Know the Limit – Getting Too Close to a Tattoo Client

As a tattoo artist, it’s important to build a relationship with your client. You want them to feel comfortable during their appointment and to enjoy how you work so that they will come back for more tattoos. 

However, there’s a fine line between building that professional relationship and getting too close to your client.

In this article, we’ll break down:

  • How to handle clients that “overshare”
  • How to set boundaries to build professional relationships
  • What happens when clients become friends instead of customers

Relationships = Business

The more time you spend in the tattoo industry, the more you’ll see bad tattoo artists that are booked out for a month. Why? Because they’ve built relationships with their clients. They’re good at talking, so their customers enjoy going to appointments…even if the tattoos aren’t great.

On the other hand, there are plenty of amazing artists who have bad people skills, so their clients won’t come back for more tattoos.

This is why, when you have good tattoo skills and good relationship-building skills, you have no problems booking clients. 

What Happens When Professional Relationships Turn into Friendships

As a tattoo artist, you’ll find clients that you click with and enjoy talking to. Occasionally, that professional relationship will become a real friendship. 

However, you don’t want to be friends with every customer. Here’s why:


Personal and Professional Life Overlap

Customers will tell you a lot about their lives during a tattoo session. This can make people feel a close bond. However, you don’t want to assure everyone that you’re now super close friends. 

This can lead to you having to commit to spending time with that person outside of work hours, when you would normally want to be around your family. 

Or, this could end up with you feeling pressured to invite them to spend time with your friends and family. For example, by inviting them to family dinners or letting them tag along with your friends outside of work. 


Friends Ask for Discounts and Free Tattoos

If you don’t keep your relationship with your clients professional, they’ll feel like they can ask for discounts or free tattoos because you’re “friends.”

It can be hard to say no to this, because you don’t want to lose the client, or you feel pressured to lower your prices. However, this means that you lose money. And if you discount tattoos for lots of your clients, you’ll end up putting a big dent in your income.


Friends Want to Learn to Tattoo

Once you’re tattooing professionally, you’ll find that everyone wants to learn to tattoo - and they’ll want you to teach them. 

If your clients become close friends, there’s a good chance they’ll ask you to teach them to tattoo, or even to take them on as an apprentice. 

It can be pretty awkward to say no, which can destroy that friendship and cause you to lose them as a client. 

However, if you keep the relationship professional from the beginning, they are less likely to ask - or to get offended if you say no.


Too Many People in the Tattoo Shop

If clients feel like your friend and not your customer, they’re way more likely to come hang out at the tattoo shop - even if they don’t have an appointment.

They might come sit in the shop, take up your work time by talking, and in some shops you’ll see friends of the artists taking naps on the couch or taking up space in the waiting area.

This can be a big problem for the tattoo shop because it makes the shop look too busy and doesn’t help the overall feel of the studio.

For example, if a walk-in customer sees several people sitting around in the shop, they’ll think you’re too busy for them. They won’t come get tattooed because they think they’ll be waiting for hours for a tattoo.

What to Do When a Client Gets Personal

As a tattoo artist, you’ll find that people share a lot about their personal lives while getting tattooed. 

This could be simply because you’re spending a lot of time together and they need someone to talk to, or because they’re going through physical pain to get a tattoo that reminds them of a hard time in their life.

Either way, you’ll end up learning your client’s life story, problems with their relationship, past life trauma, and more.

That will be a lot to process from them, and you might not know what to say. Sometimes, it’ll feel best to sympathize with them and tell them a bit about your own life. 

Just remember that you’re there to do a service, which is tattooing. Of course, you want to be nice to your client. But you don’t want to give them too much information about you or your life. 

If you open up to a client, that’s opening the door for them to cross that boundary and turn it into a friendship instead of a professional relationship.

Set Professional Boundaries

Making sure you know in advance where you want to set your professional boundaries is important to making sure you don’t end up crossing that line.

The best way to do that is to have an idea of how you want to answer personal questions from clients.

“Do you wanna hang out this weekend?”

If you already know that you don’t want to spend time outside the tattoo shop with clients, you can have an answer ready for this kind of question. 

For example, you could say that you usually reserve your off-time to spend with your family. You don’t want to say “Maybe another time,” because they’ll likely ask again.

“You know what I mean?”

If a customer tells you something very personal about themselves, they might want to get you to relate to them by asking this question.

Of course, you can say that you do understand them. However, it’s best to avoid going into detail and telling emotional stories from your own life in order to better connect with them.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

examples of students own tattoo

Learning how to handle customers professionally is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be - both technically and socially. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional or learn how to get through awkward or uncomfortable situations as an 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
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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