reafu: Good afternoon, I've been been attending convention Artist Alleys, starting with Anime North since 2012. What I really want to know is how I can go about increasing my sales profit, so I can at least break even with my hotel/food/preparation expenses during the weekend. I realize I am new to this, and very excited to have a chance at this. I just want to set myself on the right track so I can eventually attend cons outside of Ontario and eventually the larger, US ones.
EDIT: Rebloggable version of this ask is here: http://aatoast.tumblr.com/post/55741463822/here-it-is-rebloggable-version-of-this-original
Interesting question! Pricing and profits are definitely some of the trickiest questions for any industry, and that includes the world of Artist Alleys! Profit is obviously dependent on sales, and factors involved in sales include totally unpredictable and subjective things that change year to year, convention to convention, even day to day at one event. Things like:
- convention audience preference for your art style
- table location / visibility of your work
- the series/subjects you draw and how popular they may happen to be at the moment
- the format of your products (type of product, size of print etc.) and how popular they may happen to be at the moment
- presence of other artists/retailers at the event, or just other events/programming/things in general that also cost money for the attendees
- the general economy
Over time, the more your art is known and the more distinctive of a style you have, the less these factors may have an impact. Anecdotally, I can tell you from personal experience that I’ve had some prints that sat around for years with no sales, to the point where I’ve given up all hope for them … but suddenly start selling for no apparent reason one year. It really can be that unpredictable!
So, what can you control? Minimizing your costs wherever possible is probably the safest and surest way to increase your profits (of course, not to the point where you have a poor quality product). For convention costs, economizing strategies can include:
- commuting instead of staying at a hotel
- public transit instead of driving (cost of gas) or other more expensive forms of transportation
- splitting cost of gas with others
- splitting cost of a hotel room with others
- staying at a friend’s place
- plan a menu and bring your own food/snacks
- plan a budget to buy groceries to prepare your own food at lower costs (and making sure you have a place to prepare your food)
Likely all things you’ve started thinking about or doing already!
Of course, the price of your product itself can also have an impact on sales. It’s pretty clear that cheaper items are likely to sell more than expensive items. But at the same time, price too cheap and your profit is too low; price too high and you might not be able to make enough sales to break even. Big businesses have to do a lot of research to find a sweet spot, and artists are no different.
The first step is to price your products smartly - sell for more than it cost you to make it. How much effort you go to doing this may depend on your goals for doing Artist Alleys. If it’s mainly a hobby supported by other sources of income, you may not care as much about maintaining details for everything. If you’re not sure, it’s always a better idea to document too much than too little. Keep track of:
- material/outsourced costs of production (printing, lamination materials, button making supplies, art supplies, etc.)
- cost of labour - hours of your own time spent in making things x minimum wage you are willing to accept (this is definitely the harder thing to track - many people skimp on this and estimate in general)
- overhead (if it’s a hobby, you won’t need to worry about this, but if it becomes a real “job” then you’ll want to take into consideration things like rent and whatnot that are a reality of life)
Here are some basic ideas for figuring out pricing relative to some sort of budget (essentially two ways to think/go about it):
Cost + Desired Profit
- Figure out how much it cost you to produce something, then divide it by the units you’ve made to figure out cost per unit.
- Figure out the general profit you’d like. (Note that technically profit = only what you have left over after costs, including other associated costs like hotel and event fees and whatnot, so we’re using this term kind of loosely at this point - maybe a better word would be the revenue or return you would like - enough to cover all those costs and hopefully have something extra.) Divide it by the units you’ve made to figure out what you should be making in terms of return per unit.
- Add 1 and 2 together and that’s approximately what you should price something at. Adjust as you see fit to what you are comfortable with.
- Figure out your breakeven point.
This is the point at which the number of units sold covers exactly your costs. Beyond this point, anything else is profit. You could use it to figure out how much you need to sell to cover your convention costs independent of your merchandise production.
Fixed Costs/Price - Variable Costs = Breakeven Point in Units Sold
(Your budget for the convention, like hotel costs, food, what you want to spend) / (Unit price you want to charge) - (Cost to make a unit) = how many things you gotta sell to break even.
- Adjust the different variables and play around until you see something that looks reasonable to you.
For example, you might know your budget and how many units you made of a print and your price, but not your unit price. Or you might know all the other things but not how many units to make. This is kind of a simplified equation because it assumes you only have one kind of product with one price point and one cost, but hopefully this is a helpful starting point.
It’s also helpful to see how others are pricing their items to get a sense of the market - bearing in mind that depending on where you are and who you are using for comparison, it can fluctuate. For example: there’s a sense that the audience in a Gallery setting (e.g., Gallery Momiji) may be willing to pay more for art, particularly original works, than the audience in the Artist Alley/Comic Market itself. Also, certain types of products by nature are usually higher profit - for example, prints are almost always a higher profit item (they have high visual impact while being relatively simple/inexpensive to produce). And of course certain artists have works that may be more appealing to certain audiences, whether it’s style, subject matter, reputation etc.
Again, these are general guidelines and rules of thumb. Here are some previous articles we’ve reblogged with more tips and info on pricing (bearing in mind most of these are US-based and talk about tax concerns as well):
- How to Artist Alley: Pricing and You: http://blog.crashbanglabs.com/2012/04/how-to-artist-alley-pricing-and-you.html
- Anime Boston’s Artist Alley Beginner Guide (Pricing): http://www.animeboston.com/artists/artists_alley_beginner_guide/#pricing
- Artist Alley Survival Guide (Pricing): http://www.artistalleysurvivalguide.com/pricing/
- Commission Pricing Guide example: http://jadiejadie.tumblr.com/post/45616148171/a-few-years-ago-i-came-up-with-a-form-for
If you’re doing US cons, Jackie Lo created a sales tax calculator for conventions: http://jackieloart.tumblr.com/post/53282196945/sales-tax-calculator-for-conventions
We’re always looking out for more useful pricing and selling posts, so be sure to check out our Selling tag!
Finally, for something else to consider - if you want to think about making more sales, consider doing on-site art commissions. These are great for a number of reasons:
- Low material production costs. For illustration-focused artists - this is not necessarily the case for crafters. If you’re doing a drawn commission, you just need paper to draw on, art supplies to draw with, and your time. And you’re already at the convention anyways!
- Each commission is a confirmed sale (unless you happen to have an unscrupulous customer who doesn’t pay, but hopefully you will have taken precautions against that by requesting deposit upfront, etc.). You’re making things on-demand!
It’s not for everyone because some people find commissions to be stressful and take away from enjoying a convention. But as long as you put parameters around your expectations and what you aim to do, they can be a great way to add to your profits - not to mention meet people and get great stories!
Hope this info is of some use to you in taking your pricing and budget planning further! If any other artists out there have tips and thoughts to share, please let us know by submitting your thoughts, or leaving a message in our Ask box!