I recently displayed at my first artist alley, and because of the way my social anxiety is set up I did some research before displaying my work. Which involved asking lists of questions, and googling other people’s experiences. You’ll find a lot of information on the top if you know what to google. The Deviant Artist forums are a great place to glean some knowledge. But I just thought to add my two cents to resources at your disposal. To prep you when you are headed to your local convention to display your work for the first time, and feel like you have no clue what’s going on. Here’s a list of Do’s and a few Don’ts you should be weary of:
DO get as much information about the event as you can, talk to other people you know that are exhibiting. And engage actively with them, they are your business partners. This means you should be aware of what they post, email and say.
Last minute changes will come. Be prepared to change everything at a moments notice. This means checking your emails the day before, and even on the morning of the event. Never be out of the know.
DO pay anything you need to pay for well in advance. While money isn’t the end goal for people starting out: yes, be advised, when you start out you will be making room mates with losses and their relatives of desperation and hunger.
These payments include everything from, any registration costs, printing costs, shipping costs, having money aside for food on the day if you didn’t carry some (see next DO). Some countries and events require you to acquire a temporary vendor’s license, you really do not want to be caught off guard and short changed.
Change. Because you have suddenly become a sales person. It might be something you overlook. But, people will show up with $10 notes to buy your $1 items. And it’s either you have change for it, you lose the sale or you try cut a deal with them.
DO eat. Eat before you leave the house. You are going to be behind your table for the entire day, engaging actively with countless potential sales. Before you know it, your strength will diminish, the shakes will kick in – and if you didn’t bring help to man your stand while you go for short breaks and catch snacks, you’ll be forced to make some difficult and honestly easily avoidable choices.
Pack food. Even if it’s just a pack of biscuits that you’ll have between the bursts of the crowds. A bottle of water or juice wouldn’t hurt to pack as well.
NB: if you have a weak bladder. Consider not having any liquids unless absolutely necessary.
DO come early and be ready. Arrive early. Being able to choose which tables you want is usually based on a first come first serve basis, this also includes registering early.
You’re on display, even though artists tend to look like trash from long hours paid in exposure and seven helpings of instant noodles: for this day alone, look presentable. The onslaught of sales pitches of your work will some times make you doubt yourself. Know your craft. If you are standing in for someone, get all the facts. You can lose a sale if you don’t know the product you’re trying to push.
Be ready for mishaps. Carry stationery. Extras of what ever you think you need.
DON’T expect to sell everything. There is a fixed number of people coming, all with some idea of how much they want to spend. You are in immediate competition with the other exhibitors, and that means that they’ll want to see everything on display.
Try not to feel down or discouraged if your work gets some criticism. I mean, you obviously will. Artists have some of the most fragile egos among all the professions. The key here is to separate the trash talk, from the constructive criticism. And remember there are no negatives to your work. Only growth areas.
DON’T sell yourself short for the sake of making sales. If you feel your work is worth $100, sell it for that.
There is a long conversation that could be had here with the aesthetic value versus the work hours and talent value. But for simplicity sake, set your rates before you leave the house and stick to your guns.
In conclusion, the list of things that are within your control should be controlled. Everything else should be left alone.
And most importantly. Have fun!