Tips for Calming Your Clients for Their First Tattoo


You probably remember what it was like getting your first tattoo – a blend of excitement, anticipation and those unavoidable butterflies in the stomach. It’s easy for customers to get carried away with apprehensive thoughts as they sit, flicking through folders of flash-sheets, waiting for their turn. These fears are common amongst first-timers, especially if they aren’t used to the harsh buzzing of tattoo machines or the cold, clinical feel of some tattoo studios.

Like any situation involving a big decision, the degree to which anxiety and nerves can affect a person varies wildly from individual to individual. Some people can take that big leap of getting their first tattoo with absolutely no fear (or at least, they don’t show it on the outside), but most clients are going to need at least a bit of a helping hand in quelling those doubts and worries.

The effects of nerves go beyond the mind as well and manifest in physical symptoms that are not only deeply unpleasant for the clients themselves but could also make your job as an artist harder than it needs to be. Aside from that horrible sickly feeling in the pit of your stomach, anxiety can cause muscle tension and shakiness as the body’s ‘fight or flight’ reaction kicks in. No matter how high-quality your equipment is or how skilled you are as an artist, having a frightened client whose nerves are on edge is not only going to make your work harder, it could potentially ruin their first tattoo, thus putting them off from the experience for life. So here are some tips and techniques on how to achieve relax and calm those nervous first-time clients.


Explain the Process

When something unfamiliar is stressing you out, the best way to combat any anxiety caused is to find out as much as you can so that it seems less daunting or worrying. As such, there is a very high likelihood that the client has done their research on what the process might be like. However, the internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to information, especially with such a subjective experience as getting a tattoo. So, for someone who’s clearly on edge about getting that first piece of artwork etched on their body, hearing you explain the process clearly before you start tattooing or as you progress can go a long way to alleviating those feelings of anxiety.

Fear of pain is a natural human emotion; we wouldn’t have made it more than a few hundred years or so as a species if we didn’t avoid things that we think, or know, will end up causing pain. But being prepared for a certain level of pain can help to combat it, and it's advisable to be honest with your client that they should expect pain during the process of getting a tattoo, especially if they have chosen a more sensitive area such as the ribs, ankles or neck. If they are worried that they won’t be able to cope with the pain, it might help to gently remind them that there is no way on earth so many millions of people would get tattoos every single year if the pain was utterly unbearable.


Distract Them from the Pain

If you’ve ever had an operation under local anaesthetic where you can still talk, you will have probably also had the experience of having one of the surgical team trying to maintain a conversation with you. From this, you'll know first-hand that being able to talk to someone in a strange and potentially painful or frightening situation really helps to divert thoughts away from what is happening.

Distraction is one of the most immediately effective forms of relieving nerves. Engaging in a conversation with a nervous client, especially one that goes beyond just pleasant small talk, is likely to be an effective way of easing them into getting their first tattoo. As an artist, you most likely talk to your clients anyway, but if a first-timer seems more visibly nervous than most then maintaining an interesting conversation can really help them relax and make the process easier for the both of you. Jokes or funny anecdotes work great for setting nervous clients at ease.

If you prefer instead to really focus on the work in hand, or if you aren’t the biggest conversationalist, a better strategy for you may be allowing the client to have a friend or relative next to them to converse with them and take their mind off the discomfort.

Conversation isn’t the only method of distraction you can utilise to lull a client into relaxation. You could also allow them to read a book or magazine (where possible), suggest that they listen to their own music through headphones, or introduce some other form of stimulus for them to engage with, like a puzzle.

Give Them Reassurance if They Become Panicked

Anxiety about a situation before it happens can make it seem like it will be the worst thing that’s ever happened. But, in nearly every case, once the situation is actually unfolding it is completely bearable. Getting a first tattoo is one of those situations for many people, but for a small majority the pain or the anxiety may be too much to cope with and they may end up needing to take a break mid-session.

Should this happen, remain calm and encourage the client to take the time they need to de-escalate the panic. If a client is breathing very shallowly and rapidly during the tattoo, gently prompt them to breathe deeply and slowly. Controlling breathing is an immediately effective method of managing anxious feelings, and an anxious person may forget to do this in the midst of a panic attack, so a reminder from you can be hugely beneficial in defusing a moment of panic.


As well as tattoo machines, tattoo ink and other supplies, we know that your toolkit as a tattoo artist also needs to include techniques and tips on how to interact with your clients to get the best out of the transaction for both of you. Hopefully, the next time you have an experience with a nervous client, you can employ an 'explain, distract and reassure' strategy, which will enable them to enjoy the experience as much as you enjoy your art.

If you have any questions about our tattoo supplies and equipment, or the rest of our product range, contact us today, and we’ll be happy to help in any way we can.