So earlier this month (wow is it that long past already?!) I went to my first convention as a vendor. Surprisingly it was waaaaay more exhausting than I expected, though I might chalk that up to the 2 hour commute in and out of the city.
So I had everything planned out to the smallest detail, so despite all the problems I ran into during set up, it was relatively fast and stress free. My space was way smaller than I expected, and I thought that the table top would match the skirt, but it all worked out.
What I didn’t expect was my $30 wands sold way better than my $5 prints. I had one woman come up to me and ask what she was supposed to do with one of my prints. uh, hang it up? It never dawned on me that con goes look for that poster size and don’t understand the framing process. There must be a large population of people who just tape their art to the wall and consider it a success. I mean, I used to be one of those people, but not with convention artwork. Just printouts and commercial posters. So I’m thinking for my non poster size fine art prints I probably need to frame each one and have that be part of the display. “Look! Giclee prints! FANCY! MAKE YOUR LIVING ROOM NERDY BUT CLASSY!”
The other thing I think I didn’t understand the full importance of was continuity of the table. I wanted by table to look full and hopefully get rid of some backlogged stock, so I brought out all sorts of things I’d made. Some people would walk past, look at whatever was closest to them, and never look up at the prints! Clearly repetition of designs is important. Once I’d sold some wands I started putting prints on the table where people could see as they walked past eyes downcast, and I actually sold a lot more that way!
I didn’t sell any fully framed pieces, mostly because of the price. I had to takers for my cross stitch Charmander, but ultimately they didn’t have the funds. Also though, Americans just don’t understand haggling.
A paraphrased conversation I had with one gentleman
“I love it, but I just don’t have that much money right now. Just bought this other thing.”
“Well what would you want to pay for this item them, I’m willing to negotiate in order to send you home with it.”
“I couldn’t take away your money or devalue your art.”
“No, no don’t worry about that.”
“No, it’s worth every bit of what you’ve priced it at.”
“How about this, Special just for you today I’ll take $50 off the top. Better than any sale I’m offering!”
“No, I can’t do that to you.”
Okay so before anyone who’s ever been harassed by a sales vendor gets mad at me for being persistent, I totally understand him not having the money, but really just say a second time that you don’t have the funds. In a haggling community 2-3 “i can’t afford that”‘s means ‘I want a lower price’. The vendor always knows his lowest price point, and is willing to let a sale walk if there’s no profit.
Oddly enough, for all the American public likes to abuse retailers and get free things, they feel like it’s insulting to haggle with an artist. The artist will tell you no if they’re not negotiable on price.
The flip side is true too though. If you are going to haggle with an artisan, respect their effort and skills. If they’re charging $200, don’t offer $50.
BACK ON TRACK
I think I got a kinda lousy spot at the back of the event, a lot of people never walked down my alley or never made it that far back at all. Regardless, the woman two tables down from me made a KILLING. She had easily 30-40 designs she was selling that were going like hot cakes at $10-20 a print. My first convention I bought art very similar to hers, so for a staple that sells that simple vector style really works. It’s not my thing though.
“You’re an artist first, not a businesswoman!” I kept having to repeat to myself “learn what sells then modify your work to reflect the market, but stay true to your art”
It kills me, but I think my takeaway is to change my print quality so I can offer larger prints at a more competitive price. 11×14 seemed to be popular, but for Giclee I’d have to charge a lot more than the others. For my style and lack of internet fame, I don’t see the business sense in that investment at this time. I’ll still have some prints in Higher quality, simply because I feel like they deserve that attention for their market, but the next 11 months will be focusing on a portfolio of prints that I wouldn’t be betraying my buyers to have paper and ink that won’t last forever and ever and ever.
My next question then begs the attention: if I focus on a different type of print with lower production costs, how will I present the two side by side? After all, the Giclee’s are marvelous art works IMO and I still want people to buy and enjoy them (I certainly can’t hang up 10 copies in my house)
Conundrums for future Xandi.
Also, CREDIT CARDS. I didn’t realize how many people didn’t carry cash on them at conventions anymore. I had trouble with my card reader once and the person decided not to come back with cash, same thing happened to the girl next to me. I had one boy ask if he could swipe his card to buy a $3 bookmark. I ended up coming home with waaaay more change than I expected, simply because no one used cash.
Okay I know it’s considered indecorous to talk money but I’ll put it out there, since I know I needed this info when I was researching. At this event I made about $480 (total, not profit). Not a bad take away IMO for my first time ever as a vendor. The credit card to cash split was about $280 card to $200 cash. So it was pretty close, but I lost about $35 to a card reader being down. So without that card reader at all I’m pretty sure I’d have been down at least $200. I didn’t actually have a card reader either though, I had to manually type card numbers into the etsy app. I was really worried people wouldn’t feel comfortable with me typing their card numbers in and would cancel the sale because of that, but it never happened. That being said, I made sure to always type it in where they could clearly watch me doing it but others could not see their numbers, and then immediately gave them back their card.
I’ll edit in anything I can think of that I considered important, but that’s most of the big takeaways that I’m working on for next year. If there’s any new convention vendors out there who want to ask me about my first experience vs an experienced con go-er don’t hesitate to message me! Fastest results if you go through Facebook though. I live on there, haha!
I’ll say this, I’ve never been as tired from just sitting in a chair for three days as I did that weekend.