How To Run a Table at Artist Alley

I was at Phoenix Comicon this past weekend. Now that it’s done, I have the focus to talk about how to run a table at Artist Alley.

I’ve had tables at conventions for a little over four years now. With all of that experience, here are some of the basics I learned. Let’s start with before and during the con:

  • Get your table number. Sounds so basic it’s dumb, but it’s super important to know where your table is at the convention. On that note, know where the Artist Alley will be in the building. Find the room number and where the bathrooms and food are located.
  • Bring water. This is especially important because you’ll be talking to a lot of folks. Bring snacks if you can, too (it’ll save you money because con food can get pricey).
  • Bring a buddy. Your buddy will help you sell your work, watch your table while you get food (or even better, get food for you both), and watch over the table while you go to the bathroom. Your buddy can be anybody: a friend, a significant other, your work partner, your mom…
  • Take breaks. You’re either doing a lot of standing or a lot of sitting. Take a second to stretch out even if you can’t leave your table. Be on your feet for a bit if you’re sitting a lot. Extensive periods of sitting is actually very bad for your health.

When you’re at the convention, you should have these things with you for your Artist Alley table:

  • Tape. To hang signs on your table, make minor repairs, or help out another artist who forgot their tape.
  • Cashbox, with $50 in bills. Really you can have over $50 if you can manage it. My point is, you NEED change. Because there will be customers who have $20 or $50 bills and they will be sad if you can’t make change for them. (People want to support you).
  • A Card Reader. You can get one from Paypal or Square. I use Square. Either way, they connect via your smart phone. So bring that with you, as well.
  • A Sketchbook and some art supplies for commissions. There will be people asking if you do commissions. Be prepared.
  • Sharpies for signing your work.
  • A Notebook for tracking sales. I track my sales by day, one day on each page. Tracking sales will tell you what’s working and what isn’t, so you know what to make for next year (or next con).
  • Scissors (optional) just in case it’s hard to cut your tape or something snags. Alternatively you can be Cosplay Medic, helping cosplayers fix their costumes on the spot.

Running sales? This will be tricky for some of you. There are tips everywhere online to help you sell better. Some articles will be linked in a moment.

However, I’ve been in retail sales for four years, not counting the convention circuit. I’ve personally found the following things to be helpful:

  • Don’t be a salesman. At least, don’t be the stereotype of a salesman. You know the stereotype: sleazy, weird, and not too interested in the people they’re talking to unless that person becomes a means to an end. Alternatively,
  • , where the customer is always right and you do everything possible to please them, even if you think they’re a grade-A creeper or a professional douche nozzle. Also, there will be people who say they will buy your work but never come back. Accept this. It will happen.
  • Talk to your customers like they’re people. Because really, your customers are people. They may be excited, bored, lost, or overwhelmed. Try to understand where they are coming from. Ask them if they’re enjoying the con so far. Pay attention to what they say and how they say it. Don’t try to change their attitude. Just meet them halfway and have a conversation. (This is a good way to make friends, too. Friends are awesome).
  • Rotate your pitch. Your pitch is how you explain your work to people. Try to have two or three different spins on your pitch so you don’t repeat yourself (that much) – or worse, annoy your table partner or neighbors.
  • At the end of the day, take some time for yourself. I’m a bit of an introvert. But when I’m selling at a con, I’m in full engagement mode and talk to almost everyone I meet. However, I take some time afterwards to be by myself and calm down so I don’t overstimulate. Do the same for yourself so you don’t drain.

If you need more pointers on selling, 99U made a good article for introverts on self promotion.

The Webcomic Alliance also have a useful post about table set-up (though be warned that it can get pretty heavy on the marketing jargon, like “optimize,” “brand,” and “content”).

Thank you for reading!

If you found this blog post useful, please let me know in comments and share it with your friends!

You. Are. Awesome.

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