There are a number of reasons to go to a tattoo convention, exposure and networking being just a few of them, yet some tattoo artists may be reluctant to commit to going. The obvious reasons may have to do with the associated costs of travel, food, and fees associated with the convention. For some there may be the intimidation factor in meeting a variety of new people, and there may be a reluctance to move outside one's comfort zone.
Why Tattoo Conventions Are Worth It
Going as an artist is going to grow you, plain and simple. Here's how:
You'll Learn from the Greats!
You will gain entrance into the circles of other tattoo artists who are older and wiser in their craft than you, and you will be able to bounce ideas off of other people. It may even be possible to get a critique of your portfolio from a veteran tattooer. This information is invaluable in improving your skillset and making your work more attractive to future clients.
You Can Attend Seminars
As a new tattoo artist, you should be going to these. Many shop owners found the information presented at tattoo conventions instrumental in developing their careers and art.
There's Tons of Networking
This is a huge opportunity to start exposing your work and yourself. It's important to keep yourself on people's minds, and that means showing your face at these events. You will get to mingle with others in your local scene and with those who are traveling from a distance.
Your Customers Go to These
These are huge events with gatherings of your ideal customer. With some skillful networking, your portfolio will be seen by passersby you would not otherwise be exposed to. Going to a convention is a great way to build your brand to potential clients and to present yourself as a serious presence in the field.
A Chance at Revenue
Eventually, depending on the demand of a particular event, you may be able to register as a vendor. This means you'll be tattooing at the actual event and earning money to pay for the cost. That's why people go to these conventions: to get tattoos!
How to Make the Most of a Tattoo Convention as an Artist
You might not be a vendor yet, but that doesn't mean you can't network and get anything out of a tattoo convention. Here's some great tips on how to make the most of it:
Research the convention you will want to attend.
Some estimate that around 15% of functions are hosted by tattoo artists and that the rest are conceived in a corporate boardroom. The truth is that there is a benefit to visiting either kind. Still, there is an understanding and a relatability inherent to those run by fellow artists as they are more about the art than they are making as much money as possible. Seeking out these remnants may be worth it to your soul's passion.
Book your room and travel accommodations early.
Some of these conventions draw large crowds, and many travel to go to them. In order to get the best deals on travel, it's best to do it before hotel rooms start filling up.
Reach out to artists you want to talk to ahead of time.
If you plan on soliciting veteran artists for their advice on your portfolio, email them prior to your arrival to schedule time for chatting him or her up. It's good to have respect for their time as they will likely be swamped with clients. Another great gesture is to buy an item they have on sale or actually get a piece done from that artist—this supports them financially and is a great way to say thank you for the critique.
Use icebreakers to talk to people you don't know.
If you're not sure where to start when it comes time to network with clients and other artists, use icebreakers. Ask a question about the meaning behind one of their tattoos or lead with small talk such as where they're from.
Prepare your portfolio and marketing materials.
Be sure that you're 100% ready for everything. All of your best art is in a portfolio and looks professional and that you have plenty of business cards and other promotional materials for both artists that you meet and potential clients that you network with.
You need to be prepared for a hard day's work and afterward, to party. Once the event is over, one of the best practices you can do is follow up with anyone who gave you a business card. This will help build relationships in the industry and remind people of what you have to offer.
At SILKCARDS, we do some of our best work for tattoo artists and want to ensure that you look good when you're out there trying to drum up connections. Request a sample pack to see what we have to offer!