Over the last few months, I’ve received questions regarding my experiences with applying to artist alley, how to prepare for a convention, and general booth presentation tips. I’d like to take this post to share a brief overview of what I’ve learned so far. This is from the perspective of someone who has done cons for a year, all within the United States.
For a first con, I would recommend staying local to get a feel for running a booth before investing too much in travel.
If you are fortunate enough to have multiple cons locally to choose from, or have already had experience with local cons, then use your existing network to gather data on what type of audience is most interested in your art. Look at the profiles of people who like/favorite/reblog your art. What kind of other fandoms are they into? What demographic does most of your fanbase fit under? Can you get Google Analytics data on the type of people who visit your sites? Use this data to your advantage and find events that fit your target market.
Even though art may be just your hobby and not your full-time business, it’s important that in matters when you are presenting yourself professionally (like a con) that you treat it like a legitimate business. That means keeping track of earnings and expenses spent on cons and making sure you have applied for the correct seller’s permits (check the laws of the state your con is on.) Depending on your situation, it may be worth getting a business license as well.
Keep in mind that at the end of the year, you will be paying income tax based on the money you earned as well, so keep a portion of your earnings aside to be prepared for this. Keeping receipts for all expenses incurred (printing, shipping, stock imagery, marketing costs, etc) using clean books is helpful for possibly lessening your tax burden.
There is a significant amount of financial and legal knowledge that is important for creators to know that is beyond what I can cover here, but some resources you can use to learn more are:
General Small Business tax info from the IRS:
In the last 8 months, I went through 3 different booth structures! Here are the pros and cons of each one, along with cost and referral links to buy.
Pros - very customizable, cheap, can build racks, walls, etc. Form factor breaks down to a very small size.
Cons - not very stable, takes a long time to set up and generally needs 2 people, can be very heavy due to them being metal
Buy wire cubes here: amzn.to/1YTHFjL
Pros - can be assembled with one person, fairly stable, somewhat cheap, somewhat customizable, clamps can be used for other purposes after the con
Cons - looks unsightly when pipe is exposed, clamps will always be exposed and are a hazard for running into, must cut to size yourself, heavy
Buy clamps here: amzn.to/1YTHRiR
Pros - super fast setup for one person, very stable even when extended to a tall height, professional appearance, lightweight
Cons - not customizable at all (basically this can just be used to make a wall of prints), expensive
Buy a backdrop stand here: amzn.to/1YTHSn7
Other items that are great for including are a nice quality tablecloth, banner with your business name or handle, business cards, money deposit bag, and a browsable portfolio case. I prefer a refillable portfolio so I can customize the page count plus switch out pages as they get too grimy/ripped (yes this will happen.) Get a portfolio case here: amzn.to/1YTI8T1
For those in the US, consider upgrading to a chip card reader as well to minimize your risk.
Additionally, bringing healthy snacks, water, tissues, hand sanitizer, and a bag for trash will make your time at the table so much more pleasant!
Let me know if you’d like a more in-depth write ups for any of these topics!
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Hello there, my name's Jaleh! I ♥ creating elegant, intuitive UI designs as well as colorful digital paintings.
Since 2007, I've been working in the interaction design field creating UI for apps and websites.
My work that I share on deviantART is from my personal collection of creations - drawings and paintings I create purely for fun! I do display my prints occasionally at conventions however ^__^
In addition to art and design, I love hanging out with my house rabbits Kiwi and Poppyseed ♥