How to self-manage as a tattooist
10 tips for effective organization and time optimization
28 November 2023
Time; which seems to be getting scarcer by the day, especially when your work is booming and your schedule is filling up. How to avoid work overload without feeling like you're missing out on opportunities? How to manage everything that depends on you and the stress that comes with it?
There's no need to fall behind or sacrifice your responsibilities. What you need is to establish a system for better self-management. Because, in the end, tattooing is a business, and it should be carefully planned just like any other.
Yes, we feel you; sometimes the word 'business' can sound like a lot. But in reality, turning your art into a stable and profitable income requires nothing more than adopting a series of key actions.
In this article, we'll show you how to maximize your productivity and optimize your time without overwork to achieve it.
Advantages of effective self-management
Learning to organize yourself better is highly beneficial. It helps you identify your tasks's priorities, make better decisions, handle your routine with less pressure, and, above all, allow more space for your creativity.
In short, it not only benefits you professionally but also personally, two aspects that are usually challenging to separate for those of us in the art world.
So, if you feel that your work is directly affecting your personal life, you'll undoubtedly find this series of tips useful.
Get ready to take notes because we're getting practical.
Self-organization tips for tattoo artists
1) Define priorities and set clear goals
This is a step you should take before starting each day or week. It helps you focus on the most essential tasks while avoiding distractions.
It simply involves taking a moment to determine which activities or actions your business needs for you to keep moving forward and progressing as a professional.
This exercise applies to everything, from daily tasks to monthly ones. And in the long term, it's also helpful to implement it quarterly or even annually.
PRO TIP: The S.M.A.R.T. method is ideal for setting realistic, measurable, and achievable goals. We'll soon release content applying this concept to tattooing. But if you're already curious about it, feel free to look it up.
2) Keep your workspace neat
Although it may not seem like it at first glance, having your workspace clean and organized also influences your productivity, allowing you to work more smoothly, quickly, and efficiently.
Ever struggled to find something specific amidst the chaos of your room? Well, the same happens in the studio. If things aren't in their proper place, f it will cost you more time to find them. And to be honest, clutter doesn't leave a good impression on your clients or reflect well on you as a professional.
So, make sure all your working supplies and tools are marked and within reach.
PRO TIP: If you're relatively new to tattooing and still getting familiar with the studio, you can use a checklist and do a pre-session recap to know where everything is before the client arrives.
3) Use time blocking
A great way to plan your day is by assigning specific chunks of time to different tasks, as it helps you set boundaries to prevent them from overlapping.
This method is beneficial if you struggle with jumping from one activity to another, which is usually unproductive since it takes you out of focus each time you switch tasks.
For instance, if you need to finish a design for a client, allocate just one hour to that task and nothing else. We also recommend muting your phone notifications and keeping it out of reach because creating a tattoo design requires concentration.
PRO TIP: Breaks are important and shouldn't be interrupted by work, either. Blocking out time for relaxation or a walk is healthy for your body and mind, but also enhances your creativity, focus, and motivation.
4) Separate your personal
and professional calendars
Similarly, it would be beneficial to have two separate calendars to distinguish your personal tasks from your work-related ones.
Scheduling your client sessions is crucial, but there's no need to mix everything up! While this might not affect everyone the same way, having your obligations visually separated can help you feel less overwhelmed and take better care of yourself.
Plus, it's always important to ensure you have enough time to clear your mind and recharge your batteries. If your client schedule is so packed that you can't take a break, spend time with friends, or think about anything other than tattooing, it's a sign that you should stop taking on new commissions.
Overall, having separate calendars helps you maintain a balance between work and leisure. Remember, a creative mind needs proper rest to keep creating.
5) Anticipate learning opportunities
The tattoo industry is constantly evolving, so staying informed and up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques is essential… and it takes up time. If not, think for a second: can you attend seminars with such a tight schedule?
Planning beforehand is the wiser option to ensure you don't miss any events, exhibitions, conventions, or other opportunities to learn something new.
Besides, networking with other artists and gaining enriching experiences for your professional growth can never hurt.
So, we recommend not waiting until the last minute to check out what's of interest and booking dates in advance to avoid overlapping with your sessions.
PRO TIP: Never underestimate the importance of continually adding knowledge and skills to your professional tattoo training. Investing time in staying informed about trends, practicing new techniques, and improving your skills helps you offer higher quality service and attract clients willing to pay more for your expertise.
6) Seize the digital possibilities
The art of tattooing demands so much of our time and space that it can be challenging to keep track of everything. Did you know that plenty of digital apps help with organization and memory?
From visually intuitive to-do lists that allow you to prioritize and organize tasks to automation tools for scheduling appointments, responding to inquiries, streamlining processes, setting reminders, and even signing contracts...
These modern automated solutions simplify repetitive tasks and, most importantly, save you time.
And it's not just management tools; digital products are aimed to speed up your work, such as tablets, tattoo design software, stencil printers, ink mixers, and much more.
PRO TIP: For to-do lists, we recommend Notion, Asana, Trello, Evernote, or ClickUp. For booking shifts, we suggest Calendly, SimplyBook.me, Setmore, Fresha, or Doodle (to name a few).
7) Consider delegating if necessary
When you're just starting in this business, you carry everything on your shoulders because the future is uncertain. But as you progress and your workload increases, the burden becomes heavier, and delegation becomes necessary.
We understand that, as a highly personal endeavor, it can be challenging to let go of certain responsibilities. However, believe us, it's better to accept that some tasks don't require as much of your involvement as others.
For instance, your accounting could be handled by a financial advisor, but your designs couldn't. In fact, finance is the first thing we recommend you delegate, as it takes up too much time and mental energy, yet it's a significant responsibility that should not be neglected.
Regularly assessing your expenses, income, and staying up-to-date with your tax obligations is as important as taking care of your clients. Don't let a lack of time sacrifice one of those.
8) Don't be afraid to say NO
This point is as difficult to apply as the previous one because we often believe we can handle everything without help.
But the reality is that eventually, the workload can overwhelm you, and that's when it's wise to decline some commissions to avoid burnout, jeopardize your reputation, or even throw in the towel.
The problem with rejecting opportunities is that we often feel like we're missing out. But did you know that sometimes saying 'no' is even more productive than saying 'yes'?
Being aware of your limits helps you avoid excessive commitments and gives you the necessary time to ensure the quality of your work.
Remember that effective time management is not about working harder, but smarter. Plus, a healthy mind and body are essential for long-term success.
9) Analyze and adjust as needed
After trying out these actions for a sufficient period, evaluating how implementing them has helped you organize and optimize your time is advisable.
Is the system you've adopted working perfectly, or is there something you could adjust?
Being resilient and regularly reviewing your method and your efficiency in following it will be crucial for fine-tuning processes in the long run. Especially since everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for you.
In short, don't just rely on others' recommendations. Drawing your conclusions is essential to find the perfect balance between trying something different and deciding if it suits you.
10) Set your own rules
All the same, sometimes the opinions of others —no matter how well-intentioned— can work against us.
Don't let yourself be overly influenced by industry talk. Each artist has their own strategy, and the best one will always be the one that suits you.
For example, a colleague might recommend keeping your social media active all the time. But if the idea of being a content creator overwhelms you, don't! You don't need to be an influencer to attract clients. There are many other strategies for showcasing and promoting your tattoos.
In the end, everything others suggest (including us) are opinions that may or may not apply to your situation. Take it or leave it; no pressure! But don't hesitate to implement your ideas, try different methods, and explore things on your own.
Remember, you're free to change your system, take a different path, and start from a different point. Whatever you do, the final decision will always be yours.
Organizing yourself well helps you level up
And this was our set of simple yet effective tips for better self-organization as a tattoo professional... Something crucial for feeding your motivation, improving your productivity, and dedicating more time to perfecting your skills.
Effective self-management is essential for achieving success without compromising your well-being, as it helps you balance work and personal life.
And while there's no one-size-fits-all magic formula, it's proven that investing time in optimizing processes in the long run saves you time—the same you need to progress as an artist.
So, if you're a tattoo artist and feel like time is slipping through your fingers like water, don't hesitate to try these recommendations. We hope they'll help provide a more practical, fruitful, and rewarding reality.
Did you know that working on your methodology is as important as honing your technique? There is little point in achieving spectacular tattoos if bad decisions affect your reputation. In our MasterCourse: Realistic Tattooing, Coreh López dedicates an entire block to revealing what he's learned from his mistakes and the optimal system that prevents him from neglecting his career.