5 Tips on Navigating Conventions as an Artist
Howdy! My name is Sam Flegal and I’m a con artist, by this I mean I sell my art at conventions and have been doing so for the last six years. I do between 15 to 25 shows a year. I’ve seen a lot, and learned a lot about doing conventions as an artist, and I want to share a few basic tips on how to get started as a con artist.
1. GREAT BOOTH SET UP
In this day and age it’s not too time consuming or expensive to have a great booth set-up. There are a few “Must Haves” but it’s also important to consider the feel of your art and of you as an artist. I’ve seen booths with cool gypsy feel with colorful table cloths and skulls, others use textured cloth to give their booth an “earthy” feel, or you can go simple and professional. Go to cons, look at other artist’s booths, take notes.
Regardless of what feel you’re going for, here is my list of booth “must haves”:
1. Banner – clean easy to read, name and website. I get mine from Vistaprint. (Make sure to search for coupon codes!)
2. Banner stand – if you can’t display it easily, then the banner is worthless.
3. Signage – printed signs with clear prices, black text on white is easiest to read. If you’re going to try something different use neutral colors with black text. Legibility is more important than anything with signage. Don’t use a weird font.
4. Prices – If you brought stuff to sell make sure it has a price. Printed prices are best. Get labels and print your own. Handwritten prices make people think of bargain buys and yard sales. Don’t make your art look cheap!
5. Table cloth – black bed sheets will work fine. If you’re not going with black, then make sure the color works with your art. You want to choose a color that lets your art shine.
6. Business Cards – with your name, website, and some of your art at the very least.
2. PERSONAL APPEARANCE
You are at a professional event. Yes everyone else is at a con, but you’re there to sell your art and promote your business. Treat it as such. Aside from people in costumes the number one outfit at a con is jeans and a black t-shirt. If you wear the same you are putting on geek camouflage. Give some thought to the look you want to present, but make sure it also fits your personal style.
Don’t wear costumes at the booth. People will want to stop and take your photo; this distracts you and often means you lose costumers. Save the costumes for evening events if you like to wear them.
Also make sure to clean your fingernails and have clean hands. You’re going to be pointing at your art and as people look closer they will also see your hands. You don’t want dirty fingernails distracting from your art.
3. ENGAGE YOUR CUSTOMER
I can’t tell you how many sales I’ve made simply by saying “Hi!” Convention vendor rooms are busy places. There is a lot for fans to see and do. Add in all the costumes and many attendees will say “There’s too much to see, I feel like I’m on sensory overload.” How then does an artist stand out in that environment? Sure, a great booth set-up will help, but you have to grab their attention and make them look at you and your art. Otherwise they’ll often keep walking.
Here is my favorite opener, “Hi my name is Sam, and this is all my art. Please come over and take a closer look.” People typically respond with “Wow, you drew/painted all this?” and you then start a conversation about your art. Otherwise they say “O.K.” and seem uninterested. Cue the stormtroopers “Move along… move along.” You’ve just avoided a potential time-wasting situation. Either way you got the information you needed: “Are they interested in your art?” You’ve also made certain that you and your art were seen.
4. HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE
No one wants to buy from a Grumpy Gus. I’ve seen many artists fail at cons simply by looking pissed off. Remember to smile and act like you’re having a good time. You’re at a con for goodness sake. Enjoy yourself!
This advice is hardest when sales are bad. Do something to shake yourself up. Push-ups or some squats to increase blood flow and energy. Make a game of saying “Hello” to every single person who walks by. Do whatever it takes. You can bitch later at the bar with your friends about how shitty the con is, but DO NOT bring negativity to your booth.
5. START A MAILING LIST
It may not seem important to you yet, but having a mailing list full of people interested in your art will lead to potential future sales. Take the time to invest in your fans. Ask anyone who seems interested in your art for name and e-mail. If someone buys your art, make SURE to get their info. I use Mail Chimp for my newsletter; it’s easy to use.
Speaking of mailing lists you should sign up for mine: Strange News from Sam Flegal
I hope that helps get you started! I’ll see you at the next convention!
To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project please visit: http://www.samflegal.com
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