Ep. 50: How I Adapt in The Ever Shifting Tides of The Tattoo Industry, Social Media, and the Economy

From early shop flash days to custom work only and currently back to flash, I am staying with my own stuff. I love to do pieces that span the body, take time, and make you love yourself more. 

As tattoo artists, and just humans, as everything shifts around us, we have to figure out how to stay afloat. The tattoo industry, social media and economy are all changing and I am here to chat with you about how I am navigating it all. 

Choosing to see the challenges as opportunities, I keep on posting on socials, tackling SEO, creating merchandise for craft fairs, and mentoring my apprentice. 
We'll discuss the impact of the ever-changing social media landscape on small businesses like mine. Join me as we delve into the art of adaptation, the strategies I've implemented to keep up with these changes, and the importance of maintaining a meaningful connection with you - my wonderfully supportive audience. 

And... the podcast is almost one year old! I will have fifty something episodes out by its' birthday. Yay, Ink Medicine! 

You can connect with me, Micah Riot, as well as see my tattoo art on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/micahriot/

Micah's website is www.micahriot.com 
The podcast is hosted on Buzzsprout but truly lives in the heart of Micah's website at:

transcript for episode:

Hello, hello, my darlings. This is Micah Riot with another mid-November episode of Ink Medicine podcast. There's a Lulu snoring on the couch behind me, so if you hear a little dog snore, that's what's happening Today. I wanted to talk a little bit about how the tattoo scene is changing, which also includes just creators on social media. This was one of the ways we all got clients, got work and survived, and now social media is changing rapidly. I really felt it over the last year or so year and a half. I will talk about how that's changing and how we're adapting, how I'm adapting. In short, I will talk about what else I'm starting to do that I never had to do before, what my little bit of safety net is, how I'm approaching social media these days and how am I changing my work to fit the current needs, if at all. The first thing I noticed over the last couple of years is how the tattoo scene has changed. When I was starting to tattoo and if I spoke to this, please be patient with me if you've heard about this before when I started tattooing, we were transitioning from wall flash to custom work. At that time, my very first shop still had flash on the walls in the way that you would imagine, if you're a millennial, a traditional tattoo shop, where you'd walk in you'd see walls full of drawings fairly simple drawings and you would pick one, or maybe you would pick one and have them customize it, but you would pick one essentially and have them tattoo that on you. When I was starting tattoo in 2008, we were just taking the flash down from the walls. I might have done one or two pieces from the flash that we had when I was starting out in my first year of tattooing, we went to custom. At that time we all had books of our art sitting on the coffee table in the front room of the shop and people would come in and we would give them books, like me as a counter person in my first year of working at Black Blue. The person would say I'm interested in florals, for example, and I would say, oh, this person and that person both do a lot of florals. These are our go-to people for florals. I would give that person two or three books of tattoos of the artists that I was talking about and they would look through them and pick a person. This was the first iteration of what custom really meant at that time, custom meaning the tattoo artist would create your own unique tattoo based on what you wanted. When I started tattooing, people wanted it at that time and flash went away for about a decade. And now over the last few years, trends come back around, right. So I see, first of all, I see a lot of stuff online that's Flash. Tattoo artists have their own Flash so instead of having shop Flash, people have their own and they offer those designs as repeatable designs mostly not always, but mostly repeatable At a set price. Oftentimes the Flash is simple, not always. Sometimes it's more complex, sometimes it's bigger, it has more elements, it has color. Oftentimes it's simple, like black line work pieces that look like kind of simple stickers, and it's now the trend like people really love. People really love that look of like sticker sleeves or simple designs that just have like a cue or kind of a punchy or funny sort of point to them. And it's not what I do right With my tattoos. The things that I like to do tend to take time. It has to be colorful, there's a lot of texture and transition from body part to body part. I love a multi-body part spanning type of piece. If people give me like full reign, whatever I want to do, I would pick a body part next to another body part and, like, decorate that, like, enhance the curves of the body, the muscles of the body, the way that Flash rolls over the contour of the body. That's my jam. That's what I love. They're not simple, they're not quick, they're not punchy or cute or funny. They are meant to be. My pieces are meant to be enhancing the sacred, drawing attention to how beautiful you are, helping you reclaim your body, helping you realize that you are worthy. That's what my work is about. But it's not what people want anymore. Well, that's not true. I have amazing, fantastic clients and they do want this. I would say the overall scene, tattoo scene, like what you see online, what you see talked about in the media. Those trends are shifting, as they always do. This is not new. Trends forever shift. Trends in fashion shift, trends in tattooing shift, trends in food shift. Things that are popular are ever changing. So what am I doing about that? Nothing. Well, do you see how bad that is at 我們? That's not entirely true. I'm not changing my art to fit those new current trends, because that does not work. Chasing trends works for some companies in some ways, at some certain times. It has never worked for me. I've always been excited to do what. I'm excited to do what comes to me. Sometimes I'm inspired by what's online. I'm not very inspired by what's online currently. I follow the people that I follow. Actually, I'm going to be releasing an episode where I talk about my favorite tattoo artists, the people that I'm following who I'm really inspired by, or people whose work I admire, whether or not I'm actually inspired by their style. I will be putting that episode out probably by the end of the year. I'm assuming it'll be a nice one to do some research and recording on in December. The next thing that's changing is social media Again. When I started tattooing, social media was just starting up. Instagram was in its new, fresh baby stages and I got on it and I was just posting pictures of my life once in a while like once a month Maybe, I'd post a picture, and then I started slowly posting pictures of my tattoos because I said, why not? This is a great way to keep everything together. Some show perspective clients and people started coming to me from Instagram. People would see my work there and they would find me there and they would come to me website and Instagram. They were both equally good for people seeing my work and choosing it. And I've not done any paid ads on Instagram ever. I've never bought subscribers, followers. I've never bought likes, it's. Whatever growth I've had has been organic and it's been good. I don't have a ton of followers, but I have enough. My audience is small but mighty. Some of them interact with me a lot. Some of them don't. A lot of my people I know face to face, not everybody, but a lot, and I love that. I have this small community around me that I know and over the last couple years requests have been slowing down and the economy is also not doing great and it's not being helped by the war happening in Gaza, in Israel. It's horrendous. I really don't stop thinking about it for a minute. It's kind of always in the back of my mind since it's been happening and it's affected everything and it continues to affect everything. It's just like a shit show on top of a shit show that we continue to find out about through social media and continue to think about and continue to be faced with through social media and, hopefully, the good that social media can do, voices being heard, uprisings being known about people feeling like they're not alone. Hopefully that is happening for folks out there. But to bring home the point of what I'm actually trying to tell you about here is social media is changing in ways that are not sustainable for small business owners. We used to be the reason they got users onto the platform. So we create content, so they have something to show to people who come onto the platform, to entertain them with. And now that there are so many users and there's so many creators and there's so much competition for attention, they essentially want us to pay them to have our stuff shown to prospective clients and eyes and ears, etc. And it's just not sustainable for a tiny business like mine. I don't have the capacity to pay a platform like that to have my stuff shown to other people. The good thing is I am not yet desperate enough to consider it, and that's good. I have still my amazing clients and enough work to sustain me. But it is a concern. And what am I doing about it? Well, I have a couple of different things I'm doing about it. First of all, I post, getting very much of a reach. I post, and I try to do it every day because if I skip, like a week, my engagement really tanks. So you know my little bit of engagement. It keeps going. I have it. I have started again letting people know that I have a Yelp page and a Google reviews page and that if they would like to review me after we are done with our tattoo and the service that I provided for them, they are welcome to do that. It's helpful. Yeah, it helps me. It helps me find new clients. The other thing I'm doing right now is I'm taking an SEO school course from an acquaintance of mine, somebody I found through. Well, you guys remember Maestro Shantekofield, dr Shantekofield, who is a marketing whiz on Instagram. They are a friend of mine now. Basically after we did the interview for the podcast, we became friends and their partner, lex Lancaster, is an SEO go-to person. She knows so much about it, she's really passionate about it and it's been really fun to get to know her work and her and get to hear and implement about some of the techniques that she uses in her work for folks. So, as a brick and mortar business, seo is especially important to me and I'm taking a course from her on how to better use SEO and build my presence on the internet. The other thing I'm doing is actually something I've wanted to do for a long time. I don't know if you know this, but I am kind of crafty. I have my things that I make. I have a great passion for making jewelry, setting stones and silver, just creating beautiful little tiny altars for your hands and for your neck. So I love to make rings and pendants and I will make things here and there and then sell them in the shop once in a while. The client will buy a piece and it's great. But I decided that this year I'd like to take part in a craft fair. So actually there's one coming up that I applied for and got in. It's in like two weeks. So right after I'm done with this I'm gonna go make things. I've been sewing pouches. I've sold a few pouches to clients this fall. As I do every fall, I start to make the stuff as the weather gets colder and I want to stay inside and craft. So I sold a few to clients and I'm starting to make just like as many as I can make in the next couple weeks for this craft fair. I'm also going to be selling stickers. You've seen my little pony stickers that I've been making, like the queer ponies, I have another one that's a pink, hot pink femme pony. That's a boxer. She's adorable and I'll be selling her as well. So I have two so far and I'll probably just have those too. I don't have the time to make a third design, although I do want to make more designs on off of these, like offshoot of the my little pony ponies. I actually really love my designs. I love the ponies, I love their queerness, I love their cheekiness and their cuteness and I love my take on them. So I actually would really love to find a way to sell products with them on there. So it's kind of my little like side hustle idea that I've had us to sell some merch with the ponies on it to, like, you know, queer, queer folks and queer folks who are into fitness and queer folks who are into just cuteness, I guess, in retro images, which is sort of the trend now, speaking of trends, retro stuff. Another thing I'm doing, or thing I'm doing differently, is I finally took on an apprentice. If you listen to the podcast or know me personally, you will have heard Sailor's episode, and adding her into the shop and into my life has felt like such a blessing in so many ways, but one of the ways that she is. She's a young, fresh human. She's in her early 20s and her perspective is different from mine and her tastes are different from mine and the things that she's paying attention to in the world are probably going to be a little bit different. So bringing that fresh perspective into my life, into the shop, into my business, is everything Like it just feels so good and such a right next move for me and for the shop and for her. She feels like the perfect, perfect person to come in and be in the fold of me in the shop and my business. So we are now currently in the process of really creating space for her in the shop. It's been about a month since she's been there and I'm now clearing out the space, changing the space in order to create space for her. So we are selling the giant table that was serving as the desk as like my little personal area in the shop, and we bought a little beautiful little desk instead that is sitting on the side near my part of the shop, so that there'll be more space basically for that other station for her. For sailor she probably will be starting to tattoo in January, I'm assuming and like, slowly, little by little, we'll start getting her acquainted and with the tools and the skin and fake skin and the fruit, and then real, real people skin in, like short order. She'll be the first person she'll tattoo will be herself, and then she'll be able to bring in her friends and other folks that she will be getting to tattoo. I'm really excited. I'm excited for this process. I'm excited about what I will learn, why I'm already have learned and just how much love I have for this person and how much love she has for me already. It's really cool. We're good. It's a good match. I'm happy. I've waited 15 years for this. Well, not exactly, of course, I could not have taken an apprentice on 15 years ago, but let's say five. I've waited for about five years at least. People have been asking me for an apprenticeship for probably about seven years. There you go, and I would say the last thing I'm doing differently in addition to what I've always been doing, which has been tattooing and letting people know that I do that is the podcast. The podcast is, of course, new. It's about a year old, it's almost a year old. I started it in early December of 2022, and it's about two weeks out from its inception, so I am happy and proud that I was able to keep it going for this long. I have 47 episodes thus far. It's quite an accomplishment for me and thank you for being here and listening and supporting this effort. I'm hoping that I will keep being excited about this project and I will keep it going. I really love making it. I've loved making it all year. It's been a joy and a source of dopamine, I would say, and I would love to eventually have it grow and have it reach more people, and I would love to eventually, maybe potentially possibly monetize it so that I have more options in my life. So, please, please, please. If you want to support that effort and you haven't yet leave a review, leave a rating Five stars please, and I would really really appreciate if you were to do that. To end the episode, I'm going to read a review somebody left on Apple Podcasts. It's the last one from September 5th, so it's been a couple months, but I will read it because it's wonderful. As all of them are, here we go. What an interesting conversation I get to be in. On every episode, micah invites topics and people I might never know about and I love their humanizing of all of our experiences and the intimacy they cultivate in the tattoo studio and on this podcast. So grateful for my gorgeous and uniquely me Octo Inc that reflects so many components of my storied life journey. Thank you so much, reviewer, I'm so happy that you feel taken care of in my space, including here on the podcast. As always, I appreciate all of you listening in. I hope this episode was interesting. If you have topics to suggest, drop me a note, and if you have any kind of feedback also drop me a note. I love you all and I will see you next week. Thank you.