The Cardinal Rule
Do. Not. Procrastinate. Deadlines have a habit of sneaking up on you before you know it. Manage your commissions and obligations ahead of time to ensure you are prepared for your customers.
Prior preparation is the single most important part of being a dealer. The convention will go by quickly while you’re there, so you want to make the most of it. How well things go is heavily influenced by how well you plan ahead.
- Make a Plan – Ask yourself important questions – what do I want to sell, how much do I need to sell to make it worthwhile, and how do I want to sell it? Whether you’re selling buttons, shirts, merchandise, prints, or taking commissions, it’s helpful to have a roadmap and a checklist so you can mark things off as you go.
- What to Sell – What you sell is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but we can give you one piece of solid advice: know your audience. Talk to other dealers, artists, and con goers, and ask what they like and don’t like, what works for them, or what they’ve always wanted to see. Unique items that tie into the convention theme tend to work particularly well and can build memories for customers.
- Do the Math – Creating merchandise and inventory costs money. Naturally, you’ll want to make a profit (or at least break even). Estimate production times to ensure items will be ready by the con, and consider the costs of materials, shipping and transportation, and your labour.
- Getting Inventory – Sites like Smartpress, Custom Ink, and VistaPrint offer affordable and customizable printing options for items such as magnets, booklets, prints, posters, stickers, decal, shirts, hoodies, and more.
- General Supplies/Necessities – Will you need bags for your sales? If you’re selling prints, do you need something to put them in (tubes, cardboard, etc.) so customers can protect their purchases? What other basic supplies such as scissors, tape, displays, signs, pens, or business cards will you need on site? Frantically searching for these items during the convention can be stressful. In addition, if you’re planning on accepting credit cards, do you have your Square or Paypal card readers ready?
- Adult Content – As an 18+ convention, there is some flexibility with regards to adult content being displayed and sold. As a rule of thumb, artistic nudity is acceptable, but strong pornographic or R-rated material must be stored in a closed folder (this can still sit on the table for individual customer perusal). A good suggestion is to have a folder or portfolio of such content available for perusal. Convention staff reserve the right to direct dealers to cover or remove content deemed to be unsuitable for display as defined above.
Setting Up Your Table
Whether you’re a first timer, or a regular, you’ll want to attract attention. Consider how your table looks, and that first impressions count! You want your table to stand out and say “Hey, come on over and check me out!”
- Stand Out – Decorations, posters, and displays can help attract people to your table or booth. You don’t have to go all out or get overly elaborate if you don’t want to, but consider things that can make your table “pop” and reflect who you are and what you’re selling. A simple decorated sign with your name on it can go a long way.
- Price List – Make a price list (printed, hand drawn, it’s all good!) with your prices is CLEARLY displayed, and make sure you can read the prices from at least 1-2m away.
- Table Cloth – Hotels and convention centers typically provide generic white cloth to drape over tables and booths. Consider going to a fabric store and getting some cheap, colorful cloth. A little bit of color can go a long way to make your table stand out. Just be sure to get measurements for the tables ahead of time. You’ll want about double the area of the table, so the cloth can drape around the edges and just about touch the floor.
- Stage Your Table – Before going to the con try to stage your table at home. The table size is approximately 183cm x 76cm. If you have a table available try to plan out how you want to arrange your items, sale boards, and inventory. Ask opinions from your friends or fellow dealers to get their opinion on it.
Admin and Taxation
- Documentation – Documents, documents, documents! Receipts, invoices, expenditures – anything you spend: keep and make a copy of it. Put in an envelope. Scan it. Use an app or your phone (or even take a picture of it for your records). Keep your paperwork in order and together. It will make life blissfully easier when tax season cometh.
- Track Inventory – Keep an inventory of everything you take with you to the con as well as what you’ve sold. There are plenty of apps available to help keep track of items (and for free). Square, for instance, allows you to take an inventory of your items sold AND allows you to accept credit cards as well.
- Write Offs – We’re not accountants, so ensure you consult with a tax professional or the Australian Tax Office when seeking guidance on what you can and cannot claim as a tax deduction. That being said, as a self-employed artist, crafter, or merchant, conventions may generally be appropriate for deductions such as your food and accommodation, dealer registration, table decorations and fittings, promotional materials, transport, and other such costs of doing business.
At the Con
- Don’t Panic – Hey, you’ve got this! It’s going to be great.
- Communicate – Be outgoing, smile, and greet everyone who comes up to your table. Even if you’re having a rough day (we’ve all been there, trust us!) a simple smile, nod, or “Hey there!” can go a long way to break the ice with a potential customer. If people approach your table and feel ignored they may be inclined to keep moving. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing, but take the time to acknowledge those who approach. Personality can go a long way to help make a sale.
- Be Social – Feel free to talk, get lost in conversation, and potentially make a new friend. Get to know your table buddies as well. You’re all in it together and good attitudes can go a long way. At the same time, don’t be afraid to say “I need to get back to work!” when busy. You are there for business after and sometimes you really need to focus.
- Window Shoppers – Don’t feel discouraged if people stop by, look around for a bit, and move on without buying anything. It happens – remember, attendees may have limited budgets and are trying to plan what to buy and where. They may genuinely want your wares but not have the funds to purchase them.
- Networking – This is where business cards come into play. Business cards give you the opportunity to network and gain potential future sales. Give your cards out to anyone and everyone! While you may not make a sale today, a business card could be just the connection you need for a sale tomorrow.
- Incentives – If you have the means to do so, people love free stuff! Free things and discounts are always a great way to get people to your table, and spread your brand awareness. Depending on what you’re selling “buy 2, get 1 free” deals can go a long way to making your sales more appealing. Likewise, a “Spend $X, get Y for free!” offer can be just the ticket to convince someone to spend a little extra.
- Get Contact Info – Take contact information, especially for commissions. Email, phone number, Twitter, Telegram, FA, or other contact information can come in handy if you need to reach out to commissioners/contacts.
- Dealer’s Den Staff – If you need a hand be sure to ask the Dealer’s Den staff for advice or assistance. They’re there to help! The staff want you to succeed, so don’t be afraid to approach them with questions or concerns. Just remember that staff can be incredibly busy, so if they’re not able to help right away don’t take it personally.
- Cold Hard Cash – Most customers come to the con with cash on hand, and ATMs tend to get raided the night before and first day of the con. You’ll need to be able to provide change, so be sure you bring plenty of small change. How much will you need? Generally, about $100 in $10 and $5 notes, and various coins is the best recommendation to make sure you cover all bases, but $50 should be about the minimum.
- Accepting Credit Cards – Taking credit cards at a con is a breeze, and there’s no sign up or merchant fees needed to get started. We generally recommend Square or Paypal card readers, as they’re compatible with a wide variety of smartphones and tablets and are generally familiar to most attendees.
Replicated and Modified with Permission from FA United, USA.