Something we hear commonly as part of our monthly QnAs, in countless emails and in the studio, is “I want to be a piercer, what tips can you give me to become a piercing apprentice?”
It’s no secret that piercing (high quality piercing, at least) is incredibly competitive to get into, and it feels almost impossible to find the right studio at the right time. So, what can you do to improve your chances?
Take it slow.
A good apprenticeship is worth its weight in gold. A bad apprenticeship or piercing course will usually haunt the rest of your career both in your reputation and in bad habits. It might be frustrating, but waiting for a quality apprenticeship is the single most important thing you can do for your career. Rushing into an apprenticeship under an inexperienced mentor or taking a piercing course will do more harm than good in the long run. We go more in-depth into this in our other apprenticeship blog post.
Some piercing apprentices fall into their role by being in the right place at the right time – Luck plays far more of a part than most people would like to admit! However for those who don’t fall into this category, it can take months or even years before they find their apprenticeship. Don’t be discouraged, but do have a backup plan in case piercing ends up not working out for you.
Think about the why.
The first thing any mentor will ask you is well, why do you want to be a piercer? Is it because you have a flair for the technical? Because you enjoy working with the public? Because you just love piercings? It’s a difficult question to answer fully, but something you really need to find a good personal answer for. Everyone’s ‘why’ is different.
Unfortunately simply having a love for piercings won’t carry you very far when you’re bagging your 400th piece of presterile jewellery of the day, or when you are processing the tools after a long day, or when you’re exhausted and dealing with a difficult customer. Piercing is a very emotionally taxing career, and burnout is common. We always aim to be realistic when discussing the piercing industry and piercing careers, so it’s important to know that you will be tired, your back will hurt all the time, and you will be poor forever!
Another solid question to ask yourself is: ‘Would I still be happy being a piercer if overnight it stopped being seen as cool?’
Things that will carry you through are a passion for perfection, for practising fine skills, continuous improvement both inside and outside the studio, public education, or for simply becoming a better piercer than your mentor. A passion for the history of piercing is immensely valuable.
A good candidate for an apprenticeship aims to raise standards whilst also being empathetic and realistic to people’s situations. We can’t teach kindness and empathy, even though they are the foundation of the industry.
I think most high-quality studios will agree with me when I say that we get dozens of emails, DMs and walk-ins either querying us about or asking for apprenticeships. We really appreciate being top of the list when it comes to education, however it can be quite emotionally taxing especially when the answer at the moment is generally no. The industry is overloaded, oversaturated, and most studios are either swamped or still recovering from Covid.
The main thing we want you to keep in mind when asking about apprenticeships is to not take it to heart if the first, second, heck even tenth request for an apprenticeship is declined. If your piercer says no, make sure you respect that decision.
It’s an unfortunate truth that most hopeful apprentices will not make it into the industry – For every 100 applicants (each equally passionate, prepared, intelligent and thoughtful!), only one will probably be successful. It’s important to be realistic, and to have a backup plan.
Even though you are applying for an education in becoming a piercing apprentice, it does not hurt to have an awareness of current piercing knowledge, jewellery brands etc. You are not expected to know technique (it is actually preferred that you don’t!) but knowing who Anatometal, Jim Ward, BVLA or Mr Sebastian are is a fantastic start. You can also ask your potential mentor for recommended reading, or tales from the earlier days of piercing. Knowing where we’ve come from is a great way to understand why we are where we are, and to help predict where the industry is going.
Outside of piercing related knowledge, working similar jobs in retail can really prepare you for the everyday reality of working in a piercing studio. It might not feel like it, but piercing is often a retail and aesthetic procedure all rolled into one! This helps you to hone your general customer service skills which is absolutely vital for this industry.
Piercers are not just piercers, often they are self-employed small business owners and have to deal with all the headaches and heartaches that come with that. Learning about how to run a business, how to file taxes, how to organise your schedule and price your services are all super important.
As a general rule, piercing yourself or your friends at home in preparation for a piercing apprenticeship is one of the biggest no-no’s ever. Never pierce at home!
What are They Looking For?
A good tip for success is to look at your prospective studio and try and see what they would look for in a potential piercing apprentice. Each studio is very different – Some have punk roots (like Rogue!), some come from new-age beliefs, some are more commercialised, some are very ‘British’ and some more international. Part of being a successful piercing apprentice applicant is being the right person for the right studio. Is there any point in applying to a punk studio if you are more into pink and sparkles? Yes! Jay is a great example of an apprentice working well in a seemingly opposite studio. That being said, finding a studio that aligns with who you are as a person is really important. Not every studio is perfect for every applicant.
In terms of what most studios are looking for in an piercing apprentice, it varies from studio to studio however there are some universal requirements. Piercing is based on human interaction, so being shy or being afraid of phone calls is not ideal! As piercers we need to be energetic, confident, and be able to be the loudest person in the room. It’s all about making connections – Whether the customer is 8 or 80. Even if that’s not who you are right now, it is a skill that can be practised! Public speaking is a really good way of getting into the habits that will pay dividends once you become a piercer.
My final piece of advice is to be honest and open about your intentions about being a piercing apprentice. Most piercers can tell if you are on the hunt for an apprenticeship, so why not be up front and tell us? We really appreciate being asked, and will usually be able to give you a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with an explanation for each response. Sometimes a no will become a yes given time, so always ask if this is something that might happen. We will always endeavour to be honest with you. Being straight up about your intentions will go a long way – Even if it’s a solid no, it means you can cut your losses and focus on other studios or piercers. We can often give recommendations on where to go as piercing is a very small world!
Counterstaff are Not a Second Choice!
We commonly get asked by would-be piercers if they can have a desk job as a stepping stone into getting a ‘proper apprenticeship.’ Obviously from a personal standpoint this can be quite frustrating to hear, as counterstaff positions are their own completely seperate career path and shouldn’t be seen as something you settle for in the meantime. It’s akin to asking a doctor if you can be a nurse ‘in the meantime’ while you wait to get into medical school! It’s a seperate career that deserves to be respected!
Another thing to note, which I obviously have a strong view of, is that being a piercer is not the only way to be successful in this industry! Counter staff, managers, piercing educators etc. are all absolutely vital, and the industry simply cannot function without them. A good counter staff or jewellery manager is worth their weight in Gold (literally!) We deserve to be taken seriously as a career in our own right, and not simply viewed as an easy way to become a piercer later. Gone are the days of a ‘desk lady!’ We are oversaturated with many a would-be piercing apprentice, yet there is an industry shortage of excellent counter staff and jewellery salespeople. It’s definitely something to consider if you haven’t considered it before.
So there you have it! A high-quality studios thoughts on piercing apprenticeship tips. This will become a series, as we are currently working on an apprenticeship FAQ. If you have any questions you would like answered, contact us on instagram or email us as you may be featured in our next blog post.