Ok so now that I’ve got a few more conventions under my belt I’m back with another Lessons in Con Business post.
We had someone ask us what inspired us to make so many unusual things that you don’t see at very many other tables. I told them “we make the kinds of things we want but have not seen at conventions.” And between Tracey and I we have 15 years of conventions between us so if we haven’t found these things at any of those it is way past time they got made. We also make a lot of things that can be used over and over. I call them our Consumable Usable products. And they sell. People love stuff that can be useful. So with that in mind here’s your next tip.
Tip 2: Two words; Diversify Portfolio!
This tip does not just apply to stock portfolios, it works with a lot of other areas of business. At one point we had 52 separate products. It was insane how much stuff we were making so we ended up scaling down to 35 products and even then I’m wondering if I’m making too much. However that being said the diversity of our product line does mean that when I say “Hello! Feel free to manhandle anything on the table, we have a little something for everyone.” It’s accurate.
Now on the downside having so many products does mean that we are ALWAYS working. We never stop and I can occasionally get overwhelmed trying to keep up with it all but it does mean that when I sell out of a product I have other products to fill in the gaps. However if you are like many crafters and are only really good at making one kind of craft never fear! There are a lot of ways to diversify your portfolio of one craft style.
Amigurumi is a great example here because it’s all crochet and that is a craft skill that is actually coming back into style after languishing in the 80’s and 90’s. And who doesn’t love a soft, cuddly stuffed toy? And you can make just about any creature, we even got in on the act and we sell baby dragons, Owls and pokemon. Its one of our best sellers.
But let’s say you can’t crochet worth a darn and the yarn aisle of the craft store makes you itch but you’re really good at jewelry. This one is going to be a little harder because the convention floor is inundated with jewelry. There is such a glut of it on the market that a lot of conventions have to limit themselves to truely unique jewelry vendors just to make sure everyone gets a fair chance.
This is an extremely small sampling of what I have seen at cons and I know one of the vendors in the mosaic personally. So if you do jewelry you’re going to want to have some kind of hook, something to set you apart from the 8 or so other jewelry vendors. I suggest something fan relevant. Think about your target audience and your skills and work from there but don’t just limit yourself to standard jewelry, think outside the box and maybe create a unique jewelry stand or display to sell, something that makes your art a work of art that can be proudly displayed in a home or room for all to see. As it stands our table only has one very small display of necklaces that I couldn’t talk Tracey out of making.
And lest you think I’ve forgotten you Print artists fear not! I remembered you, and you have got to find a way to set yourself apart. I know prints are quick and while the initial art is not easy in any way making prints of your work is kind of the lazy way out and there are literally hundreds of other artists doing the same thing. (Especially if you consider art piracy and copyright infringement.) And if you think you can diversify your product line by making buttons or stickers think again! Every other print artist got there first and there is a huge glut of those on the market too. Not that buttons and stickers aren’t a great product, they can be a fun easy sale when people only have three bucks left on a Sunday and want to get just one more thing but you have to think outside the box and challenge yourself.
In one of my previous posts I talked about diversifying print products and I think I said ‘Show me coffee mugs! Show me Calendars and phone cases and mousepads! Show me anything but yet another print!’ And it still stands. My room is 8 feet by 8 feet square and all my walls are claimed by original artwork. I don’t like to buy fan art prints but my roommate loves them and even she is running out of room for prints. But we both drink a ton of coffee and tea and we never seem to have enough mugs. I want to see sweet art on useful items that I can use and show off all the time and I think a lot of other customers do too.
I’m gonna plug one of my vendor friends. He is working on promoting his graphic novel and sells prints of his characters along side the Novel. You can actually find out more about his novel on his website http://www.soulbullet.com/ .
Now when I met Marcus at DaisukiCon in Chattanooga TN he was just selling his graphic novel and prints but wanted to know how we’d become so successful. I gave him the same advice I’m giving my readers and I was shocked to see he was taking it when I saw him earlier this year at KentokyoCon! He expanded his product line, avoided the fast food window of doom and he’s been doing fantastic sales! He even asked me if I had any more suggestions for his table which made me feel great because I love seeing my friends succeed and I like knowing that I’m giving good advice.
Print artists I implore you, you are the largest demographic within the Convention Artist Alley Scene; you out number the Crafters 10 to 1, I beg you please; for your own success branch out. Get adventurous, be brave and take a chance on a new product. T-shirts, Mousepads, coffee mugs, hats, freaking plateware! You have the whole wide world as a canvas, please use it! If you step outside the safety of prints and buttons and stickers there is a world of potential and a lot of money to be made but it does mean a larger investment and a lot more time. But you know what? I believe in you. I know you can do it and be successful and make your art your living.
Good luck and as usual these are just tips and suggestions. Use them as you will! I hope to see some of you awesome people at our next convention!