Tattoo Artist has Their Work Stolen!

If you’ve been tattooing long enough you’ve probably had at least one jerk sneak out without paying their bill. Recently Al Avila, tattooing out of Sol Tribe on Broadway in Denver, CO, made the news by after Ari Chiaroscuro allegedly walked out of the shop without paying his $1,100 bill. Fortunately, they got a copy of Mr. Chiaroscuro’s picture ID and filed a police report, but could they have done more to avoid an episode like this in the first place?

Absolutely. All too often, tattoo artists go out of our way to make the client feel comfortable and we do everything we can to make the business side of exchanging money for our service less painful, to the extent of putting our livelihood at risk. Short of locking the shady thief in the shop and beating the cost of the tattoo out of them with a pipe wrench, which works; however, there are less violent approaches that may be more affective.

The most obvious would be to always get paid up front. For shops and tattooist who work primarily in flash designs this is a no brainer and will nip this sort of problem in the bud. For custom tattoo artists who charge by the hour and specifically who work on large pieces that require multiple sessions this may not be the easiest solution, but it can still work. At the beginning of the tattoo session ask the client how many hours they intend to set for the day and charge them accordingly, before you get started. If the tattoo can be completed in only one session estimate the time involved and charge that amount at the beginning and if you have to reimburse them for a certain amount at the end then do so.

Another option that is not as good but still helps protect the artist would be to collect a sizable deposit at the consultation appoint before scheduling an actual tattoo appointment. Explain, in writing, this amount will be applied to their tattoo when it has been completed and photographed. Explain to them that if they do not show up to a tattoo appointment, a photo shoot, if they are a certain number of minutes late or simply do not show for an appointment then they forfeit their deposit. Further explain, this is to help offset loss of work for that day and that an additional deposit would then be required to reschedule a tattoo appointment. While this approach may not cover the entire cost of your work it will help protect the tattooist in many ways as well as help insure you get a photograph of your work, which is crucial for so many artists.

These tactics and others will definitely work, but only if the tattooist requires them and consistently implemented them. Unfortunately many artists are timid with the business end of their art and they should not be. Respect is a two way street. Good tattooing is a respectable skill and is recognized by the vast majority of collectors and this is obvious by the high rates they are often willing to pay. As long as the tattooist is up front with their clients and explains their fees and deposits, with no surprises, most serious clients will bend over backwards to make their tattooist happy and are willing to do whatever it takes to help insure they receive their artist’s best work.