Learning To fail

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried. ” - Unknown

I was browsing through Facebook marketplace recently and noticed a TON of microblading offers in my local city.  There were over 100 ads! I couldn’t believe it. There were SO many kinds of different offers that were advertising services for a LOT cheaper than you would find in a salon or dermatologist clinic. There were so many calls for models too, as well as a big jump in people looking to get their art noticed and break out into the permanent makeup industry to get their career started. There were even ads promising training to artists so that they could make $300-500 an hour, fast and easy (which, by the way, doesn’t happen).

It got me thinking that there is just SO much competition out there and that there is this huge sense of desperation among artists who are finding that it’s harder than ever to get started. What a tough time it must be for everyone who is trying to build their skills and confidence, and also get noticed.  Looking back, I remember how hard it was in the beginning because I was there too. I was scared shitless, and it took me years of fear, self-doubt, and perseverance to get to the point where I am comfortable and confident in my skills.  Now that I’ve gotten past all of the lessons of my mistakes, I’d like to share with you some of my personal struggles. I hope that it helps you along the way.

20 years ago, I decided to get my eyebrows done with permanent makeup on a whim. It wasn’t really a popular service at the time, but I loved it! It was one of those life-changing moments when something happens and big light bulbs started going off, and I came out of the treatment room thinking, “hey, I would love to be doing the kind of art this lady is doing!”  I was completely in love. That was the moment when I decided that I wanted to be a permanent makeup artist.  There wasn’t a doubt in my mind until my mom shot me down (good thing I ignored my mom, just like any rebellious teenager would do).

I Googled how to take PMU courses and ended up in Washington, USA. Keep in mind, “microblading” didn’t exist in those days. It was all “permanent makeup”, a procedure that didn’t always have the best reputation (think your grandmother’s permanent makeup and you’ll get the idea). Regardless, I took a very rudimentary 3-day course and came back home, eager to start with my family and friends.

         Me at 5 years old at my desk with Raggedy Ann

That’s when I found out how hard it actually was. My best friend was my first model, followed by dear mom. They were all in pain during the procedure and my lines were wiggly, at best. I was really just hoping that these people would still like me afterwards! I remember my best friend clutching a pillow and crying while I was trying to do her eyeliner. I just felt SO bad, but there was no way of stopping (you can’t just leave someone with a half-finished eyeliner, right?) Right away, I knew this was going to take A LOT OF PRACTICE and it wasn’t just going to be about reading and studying the material. None of my education mattered until I started touching skin, and until I started doing more of that, all of my work was going to be mediocre, at best. I did ask the artist who did my PMU if she would teach me and she said, “nope, sorry”, not wanting to give away her skills.  

“I remember my best friend clutching a pillow and crying while I was trying to do her eyeliner.”

From there, I went to Craigslist and advertised for models, offering my permanent makeup services at $50 a pop, and I had 10 people come to me in the first week.  

Even though there wasn’t a huge demand for permanent makeup, I knew my own experiences and knew that I liked it. It was somewhat embarrassing to admit that you were a tech, but I didn’t care because I had a good experience and I was a believer. I could be my own boss and set my own schedule - total freedom!

I began to research better pigments and better anesthetics. I reached out to leaders in the industry because ultimately, I knew that they would be the ones to go to, as they had been in my shoes and knew what had worked and what hadn’t. Eventually, I got a hold of Robyn Hays, an amazing artist who wrote part of the manual on permanent cosmetics for the SPCP, a non-profit PMU organization.  I was expecting some technical tips, but instead, she gave me the best advice ever: “Just follow what the leaders are doing and copy that”.  OMG. Game-changing tip!

Of course, the biggest struggle was getting clients because initially, you have no credibility. The $50 I was charging was only covering the costs of the equipment and the occasional groceries, which was definitely not enough, so I needed to hustle.

Finding models was like pulling teeth because everyone was so hesitant and could be quite demanding as well. I mean, it’s tattooing on a person’s face, and even though I totally got where they were coming from, it didn’t make it any less frustrating. Eventually, I started to get some models together who were willing to take a chance on me and let me take countless pictures of them, thus practicing my photo-taking skills.  

I also knew that I needed to practice the customer service element: dealing with people, conducting consultations, engaging my sales pitch, and gaining the trust of my potential clients so that I could build a portfolio. (Remember, this was before social media, so it wasn’t always easy to get the photos that you wanted or needed for your portfolio! You had to do everything yourself with limited resources).

At a course in England

From doing so many almost-free procedures, I ended up getting a job in a plastic surgeon’s office in the San Francisco Bay Area- a VERY lucky break! As result of a great introduction, I was now establishing my credibility at a doctor’s office six months after starting my journey as an artist. Shortly afterward, I met my husband, Luke, and we decided to move to Toronto, Canada. Even though I was thrilled, I found that I had to build my business all over again.

Again, I had no credit or context. I started the same formula and tried to get more models, making cold calls, knocking on doors to salons, and offering free services to show my value as an artist. This was a low time for me professionally, as the stock market was experiencing its crash and I couldn’t get a job in financial services anywhere, let alone in a new country. I found myself working in four places a week: getting up and doing someone from home, running in heels to work in a salon, taking a subway to a medical spa, and then finally traveling up to the mall to work in yet another nail salon. I was exhausted from doing all of this, just so that I could build my portfolio and try to fill up the days.  

Thank God for my husband Luke! He was my rock through the whole thing.  Trying to find a steady stream of work was my biggest challenge.  I was emotionally defeated and was losing confidence fast. He had a background in sales, so he was already used to this. He told me that you needed to go through a lot of “no’s” before you come up with a “yes”, that it’s all part of the process, and that I really had nothing to lose. It was amazing advice, and it helped me to realize that it’s a numbers game.

My days always began making follow-up calls to clients with fingers crossed, hoping that the color stayed. Even after three years doing eyebrows, eyeliner, and lips, my results still weren’t 100% consistent, with half of an eyebrow gone or a lip color completely disappearing. I didn’t even know whether it was something I had done wrong, something the client had done wrong, the pigment, the machine, or a combination of everything. With each poor result, I felt defeated and still unqualified to do PMU with total skill and confidence.  I didn’t know where to turn for advanced training either because the great artists were busy “doing”, not teaching.  

Despite this, and with Luke’s encouragement, I held on and kept my chin up. I didn’t HAVE the inherent talent for tattooing.  I’m not sure if anyone does.  I just practiced over and over and over and over again and tried different approaches, techniques, tools, and products.  Every now and then, I’d run into those crazy clients that just couldn’t be pleased and drained me emotionally.  Luke told me that having those clients is a good thing, and it means that you’re busy enough to have a handful of these hurdles.  

To get more exposure, I started doing trade shows, (wedding shows, women’s shows, etc.) and live demos. This helped me break into the plastic surgery and medical aesthetic field, which in turn made me VERY busy.  Eventually, I no longer needed to work at the other salons and was able to work full time from my own studio.  I was finally working full time as an PMU artist after five years of tireless effort, doing everything myself from cleaning the bathroom, to knocking on doors, to consultations, to handing out brochures.  Still, nothing is too tedious for me. I take pride in knowing I’ve worn so many hats and would wear them again any day, even if I landed in the middle of Timbuktu.

Now, I wanted to put myself in Toronto’s best-known plastic surgery office, and from the trade shows, I got to know a spa director who was impressed by my work.  Finally, I was invited to join his practice and gave away over 50 free procedures to all the girls in the office so that I could gain their trust.  They became walking billboards for me. It was the best investment I ever made, although extremely costly for me in terms of time.

With Traci Melchor from E!

I’ve learned a lot in my years as a permanent makeup artist, but if I were to give you six of the best practices and advice for starting your business, it would be these:



Here’s a fact that you will not want to hear;  It will take you at least 3-5 years to even know what you are doing.  Each client’s skin is different, presenting a unique set of challenges each time.  Some skin is thin and sensitive, and will bleed, turn red, and swell up.  Some skin is thick and won’t take color.  Realize quickly that clients are fussy and unreasonable, hard to please, and will test your patience.  Just take it with a smile and say, “no problem, let me adjust that for you.”  The only way that you will be able to improve is to touch as much skin as possible in order to familiarize yourself with each roadblock. Each case is a stepping stone and a learning experience.  Get used to honing your skills on people. Offer services to friends, family, and models for VERY cheap. You need time with the skin in order to learn about all of the scenarios you will encounter. The sooner you can learn how to work with a variety of skin and personalities, the shorter your learning curve will be.



Put yourself in the client’s shoes. What would they want and expect from you as an artist? Obviously, your client would want to work with someone friendly and professional. Give good eye contact, keep your office pristine, and dress professionally. Think about how you’d like to be treated as a client:  do you want to trust your face to a beauty professional who shows up wearing jeans, or a crisp uniform?  Would you feel comfortable in a small, cozy, decorated room, or a clean and sterile type of room? Do you expect your messages to be returned in 24 hours?  Answer all questions before they are even asked to provide assurance and expertise.  Similar to the kind of service you’d like to receive from an aesthetician, think about creating the absolute best experience that you can for your client.  Never act out of emotion and remember that the client is always right.  Just bite your tongue and move on to solutions, not excuses.


I always start each meeting with, “Tell me your wish list; what’s your goal?”  The perfect consultation is about listening to what the client wants and explaining your approach to solving their problems, including them in the design process, and letting them know what to expect every step of the way.  This way, they feel secure, confident in your skills, and know that you are the expert.  You always want to let your client feel that they have control and that you, the artist, are guiding them. Never say anything that would make them feel stupid such as, “you’re drawing your eyebrows all wrong”.  Instead, say, “together, we can design new eyebrows for you that will brighten your eyes and make you look younger”.  Get the idea?  Always say positive words.  The consult, your mannerisms, and the follow-up are just as important as the technical procedure itself.


You know those pros you’ve been following on Instagram or Facebook and whose every pic have been saved for your own inspo?  Make it your goal to a take a class from them next year.  Yes, they may be far away, but the knowledge and skill that they can pass to you will be PRICELESS.  Learn how you would like your business to be by watching the expertise of others.  Avoid big classes, as they lack the attention that you will need in order for an instructor to properly critique your technique and identify weaknesses in your hand movement, speed, or needle entry angle.  Never be afraid to ask a trainer for a call before choosing his/her class.  If the relationship is off to a bad start, it’s good to find out sooner than later.

Teaching the first ever microblading course in the US, 2013


Have someone perform the procedure on you. Only through having it done will you know what to expect and how it will feel for your client. You need to feel the pain, the anxiety, and witness the day by day healing process and subsequent result.  This will give you excellent reference points.  Plus, it’s hard to sell something you don’t have. Make sure you choose the best artist for this procedure and pay them just like any paying client.  When your permanent makeup looks amazing, women will just say, “I want what you have!”.

  1.        DON’T BE CHEAP

Instead of seeing your client two times for their procedure, see them three times so that you can check the results of their follow-up. This will allow you to examine the results of your work following the touch-up so that you can make notes and adjust your technique if your results are less than perfect (which they will be). Just having the client send a pic WILL NOT suffice (this is the cheap and lazy way). You need to see all the skips and flaws in your work so that you can shorten your learning curve.  Spending this time benefits not only your client, but also yourself. Don’t be cheap with your education and products either.  You can’t expect to be the best with subpar education or products!

“Where is there no struggle, there is no strength.” -Oprah Winfrey

I know you want to start making money right away, but let’s be honest, that just doesn’t happen on any planet. The secret to success is that there is no secret, just the work.  Know and accept that the learning and failing is part of the journey, and that each case is a stepping stone.

I’m still doing things that scare me. Developing products for you guys, doing live interviews, and speaking in public, but I do it anyway, despite losing months of sleep before I step on a stage at a PMU convention to talk about my work.  But all the same, I keep going because I love how PMU changes lives.  Knowing how hard it is, I hope to give guidance and comfort to artists on this journey.  You WILL find your sweet spot, and one day, you will look back with so much pride for all of your hard work. Your success is something you will earn and nobody can take that away from you.

See you at the top!

Instagram and Facebook @tinadavies




Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I needed your encouraging words at this time. I recently received my Microblading certification a week before Covid-19 disrupted our lives and I feel a bit displaced. I was full of nerves, excited and scared at the same time, but was also ready to hit the ground in working on my new skill. During my certification, I had worked on 3 people with the help of an instructor nearby. After graduating, as nervous as I was, I knew the only thing that would lessen my nerves was to actually work on people and I was ready to work on my craft. As we all know at this time, we are all in limbo on when we’ll actually get back to the norm and it may be a while before it happens. I wanted you to know that I am inspired by the gift of knowledge that you are offering all of us! I am reading all your blogs more than once and watching as many of your YouTube videos as I can. I am jotting down notes and carefully watching every stroke that you perform. All I can do at this time is practice, practice, practice my strokes, study different facial structures and brow shapes and just take this extra time to take it all in! Thank you, Tina, for being a true inspiration to all of us!!

Melanie Martines March 27, 2020

Thank you for your honest perspective. I have been looking into starting a new career in Perm make-up, but I’ve been going thru extreme life changes and have been scared to pull the trigger. Your candidness of your story and outlook has inspired me to challenge myself and embrace my life changes as well as a challenging new career.
Thank you. <3
Much love and light to you.

Buffi October 23, 2019

Thank you so much for Sharing this! That what’s I needed to keep going! You are amazing!

Priscilla Sousa September 17, 2019

It’s rare to find someone in this industry to honestly and thoroughly share the very real struggles as a newly minted PMU artist. Like all the commenters before me, I’m so thankful for the emailed useful tips and encouraging advice that help shape and define my abilities as a new artist. And, your pigment line rocks!

Karen M December 04, 2018

This is why I love you! Thank You!

Keisha Brown July 05, 2018

Thank you for this. For your insight. I love your products and I can’t waif to get the book

Lala Cain June 26, 2018

After waking up to a clients message this morning I felt completely defeated and felt like maybe this isn’t for me. But then I remembered reading this article awhile back and had to come find it again. After re-reading I feel much better and know I can do this. I care so much about my clients and their results that it hits hard if something isn’t right. I rack my brain just like you did. What did I do wrong? Did I go too deep, did I not go deep enough, did I go too fast, too slow? I’ll just allow myself a moment to go through the feelings but not stay in them. They can be crushing.

Aj June 19, 2018

I really needed to read this. I am struggling and wanted to quit. I need to keep practicing and keep my eye on the prize. I want to perfect this. Thank you for this post.

Stacie Spears February 17, 2018

Thank you so much for the honest post. I was in the sales/ customer service/ marketing industry for the last 15 years before doing this, and I never thought of myself as a business owner. I feel like I’ve hit roadblock after roadblock trying to get this started, and this gives me some hope. It’s definitely been a learning experience but knowing that if I can just persevere, practice, and work on my skill and keep learning will propel me.

Shannon February 17, 2018

This article really hit home for me. I just recently attended training and have opened up my own shop. This experience has put me through a range of emotions for sure. Thanks for sharing your journey.

Amy Stone February 03, 2018

Perseverance, pragmatism and openness are key of PMU business! It takes tremendous efforts and practice to get skilled level and rewards as each challenge based on skin types, pigments and needles… thanks for these insightful writings! Tina deserves great success!

Kayde Le January 31, 2018

Tina you are amazing! I look so forward to your mails. Thank you for your generousity in sharing your tips and tricks, as well as your down to earth, realistic struggles. Thank you for helping all of us to grow in our businesses, and for the time you take to write these articles.

Philippa January 31, 2018

Thank you for your useful sharing and tips , specially your way of writing and encouragement you put in every word. I wish to meet you one day. I am knew in microblading and hope to continue in this long and hard skill.

Rima Abdo January 31, 2018

Thank you Tina for all your blogs and especially for this one. Your honesty and encouragement is so helpful. I had the pleasure to take your seminars in New York and your a giving person. Thank You!

Michelle Gentry January 30, 2018

Thank you! We all need humble reminders that it takes time, support and passion to become the artist we are striving to be. You are an inspiration and a wonderful mentor…even though I’ve never met you I admire your hard work, passion and artistry.

Judy January 30, 2018

Tina, right now, I ask God to bless 100 times more than you are blessing all of us. It is very noble of you to open yourself and share everything so honestly.

Daniela Cancado January 30, 2018

Wow! The truest words of wisdom!! Thank you Tina for sharing your incredible journey with us, it is beyond inspiring!! I think I speak for every growing artist when I say, it is definitely easy to forget that every successful artist, whom we view as a role model, has experienced all of the same hurdles & struggles to get where they are today & that is a great reminder to keep pushing forward, no matter how difficult it can & will be at times! I think it’s normal for all of us to question our professional position, especially during those times when we feel the most defeated regardless of whether it’s due to “that client” who has that unbelievable ability to mentally, emotionally & physically drain us, with very little effort or if it’s due to us being our own worst critics…overcoming that feeling of defeat is such an important milestone for every single one of us because the feeling of victory that follows is so much greater!! One of the many things I am most grateful for as an artist is having the opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge & motivation from inspiring artists like yourself, thank you for this!!

Vivian Garakani January 30, 2018

I have taken 3 coarses but still don’t have any confidence help

Susan young January 30, 2018

Wow !! You are an inspiration! Being the Founder of BROWARTISTSUNITE in Australia, I am absolutely honored to share this amazing post ! Thankyou for being honest and sharing your career ! Never stop learning, knowledge is power, then comes success ❤️

Melanie Jane January 30, 2018

Thank you Tina for your encouragement and for sharing your knowledge. It’s a difficult skill to master and identifying good trainers is so difficult. We really do appreciate the time you spend connecting with us.

Ali Price January 30, 2018

Dear Tina,
Thank you so much for being so open at sharing your story!
It would’ve been great to be in your classroom some day and see you teach! Each time I see your videos, I feel how much you care about everyone who is learning from you and their success with their future clients! You have a golden heart! Thank you for your generosity! Hugs, Lena.

Lena Ogulnik January 30, 2018

Dear Tina,
Thank you so much for being so open at sharing your story!
It would’ve been great to be in your classroom some day and see you teach! Each time I see your videos, I feel how much you care about everyone who is learning from you and their success with their future clients! You have a golden heart! Thank you for your generosity! Hugs, Lena.

Lena Ogulnik January 30, 2018

Tina, I love your article. You are such a genuine person. Your words and advices are priceless and I thank you so much for sharing. Some days are worst than others… But making mistakes are a part of advancing. Its so hard to see this when I’m so critical of my work. However, it’s refreshing to know that I’m not alone on this beautiful PMU journey. Thank you again. HUGS!!

June January 29, 2018

I LOVE IT! Thanks Tina!

Melissa Wright January 29, 2018

Thank you very much for spending your time to write this amazine inspirational article!!! I took

Amy Le January 29, 2018

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“I set out to design a microblade that I knew would put our needs first as artists.”

- Tina Davies