I've had my business for the past 7 years, and have sold at conventions for the past 4. I have done so much research that I hope to impart upon you a bit of the knowledge I can. Obviously today, we're talking about getting your booth together. This entails getting your stock ready, display items, and the like in order to prepare for your next convention as an artist!
First off, you need to make a list of conventions you want to attend as an artist. There is almost no guarantee that you'll get into the convention, especially if it's one that is really popular and huge. Finding out when conventions open their artist alley applications is a must. Even though most have either a jury or lottery picking system, the earlier you are, the better. It's really important to put together a portfolio of your best work and even some of your setups for how your booth will look, should you be picked. If you haven't sold at a con before, you can always set up a table at home and take pictures of those! If you have been to a lot of conventions, you'll have seen what most of the booths look like. Draw inspiration from them, but don't make it too cluttered! Below is my portfolio that I'll send to conventions, and a couple of the tables I have put together, starting with my first ever show, to my latest. Remember to budget for the table, as most conventions will cost anywhere from $60-$250 per table (in my experience).
(hit the arrows to see the next photo)
After you receive your acceptance letter (or rejection) you need to plan out what you'll need for a full set up. Depending on what you sell, you may need the ever popular mesh cubes everyone uses. You can find them here: https://tinyurl.com/y6aohbq3 or on Amazon in black or white in different sizes. I had to wind up buying two sets of six so that I could make some really amazing cube displays for some of the conventions I have sold at. You also need to make sure you have a cash box, preferably with a locking mechanism of some sort in the very off chance that it is stolen from the booth. Sometimes having a tip jar is handy, but not necessary, in case people want to support you but either cannot/don't have the funds to buy something from your table. Even if it's only a dollar, that's one more dollar that you didn't have.
You'll need to advertise that you're going to be at the convention, right? More so than just a tiny box in the booklet they hand out at cons. Let everyone know. Post it on every social media platform you own. Tell your friends to share your stuff. This is super important because most people will prefer to spend money in person, where they can see the product with their own hands and eyes, rather than over the internet. This is really apparent as you will hopefully make a pretty decent profit over the weekend. That being said, you need to come up with an inventory list and what all you plan on bringing to the convention.
For a convention that only has 500 people, you don't necessarily want to bring $5000 worth of product. If you don't do well, you're going to be really disappointed. But, you always want to bring a little more than what you need. I bring all my kigus (I have around 25 at all times) that I can sell, and once one does sell, I put up another one. You don't want to leave too much empty space with your booth, but also can't have it be overcrowded. It's all about finding a happy balance between the two extremes. Adding to that, don't be afraid to build up. Using the shelves to your advantage, or as I have seen, print artists making huge stands with their prints behind them for easier viewing helps the customer see, and if your booth is crowded, they aren't swayed away from your booth.
If you are a print artist, consider also having more than just prints. I can't tell you how many times I've seen upset artists because they only have the prints and no one is buying. You gotta remember, it's not about your art necessarily, it's about how much wall space they have at home, and they may not have anymore. With the rise of Ita bags, more and more print artists are coming out with keychains and pins in order to still maintain a profit. You also want to make a decent turn over with your art and don't want to be selling the same stuff con after con after con, year after year. It gets boring for the customer as well as for yourself. Maybe set a goal of making a new print each con (if you can) and keeping it interesting for yourself.
If you are like me, and sell swag bags, you'll need to pick up some bags. You want them to be flashy and catch peoples' eye. And, if they aren't sure what you buy, you can always point them to a rando bag that may have last year's stock in it, but they still get something cool. I try to do that with some of my less popular items and value it at around $15 worth of stuff in a $10 bag. I also draw really goofy things to theme the bags in order to appeal to the customer. I do take a lot of critical time doing this, so it's not necessarily smart if you are in a crunch.
Once you've figured out the timeline between now and the con, you need to set goals. I know that some plushie makers do assembly line style, and others finish it plush by plush. It depends wholly on you as a creator. Remember to take a break, sleep, eat, and shower. If you aren't in a good mindset, you won't be at your best to create the amazing work that you do. Make a reasonable list of items that you want to have done, and a believable deadline for each item to be checked off the list. And if you can't get everything done that you wanted to get done, that's okay. Try to plan a little better next time. Or you can do what I like to do and try to bring some stuff to work on while you are at the con. I always bring something small I can do with my hands while I'm also selling or else I will fall asleep. Usually, it's duct tape roses, or drawing up sketches of onesies, but if you are a 2d artist, you can also offer commissions at the con that can be done during so that you are focusing on both the customer and having something to do while it lulls.
When you pack up for the con, if you are like me and have a lot of stock that is bulky and awkward, pack the night before you leave, that way you don't have to scramble at the last minute trying to get everything done. This is as much for your sanity as it is for your tablemate (if you require one, which I do.) Do not abuse your assistant, they are wonderful humans for putting up with our crap all weekend. I constantly thank my S.O. and my friends that choose to help me because most of the time, it's a volunteer position, unless I make really good money during that weekend. I do also make my friends stuff in order to compensate them whenever I can, because I do love them and appreciate their time.
Remember to make signs to label your items, especially if you are not okay with people taking pictures of your stuff (as people are prone to do.) Sticky notes are helpful, and don't cost a lot. You can also find more thick solutions to signage at craft stores that are made of plastic and are relatively inexpensive. You just print out your list of prices and slide it in the frame. Making sure you write down the items you sell helps you keep track of inventory for your next show and shows you what your popular sellers are. This is helpful to know what all you need to restock for next time.
I think this is all I can think of, again, if you have any other questions hon what you might need to set your booth up for your next convention, please feel free to comment or message, and I will happily go into more detail. Happy crafting!