Emma Pierce was returning from the airport to her home when she received a call from her tattoo shop.
The shop owner explained that she had been on vacation for three weeks in Japan and that the coronavirus was quite dangerous. Some coworkers expressed concern about her returning after she traveled abroad.
Pierce was willing to quit her job and self-quarantine at her home for 14 days. After taking a vacation, Pierce was finally able to return to work after a week without any income.
Pierce is now sitting on the couch in her Santa Rosa apartment, which she has just rented for $1,400 per month, and 600 square feet. She doesn’t know when Pierce will be able work again.
She has filed for unemployment along with more than 6 million Americans. She considers herself fortunate to have $10,000 in savings.
She says, “Which isn’t that much.” “But it seems like a lot for someone my age at 23.”
It is hoped that it will be sufficient. Pierce does not know when the shop will reopen. She says that when it opens, it will be slow. This is because people are likely to be wary of strangers touching their skin. It will all be different. It’s worrying.”
Income and Expenses
This is a significant change from the upward trajectory that the young tattoo artist had been on. Pierce was booked two to three weeks ahead at Santa Rosa’s Glass Beetle tattoo, earning an average of $700 to $900 per week.
“Sometimes as high as $4,000 per month. She says that this is after all taxes and cash.
Pierce was also able to benefit from the changes made at the shop by AB5, a California assembly bill that would reclassify independent contractors and gig workers as employees. Pierce’s shop owner proposed a commission model and put everyone on payroll, while other rent-your station businesses such as barbershops, hair salons and tattoo parlors had to struggle with the bill’s many restrictions. The shop receives 40% for every tattoo Pierce completes, while she receives 60% plus tips.
Pierce, just like many restaurant servers, lives off cash tips to pay for her day-to-day expenses. Her boyfriend and she spend $100-$200 per week on groceries. (A book on her shelf is 101 Things To Do With Ramen Noodles). She spends $250 per month on the car, including her insurance and the loan payment for her 2017 Mistubishi mirage. Pierce recommends that therapists help with stress at work. She pays $40-60 per week on a sliding-scale basis.
Pierce also saves money by using other methods. An iPad Pro used for $500 was purchased on eBay. This is half the price of a new iPad Pro. Pierce uses it to draw tattoos during appointments. She has enough bookings to not need to spend on Instagram ads. The shop owner also buys supplies such as inks, needles, gloves, and paper towels for her work. She’s also covered by her mom’s insurance for another month.
For young people, her most important advice is to make a direct deposit to a savings account. She automatically transfers 10% of every paycheck to her savings. She says it is very helpful because you don’t even have to think about it. After a while, you will have some savings.
She did note that she was fortunate to have lived with her mom for a month and not to have been in financial hardship. She works hard and comes home at night from work at 8-9pm.
You could say Pierce is hardworking considering how she learned to tattoo.
Get Her Started
Pierce was in college at the time she got her first tattoo. The mention of it evokes an embarrassed ” Ohhhh, God ” from its owner. She sheepishly says that it’s the feminist symbol with the fist. It’s the standard liberal college arts kid thing.
She was still fascinated by tattoos and would often get a few stick-and pokes to practice. She knew that she wanted to be a tattoo artist and decided to go to Santa Rosa Junior College instead. She found a mentor who was willing to let her join Glass Beetle as an apprentice.
Many tattoo artists start their career as apprentices. Pierce worked 40 hours per week for a year and was paid $1,400 upfront and $200 each month.
Pierce said, “It was difficult.” “I was a softie and that’s not good news for a tattoo shop.”
Pierce was aware of apprenticeships that cost $5,000-$10,000 and lasted over two years. She learned quickly and had a great mentor who was supportive in every way.
“If you want to become a tattoo artist, then you must be able tell people that this is not a good idea or won’t work. I wasn’t very confident. Pierce said that Pierce did a great job of removing my soft, cushy mindset.
To pay her bills during her apprenticeship, she worked from 6am to noon at a coffee shop, earning $12 an hour plus tips. She would then go to the tattoo shop to finish eight to ten more hours of tattooing, clean-up, and more.
Pierce describes her apprenticeship as “relatively easy” after she completed it. It used to be abuse, just straight-up hazing. It wasn’t that bad for me.”
Pierce has reduced her spending since the shop is closed. Her modest hobbies from her shelter-in-place period are evident in her new, unadorned apartment, which includes houseplants and cooking utensils. She draws at the kitchen counter as an ad-hoc workstation when she isn’t watching anime or talking with her mom.
Her boyfriend works at a local winery where he earns $20 an hour. Since the tasting room that he used to manage is now closed, he is helping out in the warehouse. Pierce has not received unemployment yet, but she was informed that she will be receiving $450 per week, the maximum state limit. The Governor Newsom promised an additional $600, which Pierce hopes will be part. It seems like an insignificant thought to think about the federal stimulus check of $1200. Pierce states, “It’s going be interesting not having income.”
Pierce is a former worker who feels a little lost.
“I have not been shopping online. She says she hasn’t been out to eat. “I’m not spending money because I’m sitting at home doing nothing.