Updated: Jul 3
Piercing is a really fun, really rewarding job where you get to help people of all walks of life love themsleves, find self confidence, self esteem, and a little sparkle. But, this career takes a lot of training to do correctly, and can sometimes be a difficult industry to break into. So, I wrote this article for all our piercing hopefuls out there looking to pursue a career as a piercer.
Be a Good Client- This might seem obvious but most good piercers started off as good clients. They got pierced at reputable studios, they invested in safe, high quality body jewelry (and understand why that’s important). They value safe quality piercing which is why they've chosen to get it themselves. Being respectful, interested, and polite at the studio helps as well. Also showing us you understand- taking good care of your piercings, listening to advice about healing and troubleshooting, and being responsible with your piercings. Having these experiences as a client is often critical to understanding the experience we provide as a piercer. Being a good client also doesn't mean spending money- commenting on social media posts, interacting with staff online, coming in to see new jewelry collections, meeting guest artists, and sending healed photos of work. Building a good relationship with a studio or piercer helps you see if they are a good fit and someone you would want to work with, and helps the studio see the same.
Another good tip is not to cold call- don't just message or come into a studio and ask for an apprenticeship. It's generally considered poor form and disrespectful to the person you are asking. What reason do I have to give the investment of my time, money, and energy to a stranger? If you can't even come to see me as a client or meet me first, why should I give you my time and effort? Being a good client and regular first, building a relationship with the studio and piercer, is an essential first step to getting an apprenticeship.
Have a Winning Personality- This can be hard to hear, but not everyone is a good fit to be a piercer. We don’t need someone who is shy, quiet, and brooding. Piercing comes with a lot of human interaction, and you need to be able to be friendly, engaging, and helpful. Remember- many clients are nervous and shy walking in the door so we need to help bridge that with communication. Being forward, extroverted (at least with clients), and comfortable making all forms of conversation and small talk really help. Your clients will come from every walk of life imaginable, so having good conversation and communication skills with everyone from a 6-year-old to a 66-year-old is key. Yes, piercers also need to be clean, diligent, creative, and motivated, but the communication element is key. If you are afraid of public speaking, hate awkward situations, and dislike conflict then piercing isn’t for you. As a piercer, you’ll need to control the room for the length of time to do a piercing, soothe nervous clients and their parents, and navigate sometimes difficult conflict resolution. You’ll be in charge in a room of 7 laughing yelling, excited college kids, or having to be the person to explain to a disappointed parent and child why someone doesn’t have the anatomy for a piercing. You will provide comfort to a client seeking services for trauma, and have to turn around with a grin to pierce a child! Your conversation skills are going to get a workout every day.
Be Motivated- You need to really want to make it as a piercer. There is no easy way into an apprenticeship- it’s long hours, hard work, and lots (and lots and lots) of training and time. I compare it often to being picked for medical residency- there are limited spots open and many many applicants. And it’s not just your time as a student- it’s our time as teachers and mentors. So we have to want to train you- and you gotta want to be trained. Showing motivation and standing out from the rest can come in many different ways:
-taking anatomy classes at your local college
-volunteer to help at studio events or help advertise
-take first aid and bloodborne pathogens classes
-Get CPR certified
-Learn piercing history (both modern and traditional)
-Learn about quality jewelry standards, and brands who follow them
-Learn your states laws and regulations about piercing
-Having social media, accounting, photography, or marketing skills
You Need a Studio that Needs You- For a studio to take on an apprentice they typically need to need an apprentice- they have space in their schedule for another trained piercer to take days and have the volume or time needed for another staff member. It’s not fair to hire and train you, then give you one day a week, or have you work only a few hours a shift. And it’s not fair if you finish an entire apprenticeship and then have no choice but to open your own studio or work somewhere else. You should ideally be in a studio that you can see yourself staying at for at least a few years beyond your apprenticeship, and that goes both ways. I wouldn't suggest settling for somewhere you won't be happy at once you are finished training, and I wouldn't want to train someone who already had one foot out the door. Fortunately, in 2019 there are many amazing, amazing studios hiring. Don't get locked into just one, explore, travel, check out different studios, and find one with the right energy for you.
Don’t Settle Just to Get Your Foot In the Door- Don’t settle for a studio that uses low-quality jewelry, less than ideal sterilization or cleaning protocols. If your apprenticeship is going to take less than 1-2 years (realistically more like 2-4) that’s a red flag. If a studio has you do piercings that you aren’t comfortable offering, or if you see things you disagree with, that’s a red flag too. Honestly getting a “start” in a mid or low-quality studio will set you back more than it would help you. We’d rather train someone up from new than have to untrain bad habits from someone with a bad start. And under no circumstances should you pierce at home or in an unsafe environment. It’s never worth the risk, and being willing to take that risk tells us you don’t really care about client safety, and that's not someone we want on our team. Even if no one in your area is hiring- either be patient till they have an opening or if they’ve told you they won't for an extended length of time, consider relocating to find the right mentor and studio. The best choice I made in my time in this industry was moving across the country to finish my education. It was a challenging, seemingly impossible decision at the time but the right choice comes with no regrets. Knowing I was able to learn the right way, work ethically, and with the best jewelry possible, is the best feeling. And I know I do better by my clients for trying to keep them as safe as possible.
This also means don't rush into being an apprentice. Many folks will need to wait to find the right apprenticeship or work in front of house for a length of time before beginning an apprenticeship. If you want this, you'll be patient with going about it the correct way. These days most studios start potential apprentices out in front of house for a few months to a few years before beginning to train them.
This article brushes the surface of some things to consider when getting in this industry. If you are serious about becoming a piercer, here are some things to consider. What really is a good apprenticeship- and how should you go about finding one? It's important to understand what a good apprenticeship should be and also understand what about the system can make it so competitive. It's also important to understand what you deserve as an apprentice. This industry unfortunately has struggled with issues of abuse in apprenticeships, so being aware of that and understanding what to watch for is key.