The week of the convention is upon you; you’ve booked your table, marked your calendar, and secured your hotel accommodations. Frantically you scurry to and fro, taking stock of everything you think you’ll need to make your weekend as successful and profitable as possible. Make sure you bring along everything in this list so you’re ready for whatever the weekend throws at you!
Cash is the singular most important thing you could possibly bring with you to a convention. Vendors want it, attendees have it, and you don’t want to starve to death in the sky-bridge because you couldn’t buy food, do you?
You need to be able to make change for your customers; a lot of it. Don’t gimp your sales on the first day because you plan to receive your small bills through transactions. I have seen artists walk sales because they couldn’t break their customers $50's or $100's. Despite what anyone says, there is no guarantee a customer will remember to come back to your table with smaller bills once they have found another artist to buy from instead.
Make sure you hit the bank a couple days before the convention and stock up on $1's, $5's, and $10's. It never hurts to bring some $20's, either. I personally bring at least ten $1's, ten $5's, and five $10's to each convention, and sometimes even that is not enough. It will be hard to leave your table and find someone to break change for you at the convention, so make sure you take care of it before you show up!
2. A Place To Store Your Cash
The only thing worse than forgetting to bring your money is losing it or having it stolen. An Artist Alley is a crowded, distracting environment with a lot of people walking around you and your table. Staying constantly aware of your surroundings is borderline impossible, especially if you are conversing and interacting with your customers.
Using a fanny-pack is a fairly common practice. Though it is not the most secure storage for your hard earned dosh, it does keep your money and other small essentials—like your phone, wallet, keys, etc.—on your person the whole time. Bonus points if you can find a fanny pack that has extra pockets like this one to vary up your storage!
Seeking something a little more secure? Invest in a cash box with a lock on it. Cash boxes come in a wide variety and most are fairly lightweight. The presence of a locking mechanism itself serves as a deterrent to theft. Organization never hurts, either! You can also find cash boxes that include a security cable which can attach directly to your table. Here’s an example.
NEVER leave your money mansion unattended, especially overnight. Take it with you whenever you have to step away from your table, and don’t forget to bring it with you when you leave for the day!
3. A Card Reader
Did you know that debit and credit card sales account for a whopping %66 of all in-person sales? The trend is only increasing. If you do not use a square or another type of card reader at conventions as a vendor, you are doing yourself a massive disservice. If you don't have a card reader already, head to Square's website to order one. Your first one is free!
Without one, aside from giving up nearly half of your potential sales—again, not everyone is going to come back with proper change—you also miss out on the chance to collect analytics based on your sales performance. Using the square app to log what product is generating the most sales will let you more easily analyze your performance at the end of the con and make the necessary adjustments, as this other article I wrote suggests.
4. State Tax ID
Very important and often overlooked, most Artist Alley staff require you to have your State Tax ID with you at their convention. You never know when a tax agent will stop by your table and request to see it. While you may think that applying with your tax ID is sufficient, having it on hand won't leave you stranded in hot water if you need to present it.
Don't have a Tax ID? You can apply for an Employer Identification Number via the IRS website using this form. You will also need to acquire a State Tax Number for each specific state you plan to sell in, a process can take a couple weeks. Make sure to do it ahead of time before the convention.
5. An Art Portfolio Book…
Inexpensive and easily available, an art portfolio is perfect for cleanly displaying your artwork and keeping it protected! They are lightweight and come in a wide variety of sizes, so make sure you have one to showcase all of your largest prints. Displays attendees can physically touch and flip through have been proven to drive more sales; if a curious shopper touches your product, they are more likely to make a purchase. Take advantage of this any way you can!
Consider bringing some type of stand or easel to raise your book off the table, making all your beautiful art that much more eye catching. Con-goers typically walk past your table while looking up at displays above their heads, so raising your table-top elements instead of laying them flat on the table surface will draw people's attention.
Portfolios are also an elegant way to fill up empty table space. Speaking of…
6. …& Your Table Display!
Don’t forget everything you need to go on your table to make your display complete. A 6’-8’tablecloth is a must, as you cannot rely on the convention yo provide one for you. Bring your grid displays, pricing and product signage, and display boards. Self-adhesive Easel backs are fantastic for standing your artwork up and giving your table some much needed verticality. Grab your backdrop and anything that goes behind your table, too!
7. Repair Hardware
Displays break, signs tear, and sometimes your grid cubes just…won’t…fit in the connector properly.
When your supplies start to break, make sure you have your duct tape handy. You won’t always have time to run to Ace Hardware or Wal-Mart to get replacements. Pack a bag or container full of the essentials like scissors, double sided tape, zip-ties, safety pins, a hole puncher, pushpins, and binder clips. You can solve so many problems with binder clips in a pinch.
8. Business Cards & Card Holder
Always remember to bring your marketing! Business cards are an effective marketing tool and help drive business and traffic to your websites and online store even after the convention. Use a fancy business card holder to make people stop by and inspect them further.
You can also create a social media sheet and have it framed or laminated to display at every convention you go to. Draw up some signage telling passersby to snap a picture of your social media. While business cards are admittedly easier for attendees to lose or throw away, it is incredibly likely that they will see a picture of your social media sheet scrolling through their photos during and after the con.
9. Self-Care Kit
It’s easy to understate how tiring selling at a convention is. Being on your feet all weekend, mentally and physically engaging with customers, all while chained to your table is exhausting. Do yourself a favor and pack a bag or backpack full of goods to keep you energized and sanitized all weekend; Water bottles, granola bars, aspirin, hand sanitizer, tissues, and maybe even a Lunchables or four.
A blanket or large sweater helps, too, as convention staff tends to keep the artist alley pretty cold. For extra comfort, consider bringing along a padded seat cushion or ideally—since you should be standing all con—a fatigue mat to stand on. Also remember to pack everything you will need to keep your devices charged all weekend! Phone cords, a square charger and a battery pack can save you from a lot of heartache should your devices die mid sale and you have to sit somewhere away from your table to charge.