I am very seriously considering getting my first tattoo. I know what I want as far as artwork. Any advice or warnings as far as the procedure? If you have a tattoo, of course my question is how much did it hurt? Did you ask your spouse or significant other's opinion on getting your tattoo before you did it?
Research the artist, visit the shop, ask questions, especially about how they clean equipment. A very nice customer allowed me to sit in on a really big piece he was having done. I'd never met him before either, but the artist told the guy I was looking to get a tattoo and would he mind if I watched his being done. They talked me through each step and it alleviated a lot of my worries.
Also, make sure you find out how the piece is charged...by the hour, by the piece, by the session (and how many will there be). I'd suggest getting a smaller piece done that can be done in one session.
Ask them to stencil it on and leave it for a few days to see if it's really what you want.
Listen to the artist if they tell you something won't work, don't let them bully you into getting something you don't want, but listen if they tell you that a design won't work where you want it or it would look better with different colors. I had a custom design done off another tattoo I saw and the artist played around with it for a few days and worked up a few different ones with slightly different aspects and color palates. He did completely shoot down the original color scheme I wanted, saying my lovely pale skin would look great with more color. He was right and I'm 100% satisfied with the final product.
Talk to others who have tattoos you like and ask them who did it and would they go back...most are happy to share
Choose a place with some meat and a place where skin is not likely to stretch or sag.
Pain is very subjective. Mine is in a place that people typically complain being painful, but I did not find it so. If anything, it seemed to itch and burn a bit when the outline was done, the shading was a breeze.
I informed my spouse of my intent. I'll be honest, he humored me because he didn't think I'd really do it. I did and he was a bit shocked, but he likes it just fine. He's been telling me for years, he's getting this "super elaborate" tattoo, but he hasn't yet because he is a bit needle phobic.