It's absolutely no doubt that we are in the midst of and unprecedented time in America and indeed the World. Here we are, caught between a global pandemic and extreme civil unrest due to a highly prejudiced and unjust system, leaving so many people angry, sad, afraid and searching for answers. There is a great deal of uncertainty concerning what's going to happen in the months to come, but it has all given me great pause to think about what changes I need to make in my own life.
When the pandemic was announced and all non-essential businesses were mandated to shut down, I, like just about everyone else, thought to myself 'What the hell am I going to do?'. It was indeed a scary time. As the quarantine period went on, however, and we started to settle in to the idea that we were stuck at home for a while, it became clear to me that this was the perfect reset. It became a good time to reflect on what I've been doing up until this point and what I want to do from here on out.
I look back on what got me to today and I see a person focused solely on becoming a better tattooer and artist. A focus that has served me very well and has honestly been very enjoyable. It hasn't all been without it's sacrifices though and sadly it's been my family that has willingly and lovingly taken the brunt of the hit for me to be able to pursue my passion and do what I do. A fact that I've known from the get go and could never hope to express my appreciation for. I could never have gotten to where I am without the support of my family. When I had the opportunity to move to Denver and work it was a huge turning point for me, but it also meant taking them away from everything they knew. For seven years, my wife stayed home and raised our children in a city where she had no social circle so that I could grow as a tattooer. I could see that it wore on them, but at the time I felt there wasn't much I could do to change the situation. I was ultra busy, booked out anywhere from six months to a year, and things just kinda were the way they were, but I knew I had to start making some changes.
Moving back up to the Roaring Fork Valley was really the beginning of those changes. I needed to slow my roll a little bit, my wife needed her friends and family and we both agreed that it would be a better place to raise our family. But of course, as a tattooer, moving is always hard...even moving back to where you're from. You really have to hustle in order to rebuild your clientele. Well, me being a work-a-holic, hustle I did. I hustled myself almost right back into the same position I was in when we were in Denver. Now don't get me wrong, I love being busy. Being booked out isn't something that I look at as a "problem". If it is then it is a good problem to have. I just have a tenancy to book every bit of time I have because I love tattooing. Come to find out this isn't a very sustainable working method. Having 80+ hour weeks, between tattooing and drawing, every week as the "normal" isn't really good for any kind of family life. Hell, it really isn't good for your health either.
The shutdown was a good reset and chance to think about all of this, and I was determined to make some changes when I was allowed to get back to work. Well that time came and of course my work-a-holic nature kicked in and I started back in with a renewed energy and excitement about tattooing. I was having fun and enjoying every bit of it so much that I failed to realize that I was fully scheduled out past summer without making any plans with my family.
Then the unthinkable happened (unfortunately yet again). The world was rocked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. This shook the values of people all over the world and has created a large division amongst the American people. This is an enormous problem that includes social injustice, racial inequality, a broken and corrupt system, and a blatant, often negligent, misuse of power and force by many in positions of authority, be they in uniform or in office. And that's just on the surface. There's so much more to the problem and I think it's absolutely necessary to educate ourselves as much as we can about it in order to really make the changes needed to ensure that such senseless acts and bad policy are avoided in the future.
I've had a hard time personally figuring out my place in all this. I know I can't just ignore it and continue life usual... it's too big for that. I also know that I am not nearly as educated on it as I should be. But I need to alter my work-life balance in order to focus on this and all the other important aspects to life rather than just work, so now is the time to force that change on myself.
I'll be making some significant changes to the way that I take my bookings effective immediately. These changes are as follows:
From now on I'll only be booking in two month blocks. Being booked out much past that makes it very difficult to plan anything else and it will also eliminate much longer waits to get an appointment. Rather than having to wait 4+ months for an appointment, the wait should be no longer than two. Once my two month block is full my books will not be closed. Instead, anybody looking to get tattooed will be put on the wait list to be contacted when I'm ready to book the next two month cycle.
I'm going to start being more selective about the projects that I take on. I take pride in being a very versatile tattooer and enjoy taking on a variety of different styles and projects, but that being said, I do want to start pushing my art further, so pieces that I feel are best suited for me and the direction I want to go will take priority at booking time. On that same token, there will undoubtedly be projects that I will choose to decline. If I do decline something, that doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with the idea, only that it doesn't fall in line with where I want my tattooing to go.
Thirdly, all potential clients MUST have a personal referral from somebody that I know or another tattooer. I cannot stress this enough. I operate a professional private studio adjacent to my house. While it is solely work space, I am still bringing clients into my personal space. You wouldn't let just any random person that wanted something from you into your home and neither will I. So yes, you MUST have a referral... no internet strangers.
The last change concerns pricing. This is something that I've been hesitantly considering for a while. It's true that good tattoos aren't cheap, but on the other hand I've seen a whole lot of younger tattooers charging way more than they should, essentially gouging clients that don't know any better. I haven't changed my pricing in over five years and I only did so then after being told by multiple clients and other artists that I needed to. I've been somewhat ignoring that advice again for the last year, because I didn't see the necessity for it. However, what finally sparked my consideration was meeting another artist who had been tattooing for about half as long as I have, his work was okay but nothing extraordinary, he watched tv and played video games in the shop rather than working on art, he tattooed slow and lied about being booked out for months and he was charging $200/hr. To be honest I was flabbergasted. The only thing I could think about was how much I had to bust my ass and pay my dues and continue to do so and this kid just thinks he deserves to charge that much because why... because he's an entitled millennial tattooer and no other reason. Well, to me that's not a good enough reason to charge that much. I honestly don't think that anybody under 10 years in should charge even close to that much unless they are working their ass off and producing some truly extraordinary work. So it's with all of this in consideration and consideration for the cost of living where we are that I will be making a small increase to my hourly rate. Starting at the next booking cycle (Aug/Sept) my new hourly rate will be $160/hr. Nothing crazy, just a $10 increase. The biggest change to my pricing will be in my minimum charge and deposit. I will be imposing a 1 hour minimum ($160) on all tattoos and the deposit will also be equal to one hour. Even though the minimum and deposit seem like big changes, it isn't really all that different. Most small tattoos will still take about an hour and the deposit comes off the price of the tattoo, so the change really isn't that big.
SOOOOOOOooooo........ That's the scoop on the working changes. Now is the time in which we all need to educate ourselves on our global situations and come together and make some changes so that, as a species, we don't keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Now more than ever we need unity. Unity against injustice, unity to get through this pandemic and unity as one race regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status. Unity as humans.
Thanks for reading my spiel. Go do something nice for somebody and for God's sake, WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS! :D