Art Business

How To Pick Products to Sell At An Artist Alley

Maybe you’re just starting the journey into applying for an artist alley. Or you just got accepted into your first! But now you have to figure out what you’re going to sell….How does one pick?!

It’s a question that plagues any artist just starting out into the wonderful world of selling art. And today I’m going to break down what I’ve learned over the years to help reveal a bit of the mystery behind it.

From our last show. We had just found our space and were about to unpack the setup.

Picking the Artist Alley

But before deciding what merch you’re gonna sell, it’s important to see what types of Artist Alleys you want to go to and which match your art subjects. It’s a bit of homework, but selling to an audience that is already interested in the type of work you create can help increase sells. Think to yourself, what convention do I want to sell at? Which would I have the most fun at showing?

Once you’ve figured that out, make a list of all the pieces you already have that lines up with the theming of the convention. For example, if you’re headed to an Anime Convention, anime and manga characters are an obvious choice. But so are videogame, food, folklore, and cute characters. Try to think of why someone goes to this type of convention, and what aesthetics they might be looking for.

If you have 7 or more pieces already, there’s a solid chance that that’s the artist alley for you. I also suggest adding other ideas or inspiration of pieces you can think up under this list as well. It’s a great way to help you during the time crunch of prepping to make more pieces if you need to fill out your booth.

Pillars of Content and Artist Alleys

Now, have you ever heard of “pillars of content”? It’s a phrase used by many content creators when deciding how to express themselves on the internet. It’s also a great way to figure out how to brand yourself. Simply put, a pillar of content is one subject or theme that you can break down and create a variety of content from that works in your field. (I’ve also heard these be called verticals as well.)

When applying to artist alleys, I like to change the phrase *oh so cleverly* (note the joking tone for the preceding cheese) into Pillars of Products. Right? Super clever. Anyways, these pillars are a way to fill your booth and keep a synergy within it.

What makes a product a pillar? Well, once you’ve decided what products you’ll show, you can break down what of your artwork would look good where. (Remember that list you made earlier? That’s a great space to sort this out.) For example, say that you pick large art prints as one of your pillars. You can then break down your inventory into which art pieces you’ll be printing at that size.

Just starting out, keep it simple. Three is a magic number for how many types of product you should try to have for your first few shows in my opinion. Like everything else with selling your creations, having your hand in a few baskets helps spread out the income. Some shows one product will sell better than the others. No two shows are the same.

Quick Tip: It’s a good idea to showcase how the product will look when “used” at home in the booth if you have space (or need to fill in space). It helps folks imagine it in their own home.

Important Questions While Researching Product Types

But now comes the hardest part. Breaking down if it’s affordable both with time and money to make said product.

Here are a few important questions I ask myself when deciding:

  • What equipment and resources do I already have that I can create products with at the show?
  • Does my art look good on that type of product?
  • Am I willing to create artwork that will work for this product?
  • Is the time to make it worth the price point I can sell it at?
  • How much is it to make quality merch of it?
  • Am I willing to order from a big company to ship my products to me?
  • Can I travel with the products? (Assuming it’s a faraway convention you’re headed to.)

One of the easiest ways to answer some of these questions is to do a mock up of the product. This will help you learn what you need to create it, where to get supplies, etc. The mockup doesn’t have to be the highest quality, it’s just here for proof of concept.

Check out this little handout for how I break down the business side of creating products and figuring out how much you want to sell your products for:

Click the page to download your own version!

Some quick additional tips when picking your products:

  • Remember that your art style is what makes your creations have life. Don’t worry about following the trends, but if one interests you, go for it!
  • Draw what you’re passionate about. I swear folks can feel it in your work, and it’s a great conversation starter and way to interact with your fellow con goers.
  • It never hurts to look at other artist booths at the conventions/fairs you want to go to for some inspiration. But never outright copy someone. That’s just rude.
  • If you’re in need for a spark of inspiration, check out this list of 20+ ideas for artist alleys products.

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