Meat for the Machine

Entrepreneurs vs. Company Men

Henry Ford was an entrepreneur.  The people who worked for him were company men. When loyal company men leave or lose their jobs, they are not trained to be entrepreneurs.

Tattoo artists tell themselves that they are self-employed.  They convince themselves that they have control over their careers and can list the perks of working as a tattoo artist. The truth is, they cannot sustain the quality of life they have been accustomed to with out the established tattoo shop they WORK FOR.

Here is what is happening in the tattoo industry:  Every city has 5 to 10 established shops.  Each shop has accrued 8 to 12 tattoo artists to work under the name of the shop.  These artists migrate between all the shops, eventually everyone will work for and with everyone.

The question I ask is WHY?

There is a tradition in tattooing that says “Don’t open a shop down the road from the shop you work at.”  Say that out loud.  It sounds dumb.  Go to a business school and tell them you shouldn’t open a bar next to another bar,  you will be laughed at.  The only ones who get upset about you opening up down the road from them are the ones who are still relying on the old ways and traditions of the tattoo industry.  Tattoo shops are changing.  Think of them like bars; you have college bars, disco bars, sports bars, hole in the wall bars, old man bars, hook up bars and the list goes on.  Tattoo shops are taking this same shape.  You have walk in shops, custom shops, college shops, army base shops and shops that cater to different age ranges.

Qualifying Clients

Do you want clients or customers?  The shift is now to clients, not customers.  The bar for a qualifying client has been raised.  Can they be patient and wait 60 days? Can they afford a larger tattoo? Can they go through the consultation process? Can they manage their time to show up for their appointments?  Street shops only need you to stand up and pay cash to qualify.  You will get an unstable mix of tension and demand from your lower end qualifying customers.  Working like this is not fun AFTER you have paid your dues.

So what is going to happen to the 80 tattoo artist currently working for 8 people?  Here is my advice to you:

1 Find yourself. Write your mission statement.
2 Raise your standards for your qualifying client.
3 Learn time management.
4 Draw. Draw. Draw
5 Learn how to operate with a low over head.
6 Understand your digital foot print.
7 Take care of your client.
8 Reevaluate yourself.


This will be the first of 8 blogs geared towards helping you become “The Product”.  My goal is to share what I have discovered that has helped me become a truly independent artist.
Matt Hodel

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