I'm back from the dead! Earlier this year I had my first artists' alley experience at a nearby fan convention. I prepped for months, creating new pieces of art specifically for the convention, making new products, and generally trying to keep it together until then. It was a great first experience, and I have some definite take-aways!
Make an earnest effort to say hello to anyone who stops by your table. If conversations aren't your thing, a simple "hi" is enough. Just acknowledge that someone is visiting your table and surveying your wares.
2. Make Good With The Neighbors
You're going to be surrounded by other artists and vendors. Make friends! I was running my table all by myself (a mistake on my part) but I befriended some really awesome ladies who helped relieve me and kept an eye on things while I ran off for a bathroom break or some snacks.
3. Bring A Blanket
It's June and it's hot, but I failed to grab a light pull over when I dashed out of my house the morning of the convention and regretted it all weekend (until I bought a sweater at the connected shopping mall). It was frigid in the dealer's room (artists' alleys and dealers will often be in the same area, especially in smaller conventions) and all I had were tank-tops and shorts. One of my table neighbors took pity on my poor, ignorant self and loaned me a blanket. She saved me from freezing to death. True story.
4. Write It Down
Keep track of every bit spent for your table. Track paper, ink, art supplies, costs of producing items, travel expenses...everything you spent to get ready and travel to the con! Make use of inventory management software to keep track of sales, or use paper if you prefer. I ended up using Square and syncing it with my shop inventory for easy tracking.
(If you don't have a Square account and are thinking about one, use this link to receive free processing on up to $1000 in sales!)
1. Go It Alone
What if your table neighbors are too busy with their own tables? Or MIA most of the weekend (witnessed it firsthand)? Next time I table, I will do by best to bring a buddy. I really appreciated the help I got from other artists, but having someone behind the table to help bring back food, or relieve you for a break would help immensely.
2. Get Discouraged
Friday was a bust for sales. Saturday was better. Sunday was the best. After the first day flop, I couldn't help but think of all the costs of getting ready for the convention, let alone travel expenses. My outlook was bleak! From what I was told by other experienced artists, every convention is different in terms of what will sell and what won't. Some are flops and others are successes, so don't give up on future conventions if you had a bad one!
3. Forget About The Tax Man
Dealing with out of state sales tax was a first for me. The collection and remittance was awkward to sort out. This was, again, something I was told varies from con to con. Being a first timer, I didn't know what to expect, but in the future I will do a bit of research into state sales tax rates and how individual cons handle that.
All in all, I had a great time and I made some new artist friends! Give the ladies below a visit, they're wonderful people!