Tattooed man travelling with suitcase

Tattooing Abroad: Everything You Need to Know

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If you dream of travelling the world and working abroad, you’re not alone. And, if you work in the tattoo industry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so. Generally, these opportunities come from tattoo conventions and guest spots in studios, but you will have to consider what visas you’ll need and how to adjust your rates accordingly.

Conventions, Guest Spots and Visas

A lot of tattoo artists travel to work at conventions held around the UK and Europe. Also known as tattoo expos, tattoo conventions are found all over the world.

We caught up with some artists from the UK who – at the moment – said it’s easier to tattoo at conventions across Europe as you don’t need to worry about a visa, whereas countries outside of the EU may require one. For example, in America, you will need to apply for a temporary work visa in order to tattoo legally.

Another great way to tattoo abroad is to get yourself a tattoo guest spot at a well-known studio. A lot of artists tend to do this as a way of self-promotion in other countries. It gives them an opportunity to work on clients who ordinarily might not be able to travel to get tattooed and in turn, could result in more work.

“When I travel for tattooing, it’s for conventions around the UK & Europe. I’m looking to get a work visa for the U.S. to do conventions there and I’ll do some guest spot there.”

Alex Rattray, Empire Ink, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

As we have mentioned above, you will need to consider the type of visa you’ll need when travelling for guest spots. It’s definitely not worth working illegally as you could endanger the studio’s business as well as your own.

With all that is happening at the moment with the UK leaving Europe and laws constantly changing, make sure you check whether you need a visa before you travel. You can do so by visiting www.gov.uk.

Licencing and Laws

You don’t necessarily need a licence (or a travelling tattoo artists licence) to tattoo abroad, however, laws change from country to country, government to goverment. So, make sure you contact the local authority, studio or convention you’ll be working from before you travel to ensure you’re compliant.  

Age is another thing you should bear in mind when working overseas. In the UK, for example, it’s illegal to tattoo anyone under the age of 18 whereas in France and Germany, although the same legal age limit applies, if parental consent is given you can tattoo someone under that age. It really does differ throughout the whole of Europe so it’s worth doing your research before you go.

Cute tattooed girl looking happy

How to Charge Abroad

When working abroad, it’s also important to adjust your rates accordingly. All countries vary in their cost of living and simply put, tattoos are a lot more expensive in some places than others. So, how do you decide what to charge people?  

If you have a guest spot in a studio, sometimes, the studio will decide your rates, but it is not unheard of to determine your own. You can find out what the going rate is in the particular country or city you’re working in and decide that way.

This is another reason artists may wish to travel abroad: the money. In the states, artists can make almost twice as much as they would in the UK and if you love to travel, it’s a win-win situation.

“I generally go with what the studio I’m guesting at charges.”

Little Andy, The Church, Redditch, UK

Advertising

It’s important to remember that while you may have a good reputation and keen interest at home, that won’t necessarily be the case abroad. People in other countries may not know who you are so it’s a very good idea to advertise that you are actually travelling abroad.

If you’re doing a guest spot, ask the studio owner to advertise that you’ll be there too to help get bookings.

Getting tattooed abroad

If you’re planning on getting tattooed abroad, try and make the most of it. A lot of artists will use the opportunity to combine work and pleasure by asking beforehand to do a guest spot in the studio they themselves are getting tattooed at.

Be sure to think about which way round you’re doing the two though. It would make a lot more sense to get your tattoo on the last day of your working holiday to ensure it heals properly.

A dedicated female tattooist tattooing her client

Don’t forget – like any mobile work, it’s integral you find out what kind of kit and equipment you’re going to need to take with you. Don’t assume that a studio will have everything you need, or you might end up unable to work.

Get in touch beforehand to find out what will be available to you and prepare accordingly. Make a checklist of all the things you’ll need and pack early, you might forget some important things if you don’t.

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Meet Our Experts

Chris Harrison Tattoo Artist

Chris Harrison

Bridgend Tattoo Studio

Bridgend, South Wales, UK

Sneaky-Mitch, tattooist at Gold Room Tattoo, Leeds, UK

Sneaky-Mitch

Gold Room Tattoo

Leeds, UK

Tito Inkid

L’Atelier Sans Nom

Armentières, France

Lianne Moule

Immortal Ink
Chelmsford, UK

Julian ‘Corpsepainter’ Siebert

Corpse Painter Tattoo
Munich, Germany

Alex Rattray

Empire Ink
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

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