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Trying to find a balance

Nick Colella


Ive talked to Scott and to Chad about this a bunch but I would like to hear how others find ways to handle family time, kid time, wife/husband time, and do all the things needed to try to keep up on painting and doing decent tattoos and handling shop BS all the while not losing your shit.

It’s a rough go and with our families and careers are not getting any smaller I would like to know what others do to balance it all out.


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Hi Nick,

Great post.

I do not own a shop but do own a couple of businesses and have 2 small ones and it really seems like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done.

i don't have any secrets or answers...we just try to reserve the weekends and make sure we get the most out of them with the kids. some people opt to do girls trips or date nights but i would really rather spend time with my family.... have the whole family over and bbq..

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Great topic Nick!

I'm sure Scott would weigh in on this if he could find the time. Today is one of his "days off," so he's currently building tattoo machines at the warehouse. Sometimes I'll drive both kids over there and take him out for coffee, but they're both too cranky and snotty today. He always has his two days off from tattooing filled with other types of work, except when he's watching the kids while I'm teaching. Even then, he's generally trying to get some drawing done. For a while he was leaving a 3rd day of the week unscheduled, and that was the day he would fit in the appointments that had to be moved for one reason or another or for the occasional friend from out of town. Family and social obligations are generally the reason appointments need to be moved, the rest of the world doesn't schedule their parties 3 months in advance, so things come up long after he's been booked.

Tammy, one thing that's different about being a tattooer is the hours required, they have to work when other people are off of work, so there are no weekends. I'm hoping as the kids get older he can schedule one weekend day off every other week (A girl can dream, right?) so Scott can come to school/sporting events or whatever the kids have going on. I put both kids to bed by myself every night because he rarely gets home before 9:30, sometimes much later, and then when he does get home, he needs to draw, sometimes until the wee hours.

For our family, mornings are the time we're all together. Scott cooks for us, and we generally manage to squeeze in some quality time after we've been properly caffeinated. Everything goes smoother if I make the kids lunches or at least have them planned the night before. (I also have the coffee pot set for 6 am.) We also try to have a regular date night, and to be honest, at least one of us would probably rather stay home when it rolls around, but we're always glad after we've gone out. We are also part of a great babysitting co-op and have a part time nanny/babysitter that's been a godsend as I personally have no family nearby. One thing that I think that's helped with our relationship is that we both support each other and encourage each other to do the things that we each like to do independently or together. Scott will call me and say (in a certain voice) "Um, can I...," and I always say yes, just like he always says yes to me. He works so hard, he deserves to go to all the motorcycle camps and fishing trips in the world.

Nick, I know I haven't offered any balancing tips, so I would also love to hear what others have to say. Maybe I'll get all the wives together for the San Jose tattoo convention and we'll brainstorm. Or maybe we'll just bring you more coffee.

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It seems like there is never enough time to do it all, I take 2 days off a week and I try to switch days shift for night whenever I can but I mostly work 4-midnight so putting Josie to bed 2 or 3 nights a week is awesome, but I feel like I should be there more. When I am home at night Sarah and I can decompress from our days and just be in the same room with each other, not even having to talk is fine just to know we are around is cool.

It was hard before kids spending time and doing things together because tattooing takes up everything, I don’t mean that in a bad way but like you said we work when everyone else is off. Its hard for us to say no to appointments because if we aren’t at the shop or tattooing there is no income. Its hard not being at a place that you really love.

I told Sarah that she is my second marriage cuz I married a tattoo shop when I was 19…

But I think that the designated date nights or date days are a must, and family time we do in the mornings as well sarah gets up with josie most of the time but on my nights off I get up, I think supporting each other is the main objective no matter what

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we have thursday night as our designated family tv/dinner night, saturday nights are date night, sunday-monday (my days off) are about getting stuff done/running errands and NOT drawing or painting. i don't bring any work home.

as we've talked about, its rough working til midnight with a family. on the one hand it can be a fun and busy shift, but i'd love to be able to put my son to bed every night and spend some time just being at home. i think just being there, at night is important. even if kathy and henry are both asleep, i feel good just being home, and i know they appreciate that i wasn't out somewhere instead of being home.

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Hi Nick.

Chad and I discuss this too when I'm at wit's end and furiously texting him about how it's just a cluster fuck, this job of tattooing.

Obviusly you will know this but the ease that my career took on after hiring a dedicated manager who handles every contact that comes through the shop. It's my opinion that to fully relax and avoid the tipping-point stress levels is to absolutely restrict interaction with clients to as little as possible.

I also have started changing my hours drastically, wherein I now will draw and work on extraneous art projects and machine tinkering around 7 am - 12. Shop opens at noon, I tattoo til 7 or 8 and then I do my best to sign off for the evening and stay out till the next morning.

It might be a great goal to make quotas for yourself. As in the maximum amount of work you'd like to do daily/weekly/monthly for each particular field. Ie- "I only fix up 3 machines at max per day and if I finish that, then I'm not to do more and simply go home." or "I only participate in one art show per month at the most and decline the rest"

I think that as tattooers we are naturally hustlers and it's in our blood to GOGOGOGO all the time. I'm sure that with conscious effort you'll be able to make things slowly come together.

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i dont have kids and my girl friend is a tattooer as well( which helps sometimes) but i run a shop with 6 fulltime tattooers and work at 3 different shops 2 days a month. my weeks are 6day weeks....

as much as i am "taking care of business" most of the time i am awake i can relax so easy by just sitting and watching some bshit on tv. but most important for me is to realize everyday that the act of tattooing is not what stressed me out. it is all the bshit around it. appointments, customers, co-workers......so in the moment i put that needle to the skin i try to enjoy it.

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We definitely decompress with the television around here! I have a few friends who don't let their kids watch tv, but I said no way to that, as it's a huge part of our "family culture!" I think that there's so much interacting with the public and catering to the customers wants and needs that tattooers need to just sit and be entertained without any obligation of participating whatsoever.

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I don't have an immediate family and still have trouble finding time to fit everything in, drawing, painting, appointments, sometimes even eating and sleeping. I try to break my appointments down into two categories, ones I have to study and prep for, and ones I can draw on the day of. I don't worry about the same day drawings until that day, out of sight out of mind. I've been tattooing for about four years now, and I still feel that I have a LOT to learn, and at this point I'm not able to sit down and just draw whatever, though I highly admire and respect those who can. Some things take me quite a bit of time to compose, so I have to spread them out over a couple days.

I sacrificed most of my night life when I got into this. It's my belief that since my customer is entrusting me with their canvas, and indirectly, their life, I owe it to them to do the best that I can. Being hungover or just generally shitty from being out too late the night before is not fair to my customer. I almost feel my situation is opposite to you guys, I feel that since I don't have a family, I should be drawing, painting, studying, and just getting better every free minute I have, and I almost feel guilty if I'm not haha. The actual act of tattooing is where I can get away from all that, where I can recenter. When I'm tattooing, that's where all the customer drama, all the shop drama, all the "am I good enough" thoughts, everything just disappears and I'm in my little world. That's my free time, that's my hobby, that's my love, that's what makes it all worth it.

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i have recently moved to a small mountain town because felt like i was loosing balance with everything, career, kid, my girl, all of it. i made a move for life style change for the first time in my career. i am the type of person where my environment feeds my lifestyle. living and working in the big cities and the super busy shops just kept my mind there. work work work, thats all i thought about. i gained a lot of weight and my overall attitude became more jaded. i needed the slower pace of life in a smaller town. i took a small pay cut at first but im in a college town and im building clients fast. around here everything shuts down early. if i was to stay at the shop until midnight i would be bored out my mind. things move slower here and i love it. i tell my friends that this is my first retirement because i took the rains and decided to make life what i want. i have worked the 80 hour weeks, i have lived out of my pelican cases for months, i have made the sacrifices to be successful and now i make my schedule, i tell my clients no (sometimes ). i make time for my kid, i make time for my girl, i make time to take care of the shops needs other then tattooing and drawing. but the bottom line is we are our own bosses and yes most of us are hustlers but we have the power to make life what we want it to be. what a great life to be a tattooer!

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