So when we started this little adventure in selling hand crafted merchandise we knew we had to set ourselves apart if we were going to stand any chance of making a profit. We toyed with various set ups. With different display stands and methods.And with lots of different products. And along the way we learned a few important lessons.
Lesson 1: Avoid the Fast Food Window Effect.
Ok so most of our readers (all 3 of you) have seen this :
Or something very similar, usually loaded down with artist prints. Now I can’t speak for everyone but I for one tend to see this as a fast food drive up window. You cruise on by glancing at the cacophony of riotous color and drift on by without really stopping to pay more attention or even talk to the Artist. Many of whom can barely be seen behind the prints overhanging the windows which brings me to;
Lesson Two: Stand up and Talk to the Customers!
Customers are not just going to flock to your table flinging money at you when there are so many other vendors almost literally screaming for their attention. Think back to the last time you were at a convention wandering around Artist Alley. How many of the Artists looked like this?
Most of them are sitting down at their table and a significant number of them are working on a drawing/crafting a plushie etc. I’ve been to conventions where I walked up to a table and they didn’t even acknowledge me until I touched something. Now think back to that convention in the Dealers section. It probably looked like this didn’t it?
The vendors standing up, talking to the customers, interacting and in many cases reaching out verbally to customers drawing them in by grabbing their interest. It’s the reason most retail stores have clerks standing, and why customer interaction is so very important to good business.
Lesson Three: Diversify Portfolio
Ok so we’ve covered that a lot of Artists tend to sell prints and I get it, it’s relatively inexpensive to draw on good picture and then make a dozen copies to sell. Mass production, it’s the American Way!
It doesn’t make for very good business when literally almost every other Artist in Artist Alley does it.About 75% of Artist Alley is Print Artists. And most people have a limited amount of wall space. Plus there are only so many ways to draw Alucard kissing Seras Victoria. The other 25% of Artists are what I like to call Product Creators.
People who make anything from plushies, to hats, to soaps, and sell those. And in a lot of cases these are the Artists making enough money to keep coming back. Now say you can’t do something like that, all you know is drawing. Fine, but for heaven sake can we get something other than an 8×11 print? How about a book bag? Or a hat? Or Mouse Pads? We have a guy who likes to draw but doesn’t want to sell independently. We pay him to draw on hats and mousepads for us and it works! Give me coffee mugs, give me calenders, give me literally anything but another print.
There are a lot of other lessons we’ve learned and I will be putting them up but for now I’ll leave you with my top three. We’re headed to Kahn Con in Hillsville Virginia this weekend! Here’s hoping we have another successful con!