The next thing you need to know is about your clients. First, above all else, cover your ass. If you're tattooing then you need a good waiver sheet. If you go to your local health department, in the "Environmental Services" office you can request a copy of the body piercing and tattoo studio health regulations. Another thing I would like to add; is keep good records. In the end, if something happens, it will save your ass. Also, be nice to your sanitarian. Keep your records filed in order by name or month. Nothing is more aggravating then having to look for a consent form. Don't be scared of the health department, they are good people trying to help everyone. The packet is totally free and it has lots of good information inside about sterilization. It also has a list of everything you need to open a studio, including all of the proper paper work. In this packet you will find a generic version of a liability form (consent form). Use this as a guide to make your own, don't just copy it. You need to put your name and information on it or it will not hold up in court. If you're tattooing out of your house then you are wasting your time because it's illegal anyway. This form releases all liability from them suing you. Although you should know that this does not clear you with the health department from being legally responsible on there end. Always get your client to sign the release form before you ever touch them. Now say you work in a shop and some one walks in for a tattoo. The fact is that most people walk in to ask questions. Your job is to answer them to the best of your ability. You can't be a smart ass, and you can't ignore them. They came in so that means they want to talk to someone. You can not just think that if they want to talk to you then they will ask. You will loose business. The truth is almost no one knows what they want when they come in for a tattoo. So you have to pry a little and find out what they are looking for, and why they want the tattoo. The "what" will give you an idea of design, and the "why" will tell you what style.
Some one comes in and says they want a set of angel wings and a halo for their friend that died, and then you know they are not looking for something dark and sinister. This part is common since. Don't try to talk a school teacher into a skull and biker logo. Use your eyes, see what kind of person they are and go from there. If you try to talk some gothic kid into a set of roses, they are going to laugh and walk out. The hardest thing for me to teach a student is common sense. Always be polite even if they ask three hundred stupid questions, if they like your work then they will be back. Number two, never tell a client "no", they will leave. You can suggest your input but remember it's their tattoo. Some of the best artists I know go months without work just because they are assholes. You have to sell your self before you can sell your product. Let's face it, as much of this industry that's art it's still a business, you want to pay your bills at least to keep the shop open, and without clients you don't get to pay anything or tattoo. So be nice god damn it!
Almost every person that walks in to get a tattoo is nervous, even the guys that have a lot of them. You have to be charismatic, and make them laugh as much as possible to make them more comfortable. A client and artist relationship is like a client and shrinks relationship. You have to have a good one or each of you is wasting the others time. The more someone comes back the more you will get to know them and what they want, but until then you have to fish a little. One of the best ice breakers is "What can I help you with." It's simple and to the point. If they are looking for a design they will ask, if they have a question they will ask. As far as setting a price, one of the best ways to do this is by asking them how much they want to spend. Don't be shy about money. When they tell you how much then you can say "I can do this for that much." Keep the price as low as possible; don't tax some one just because they drive a nice car or have an expensive cell phone. You can always get some one good once, or you can treat them right and make them a client for life and then they'll bring all there friends.
Try not to push flash. Use flash as a tool for ideas. If you push flash you will never learn, you just get to be a copy machine and they get to see their tattoo twice a week on someone else. Be original, stretch your legs as an artist and do custom work. Never claim other artists work. If you think you're the only one who gets the magazines and has every page of cherry creek flash then you're kidding yourself. I have six guys a week come in and try to push old flash on me as their work. I make fun of them and usually send them packing. Remember the term is "Artist" not copyist. Another cool thing is use your computer when ever you can. A lot of paint programs have a new tool called a background eraser. You scan in an image, erase the background, and then take a picture of your client. Bring up the picture and copy/paste the tattoo on their picture so you and the client can see what the tattoo will look like before a needle ever hits them. A lot of the time this will help you get an idea of what there wanting and how big, while you look like the most advanced artist in the world. Take the time to get to know your clients; don't rush them out the door. Tattooing is not a race. Take your time and make them feel like they are your only client. It will pay off in the end. You get a payday and you get to do more custom work because you earn their trust much faster.
Here are some rules to follow when it comes to clients. 1. Never do the same piece twice unless two people want a friendship tattoo. Respect your art and the rest will come. 2. Never tattoo anyone under sixteen. I don't care if there parent wants to sign for them. A fifteen year old never knows what they want, so you're just going to give them something they will regret and anyone under sixteen will not take the time to do what is necessary for the proper healing of the tattoo. It's your work, why do something that you know will get destroyed. 3. Never tattoo a diabetic or a hemophiliac. The diabetic will not heal right, and they are ten times more likely to get an infection than anyone else. If you want to ruin your reputation then go right ahead. While a hemophiliac will bleed out and only about twenty-five percent of the pigment will stay in them. If you guarantee your work then you will be doing touch-ups for the rest of your life. 4. NEVER tattoo anyone drunk or under the influence of any drug. If they are under the influence then legally they aren't of sound mind to sign consent. If you tattoo on them, then when they sober, if they regret it, they can sue your pants off for tattooing them against there will, and they will win. Besides, have you ever seen a drunk hold still? Try drawing on something that's running around the room. Oh ya, and it's illegal to tattoo anyone drunk or under the influence. That's about it for the clients. Just remember, the only rule that has always been true with every client is: if you do one right they will tell five friends, if you screw one up then they will tell twenty.
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