Getting your first tattoo is a lot like losing your virginity. You really have no clue what you’re doing or what it’s going to feel like, and there can be a lot of pressure to make the right move. You’re excited and maybe a little scared. While you won’t truly be prepared until tattoo number two (or three, or seven…), here are some tips on what to keep in mind when you decide it’s time for that special number one.

What the hell do you want? Obviously, figuring out what you want is going to be your first priority. If you’re like I was, you’ve had your tattoo idea planted in your brain for years by now, itching for the day to finally get inked. However, a lot of people don’t know what they want, only that they want. If that’s the case, your task is simple. Ask yourself: What means the most to me? What has made an unforgettable impact on my life? If you’re drawing a blank, then you’re not ready to draw on your skin.

If you have decided what you want, it’s time to find your artist! Some people like to do extensive research and book months ahead of time, which for some artists’ busy schedules is necessary. If you’re more spontaneous, though, you should at the very least Google or Yelp some top-notch shops in your area that have been recognized for their work. Thumb through artist portfolios and get a feel for each individual’s style. Also remember to keep in mind the style of your tattoo! If you want a watercolor piece, don’t just assume the artist you found that’s damn good at black and grey realism will be the one to nail it. Everyone has their specialty.

Mentally and financially prepare yourself for the fact that you’re going to drop some dough. Every tattoo is different in cost depending on style, color, intricacy, the amount of time in the chair, the artist’s personal rate and even the location of the shop. But no matter where you go, if you’re getting a good tattoo, you’re going to spend good money. And yes, you do want to tip your artist.

Don’t drink a lot before you get tattooed. Aside from the obvious consequence of getting something you’ll later regret, drinking excessively before getting a tattoo will thin your blood and lead to bleeding and blurring of the image.

Bring in sketches or samples to show your artist. Some people know exactly what they want down to the smallest detail. Some people have a concept in mind, but don’t exactly know every line of the piece. Whatever your particular case may be, bring in at least one example of what you want your artist to emulate. Just getting words done? Bring in a font sample. Give as much direction as you feel comfortable.

Be open to suggestions. As much as you may have your heart set on something, be open to what your artist has to say. They’ve been at this longer than you and chances are they know better. Whether it’s size, placement or design, work with your artist to make sure the end result is a quality piece. Plus, once you get tattooed a few times, you’ll realize that’s part of what makes it fun and special. The artist is as much a part of your tattoo as you are. Sharing something that meaningful with someone, even a stranger, is pretty awesome.

Accept the fact that not everyone will like it. Nowadays you’ll be hard-pressed to find a member of the current generation without a tattoo or at least a desire for one. But your parents might not totally be on board. They might absolutely hate it. You might have to have several hour-long talks with your mother to stop her from rolling her eyes at you. But if the tattoo is something you really want—a piece of art that means a lot to you and your story and who you are—that tops it all. With every tattoo I get, I feel more like myself. That feeling beats weird stares and scoffs any day.