This is meant to be a good start for those who have never been a part of an artist alley before, as well as a nice refresher to those of you who are veterans of alleys everywhere! I will try to be as detailed as possible, but make the information easy to reference and read through!
Hope you enjoy, and feedback is definitely appreciated! Let me know your thoughts, reactions, some of your own alley stories, as well as if you have any suggestions to add to this tutorial! I definitely haven't thought of everything, so if you had new ideas to share, I'd love to hear them!
Here are the links to Part 1 theartslave.deviantart.com/jou… Part 2 theartslave.deviantart.com/jou… and Part 3 theartslave.deviantart.com/jou… if you'd like to take another look!
ARTIST ALLEY 101
Other Things to Consider/Resources
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
This section will cover all those other bits that wouldn't fit in any particular section in my tutorial, but are still very important to think about while preparing for artist alley and beyond.
Your packing list just got a whole lot bigger.
Along with this year's assortment of cosplays, spending cash and snacks, you definitely have a whole lot more stuff to remember to bring with you than you have ever brought before!
Below is a sample list of things to bring that I use and constantly add onto and change depending on what I am selling. I hope this is a good starting point for you and that you customize your own list for the items you sell!
Art and merchandise (add a more detailed list of items here for your reference)
$1/bargain/discount bin (for old or damaged items that can still give you some profit!)
Duct tape, scotch tape (for unexpected repairs! You never know.)
Table price list (printed legibly, and for an extra layer of OCD list prices in ascending order!)
Business cards/business card holders (holders are inexpensive and a nice way to add verticality to them!)
Index cards with commission info (or whatever other method you prefer)
Sticky notes for reminders (for that last minute photoshoot someone may want to go to, while still able to let the other folks at the table know where they are!)
Water bottles (stay hydrated!)
Cash box (you want to make sure this is protected at all times, especially when you're not at the table)
Magnet display board (for holding magnets)
Corkboard for keychains (or whatever other method preferred)
Mirror (this is nice for your customers if you have jewelry or hair accessories, it lets them see the product on themselves first hand!)
Tablecloth (for that extra layer of professionalism!)
Spare change!!!! (and lots of it)
Envelopes for cards (if you sell greeting cards or postcards, this is a nice way to protect them)
Calculator (to add up your total profit throughout the day/weekend)
Clipboard (to hold important papers like convention schedule, inventory, etc)
Hand sanitizer (to rid thee of ye olde con plague! Keep it out on table and use it frequently between transactions)
Cork pins (to hold keychains or other items in place on the cork board)
Jewelry stands (for rings, necklaces, etc!)
Sleeve protectors of varied sizes (Also another good way for customers' purchases to be protected once they leave your table, especially if they buy prints, postcards, etc!)
Be courteous to your artist alley neighbors!
Yes, they are all your competition, but you're all in it together! Good artists help each other out, so be nice and courteous! Who knows, you may even see them come over to your table and buy something, or request an art trade or commission! Kindness comes back around, so be a great neighbor and you'll have great neighbors! I've made lots of friends from neighbors that I have met, fed, helped out, or was just simply nice to in the past. And why shouldn't artists help each other!
On art theft and vandalism
This was something I originally hadn't thought of mentioning, but I think it's important to do so! If the alley is in a locked room, there may not be as big a concern for this, but when the alley is in an open hallway or area you want to make sure you pack up all your stuff each night. Put it away in your car, or at home if the con is close by, or at the hotel room you are staying at. You don't want to run the risk of leaving things out and having it stolen, or worse yet, vandalized! This has happened to people, and it is not fun. So don't risk losing all that precious work, and have a place to put it after each day!
On taking commissions
If you want to advertise that you do commissions, the simplest way to do this is by having a sign that says you take commissions, or you do on-the-spot commissions for a named fee. Make sure you give your customers flexible options that are also easy to understand. Lots of people have been burned in the past with paying for a commission they never received, so make sure when you advertise you're not making people afraid of the "c" word by being too vague!
The way to fix this is to have a system set up in advance. I usually don't take on the spot commissions, so this is a little easier to imitate. If someone is interested in a commission from me, I hand them a small index card that has some information I need the customer to fill out. What you will want from them is the type of commission, the customer's name, email, and mailing address. I ask for payment of commission at the convention but I can also create a receipt for the transaction so the person doesn't forget that they commissioned me, and so that they can later contact me if I happened to forget to send it or something crazy happens (believe me, you never know.)
Always have a business card at your table!
This is very important, because you want people to remember you long after the convention is over! If a friend of a customer asks where they got that awesome magnet, I wouldn't want them to say, "Oh, I got it from this one gal at the artist alley, but I can't remember her name." Rather, you want them to say "I got it from The Art Slave! She had a booth at the artist alley, but she also sells them on her Etsy store!" This is the power of a business card. Encourage everyone that buys from you to pick one up, or just automatically give one with every sale.
A good trick to get more people to your table may also be to walk around with a couple of business cards on hand, even while you're getting up to eat or attend a panel. Strike up a conversation or two and pretty soon they'll know you have a booth, and you can give them your card. Be smart and creative with promoting yourself!
This is the first thing we tend to forget to do, but it's also the most important thing. You can get caught up in the stress, the hustle and bustle of the convention, the last minute complications, and so on. Take some time to go away from your table and take a small walk around the convention. Immerse yourself in the convention environment, and remember why you started to sell in the first place. Hopefully the answer will be, because it's fun! I know from my personal standpoint that I absolutely love to go to conventions and sell my work. I love the little moments that are so unexpected and hilarious that make each year more memorable than the last. I love to meet new people and hear about what they like, what they're into, and develop friendships that span beyond the convention. I love seeing the reactions people have toward my work. All these reasons and more keep me coming back and make it rewarding for me. So whether this is your first year or your latest and greatest year, remember to take some time to enjoy yourself!
Constant re-evaluation and improvement
After the convention is over and you've mailed off your last commission, do an evaluation of your experience. Did you enjoy the convention atmosphere? Did you have a good turnout at your table? Did you do as well as you had hoped? Would you do this again? And based on what you come up with, you'll see whether or not this is for you. And if you totally had a blast and want to sell again next year, great! Keep track of your progress and build on your knowledge. Maybe you didn't like the way your display turned out, so you want to change it up for next time! Maybe you want to make more stuff now that you know where to go to find things and how to make your swag more efficiently. You might have seen a booth at the alley that really inspired you, whether be in its design, its layout, the work up for sale, and you want to bring that inspiration into your own booth. If you are constantly looking for new and better ways to improve your work and how you sell it, then I guarantee you will always have a great artist alley experience.
Before I end this tutorial, I would like to give you a list of resources that I hope are helpful and can get you started into thinking of ways to make your artist alley experience great!
4 in. Nickel Plated Keychains (army_navy_tags on Ebay has a good deal on wholesale keychains)
Sticker paper (upon googling "printable sticker paper" Staples and other stores seem to have some)
Magnet paper (I get mine at Michael's. It's hidden, but you can ask for the Pro Mag brand and they should have it)
Glossy or matte printing paper
Jewelry-making materials (arts and craft stores have whole sections dedicated to this!)
Jewelry Stands (Michael's has a variety of sizes and types)
Grid Squares (I hear they sell for $20 at Bed Bath & Beyond!)
Tablecloth (any fabric or craft store should have loads of colors/patterns to choose from!)
Cork Bulletin Board (I got mine at Target)
Portfolio (A nice black folder at Walmart can be good, but if you want to go for professional you'll have to check your local art supply store)
Art Supply Stores (Online/Public/Both!)
Michael's Arts & Crafts
Any craft or fabric store near you!
Printing Services (Online/Public/Both!)
Moocards (good for business cards, promotional stickers)
Office Max (great for prints, lamination service, mounting)
Staples (good for prints)
Vistaprint (good for ordering postcards and business cards)
Ka-Blam! (great for comics, art books and more!)
Thanks for checking out this tutorial! I hope it has been informative and fun! Let me know your thoughts, reactions, suggestions of things to add to any section of this tutorial, or any questions you want to have answered that I have not covered here!
See you next time!