Skip to content
Who Cares a Lot: Why Your Tattoo Small Talk Isn't So Small

Who Cares a Lot: Why Your Tattoo Small Talk Isn't So Small

Ever had a client walk in with a design idea so cringe-worthy that you wanted to call their whole friend group for an emergency intervention?

What about someone who's clearly nervous to the point of vomiting due to their fear of the pain or needles but insist they want to push on? Perhaps they didn't tell you, and you weren't looking, so you found out the hard way.

Don't worry; throughout your career as a tattoo artist, you're going to have some experiences like this.

But thinking about it, we started to wonder how tattoo artists across Australia speak with their clients, what's important for them to find out at all stages of the design and inking process, and whether they just coast by on general small talk or a bit more of a game plan.

So, we hit up our community of tattoo artists with a little survey to figure out what REALLY makes or breaks the tattoo experience. Turns out, those chats about your cat and that random dream you had?

They're not just to kill time during setup...

Let's dive into the good stuff!

The Non-Negotiables of Tattoo Small Talk

Take a moment to think about the essentials of your talk with your clients. What are the questions you're always asking or the direction you're always taking? Anything come up?

Well, we asked our tattooists several questions to find out their answers, including:

  • What is important to understand about your client before starting their tattoo?
  • Do you have some great advice you give your client before starting their tattoo?
  • Tell us your top three conversation starters with clients while in the chair?

What did they say? Well plenty, let's break it down.

The Important Points of Starting a Tattoo

●	How would you rank the importance of understanding the following about your client before starting their tattoo?

Getting a tattoo involves way more than just the actual inking, right?

There's the design, the quote, figuring out if your ideas even work, and any privacy or health concerns. But our survey confirmed something we know about what tattoo artists really prioritise in those initial stages.

It turns out their client health concerns ranked super high (2.2 on average), which makes total sense. Safety first!  A happy, relaxed client is part of the set-up for a successful tattoo session, and artists face more and more health and safety questions in this day and age.

Colour preferences landed way low (average 5.1 and the lowest raking topic) when it comes to what artists focus on. Not surprising since, by the time you're in the chair, that's probably a done deal, the design and colours are already set out. If the client has done their research then they will be comfortable with their colour palette and style.

Honestly, the fact that understanding the client's personality landed second to last is pretty hilarious. Is this a "like it or lump it" mentality, money talks, or asre Australian artists just that easy to get along with. Confident and part time psychiatrists no doubt comes with the territory.

But seriously, while budget (3.7) and privacy (3.6) may not be the first thing artists ask about, they're still crucial. It's a tricky balancing act – getting all the essential info without making the client feel like they're taking a medical exam or loan application!

Getting Your Clients in the Chair

What is the best advice you give your client before starting their tattoo?

The design is perfect, the date is circled on the calendar, and the fee is handled. Now, how do you prep your clients for the best tattoo experience once they're actually in your chair?

Our survey showed that 35% of artists make client comfort their top priority right from the start. A relaxed client is an easier client to work with! 16% of artists make the topic of taking breaks upfront with their customers, and only a 4% focus on aftercare instructions right away.

But it does make sense, really, seeing as though these are things we can chat about during the session.

Of course, those practical details are crucial, but it's interesting that most artists seem to focus on the immediate experience first. It’s a very in-the-moment approach, and we love that!

Maybe there's something to be said for getting the tattoo rolling before diving into the less exciting (but still important!) logistics.

Small Talk When They're in the Chair

What are your top three conversation starters with clients?

Of course, there's always some chatter while you're inking, but is there something more going on?

Are artists using that time to connect with clients and improve the experience? Our poll shows most artists absolutely do!  80% let the conversation flow naturally, which is a great way to build rapport and create a relaxed atmosphere.

Those chats about future ink plans (66%)? That's not just about drumming up business. It shows clients that their artist cares about their long-term tattoo journey and is invested in their future art. This will directly impact tattoo placement and sizing for those preparing space suitable for that further ink.

Even casual talk about travel and hobbies lets both artist and client get to know each other as people, which strengthens that bond of trust.

Sure, a few artists are rocking the silent treatment (only 4%), but maybe they just need to concentrate so headphones on. It’s clear that those open conversations seem to be where the magic happens and long term trust is established.

It shows that artists care about more than just the ink – they care about making the whole tattoo experience something special.

Best Advice for Other Artists

And finally, what did our surveyed artists have to say as their best piece of advice for their customers and those wanting to experience and explore some new art?

Well, we simply asked them to share their own, and we have quite a lovely selection we'd like to share, here are five top responses and we will be sharing many more on our social media each week ahead:

  • Get a good night's sleep and a decent meal beforehand, and bring snacks
  • Double the spelling and location/size of the tattoo are correct
  • Breathe, relax, and remember why you are getting the tattoo.
  • If at any time you feel uncomfortable please let me know. It's going to hurt. It's a tattoo.
  • Get it bigger!

Wrapping It Up

Okay, first of all, this survey isn’t about creating a one-size-fits-all guide to tattooing. Every artist has their way of doing things. 

But what shines through loud and clear is how much tattoo artists genuinely care about their clients. They prioritise health, happiness, and creating a safe, welcoming space where the best ink can happen.

Think about your last few clients.

Did you really understand what they wanted beyond just the design? Did you make sure they felt comfortable and supported throughout the process? 

Building those strong relationships, trust, and respect is what makes a client rave about you and send all their friends your way.

The magic of a great tattoo isn't just about the final product; it's about the entire experience. 

As artists, we have the power to make getting tattooed something truly special, a memory to be cherished as much as the art itself. 

So, next time you're in the chair, channel that dedication!  Let's make the tattoo world a place where amazing ink and awesome experiences always go hand-in-hand.

Next article 2023 Year in Review