Guestspotting! This is a super fun process by which piercers travel to visit other studios they don’t typically work at, and pierce and work there for short periods of time. Sometimes this is done to provide coverage (say their existing piercer is out on medical leave, or vacation, the other piercer may cover for them) sometimes its for educational purposes so both piercers can learn from each other, sometimes it’s just for fun, so folks who are friends can hang out with each other and have a good time! For whatever reason, guest spotting is an amazing way to travel, see the country and the world, and get to learn from others! I personal love getting time to guest spot and visit other places. That being said there are totally some tips and tricks I wish I knew before my first guest spot. So let’s talk about that today!
It’s Going to be Awkward!
Your first time in a new space, not knowing where anything is stored or kept, not knowing where certain pieces of jewelry are. Not being used to the placement of the trashcan, sharps container, or glove box. It’s hard being in a new, foreign space! You are absolutely going to open the wrong drawer 10, 20….40 times haha! The best thing you can do is not stress it, and also ask folks at the studio where things are! Don’t beat yourself up if you miss where things are or fumble looking for something. Make a joke of it and keep on rolling. I always expect my first day on a guest spot to be a bit of a shit show looking for certain things, and only finding them in the last place I ever look. On my first few guest spots I used to get really stressed out about this, and beat myself up about moving slowly or looking bad to clients. But I realized quickly that anywhere that hosts guests understands that the adjustment process and never expects you to just know the room or layout. Relaxing, and being ok making mistakes and not knowing where things are is huge.
Lean on the host staff- particularly front of house
The staff hosting you knows that they do things differently. Their rooms are different, jewelry may be different, even aftercare or certain things to tell clients may be different. Lean on them, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or refer to them for things you are unsure of. Better to ask and confirm then assume and tell the client something incorrect or wrong for their area. Better even then other piercers is almost always a studios front of house! Since often you may be covering for a piercer or may not have someone else on shift to ask, they are your secret weapon. Front of house not only know where (exactly) everything is (often better than the piercer, lets be honest) they also know all the jewelry, all the regulars, and all the usual phrases and bits the piercers say. I could never survive guesting without the amazing FoH I’ve been blessed to work with at every studio I’ve gone to. They know so much, and are so willing to help guest artists have a smoother, easier experience. Whenever Jake Hinkle (of Hybrid Image in OH) comes through Icon or any studio, he checks in with the FoH first for any studio changes, extras he might need, or changes to how he works! He's so good at checking in with them and keeping them posted that he fits in like a seamless staff piercer every time he's through. It's made all his traveling much easier and smoother!
Don’t be afraid to say No
We all know I love the word No, but I love it more on guest spots. Piercings I may be comfortable offering at my home studio, where I can personally follow up on them and work with them, I may may be more likely to turn away while traveling. Particularly if there isn’t anyone in the area for my client to follow up with. Even if its something you perhaps don’t feel super confidant in, or anatomy that seems challenging. Don’t be afraid to refer the client to one of the studios usual piercers, or let them know that this isn’t something you feel comfortable doing while you are just visiting or a guest in a space. It is always ok to say no, and stand behind your boundaries and personal limitations. Likewise, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. If there is a piercing you are perhaps not the best on or have been struggling with lately, let your hosts know and perhaps consider not offering it on your travels. Honestly is important, and we always appreciate a piercer who is willing to be humble and frank about their skills and where they are at.
Prep by asking good questions!
A great way to ensure a guest spot goes smoothly is to ask your host studio lots of questions before you arrive! Get a copy of their aftercare in advance so you know what to tell clients. Ask ask about what piercings are most popular and you can expect to do the most, l what irritations and issues they see the most, and overall anything you might have that you want to know about or would be important. At Icon we have a guest artist questionnaire (stolen from the wonderful Ali Pope of Iris) so we get a feel for what our artists do and don’t offer, and any tools or supplies they need while they are here. I think that’s a great thing for any studio with regular guest artists to implement. It’s also good to know ahead of time how they will pay you, what pay structure is like, and how any commissions or tips are handled. Budgeting for a guest spot is huge, as it’s easy to spend more then you make traveling. Planning ahead helps prevent that. Its also worth researching the laws in the state you will be working in and any restriction or requirements that may be different from your usual. Some states even require licenses to guest.
Besides just questions about the studio, also ask about the area. What food is easily accessible around the studio or for delivery? Where will you be staying? Is it smoking friendly if you smoke? Food that mets your dietary needs? What is there to do while you are visiting? Anything they absolutely suggest you don’t miss while you are in town? Also ask what you can expect from weather, public transit, night life, and anything else you might need or want to know while you are visiting!
Something I like to do is about a month or two after a guest spot, I like to reach out to the studio and see how my work is looking. At this point piercings are beginning to come in for downsizes and they can see how the work is healing. I want to know if my work is looking good, if sizing I’ve chosen was appropriate, and if clients are happy! This is also a great opportunity to get feedback on anything they’ve seen in your work that could be improved upon. It also shows that you care enough to want to know how your work has been, and you didn’t just poke a bunch of their clients and leave.
When You Guest, You Represent that Studio
Often clients don’t know or frankly care that you are a guest piercer. Too them, you are their introduction to this studio and what it has to offer. Always treat a studio on a guest spot like it is your home, and interact with clients like you would at home. Particularly as a guest you have even more pressure to uphold the good name and reputation of the studio who as welcomed you in. You absolutely should behave with the upmost respect for a studio willing to let you share their space.
Guestspotting is a fun, educational, and amazing part of being a piercer! Getting to travel and learn from other piercers and hang out and see how they work is awesome. We are so fortunate to work in an industry that is open to education, experience, and sharing what we know. Keeping that in mind; honoring and respecting that is crucial when you begin to guest spot. Enjoy enjoy your travels, and your time in other studios, and learn all you can!