How to Stay Busy During the Tattoo Slow Season | Painful Pleasures Community

How to Stay Busy During the Tattoo Slow Season

The tattoo slow season can bring you down, but ONLY if you let it! Check out these top tips for staying busy, inspired, and creative through the rest of the slow season.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: January 24, 2024

The post-holiday lull (i.e. tattoo slow season) is in full swing and maybe you’re feeling the effects. It’s easy to let the fatigue and lack of appointments get to you, but guess what? It’s just as easy to thrive, grow your skillset, and keep tattooing even if your books aren’t full. We’re here to help you do just that and stay on top of your advancement as an artist. So check out these essential strategies for staying artistic, busy, and inspired when things are cold and slow.

Swinging into Success: Schedule Upcoming Conventions + Events

Take advantage of the quiet period to plan for the future. Research upcoming tattoo conventions, galas, and other events both local and afar (depending on how much you want to travel this year.) Booking everything now gives you plenty of time to budget, clear space on your calendar, and mentally prepare for which events you’re tackling this year.

Networking is one essential key to success in this industry, and attending or participating in these events can open doors to new opportunities. Connect with fellow artists, suppliers, and potential clients and you’ll open the door to:

  1. New supplies to try
  2. Tattooing tips from professionals of varying styles
  3. More income with clients you met at conventions who love your work —some might love it so much, they’re willing to travel interstate for it. Moreover, if they get your business card at a convention, they’ll pass your Instagram handle along to friends or family.

Basically, we can’t stress the importance of planning to attend these events enough. Besides, strictly from a serotonin perspective, it just feels good to have something to look forward to on your calendar. So use this time to secure your spots and fill up your calendar with exciting opportunities. By the end of the year, you might find yourself with new relationships, supplies, and clients you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Reloading Mode: Restock Your Shop before the Rush

Tattoo artist holding up a variety of tattoo supplies

The calm before the storm is the ideal time to assess your shop supplies. If spring cleaning is all about getting rid of stuff you no longer need, think of the tattoo slow season as a “hibernation period” where you stockhold everything you will need. Take inventory of your inks, needles, gloves, and other essential supplies you’ll need on hand when your books start filling up again. Stock up in bulk and ensure you’re set with all your essentials as the weather starts to get warmer.

Taking inventory is also an excellent opportunity to consider any equipment upgrades or replacements you’d like. Have you been itching to try a new machine? Or a new brand of tattoo ink? Or a new cartridge needle? Now’s the time to make those replacements while you still have breathing room and time to think. You’ll have plenty of time to put this equipment to practice before the pace picks up again and clients are lining up outside the door (more on that in the ‘building your portfolio section’).

Wintertime is also full of deals and sale opportunities so you can stock up or upgrade your equipment at a bargain. So don’t sleep on this opportunity (even if we just called it the ‘hibernation period.’)

Feelin’ Yourself: Shamelessly Self-Promote and Build Your Brand

Tattoo artist using her phone to self promote on social media

While you’re reloading your supplies, why not re-up your social media presence, too? It’s your strongest asset for building your personal brand, promoting your style, and attracting new clients. So if you find that a ton of conventions and guest spots at other shops are not in your budget for the new year, you can still grow your client list by leveraging social media and letting clients know what you can do. Here are a few useful ways you can work on that this slow season:

  1. Work on personal merch and promote them on your TikTok or Instagram.
  2. Ask for healed shots from existing clients to promote your work on your digital portfolio.
  3. Upgrade your website or artist profile on your shop’s website with all your most recent work and what you’re looking to accomplish in the new year. Have a specific style you’re interested in promoting? Advertise it there!
  4. Create new flash sheets for your shop-lobby flash book, or promote them on social media. You can offer promos, BOGO deals, and deals on flash that might get clients booking you long before spring.

Many of these tips you can accomplish without lifting your butt from your desk chair. If you already have updated photos of your work or you already have merch you’re working on, promoting them is just a matter of click, click, post! This is also an excellent time to “batch content” for your TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and more… that way, when things pick back up again, you’ll have plenty of content ready to publish.

There are countless ways you can leverage social media to promote yourself beyond this list. Check out our blog on using Instagram to your advantage for more nitty-gritty details. You can also check out this video featuring shop owner and glitter tattoo artist Amanda Graves dishing on her top social media tips for success (and by the way… she’s got 1.5 million TikTok followers, so you’ll want to take a leaf out of her book.)

Level Up: Build Your Portfolio and Explore New Skills

Tattoo artist rifling through a print portfolio

Never stop educating yourself, growing your skillset, and evolving. The journey of being a tattoo artist has no end point unless you say so. Never say so.

To that end, use this downtime to enhance your skills and expand your portfolio. Experiment with APOF practice skins to perfect your techniques without the pressure of a live canvas. You’ll definitely want to try some of the latest canvases APOF has cranked out, including the Naked Cat and Lucky Cat (they look really good tattooed and perched at a shop front desk).

But aside from tattooing, you can grow your skills on paper, too. Try new tools, such as ballpoint cartridges, to grow your pepper-shading, linework, and dot work skills without even touching skin, real or otherwise. This gives you plenty of opportunities to make valuable mistakes and perfect your toolset for when things get busy again.

You can share your work—tattoos, drawings, or otherwise —on your social media for clients and other artists to see. Clients appreciate artists who continuously strive for excellence, so use this time to refine your craft and surprise your audience with new and exciting work. Oh, and as we mentioned above… this is a great time to get comfortable with new equipment. Who knows? You might find your new dream machine or go-to cartridge during the slow season.

Embracing Growth and Opportunity

While the tattoo slow season may feel like a quiet period, it’s an opportunity for you to invest in future success. By scheduling events, restocking, building your brand, and refining your skills… well, you can flourish during this time. Use this time wisely and remember to keep evolving. Show off what you’re doing this slow season on Instagram or TikTok and don’t forget to give us a tag @painfulpleasures. Check out our YouTube channel as well. There’s plenty of content from artists sharing their own tips for thriving year-round… everyone needs a little external inspo now and again.

So, embrace the quiet rhythm of this season… the tattoo slow season (hibernation era,) after all, is essential.

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