How tattoo artists can have work life balance.

I’ve been seeing a ton of tattoo artists complain about work life balance. Its so wierd to see it all over social media.

In fact I think thats exactly why tattoo artists are feeling overwhelmed. Social Media… dun dun dun…

Gone are the days of sitting in a tattoo shop waiting for walkins 6 days a week and letting word of mouth do all the work.

Nowadays artists are required to be posting on tik tok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Reddit, etc etc and on and on… Lets not forget you have to draw your tattoos, then tattoo them.

Oh wait, do you have a family and hobbies? Well, crap when are you gonna have time for them if you’re busy posting and scheduling and doing consultations in the DMs… its so much… wait, did you make your needle order? Did you want to paint today?

Theres just too much going on.

I don’t think there is a one size fits all solution but I’ll tell you what I did and how I got back to doing more of the things I love to do, more of the tattoos I love to do and the clients I like to work with… and yeah, it was scary at first but wow what a difference in quality of life.

Me and the girls before a Phoenix Suns game

The first thing I did was decide what was important to me… for some it might be easy to fall into an overworking trap, especially if you like the work you’re doing. But for me, it was all about my family. My wife and my daughter. I read something a while back that said something to the effect of -you will spend 80% of your time as a parent with¬† your child between birth and 14 years.. as my daughter enters the teen years that hit really close to home… my major time as a dad is almost over. Not cool. So for me, my family is important to me. I need to prioritize my family.

Identifying what was important to me allowed me to set…. wait for it….. wait for it…. BOUNDARIES!

I remember so many times that I would stay late to accommodate a client, or come in on my wifes birthday ( yes I actually did that) or schedule appointments from the dinner table. Even when I was home I wasn’t home.

So step one. Establish whats important and set that boundary for yourself.

“But what if I’m a people pleaser and say yes way too often because I don’t want to let anyone down?”

Well then, my friend, you are a lot like me. And since you know this about yourself, you can do what I did. Set up systems that take you away from saying yes to everything.

One of the things I did was get myself a free Google Voice phone number and made sure this would be my only source of communication. Call/text whatever they want. And the beauty of it, your phone number remains yours. You can alway tell when a client is calling or texting and address it during normal business hours.

Then I set up a system with a scheduling software called Calendly. If you’ve never heard of it, its a scheduling tool that you send your client and they can pick a day and time to come meet with you to talk instead of wasting time with the back and forth. I did this for consultations and different hourly time slots but eventually went back to just consultations.

You can even setup an autoresponder on Messenger and Instagram DM’s that sends the link to people when they mention certain keywords like tattoo, appointment, quote etc. Then they can book a consult while you are on a hike with your dog instead of worrying about missing an opportunity.

I also built a Google Form that allowed people to leave me all the info they thought I would need including reference photos and descriptions. I was able to pick and choose who I wanted to work with before they even came in. It was a great way to say no without the pressure of being face to face. And then , if you like the project you can send them the consultation booking link… so easy right. And if you don’t like the project, you can respond with a recommendation of another artist. Win Win.

The last thing I’ll talk about is my weekly calendar. I never let anyone book just any day. I picked Tuesdays as my day for consultations. This kept me from having to feel interrupted in between tattoos and allowed me to focus on working with my clients on those days.

For me, I always want to be home for dinner with my girls. So a hard 6pm end to my day was critical. You can play with what works for you but this was important to me.¬† It’s this boundary that really matters.

The next few days of the week were exclusively for drawing and tattooing and those wonderful weekends were already booked with family time.

The main point is to put the people and things you want more of, on your calendar first and then fill it in with clients. Theres plenty of time for both. Too many artists think they need to be available all the time, and its simply not true. Fill your cup before you can fill your clients cups.

Now keep in mind this is not a definitive solution but it worked for me to filter out needy clients and allow me to control my calendar. I know some shops don’t work this way and that can be frustrating. But its important to know that you are not a tree, you are able to move around.

This worked so well for me that I built Art and Sol Tattoo Gallery to scale these concepts for all the artists that work there.

If you think you might want to check us out, cool. Check out www.artandsoltattoo.com/tattoo-artist to see if you’d like to work with us! We love artists that want to create a life that includes tattooing and all the things you love!

I really hope you find this a little helpful in setting some boundaries so you can feel like you’ve got work/life balance!

Got any suggestions for ways to streamline the process? email me davidmeektattoos@gmail.com

David Meek