Lee Roller—the Founder and CEO of Custom Tattoo Design, an online retailer dedicated to providing premium, custom tattoo designs worldwide—has graciously penned this post exclusively for Inked.
Let me open this topic by saying this; the tattoo industry is broken and frankly is notorious for horrible customer service. The other side of that coin is most tattoo artists are awesome people and some of the most real humans left on this planet. The biggest reason for the resistance is similar to talking to a mechanic; they fix your car. Their not customer service specialists. The reality is that getting a tattoo is a lifelong decision and it can become an overwhelming process when you have never dealt with anyone in the industry. Having your own Custom Tattoo Design takes the fear and anxiety out of going into a tattoo shop for the first time. For the 70% of customers who have tattoos and come to us, they simply want to see and hold their final design before they get inked. They’ve been through the process and understand how 9-out-of-10 times going to a shop for a design leaves you with what the artist recommends instead of what you want.
Everyone who comes to Custom Tattoo Design fits into a small select category, either a "First Time" tattoo customer, or a "Veteran Tattoo" customer. As a matter of fact, everyone in the tattoo space fits into these similar categories. So why would we segment people? That seems so judgmental and maybe even discriminating. The reason is because we all react differently to situations and products. So whether you are a first timer or a veteran, I think you’ll be surprised by what we’ve learned in the last five years of drawing custom tattoo designs.
Custom Tattoo Design's Butterfly Back Piece
First Time Customers
These customers are extremely excited, the idea of a tattoo is a boost of adrenaline. Generally, first timers are intimidated by the people in the tattoo shops and they lack experience with the tattoo process. This makes perfect sense! Everyone is nervous about the unknown. On the tattoo design side, people tend to have many ideas; however, no one wants to be laughed out of a tattoo shop for their unique thoughts. Think about how empowered someone who has never had a tattoo would feel walking into a tattoo shop with their dream tattoo design idea in hand?
Why this customer needs a custom tattoo design: The ability to make all the changes they want without the pressure of making a decision on the spot to get a tattoo until they’re 100% ready. This empowers the customer and helps grow the industry by connecting the artist and the client with a clear vision. Regardless of if the tattoo artists make minor alterations before the tattoo is applied, the process is much smoother and everyone is clear on the objective.
What happens in tattoo shops: In most cases the tattoo artist will draw a simple sketch and talk the customer into making changes that suit their own style or preference. If you booked your tattoo on a Tuesday and you see the sketch 5 minutes before your appointment, how can you possibly make changes? In most cases first time customers trust the artist and end up getting something much different than they planned in their head. Unless the design is a very basic one, customers often end up leaving with something completely different than anticipated.
Custom Tattoo Design's Skull Chest Piece
Veteran Tattoo Enthusiasts
These customers know the ropes. They have been in many shops and have no problem understanding the process. You might be thinking "Why the heck would someone who knows tattoo artists need a custom tattoo design ?"
Why this customer needs a custom tattoo design: Tattoo Veterans suffer all the same issues that first time customers go through. In many cases, people jump from artist to artist based on their experience with specific artists or shops. If you don’t think veterans get pressured into getting lame designs or not seeing a design at all, think again. There's a reason cover up tattoos are popular! Regardless of experience level, if the tattoo artist doesn’t give the person what they want, they won’t come back.
Veterans choose to get a custom tattoo design done first because they have a specific idea they want to have drawn up. They know the tattoo shop will only give them a rough sketch and book their tattoo the same day they see it. People want to see a tattoo sketch quickly so they can start moulding it to their dream design. If you’re a vet, you know you’re often waiting several weeks to see a simple draft, let alone a full blown piece of art. People want the ability to have their exact dream design in their hands so they can get exactly what they want on their body. The days of looking through a book and finding a random bird just to simply get the same bird as everyone else are over.
Custom Tattoo Design's Foo Dog Chest Piece
Tattoo artists and the truth
The simple and blunt fact of the matter is that most tattoo artists don’t want to draw your tattoos. They want to get paid to tattoo. And they get paid a lot of money to do just that. Can you blame them? Don’t get me wrong, many tattoo artists love the artistic part of the business but they are few and far between.
Let’s put you in their shoes for two seconds and let common sense tell us:
Tattoo Artists thinks: “I’m a great artist, people will just walk in off the street and I’m so good I can freehand a solid piece on them today. Why the heck would I want to draw a 50 hour sleeve, do their alterations and make changes over months, when I can tattoo for 50 hours and make $10,000?"
Customer thinks: “Man this tattoo is going to cost me $3000 and be on my body forever. They should totally draw this for me for free so I can see what I'm getting first."
Reality: Customers change their mind all the time, especially regarding large pieces like full sleeves. So while the artist takes the time to draw something great, the customer walks away. The tattoo artists get paid nothing? This isn’t fair to them or their time; so Custom Tattoo Design was born to fill this void.
Custom Tattoo Design's Superhero Sleeve