xxx = Hey Tattooers You Are Not Paid By The Hour Tattoo Business Mindset EP 138 Hey_Tattooers_You_Are_Not_Paid_By_The_Hour___Tattoo_Business_Mindset__EP_138 Fireside Tattoo Network

Business and Mindset: Hey Tattooers You Are Not Paid By The Hour Tattoo Business Mindset EP 138

Hey Tattooers! You Are Not Paid By The Hour 

| Tattoo Business Mindset | EP 138

This episode was made possible thanks to:

Video By Jake Meeks —

Writing By Daniel Pushcarich - 

Topics: Mindset, Tattoo Scheduling, Schedulers, Tattoos, Tattoo business, tattoo business planning, Tattoo Machines, Drawing for tattoos, Creativity, Exploring Tattoo Techniques, Exploring Other Mediums to Enhance Your Tattooing

Treading Water and Struggling to Break Free

“I really didn’t focus on getting out and Improving. I didn’t focus on exploring other mediums, on doing anything like that… and really it turned into a job for me…something I didn’t really enjoy doing…”

-Jake Meeks

Tattooing may be a wonderful way to express oneself, provide for one's family, and build a successful creative career, but if you aren't careful it can begin to infringe on other parts of your life. As tattooists, we know that making time for things is tough since there are so many things to consider.

On this page, we'll share a few key things that can help increase your productivity. We'll also show you how to make sure your focus is where it should be and how to give yourself more freedom to do the creative things that fuel your passion. Plus, we'll provide easy tips and tricks anyone can try so they too can reclaim lost time.

Challenging Your Beliefs

You Are Not An Hourly Worker

“We are paid as tattooers for the results that we provide…”

-Jake Meeks

A question that is commonly asked when somebody enters your store for a consultation is “What is your rate?” Consequently, over time, clients and the general public think of tattoo artists as "workers" who start the timer when you walk in the door and stop it once you leave with a new tattoo. Nothing could be further from reality. Tattooers are not taxi drivers...

What your rate should indicate a few things about yourself as a tattooer:

  • Experience
  • Self worth as a creative
  • Value to the client

Your hourly rate as a tattoo artist should be a direct reflection of your speed, efficiency, and skill.

A Contrasting Example

It's safe to say that there are countless other professions that get paid by the hour. And yet, two people in the same field can have identical hourly rates but produce starkly dissimilar outputs. The reality is, unless you receive a raise or promotion, working harder hour-by-hour won't result in making more money than your colleague.

Setting your own rate as a creative worker, such as tattooing, is a special privilege, not something to be exploited. Even if you're busting out work one after another, if you aren't providing high-quality service, you can't price gouge your customers just because of the city you're in or the tattooer next to you.

Narrowing Your Focus

How To Create The Best Version of Yourself

“There’s no way to improve your quality of work…and keep doing EVERYTHING…some of that stuff just has to go away.”

-Jake Meeks

You can't do it all, point blank. You can't accomplish everything while still being effective. It's impossible to shoulder the entire burden of your business; many things will inevitably suffer as a result.

Although it may not seem like it at first, there are steps you can take to make every day better. Consequently, you'll be more productive and efficient. The following sections will help get rid of distractions by providing some tools and techniques that can shift your focus and improve your workflow.

Find Your Single Focus Activities

Something to note while you're following along, you should start thinking about what types of things you really love to do. 

  • What motivates you?
  • What are the things that recharge you?
  • What’s entertaining for you?

Do you need some decent warm up time for sketches and drawings? Maybe you love to paint flash for clients to choose from? Maybe hiking and taking reference photos for client drawings is what really gives you that extra nudge? These are the things you should REALLY be focusing on.

Make Room For Yourself

If you’re constantly racking your brain about everything that’s going on around you then you’re doing your clients a serious disservice. There’s no way that you’re able to keep everything straight and be the most creative draftsman for every drawing or the most effective tattooer. 

Things like: scheduling, supplies, messages, yardwork, cleaning your shop, and on, and on and on… these things take serious time and energy to get done correctly. But there are probably a plethora of things that you’re doing that have absolutely nothing to do with your end goal: tattooing and running a proper business!

So in order to figure that out there are some techniques that can help you separate the wheat from the chaff: 

  • Write down everything you do with your day
    • Example:
      • 8:30 am: checked all social media messages
      • 9:00 am: made coffee
      • 9:30 am: Scheduled consultations
      • 10:30 am: etc…
    • This will assist you in visualizing your daily chores and determining what's essential and what's just not worth doing.
  • Choose a reasonable amount of time you’ll be able to commit to this: 3 days, 5 days, 2 weeks, a month. 
    • It might not seem important to some people, but if you have trouble following through on commitments, having a goal will help. For example, how many times has Bill said he started working out again? How's that going?
  • Notate at the end of the time period:
    • Things only you can do
    • Things that someone else can do
    • Useless things

This simple type of task setting and visualization will also help to set you up for the next few parts. If you can commit to it the benefits will be even bigger later.

Keeping Yourself On Track

What Would Happen If I Stopped?

“What would happen if I stopped doing this activity?...What would be the effect?”

- Jake Meeks

As we've already discussed in the clips, certain tasks will need to be eliminated. And hopefully after going over this visualization exercise, you'll see how it can benefit you right here. Getting rid of those needless activities from your days, weeks, and months might actually free up a whole bevy of time you didn’t even know you were wasting.

Could Someone Else Do This Better?

Another really incredible way to give yourself some more breathing room is utilizing apps and tools or even hiring an assistant.There are a plethora of incredible apps online to help you consolidate your tasks and todo lists, even scheduling apps that connect to all of your different social platforms.

Services like these save you time and energy by AUTOMATING the process of prospecting, follow-ups, and scheduling. They also lower the chance that important messages will get lost in the shuffle. Some of the best ones come with a price tag attached but consider it an investment in your future as an artist. After're only wasting time (and money) if you do everything yourself when there are tools available to make your life easier!

Some really great apps:

  • Calendly for scheduling
  • Trello for a digital corkboard style todo list 
  • Forest for staying focused

Assistants are also pretty handy for the not so tech savvy, as they can take the time to set up all of these tools for you and keep you on track so you can do the one thing you do best!

Focus and Buffer Activities

It's critical to be aware of how you're portioning your tasks. For example, activities such as organizing your materials or examining your budget are definitely important. However, you don't want those obligations carrying over into drawing time or other creative activities.

Imagine it’s 1:00, you have a client coming in at 3:00, but because you’ve been worried about scheduling more appointments and the downspouts on your house yesterday you totally forgot to make the sketch or the outline. You’re going to have to be a DAMN good draftsman to bust out a satisfying line drawing in an hour and a half, while being relaxed and ready for the appointment with a stellar drawing to show the client.

Making the Most out of Your Time

Let’s expand on the above section a little more. Consider blocking off your time, and  creating whole days specified to buffer and focus tasks. Buffer tasks are things like: ordering, communication, organization, etc… Conversely, Focus days should be: Drawing for a tattoo, painting flash, meeting with clients for a consultation or a tattoo.

If your tattooing days are on Friday and Saturday, then make Thursday your focus day for drawing and Sunday your buffer day for supply ordering. You have to find a system that works for your personal schedule.

An short example schedule might be helpful:

  • Sun (Buffer): Scheduling
  • Mon (Buffer): Order supplies
  • Tues (Buffer): Laundry, Yardwork
  • Wed (Focus): Home Studio time, Painting, drawing, etc
  • Thur (Focus): Client Sketches, Creating Flash
  • Fri (Focus): Appointments
  • Sat (Focus): Walkins

The next section is shorter, but it’s really the crux of this whole thing. Now that you’ve got the tools to make room for your creative free time you should take advantage of it.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Recognize Your Achievements

No reason you can't give yourself a nice pat on the back every now and then... You should give yourself a few pats on the back every day, in fact. It's good to keep this in mind, especially given that we as tattooers strive to provide our customers with the finest experience possible.

You are NOT just doing tasks here; you're actually laying the groundwork for greater success in the following few hours, days, and months by training your thoughts and schedule to be as productive and efficient as possible.

Free Time As Fuel For Creativity

“Free time as a precursor to success instead of a reward for having already done work”

- Jake Meeks

Finally, there's another prevalent misconception I'd like to dispel. Your own personal time should never be a reward for labor you've done; it should be a commitment and obligation you set for yourself to allow room for expression. Giving yourself these free days will only enhance your tattoos. Even though tattooing is great, you adore your dog, and your wife's...okay, this is when you get the chance to open up and be creative.

“Free time is where you really rejuvenate… so much that it fuels my focus days”

- Jake Meeks

Unless you're making space for reflection, it'll be difficult to recharge and produce your best work. Dedicate time specifically for art-making without worrying about other obligations; this is crucial as an artist.

When you cease giving yourself time to investigate new techniques, you bar yourself from growth and stifle your creativity. Not only are you doing yourself a disservice, but you're also harming the customer's experience. Your tattoos will stagnate, so you won't be able to bring your full creative expression to create the finest work possible for them.

Thanks for reading!



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The Fireside Tattoo Network is home to the Fireside podcast, Fireside Technique video series and our Fireside Weekly blog.

The Fireside Tattoo podcast is hosted by veteran tattooer Jake Meeks, check out our episodes where we discuss, argue and wax philosophical, from tips for all levels of artists to trends in the tattoo world. Many guest artists have sat down for interviews and in-depth conversations and many more are planned…check back often!

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Business and Mindset

Running a tattoo business requires a completely different skill set than putting tattoos into skin. As tattooers, we tend to put all of our emphasis on the technical aspects of tattooing. Unfortunately for shop owners and tattoo entrepreneurs, tattooing is only one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to the business of tattooing. 

Fireside is here to help:

  • Tricks for ordering supplies for your crew
  • Creating goals for your shop
  • Upholding tattoo shop values 

We also have plenty of Business and Mindset Deep Dive content to help you avoid the most common pitfalls of shop owners.

Check these pages out

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