Should I slide into their DMs...?
Don’t know about you but my inbox is a whole mess, roughly 22,450 unread emails and counting. So I can’t even imagine how my tattoo artist pals cope. They must be inundated with tattoo request emails, and I’m almost 100% sure that some of those emails are a whole mess.
And, as a customer, when I want to book in with a tattooist, I have no idea where to even start and worry that I am saying all the wrong things when I hastily send an email at midnight. What if they don’t see it? What if they don’t reply? What if I wrote something stupid?
Maybe I’m just a chronic overthinker, but it got me wondering if there’s other tattoo collectors out there worrying about the best way to get in touch with a tattoo artist to book in for a tattoo? Should I slide into their DMs, write an essay in an email or go old school and phone their shop?
So I called on the expert advice of some tattooists to find out how they like to be emailed – or not – by potential clients. Read this before your twitchy fingers start sliding into any DMs… Okay, let’s get into it.
Should I email a tattoo artist to book in with them?
Tattoo artist and owner of Cock A Snook tattoo parlour, Kerry-Anne (Kezz) Richardson, who also works as a tattoo mentor @tattoosmarter actually uses an inquiry form to make things simpler. ”It standardises all tattoo requests and it helps our clients give us all the info in one go,” she explains. “It eases anxiety for both parties.”
But, every artist has a different way of doing things, which can be super confusing for clients. “So it’s worth doing some research and finding out how a tattooer wants to interact,” says Kezz, “they usually have it on their bio on Instagram.”
Okay so what information should I include in the email?
“The email is all about getting across your idea,” says Holly. “Is it a guinea pig on a pop tart flying through space? Is it an anatomical heart with a portrait of your grandmother in it? You have to tell me your idea. Try explaining it in one sentence.”
Then there’s some practicalities. “We need the size in cms/inches, the location on your body where you want it to go, whether or not it’s a cover up, if it needs to fit into a gap around other tattoos, whether it’s going to be in colour or blackwork or black and grey,” Kezz tell us.
So, you need to write something along these lines: I want my tattoo on the top of my shoulder and I would like it to be around six inches big. “This means the tattooer can think about how much detail they can fit into the piece,” explains Holly. “Where the tattoo will sit on the body affects the design and how the tattooer will draw up the piece.”
But should you mention your budget, too? “Every tattooer works differently,” says Kezz. “Some ask for a budget, but I would only include it if they ask.”
You also need to explain what style you want your tattoo to be in. “Is it neo-traditional? Or Japanese? Traditional? Watercolour? Or maybe dotwork?” lists Holly. “If you don’t know what the style is called, that’s fine too. You’re not expected to know everything.”
Should I send reference photos?
“Absolutely yes,” says Kezz. This will also help if you don’t know what the style you want is called but you have a reference picture. “On my form, I ask for reference photos, so I can actually see the vibe you’re after – often people’s descriptions don’t marry up with the images and remember that tattooists are visual people.”
“Maybe you’ve seen other tattoos that you like,” says Holly, who advises you to send those over so they work as a moodboard. You should also include a photo of the area of skin you want to get tattooed – especially if you want the tattoo to fit into a gap or you want the tattoo to cover-up another tattoo you’ve already got. “Don’t do a super close-up picture, make sure it’s far enough away so I can see the context and where the tattoo sits on your body,” explains Holly.
Should I DM you on Insta?
“No, thank you,” asserts Kezz. “DMs are far too Informal We have lots of clients and if they all sent a DM and an email it’s just too hard to keep up.”
But there are artists who will accept DMs, so just check what they say in their bio:
What shall I put in the subject line to get a tattooist’s attention?
“If a tattooer asks for an email, I would write: tattoo enquiry in the title line,” explains Kezz. And should I say Hey? Dear? Hello? Heeeeyyyy baaaabbbes? “A hello is fine,” continues Kezz. “It’s still a professional relationship so being overly informal can be stressful. Boundaries are important.”
And should I suggest dates I can or can't do? “Only if a tattooer asks for them,” says Kezz. “Personally I have a fully digital booking process that I developed so I don’t need to ask.”
And could I actually pick up the phone and call instead if I struggle to write? “Most studios have phone lines,” says Kezz. “I’d never turn a call down if somebody couldn’t fill in my form.”
What if the tattoo artist doesn't reply? Can I chase?
“It’s fine to send another email if you get no reply,” says Kezz. “Some tattooers aren’t very organised. But pay attention to stuff like how long they’ve told you it takes them to respond – I have 7 days on my form, so if somebody fills in another form after two days it generates me more work.” Some tattooers also have a bounceback that will respond to the email you've sent, it will list all the info they need or tell you when/if they will reply to your idea.
Some tattooers also close their books sometimes when their diaries are full. Usually they will have that information online somewhere or in their Instagram bio. Most will not reply to you if they have paused taking on new clients for now. “Unfortunately some tattooers also get so many requests they can’t respond to everyone if it’s not an idea they want to do,” explains Kezz. “This info will be somewhere if you look for it. I wouldn’t chase via DM, wait a reasonable amount of time and then try again.”
And most importantly, never be offended if a tattooist doesn't click with your idea. “That’s fine,” reassures Kezz. “It just means that they aren’t the tattooer for you.”