How To Be A Con Artist

Are you getting ready for your first comic con, or thinking about showcasing your work at one? Here are some simple tips to help you have an awesome show!


Ashley Donahue

4 min read

Preparing for your first artist alley can be super intimidating! I remember I was literally shaking in my boots the morning of my first event. The good news is that it all gets much easier after you start. If you're interested in hearing some tried and true tips that have worked for me, please read on!

    This is perhaps the most crucial part of vending. After all, no product means no sales! I recommend starting with items that are cheap and easy to produce. Buttons, bookmarks, stickers, and prints are all relatively low-cost items (which means better cash margins for you). Is there a way you can spin these things to make them "uniquely you"? Think from the buyer's perspective when creating. Once you have attended a few cons, you can then determine which designs or products sell well.

    Your shop branding and booth display come hand in hand! You can make it as simple or as complex as you'd like. Most people have a logo created or at least some visual to use - definitely plaster this all over your products and display.

    Selling yourself and your brand is really crucial. Make a good impression, and people WILL remember you from show to show!

    How you display your product is a personal decision and depends on your overall intention. For example, a booth for cute jewelry is going to look very different from someone who only does old-school comics.

    I highly recommend going on Pinterest or Instagram to search for branding or booth ideas. Whatever you do, make it all COHESIVE. If you're constantly changing your name and look, you're not going to be recognizable from show to show. Pick a name, a vibe, and STICK TO IT. Pivot later if you want to, but definitely choose something that'll stay with you for awhile.

    Also! Don't forget business cards. My advice? Buy those cheap too. People will take them just to take them - I was shocked by this at first! I totally ran out of cards during my second show. It's great for getting your biz out there, just don't feel like you need to invest on a Patrick Bateman level of business cards.

    There are a lot of different venues you can choose from if you want to showcase your work. Some people choose to travel from state to state, while others stay local. For your first convention, I recommend the latter. Starting local adds a touch of comfort, and eases you into the selling experience.

    Additionally, picking the right kind of venue for your work is just as important. If you're selling cutesy handicrafts and artwork, perhaps an event showcasing macabre oddities and curiosities isn't the right fit. Comic cons are usually always a safe choice, as they house a plethora of interests. If you are intending to sell fan art, take heed of whether or not the con you want to attend will accept it (some have a strict policy about that).

    To find the perfect venue, search Google or even local Facebook groups. Networking with other convention attendees is also super helpful to get the scoop on different events... past and future!

    Different conventions have different application processes for those wanting to vend. You find that out very quickly! Some will have a full juried process, which makes it harder to get accepted. Others have a more lenient application process with only a fee upfront.

    Sometimes you will have to be really vigilant and quick about applying - popular conventions fill up very quickly. Keeping track of dates for when applications open is super helpful. 

    Sometimes applications require submitting a portfolio website showcasing your work. Smaller cons tend to not make you jump through all those hoops, however, which might make them a better option starting out.

    You want to make sure your margins are looking good so that you're actually making a profit. This doesn't mean hanging people out to dry with sky high prices - keep it reasonable. Folks can see through a bad deal.

    I try to purchase the highest quality goods that I can for the lowest possible price. In terms of quantities, I also keep those low if I'm showcasing a new design or illustration. Some pieces are just going to be more popular than others! It's better to keep things low in risk until you feel safe to invest more into your stock.

    If you do end up having leftover stock or want to sell things quickly - people love a deal! Setting up a "buy 2, get 1 free" or similar tends to work well.

    This probably goes without saying, but definitely make sure to track your spending and expenses! Find an excel sheet or a notebook to track all of your financials. The goal is always to make more than what you spend, so this will keep you organized.

    I think its smart to offer folks a cash or credit option - that way you're prepared and don't lose out on any sales.

    There are a lot of different options for card readers, but Square and Paypal Zettle are most likely your best bet. Both offer a ton of options at different price points, making them a great choice. Both companies also will supply you with a FREE reader, which is perfect for your first con (they're a little cheap though, so you get what you get). I personally went with the free Paypal reader for my first go-around, but have since invested in their upgraded reader. It's pretty awesome, and only $29.

    If you plan on also accepting cash, make sure to invest in a heavy cash box. Treat it like gold at your conventions, and never leave unattended! It's smart to keep some cash on hand as well for change; that way you'll be good for the whole day or weekend.

    I've gotten a few questions about how I store my con stuff, packing up and then transporting to an event.

    My answer is - totes! Get 'em big, get 'em small. For storing prints, accordion fold binders are great, or even small file containers. I then have a couple wagons that I seat everything in. The good thing with totes is that they are super easy to transport, and hold A LOT. Highly recommend!

These are the key things that I have kept in mind while putting together my booth - I hope it's been helpful! Don't forget to have fun and enjoy the experience as well. Planning these events requires A LOT of energy, but it's very rewarding in the end.

- Ashley