Mastering the Tattoo Consultation

The consultation is the single most important skill set that an artist. If you want to build a schedule full of ideal clients then mastering the key points, I discuss in this article will help you reduce friction points, develop mutual respect, and reduce stress with your tattoo clients.

Moving beyond surface questions.

Most tattoo artists conduct their consultations like a work order. Just the facts.  It is mostly centered on “what they want” and very little attention to “why they want it”. Do you know that the WHY is the most important piece of the puzzle?  When you fail to discover WHY they want the tattoo then you are using what is called a Horizontal Consultation. Your limiting questions are “How big? Where on the Body? Color or Black?” This is a big problem because it fails to solve the client’s problem.  They came to you for guidance and expertise, and you delivered the most basic lower entry experience in the tattoo world. Do you really think they woke up looking for the artist who does the bare minimum?

Elevate the story and move from a Horizontal Consultation to a Vertical Consultation.

Instead of bragging about yourself and how great you are at tattooing, turn your attention to the client. Try to avoid the word “I”.  When they show up for the consultation, start with this line, “So, what is on your mind?” When you think they are done sharing, follow up with “Is there anything else?” These two questions will break the iceberg of thoughts open wide.  

By staying curious and gentle, continue to ask questions about them, there ideas, experiences and goals.  Do your best to discover the WHY they want tattooed, not WHAT they want tattooed. Listen to their answers and repeat it back to them for clarity.

“I hear your dog passed away. My condolences. It must be a difficult time. You said your favorite memories are playing frisbee at the beach and his nick name was Blue. Instead of a paw print, I suggest we make it more personal and tell a good story. What if we did a frisbee with a banner that said “BLUE” and an ocean scene painted onto the frisbee?”

Most people will take your advice if you listen to them first.

In the service industry we see a pattern in clients’ decision making.  Assuming you know WHAT the client want before they get to tell you is a mistake.  It might be the 1000x you have heard a similar story but it is the first time they have told theirs.

By practicing intuitive listening, you are practicing the highest level of listening. It requires not just hearing the words but tuning into the speaker’s tone, body language, and vibe. You are also listening to what is said and not said by the clients.

Hijacking with subjective listening is when you respond with “My dog died too! Let me tell you about it” This takes away from the clients.

Objective listening focuses on the client but fails to connect with the actual underlying message that client is expressing.

Intuitive listening completely removes your bias, always you to be 100% present mentally and focus completely on the client.


The Primal Psychological needs of the client – The TERA Method

Your client’s primal brain is making decisions on behave of your client, and they don’t even know it. Their primal brain is doing its best to keep them safe, to avoid harm and to thrive. If you can relax the primal brain and reassure it that everything is going to be ok, your client will feel at ease and be more comfortable saying yes to your suggested ideas.


Your client’s primal brain wants to know are you on the same team.  It wants to make sure you’re not an enemy.  Assure the client that you are on their side. Express empathy to their problems and the primal brain will chill out.


What is going to happen next? That control freak of a primal brain does not like surprises. Lay out a simple plan of what is going to happen. Let them know how long it will take, how much they should expect to spend and what the next steps are going to be.  Removing this fog may seem petty to you, but you do this all day. This is still super new to a client, even if they only have few tattoos.


Primal brain does not want to be out ranked.  They do not feel comfortable being commanded like a low-level recruit.  Stay on the same level as them.  This helps build mutual respect.


“Do I have a say in this?” That is the question the primal brain wants to know.  It’s their survival. Giving up control is scary.


Securing Commitment, not just Commerce

A consultation does not equal commitment. How you handled the consultation will be the deciding factor that determines if the client will decide to get tattooed by you.  Assuming that they are ready to work with you just because they showed up is a mistake, but a bigger mistake is taking a deposit and assuming they are ready to get the tattoo discussed.

A deposit is not a contract. It is a privilege a client pays for to choose whether or not to show up without feeling guilty.


Resolving Doubts and Anxieties

Everyone makes decisions based on the limbic brain. That is where we get our emotions. We are emotional creatures that have a negative bias towards everything we see.  If we want to get more clients, connect with them emotionally during the consultation.

By conducting a thoughtful and curios consultation you invest in your client. When you show that you understand their problems and can offer a solution, they get tattooed. When you can intuitively listen and repeat back to them what you heard with clarity, then clients get tattooed.

 When you fast talk to slow thinkers, then clients DO NOT get tattooed.


Goals for your consultation.

  • Building lasting trust.
  • Guide clients Compassionately
  • Set realistic Expectations.
  • Create Solutions.
  • Discover WHY your clients tattoo is important to them.


The consultation sets the stage for shared creative visions grounded in mutual understanding and respect. Treat it as the first act of the tattooing ritual rather than a business formality. What happens here echoes through the entire relationship - and the rest of the client's life.

Matt Hodel

Tattooing since 1995

Business Coach

Jackpot_Logo_Secondary_Full Color_Top Circle

Leave a Comment