in the end was able to choose for myself who I wanted to apprentice with. It certainly seemed to work well for me and I will share that little secret with you here.
You Need To Stand out from the crowd
The thing you need to realise is that there are loads of other people looking for apprenticeships. That means that to be in with a chance, or even remembered, you need to stand out from the crowd (in a good way).
Here’s how I did that…
Don’t underestimate the power of a physical object
In these days of digitisation and social media, everyone is trying to shout the loudest online.
Don’t underestimate the power of an actual beautiful physical object. It’s rare and tactile and no one else who approaches the Tattooist will be doing it. It will make them feel special and already interested in what you have to show them.
Make a mini-portfolio gift to leave with the tattooist
My winning secret was to make a mini portfolio.
Whenever I handed these out to prospective mentors they were intrigued and impressed. This resulted in many callbacks, positive feedback and great contacts. It eventually was THE main reason I landed my apprenticeship. Here’s what you need for your mini-portfolio.
- An attractive box or folder to contain the portfolio.
I used simple brown paper gift boxes off eBay. It only needs to be small.
- Awesome printed examples of your art work.
- A short intro letter explaining who you are and why you want an apprenticeship.
- Something tasty. ie small individually wrapped chocolates.
Everyone likes getting an intriguing little gift and it makes you stand out from the crowd.
Show your best work
You could print out your best examples on good quality paper, or if you have a bit more cash get them professionally printed as postcards.
Remember to make sure your name and contact details are on each postcard as well as your website address or social media account. Make them something amazing that a tattooist might want to put on their wall.
Business card printers MOO allow you to print business cards with different images on each individual card. This works really nicely. You can create an entire set of business cards featuring your work which also has your contact details on too.
This is ideal to create a mini portfolio. Check them out on https://www.moo.com.
However you do it, make sure you have a selection of maybe 5 or 6 killer pieces of work and make them look slick and professional.
Make sure you include a short covering letter explaining who you are and that you are looking for an apprenticeship.
Say that you would appreciate a chance to show the tattooist your full portfolio. This is a good way of getting your foot in the door for a potential meeting.
Make it feel like a present by including a small tasty treat
Everybody likes chocolate right? Chocolate makes people feel happy and have a warm feeling to whoever gave it to them. Play this sneaky mind trick and pop a couple of wrapped chocolates in the pack. Can’t hurt.
Altogether you need to make this little package look exciting and inviting. The tattooist has got to feel like they have received an exciting little gift to open. You need to make them feel like it’s a little bit like Xmas.
At the end of the day though, the work inside needs to be excellent.
How to use your secret weapon.
So there you go. You have a small professional looking package which you can leave with any tattooist you approach. How do you use it?
After I had made my list of tattooists to approach (as we talked about previously) I got set up with my mini portfolios and my main portfolio.
Some tattooists I approached by walking into their shop. I asked if they had time to chat about apprenticeships. Most often they didn’t as they were tattooing.
That’s when I pulled out the mini-portfolio and said “OK. Can I just leave you with this? Get back to me”
ALL the tattooists I did this with got back to me and we organised them having a look at my work.
Even if they couldn’t offer an apprenticeship they gave me valuable feedback on my portfolio and suggestions about other tattooists who may be looking for an apprentice. None were negative or unhelpful. They took me seriously.
I approached a couple of tattooists at a convention and handed them a mini portfolio. Again this resulted in them contacting me. I also posted out a couple of boxes. This worked also.
I think tattooists are so unused to being approached in this way that they are intrigued. Being organised like this shows initiative and makes you stand out from the crowd.
I eventually landed my tattoo apprenticeship from this method and my mentor commented on how impressed she was with the box and had to get in touch. There are so many people sending out crappy bits of paper with their work on that it’s really worth the effort to go the extra mile.
I hope you are no longer wondering how to get a tattoo apprenticeship and if it’s even possible. It absolutely is. With a bit of organisation and thought, you can be miles ahead of the competition when it comes to getting a tattoo apprenticeship and learning to tattoo.
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