I meant to make this journal a few weeks ago some time after TrotCon but of course I fell behind in the midst of family visiting and then preparing for and going to BronyCon but I think now's a good time to try it out.
So as you guys know, I was a vendor at TrotCon 2015 this past July for the first time ever. Although I don't have much experience vendoring, I can honestly say that I've experienced enough from just one time to be able to give you guys some good advice on what to do and what not do at a convention when you're selling art.
Keep in mind that since I'm a brony and most people reading this are probably bronies too and will be making brony fanart for a brony convention I'm going to be mentioning a few tips having to do with MLP stuff since that's my only experience, but most of this may also apply to non-pony vendors as well so feel free to go off of this and send it to any friends who need it.
So without further ado and no more hesitation, here are some tips for vendoring at a convention:
PART 1: BEFORE THE CONVENTIONPreparations:
- Once you've been accepted to vendor at a convention, don't waste any time getting ready for it. Whatever it is you're doing whether it be prints, crafts, sculptures, jewelry, clothes, custom action figures, etc, make sure you are able to get enough of this stuff done and ready to sell at the con.
- A lot of conventions might let people know they've been accepted many months in advance, but some might do it just 2 months in advance so make sure to start working.
Know what to make:
- While making your art, be sure to know the audience well enough to know what sells and what doesn't.
- For example, a lot of people at conventions don't have much money so they go for little things like buttons or keychains so you should try to balance your inventory out with small cheap products and bigger expensive ones.
- A lot of things like prints will be very common at conventions, but if you have a very unique and very interesting product, that might be a good way to get people's attention.
- Now for anyone who is a brony, here are just a few things that sell well at brony conventions: anything with Derpy and/or Doctor Whooves, anything with Vinyl Scratch and/or Octavia, Princess Luna does REALLY well at most pony conventions and Celestia doesn't do too bad either, Discord gets people's attention, popular inside jokes, gags, and memes are likely to catch people's attention, in-season relevant pictures, and prints of characters who's voice actor(s) might be there are good sellers too (they can double as autograph pieces.)
- Although all this stuff might seem a bit overwhelming, don't overwork yourself. Only make things that you know can sell well and don't buy more supplies for all of it than you need. Speaking of supplies...
- You're going to find yourself spending a LOT of money not just for the trip itself but preparing all this art.
- Make sure you have access to a decent printer or at least an online printing service to mail them to you.
- You're going to want to buy certain supplies at stores like clips, tape, price tags/stickers to write prices on, wire frames for displaying prints on, bags, boxes, or folders to carry all this stuff in, and having a banner printed for your table is also a good idea. I got a 6'x2' banner printed from VistaPrint and they did pretty good!
- Now I got my button stuff from :icontoxicmario: a while ago so I don't know if there are any stores that sell button-making supplies but you can probably check online for that. I did manage to find a 2.25 hole puncher at Hobby Lobby though.
- Altogether, I think I spent $200-$300 on all of this stuff. Again, have some money ready to prepare!
- The cost for the trip alone is going to be expensive. It could be $500 at the very least.
- Unless you have someone volunteering to help pay for some of this, you're going to need to cover for gas, a hotel room, food, and probably also hotel parking expenses.
- A good way to save money is to arrange to room with friends/family so you can all split on the room.
- If you are flying to this convention, that will cost even more especially if you are from another country so plan accordingly.
- If you live very close to the venue and don't need a room then don't worry about this but it might be a good idea to still have money for food during the con and in case there is anything you'd like to buy for yourself.
Transportation and hotels:
- Lastly, make sure you are able to make it to this convention.
- If you don't have a car available, try getting a ride with someone and BE SURE that that person can go. When I arranged to meet with a friend of mine to go there, something very important came up for him at the last minute and he couldn't make it. Thankfully my mom allowed me to take her car.
- If you have your own car to use, be proactive and get it serviced prior to the trip and be careful about flat tires on the way.
- For those of you flying out, call your airport and try to book a flight well in advance.
- And of course, reserve a hotel room as soon as possible and keep an eye out for good deals.
- Plan ahead of time with these things or you are screwed.
PART 2: AT THE CONVENTIONTiming:
- Be timely. Get up each day and get to your table on time to set up. If you sleep in by accident and too many people see your table isn't ready, that might make you look bad and some might not buy from you. And for the love of Pete, do not get drunk the night before and get a hangover the next morning! Seriously, this is a small job you only have for a few days and you are making money so be responsible!
- If you need to get up and go to the bathroom, you have a panel, or you need to eat, either have an "Away" sign or arrange to have a friend of yours take over for you (they may require a vendor badge when registering).
- When the vendor hall closes, that's your cue to start tearing down because you won't be permitted to reenter the vendor hall once everyone else is finished and the hotel staff have locked the doors so take anything important with you.
- It is recommended that you pack some things away for protection just in case someone breaks in and tries to steal some things. This shouldn't be much of a problem as hotel security should be on the lookout for that, but better safe than sorry.
- Invest in a lock-box to keep your cash safe in. They only cost like $10 at Wal-Mart.
- Pricing your things can be tricky. I usually price my buttons for $2 each and my 4x6 photo prints for $3 each but my bigger things like my 11x17 posters are $10 and then of course my sculptures are several hundred dollars. Those are just a few examples of good pricing.
- Don't be afraid to make some things a bit cheap like the buttons or small prints. It might make people more likley to buy them. If you make them too expensive, yeah, you'd make more money if they sold, but people will be less likely to buy them.
- Be sure to do discounts and freebies to attract more buyers. For example, 3 buttons for $5, 2 4x6 prints for $5, 3 posters for $20/$25, and so on. Also, if people buy three big posters, you could let them chose a free button or something. The possibilities are endless but don't hurt yourself with way too many discount options.
- When people buy from you, be prepared to give them change. Go to the bank a few days prior and get a lot of 1, 5, and 10 dollar bills.
- Try your best to not mix in money you already have with the money you are earning so you won't think you made a lot more than you actually did. Keep your wallet separate from your con-money.
- You should probably make a checklist for your products and use tally marks when one is bought and add it up in the end to figure out your total earnings and see what sold well and what didn't.
- This isn't required but it is a very good idea to have one of those Square or PayPal card slot devices attached to your smart phone for people to pay you with. This is a MUST if you have big expensive things like sculptures because no one is going to be carrying around several hundred dollars in their wallet all at once. I sadly didn't have a smartphone at TrotCon 2015 and no one bought my sculptures. Now I know why.
- When you're displaying your stuff, do the best you can to get people interested in your art.
- I would invest in some of those wire cage frame things so that you can have a vertical display for your prints, that really gets people's attention. I didn't have some for my first time vendoring and I think that is part of the reason my posters didn't sell too well.
- As I said before, banners are good and can make your table look nice. You can have it hang from the table itself or from the top of an overhead display, it's up to you.
- It is a very good idea to have the price tags visible to people or at least be prepared to remember what the prices are when they ask.
- Business cards are a must for your table! They don't cost much to have printed and a lot of people are going to be wanting some from you. Some people might not have the money now, but if you are a person who does commissions, they're going to want to know how to contact you in the near future or at least know where they can follow you online if this is their first time meeting you. Also, business cards should be free. Never price them.
- If you're at a family-friendly convention, you will not be permitted to sell explicit artwork. You won't be in trouble if you've got, say, a picture of some hot chick in a bikini but be careful with those two since kids will be around with their parents. I'd advise keeping those high up on your vertical display as I've noticed kids tend to look to the bottom and are more attracted to the smaller things like buttons and photo prints. That's another thing: younger kids usually go for the cheaper things so keep them around the bottom where they're most likely to start looking at.
- Be very friendly when interracting with the customers.
- Be prepared to answer any questions they may have about your art and offer them a business card if they would like to find you again some time.
- Smile and wave. I find that smiling to people as they go by is a good way to get them to stop and look at your stuff and hopefully look into purchasing something.
- Be patient with picky customers. If you find someone complaining about your prices, just remind them that you need to make money and there are always other artists that could be selling for cheaper. If someone is being too critical of your art, just remain cool and tell them they are entitled to their own opinion. If, however, someone is harassing or threatening you, call for security and turn them in.
- If a celebrity guest stops by your table, it's alright to give them a free piece of art, just don't go too crazy with freebies. Also, don't ask them for their autographs or a picture with them unless it's just a fandom-member you idolize and not a VIP.
PART 3: AFTER THE CONVENTIONGoing through earnings:
- As I said before, it is a wise idea to have a checklist or something to keep track of what you sell.
- Count how many things you have left over and see what things sold well and what didn't so you know what to make next time.
- In addition to keeping track of the products themselves, it's probably also a good idea to write down how much money you made right after someone pays you so you can add it all up later. I counted my money at the end of each day to see how much was made and then, if necessary, used some of the money from the previous day for giving change and I recommend you do the same. When the con is done, you can add those days together as an easier way to figure out your total earnings.
- Since you may give away freebies during the con, you should write down when you did this so you don't accidentally count it as an actual sale.
- I still haven't done this myself but it would be wise to use Microsoft Excel to make a spreadsheet of your earnings and print them off for records and for when you need to do taxes and stuff.
- If you're curious, I made roughly $400 at my first con which is only about 1/6 of what I was hoping to make which was a bit disappointing but it was just enough to get me to BronyCon a few weeks later.
- You may have quite a few left-over items in your inventory and it never hurts to try selling them online or adding them to your inventory for the next con.
- Pricing may be different this time around since shipping can add to your cost so don't be afraid to charge online buyers for shipping, especially international ones.
- If you are at another convention later on but are not vendoring there, it is a good idea to get in touch with a friend who could sell your left-overs for you at their vendor table but you may need permission from the convention staff to do this.
Preparing for more:
- You may have another convention soon after this one so repeat some of these steps if necessary.
- If it's going to be a while before your next convention, settle down and make preparations later but keep track of everything important.
- Use your money wisely. Put it in savings or better yet, use it to buy any supplies you'll need for the next convention. I, for example, am going to invest in a better button-maker as well as some wire-frames and am looking for a better printing service for my posters.
Thanking the convention staff:
- It is very respectful to use social media to make shoutouts and thank-you's to the convention staff via Twitter or other websites after you are done and let them know how much fun you had and how well you did.
- If you had any issues while you were at this con, be sure to let them know that too so they can work things out to avoid letting it happen again.
- Keep in touch with the staff throughout the year in case you are interested in vendoring there again.