Tattoo Artist Bedside Manner: 10 Tips to Improve Client Comfort

Never underestimate the power of bedside manners as a tattoo artist! Here are 10 tips for improving client comfort and experience.

36% of American adults under the age of 30 have tattoos! That’s a huge number of people who are getting art on their skin. How many of them are coming to you?

Once you figure out to get tattoo clients and finish tattoo school, you’re sure to be excited to start putting ink on skin. Don’t forget, however, that you need to think about more than just your art. A good tattoo artist puts the client first.

We’re here to talk about how you can make your clients comfortable before and during their appointments. Read on to learn more. 

1. Bedside Manner Starts With the First Interaction

Believe it or not, you should start creating a comfortable and calm experience for your clients from the first time that they message or email you. This is going to be your first impression.

Many people who have never been tattooed before are incredibly nervous about the experience. Even the idea of messaging an artist can be stressful. Bonus tip: make getting in contact with you as straightforward as possible so clients don’t have to struggle to come up with something to say.

On your social media page, make sure that there are clear instructions on how to contact you for an appointment or queries. Not only will this reduce the number of questions that you get, but it will make your client more comfortable.  

Make sure that you respond in a timely manner, even if you choose to not accept the client. If you leave a client waiting, they’ll get even more nervous. It’s okay to be busy, but you should try to give your potential clients a general timeframe for how long they can expect to wait before you get back to them.

When you respond, do it respectfully, even if the client was confused in their initial message (as long as they were polite). Ask questions for clarification and make sure that you know exactly what the client is looking for before you commit. 

When you’re kind over DM, in an email, or on the phone, you’ll put your future client at ease. They’ll feel less nervous about their upcoming appointment because you’ve shown that you’re a trustworthy person.

2. Prepare Your Clients Ahead of Time

The next stage of making sure that your clients have a great experience also starts before the day of the appointment! You want to make sure that they’re prepared for the tattoo session by any means necessary.

After you confirm the appointment, give them a brief rundown of your expectations. It’s helpful if you have a list of expectations somewhere online or on your social media page that you can direct them to. 

Let them know how early they should arrive, what they should wear (if they’ve never been tattooed before they may need advice), and what they should avoid before the session.

Let the client know that they shouldn’t drink alcohol or take over-the-counter painkillers before the appointment. Let them know that the tattoo is (likely) going to be less painful than they anticipate (but don’t lie). 

Encourage them to bring water and a snack if the tattoo is going to take a long time. 

Let them know when they get to see the design. For some artists, that means the day of the appointment. For others, it may be in advance.

When they arrive at the studio before the appointment, make sure that you let them know where the restroom is. Many clients will feel too awkward to ask, so take that responsibility off of them. 

3. Let Your Clients Take Time to Get Comfortable

Once your client arrives, let them get comfortable. This is a good time to set up your station and make small talk (if they’re comfortable with that). Let them know where they can place their belongings and give them time to use the restroom if they have to. 

When you set up the chair (or table), tell your client how they’re going to need to position themself. Try to be flexible and let the client find a position that works for both of you.

Remember, they’re going to be sitting or lying there for a long time! It’s okay to adjust them a bit for your own comfort, but do your best to find a compromise. 

Don’t start the tattoo until your client is in a comfortable position. They may need a few minutes to mentally prepare themself. 

4. Encourage Your Clients to Speak Their Minds About Placement and Design

It’s likely that your client hasn’t seen their new tattoo design yet (unless they’re getting a pre-drawn one-off or a flash tattoo). If this is the case, make sure that you sit down with the client and show them the art before you place the stencil. 

Tell them that you’re willing to make changes if you have to. Small changes should be easy enough to do in a few minutes, but larger changes may require a new appointment. Remember that while it’s frustrating to have to re-draw something, your client has every right to want their tattoo to look a certain way. 

Tell the client that you won’t be offended if you need to make adjustments.

When the client tells you that they love the design, place the stencil where they request. Always let the client get up and look at the stencil in a mirror before committing. Let them know that you can remove the stencil and put it elsewhere if you have to.

Keep in mind that some clients will be indecisive about placement, and that’s okay! When you give them the freedom to move the stencil around a bit, you’ll end up with a happier client at the end of the session.

Nervous clients will apologize profusely while you’re trying to find the perfect placement or make design adjustments. Let them know that what they’re doing is both okay and normal. 

5. Ask About Clients’ Talking Preferences

Tattoo artists and people who get tattooed alike are divided on this. Are you going to talk during the appointment?

Your own preferences matter here. If you’re someone who’s easily distracted and you don’t want to talk too much during the tattoo, that’s okay. Make sure that your client knows this so they don’t feel like your silence is personal.

If you don’t mind talking (or better yet, if you like it), ask your client about their own preferences. Would they want you to chat with them to ease their nerves, or do they prefer to suffer in silence or listen to music? 

Many people like talking to their tattoo artists because it gives them something else to focus on, but this isn’t a sure thing. It never hurts to ask before making assumptions.  

6. Encourage Distractions If Necessary

Speaking of distractions, let your client know your policy on them (if you have one).

Clients will try to bring all sorts of things to their appointment. In most cases, it’s in everyone’s best interest to allow the client to bring whatever they need, but let them know if you have any restrictions.

Clients often like listening to music, playing games, or watching videos on their phones during appointments. Make sure that they know that they can bring headphones so that they don’t distract you or other clients in the shop. 

For clients who aren’t getting tattoos on their arms or hands, books are great distractions. 

Some clients like having someone else with them during the appointment. You don’t have to allow guests, but if you choose not to, let the client know when they book the appointment so they can prepare.

Sometimes guests can be more distracting for the artist than the person who’s being tattooed, so there’s nothing wrong with setting that boundary. 

Distractions are great for nervous clients who aren’t ready to just “enjoy the experience” or chat with you! 

7. Let Your Clients Take Breaks 

Breaks are going to be a must for both you and your client, especially if you’re doing a multi-hour session. Rest your hands and back while your client takes a breather every so often so you’re both more comfortable.  

Remember that even if the tattoo is small, your client might still be uncomfortable or in pain. Not everyone has a high enough pain tolerance to comfortably get a tattoo.

If your client needs to take breaks every twenty minutes, so be it. It may seem irritating, but try to see the situation from the client’s perspective. 

With this in mind, you also need to let the client know that (as long as you charge by the hour) the longer the tattoo takes, the more it’s going to cost. You shouldn’t say this to try to discourage breaks, but rather to make sure that the client has all of the information that they need to decide whether or not they want to take another break. 

It’s also okay to stop the session if your client can’t tolerate it. It’s better to split a tattoo into multiple appointments than it is to make the client miserable. You’ll both be happier that way.

8. Keep Checking In During the Session 

We get it, you’re focused on your work. You’re working diligently to give your client the best artwork possible, but you’ve forgotten that your client isn’t just a canvas. They’re a person!

Polite clients won’t always speak up if they want or need something during the appointment. They may be hungry, they may need a break, or they may need to use the restroom, but they don’t want to interrupt you.

If you want to provide good bedside manner, you should speak up every once in a while to ask the client how they’re doing. Even if you’re already having a conversation, taking a second to make sure that your client is okay is a good idea. 

Let your client know that they can speak up whenever they need to, but don’t stop checking in. It’s often when clients go silent that they need the most attention. 

9. Read the Room

This can be difficult, especially if you aren’t a people person. Part of being a tattoo artist is being able to read your client’s body language while they’re being tattooed. No, you’re not a mind reader, but you should be able to gauge what the overall “vibe” is and do your best to respond to it.

For many clients, this means keeping things light. Some clients love when tattoo artists input a bit of humor during the session because it can be relaxing.

Other clients need a few minutes of silence, even if they wanted to talk before. If it seems like your client needs to go a few minutes without talking, respect that until they’re ready to start again. 

There are plenty of things that your client might be silently telling you. It’s your job to listen!

10. Walk Your Client Through the Process

When you’re going to do something new, let your client know before you do it (especially if they can’t see what you’re doing).

For example, let’s say that you’ve been lining your artwork and you’re getting ready to start shading. This is going to be a different sensation for your client, so it’s a good idea to warn them so they’re prepared. 

Clients like to know what’s going on. 

A Good Tattoo Artist Needs a Great Bedside Manner

When you decided to learn how to be a tattoo artist, you likely just thought about the art. Every successful tattoo artist knows that half of your job is making sure that your client has a great experience. Use these suggestions to keep your clients comfortable (and keep them coming back for more).

Are you interested in a career in the tattoo industry? At Florida Tattoo Academy, we can transform great artists into tattoo artists. Contact us to learn more about how to be a tattoo artist today.