How to Land a Guest Spot as a Tattoo Artist

Tattooing is one of the best jobs out there because you can travel and still get work wherever you go. Artists looking to travel will line up “guest spots” at a shop in the city they want to visit, and then go and tattoo in that shop for a few days or weeks.

If you aren’t sure how to reach out to a shop - or how to get them excited about having you as a guest artist - then you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’ll be breaking down:

  • How to find guest spots
  • What tattoo shops look for in their guest artists
  • How to make sure you’re tattooing legally while you travel

1

Find a stellar location

Before you reach out to a shop, you want to make sure it’s a reputable place with good artists. 

The best way to figure out if a shop’s environment is right for you is to look at their artists, their social media, and their reviews.

Artists

If you’re going to be working with other artists for a few weeks, you want to make sure you’re not heading into a shop with toxic competition. Check out the artists’ social media to see if they’re people you’d want to be around while you’re guest spotting.

Social Media

The shop’s social media will tell you a lot. You’ll be able to get a good feel for how the shop operates and what level of work is being done in the shop. 

If they’re regularly posting good work and it’s clear that the shop is a clean, sterile environment, those are great signs that they’re a reputable shop.

Reviews

The customers are going to be the best place to get the “inside scoop” on a shop. 

Look at Google and Yelp reviews of the shop to see how the customers were treated in the shop and if they feel like they received quality service and good tattoos. If there’s any drama in the shop or someone saw something unsanitary or unsafe, this is where you’ll find it.

See if The Shop has Open Guest Spots

guest spot inquiries - Nice Tattoo Studio

A lot of shops, especially ones in big cities, have a booth set up for guest artists. Many of them will even say on their social media or website whether there is an opening. If they don’t say so online, you can also reach out and ask. 

Most shops will say they want an artist with 2 years of experience. However, this isn’t always a hard-and-fast rule. If you’ve only been in the industry for a year, but you can do a perfect tattoo, they’ll be open to having you work in their shop. 

2

Check Your Social Media.

tattoos remybtattoo

When you reach out to a shop, the first thing they’re going to do is look at your work.

Following 

You don’t have to have a huge following online to land a guest spot. However, a larger follower count shows a shop that plenty of people like your work and that it’ll be easier for you to line up customers.

Clean Backgrounds

Having a clean background in the photos of your tattoos not only makes your Instagram and Facebook look more professional, it also shows that you take sanitation seriously. 

If you have a trash can or clearly unsanitary conditions in the background of your photos, you will not get offered a guest spot. We recommend using a flat, single-color background. For example, have a plain wall or a clean paper towel as the background. 

Solid Work

Of course, a shop will be looking at your technical skill. If your lines are perfectly straight and your shading is solid, a shop owner will feel much more confident about giving you a space in their shop.

Your Social Media is Your Online Portfolio

Since you won’t be asking for a guest spot in person, the only thing the shop will be able to see is your online presence. Make sure your profiles look professional and clean and that they show your best work. 

Your work speaks louder than anything else. If it’s clear that you’re professional and it’s easy to see that you have solid skills, you will be much more likely to get a spot.

3

Know the Tattoo Laws.

Florida guest tattoo artist registration

Before you travel to a new area, it’s important that you know the tattooing laws. Most states have a “guest artist” permit you need to apply for. It usually lasts for 2 weeks. If you plan to stay longer, you will need to get licensed in that state/county. 

Depending on the requirements of your own state and how long you have been tattooing, you may be required to go through additional training before getting licensed in a different state. 

The shop you are guest spotting for will be familiar with these laws and can help you. 

Have Proof of Your Experience

If you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to have a copy of your Bloodborne Pathogens Certification, your tattoo license from your home state, as well as any documentation of training you went through, just in case.

4

Have a Good Attitude.

Tattooing TV shows tend to make it seem like tattoo artists fight a lot and that everything is turned into a competition. While there are some shops like that (the ones you want to avoid), most shops are looking for drama-free artists.

Because of this, you’ll want to make sure your social media has no offensive content. If it seems like you have a bad attitude or you’ll be difficult to work with, it’s less likely that you’ll get a guest spot.

Separate Social Media Profiles

A lot of artists will use their social media only for tattooing. They won’t have personal content, or they’ll make a separate account that’s only for friends and family.

5

Know How to Travel with Your Gear

Screenshot from Tattooing 101’s Artist Accelerator Program

One of the best parts about being a tattoo artist is the ability to apply for a guest spot and travel wherever you’d like. 

However, doing this means you need to be able to travel with your gear. If you’re driving yourself to another state, you’ll have room to take most of your supplies. However, if you’re flying, you’ll have to cut down on what you take. 

Here’s some things to keep in mind:

1. Using Checked Baggage

If you’re going to take your supplies as checked baggage, you have the ability to take more equipment with you. This means you can bring plenty of needles, inks, disposables, etc. Basically, you can bring everything you need to have, but it will be pretty minimal.

Note:

If you’re staying in-country, checked baggage is a good way to go. However, traveling overseas makes things a little more complicated, especially if your bag gets lost.

2. Using a Carry-On

If you’re only going to be taking a carry on, you won’t be able to take everything you need. You will have to rely on the shop you’re visiting to give you supplies (make sure you contact the shop about this), or you’ll need to buy supplies when you get there.

For example, you can take a few “travel-size” inks (under 3oz for most airlines), your machines, your iPad, and maybe a box of cartridges. If you try to take a bunch of needles, they will get confiscated, so keep it to a minimum. You’ll need to get everything else - soap, plastic barriers, gloves, etc. later on.

3. Wrap Your Inks

When you fly, the air pressure can make the ink bottles explode and get all over your equipment. To prevent this, wrap each individual ink bottle in cling wrap and then place it into a sandwich bag. 

4. Use Shop Supplies

Especially if you want to travel light, you might want to use materials that the shop will supply for you. Make sure to call ahead and ask the shop what they will supply like gloves, razors, clingwrap, ink caps etc.

5. Protect All Your Supplies

To avoid any contamination from travel, get resealable sandwich bags for all your equipment. For example, you don’t want a foot pedal that’s been on the floor touching your ink bottles.

6. Check Your Travel Restrictions

Some countries have a limit when it comes to the amount of liquids that you can bring on a plane. Check with the airport first to make sure you don't have to throw out your inks.

7. Have a Travel-Size Setup

To keep things as compact as possible, use smaller materials for travel. For example, use smaller wash bottles, a smaller power supply, and smaller bottles of Vaseline.

8. Use a Locking Suitcase

You’re walking around with thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment. Make sure to get a suitcase with a lock on it (or even a tracker if you’re worried about it getting stolen). 

9. Be Nice to Other Artists

Being kind to the artists in the shop you’re visiting will go a long way. Most of the time, they are willing to lend you things to help you out. However, if they don’t like you, then they will be less likely to help you.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

examples of students own tattoo

Learning how to land a guest spot and travel as an artist is an exciting step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straight-forward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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