Monday, October 20, 2014

A Guide for 1st time selling at conventions!

Ahhh Hal-Con is coming!

Are you a first time vendor and stressing to the max on what you should do for your table? You already know you’re selling prints of your fabulous work, but how are you going to get attendees to your table and buy your work? What do you need to bring with you? How are you going to do your set up?

Well I’m here to give a little bit of advice. I know there are lots of lists and tutorials out there showing set ups and what to bring. But from a local who has been doing this for years, I want to help out other local artists who are just getting out there.

When I first started, I had NO IDEA what I was doing, and hardly did any research of it. I also never been to a con before, or even really heard of them.

So first things first, do not stress! Even if you forget something or some of your prints didn't turn out the way you wanted them to, chances are, no one is going to notice and they are just going to enjoy your work and the event. It’s hard not to stress, but your time at the event will be so much better.

Next, make a print list for yourself. What do you have done, what are you printing, how many are you going to print, and what size are they going to be?
Fifteen to 20 pieces of solid finished pieces of work is a good starting point. Ten to 20 prints of each one is a good amount to start with. Going crazy with getting a ton of prints of each piece is not worth it. You’ll end up spending a lot of money that you don’t need to spend right away. Popular sizes for prints range from 5x7”, 8.5x11”, and 11x17”.  You can even go bigger and get poster sizes, but they cost more to get done. If you’re just starting out, I would go with those 3 sizes. Some people only do one size. But sometimes depending on what is on a print, smaller can be better than bigger. Call around for quotes, look online to see where you can get your best deal for printing your work.

Want to do more than just prints? Buttons, magnets, key chains are the next best thing to prints at conventions. They are easy to move and people like buying them because they’re cheap and cute! Do research on where you can get your best deal. Don’t go out and buy a button maker, see how well your buttons do first, and then see if it’s worth the investment.

Price guide:

Small prints: 5x7” Can range from $1-$5
Regular/Medium prints: 8x10” or 8.5x11” Can range from $5-$10
Large prints/Small posters: 11x17” can range from $10-$25
Buttons: $1-$2
Magnets: $1-$10
Key chains: $5-$15
Do not UNDER SELL your work. You may think it’s for the best, selling your prints for the lowest amount at an event, but actually, it hurts the other artists around you. People will see how low yours are, and won’t buy from other people thinking their prices are too high. Keep your prices in that range, and everyone will be happy.

Other things that are fun to sell are bags, t-shirts, crafts and lots of other things! But if it’s your first time selling, I would keep things simple and start off with the basics. Then work your way up! :D


Keep it simple. People are quickly glancing at tables to see if anything will catch their eye. If your table is messy with a ton of product on it, chances are they will walk on by. Have a portfolio on your table so people can flip through what you have. Keep those prints in a box, or something that you can easily go through to find what print your costumer wants.
Buttons are fun to sort through, so put them in a big bowl or container. Keep them in sight, as there are some people who will easily pocket them. Talking from experience, buttons are really easy to steal. Nothing worse than counting up what you have left, to realize that a few were stolen.
Displaying prints and price lists are easy with a cube wire shelf. You see them everywhere at cons, and they really are a great investment. You can set them up however you like, and hang up your prints for everyone to see. You can always make your own displays, but if you’re lacking time and don’t mind spending about $30, they’re the best route to go.
Have a table cloth! Most places don’t provide table coverings, and tables can be pretty gross looking. Table cloths are great for helping you stick out, so get something fun, or in a color you love.
Have a Square? Make sure you display that you do loud and proud, so people will know you can take their credit cards for payments.

My first time selling at a big event. This was Hal-Con 2010. Everything as just spread out all over the place! 

Second time at Hal-Con. Still learning the ropes. My display is a bit better, things are upright and people can see them. Pink table cloth to stand out a bit more!

My third time at Hal-Con. This was the first year using the wire set. Nice and simple! 

4th year at Hal-Con. I was trying out a new display for my shirts and bags. Turns out it was too big and in the way. Plus it kept falling over. But I stood out besides that, with a nice bright banner and fun tablecloth!

This was at East Coast Comic Expo. My first time selling there. Still selling shirts, but this time I laid them out. Plus the table was 2 feet longer than most convention tables. I could really spread myself out more. Also, you can see that I forgot my table cloth! Whoops!

Here's another way of display my shirt and bags. I hung them from the cube wire set. A bit easier and out of the way. 

As you can see, you can really evolve and make your display yours. Just keep playing around with your setup! One good way of figuring things out is do a mock up display at home. Don't have a table big enough? Tape out the 6'x2' space on the floor and do it from there. 

Other things to consider having at your table:
Have a money box that locks. My first couple events, I had a Tupperware container to hold all of my money. Not very safe to have open money lying around, even if you are beside it at all times. Also make sure you have a good float. Have a lot of five dollar bills and Loonies and/or Twonies. Most people are going to pay with twenty dollar bills, and they might only be buying a small ticket item. And you’ll get a lot of that. Then next thing you know, you’re out of small change, and the banks are closed. So it’s best to have a large float just in case. Some cons will have someone going around changing your cash if you do run out. I tend to get a roll of Loonies and about $100 worth of fives. If you’re selling your stuff with $0.50, get a roll or two of quarters too. Another good idea, is keeping a sold list. Keep track of what you have sold throughout the day.

Bring a bottle of water and some food. Granola bars, fruit, crackers & cheese, whatever! Though some cons do provide water for the whole event. Bring healthy snacks to keep you going. Sugary and fatty snacks are nice to have, but don’t make your whole weekend a snack feast. Some places will have food on site, and allow vendors to take the food to their tables. Or if you have someone who can cover your table, go out, get a breath of fresh air, and get some lunch. Just remember to keep yourself nourished. It will make the weekend so much better.

Take a sweater or blanket! Last year at Hal-Con I was so cold, I had to wear my winter coat! So take the extra sweater just in case the AC is cranked. Sitting around at your table it will be cold, but for people who are walking around in the crowds, it does get warm.

If you’re going to do commissions, take extra pens and pencils and erasers, paper, everything. You never know if your pen will explode or you run out of lead. Take extra just in case. And if you are doing commissions, make sure you have a big enough sign out, so that people know you are.

Take your phone charger! There are plugs around the building, so if your phone dies, you can hang around a plug for a bit to charge it. Or if you’re lucky, you will have a plug by your table.

Don’t want to draw or need a break from it? Take a Gameboy or a book, or something that will keep you occupied during the slow times.

Want people to notice you? Stand up at your table if you can. Keep eye contact, say hello, compliment people on their costumes, and take pics! Just be interactive with people. It will make them come over to check out your work. Maybe they will buy something!

One other thing to bring with you are business cards! Even if someone doesn’t buy something from you,  chances are they will take a business card and look you up online. Even if you don’t have a website, putting your facebook link or Deviantart account will make them check you out, and maybe even gaining another like or watcher. Between 100-500 cards is a good starting point. Look around online or at local printers to find out what is best for you. You can even print your own if you wanted to. Just make sure to bring them! Some people might want something of yours, but already spent all of their money, so when they do have a cash flow again, they may just message you about something they saw of yours and buy it!

Last but not least, HAVE FUN! Even if you’re not selling a lot, don’t be bummed! People want to see happy vendors. If you’re giving off a happy vibe, chances are they will come over and say hi, or buy something. You’re getting your name out there; don’t worry about what others around you are making. Be happy and have fun.

I think that’s it. That’s pretty much the basics on having a table at an convention. 


Have fun at your first convention. Don't stress. Don't compare your sales to other peoples sales. Keep things simple. Don't undersell yourself. Keep nourished and hydrated. Take extra things with you, like a sweater, pencils, paper, snacks, etc. Bring business cards. Have a price sheet. Take a money float. Make a check list. Just have fun and be happy and smile! You can do this!