A lot of articles I’ve seen has been centered around preparing for your first artist alley in terms of tactical tips like creating products, putting together a chic display, pricing your products, engaging with customers, etc.
While these are all very important things to consider for your first artist alley experience, we fail to discuss one of the most, if not THE most, important question you need to know in making ALL your decisions in preparing for your first successful artist alley experience:
WHY do you want to sell at the artist alley?
Before you start spending any money on tables, display items, and products, you need to know WHY you want to sell at the artist alley in the first place.
Now you may think that the why isn’t that important in preparing for the convention. After all, you’re not getting any ‘real” stuff done.
But trust me when I say that knowing WHY you want to sell at artist alleys will dictate WHAT you need to get done for the convention and HOW to prepare for it.
So why do you want to sell at the artist alley?
Does any of the following reasons sound like you?
- I want to do it for fun!
- I want to make friends and meet new people.
- I want see what it is like to sell my artwork.
Or how about any of the following reasons?
- I want to reach more people with my artwork.
- I want to make money from my artwork.
If your reason is on the first list, I highly recommend simply attending the convention itself as an attendee or being a helper for an artist table at an artist alley.
If you like to sell and table for fun, you’ll be able to do everything related to selling at the artist alley without all the stress of preparing for a convention.
You should be tabling with the intention to help the artist though. Artists really need to have dedicated helpers that know their products and how to sell to run their artist alley business, and if you are off the majority of the time to attend events, panels, autographs or go shopping, it would be best for both of you if you went to the convention as an attendee instead.
Similarly, if you just want to meet new people, being a helper will give you a chance to interact with other artists and customers and potentially make a new friend.
Attending the convention itself is probably a better way to make new friends since you don’t need to do the extra work of selling and report back to the table but tabling does give you an excuse to talk to people in the first place. 😉 Just make sure you’re still selling for your artist friend or family and not keeping people at the table in a long conversation who would otherwise interfere with business.
And of course, if you want to see what it’s like to sell your artwork, help an artist friend out first. A huge portion of selling at conventions happens behind the scene through preparation and creation of artwork and can be extremely expensive and time consuming.
So find out if you enjoy selling at the artist alley before buying your table, purchasing materials, and scrambling to get artwork done. You will save a lot of time and money. Plus, you can use this opportunity to learn how to sell your artwork from other artists while you help.
Pro tip: You shouldn’t need to scramble to create more artwork for a convention anyways. You should have a body of work to showcase already. If you don’t, I suggest you get started creating at least 15-20 pieces of artwork for your portfolio first. The more the better.
There is A LOT of preparation involved in selling at conventions. You have to spend many hours and lots of money to sell at a convention. So unless you want to be a serious hobbyist who doesn’t mind all the money and time spent selling at a convention, I would recommend not having your own table and simply attending the convention or helping an artist instead.
If you fall under the second list, you are primarily looking to make money and see tabling at conventions as a business opportunity. And rightfully so! Artist alley tables are sold specifically to artists looking to monetize their artwork and skills.
This is the best reason for selling at artist alleys.
If you want to reach out to more people and expand your audience, tabling at conventions is a great way to do that. You can start preparing for the convention by looking up marketing strategies and improving your communication skills. Just remember that selling at artist alleys is not the only way to expand your audience.
Try posting and marketing your artwork online first on social media sites where people can find you. Not only is this a cheaper way to reach more people online, you don’t have to go through all the trouble of setting up a table. Also, you will have a place online where your new fans from the convention can connect with you after the even. So take advantage of the social media sites and online stores before spending on a table first.
Pro tip: Once you have a body of work to showcase, set up your own website. Not only is it professional, you will have control over your own website and not have to fight for attention with all that noise on social media.
Now if you want to learn how to prepare for your first artist alley because you want to MAKE MONEY from your artwork, you’re speaking my language!
(And when I say “make money,” I mean, you want to make money to PROFIT. You know, make more than the costs you spend on the table, travel costs to and from the convention, and your supplies, not the “make money to make back the table” kind of making money.)
If that’s the case, you’re in the mindset to make decisions to create, purchase and sell products with the intention to profit, such as lowering costs of your supplies and setting a profitable price for your products.
If you really want learn how to prepare with the intention to make money at your first artist alley, I have an mini email course for you. Sign up for it below and I’ll send you tips every other day to set you up for a successful artist alley business.