There is a lot written online about how much to tip a tattoo artist, mostly from a US perspective where tipping is a completely different part of their culture than here in the UK. That is not to say that we in the UK do not tip, in fact nothing can be farther from the truth, but that it is not institutionalised in the same way.
In the US, tipping in the service industry for the most part adheres to an established standard of 10 or 20%. In the UK we are a lot more loose with this – in general we tip, and often well, but usually only if we feel the service was worth it rather than because it is expected. Part of this difference comes from the fact that in the UK service industry workers are usually not reliant on their tips as part of their wage (though rises in living costs and cutting of benefits may change this in time). So when it comes to tipping there are often some grey areas.
We know we should tip in restaurants and taxis for example, which we invariably do. But what about tattoo artists? Even in the US guidance on tipping tattoo artists consider that it is not expected but would be appreciated, with the recommendation set at around $10 – $50 minimum depending on the cost of the tattoo.
Why do we tip tattoo artists? One reason is to develop a relationship. I’m not saying the money is some kind of bribe, tipping well is not going to get you an appointment any faster or any kind of special treatment. They are certainly going to do their best job whether they are expecting you to tip or not, after all their reputation is now on your skin. I am saying that tipping builds a relationship in which you are a nice person. Just like when you tip in that restaurant you go to all the time. If you plan on going back time and again, its a nice thing to do.
But beyond that, here is why I personally tip –
Having worked over the years in an industry in which pay is a contentious issue (I’m looking at you burlesque!), where ever more is expected from performers at increasingly lower rates, I get what it is to be paid what you’re worth. When I have produced shows in the past it has always been important for me to pay the performers as much as I can, because they are worth it – not just for the moments they are on stage, but for the time, effort and money they have put into their props, costumes, skills and rehearsing, all of which means they will be on their top form at my show.
On the whole I only frequent two tattoo shops. I first visited these on the word of mouth recommendations from friends who had work done at them. At both shops I have always received great service and amazing art work, feel welcomed and confident in the abilities of all the artists there no matter which is doing my work. I also feel that they are fairly priced in comparison to other shops.
With both these shops I am charged for the time it takes to do the tattoo – from the moment I sit in the chair to the moment I get back out of it.
They’re fee is reflective of their overheads, but not of the time they have spent studying art (whether formally or not) and honing their skills in their own time. They never charge me for the time it takes them to work on or customise the design that I emailed over to them. Sometimes the tattooing runs over my time slot because I have asked for a few more amendments once I have got there – yet they do not charge this extra time. My tats tend to be crazy colourful and yet it costs no more than someone having black and grey. Almost always they even undercharge from what I had been quoted for their £s per hour, ’cause they’re just kinda nice. I’m not even touching on what the tattoo is worth in terms of value to me on a personal level, whether as an image of significance to me or just as a work of art.
I tip because I want them to know that I appreciate all the work they put in both before and during my tattoo, but moreover because it’s what I, as a fellow artist (of sorts) think their work is worth, and invariably this is much more than they charged!