about promoting yourself

Promotion comes easily to a lot of tattooers. When I first started tattooing, I was shy, a hermit. I disliked talking to people and pretty much felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I did not, and do not now, have great social skills and an outgoing personality. I also have always been a geek, nerd, dork. A skank. A weirdo. Not popular.

Promotion requires friendliness. You have to like people, to convince them that there is good reason for them to come to you for their visual needs. Yes, skill and talent and innate genius go a long way, but not all the way. You have to learn to shake hands and smile. To play nice.

I discovered, after tattooing for a few years, that I genuinely liked the people I was working on. Tattoo clientele vary regionally of course, but I found that even the “worst” client base were people that I naturally thought were pretty cool. They wanted to get a tattoo. Often they were witty, or silly, or just interesting. I decided I liked these people.

And I discovered that I liked tattoo artists a whole lot too. They understood me- and usually, they were in the same sort of dilemma I was- not the “cool kids” until after they’d started to get better at this job. So we were all struggling in some way, to be social at work. There are exceptions to this of course but I feel that they are rare. We did not fit in, in some way, which is why we chose this field.

You have to realize that nobody cares. Put simply, nobody at all cares about you, your art, your struglles- no matter how famous you become or how rich, no matter how talented- in the end, nobody cares. Your job when promoting is to MAKE THEM care.

Being friendly with clientele while still being professional is difficult. There’s a line there that you do not want to cross. But if you are genuinely interested in your clients and in your co-workers, and you respect them and express interest and support, you will find much more of the same in return.

It sounds ridiculous to say, but give everybody your business cards. Yes, even your mom. Yes, even the yoga teacher that your daughter goes to at the Y. Everybody, no holds barred. You should be the tattoo artist in their lives. Everyone you meet or know, at some point, should consider you their “tattoo friend”.

Giving other artists your card pays off too, because the things you can learn over a glass of whiskey at four AM cannot be summarized in print.