I first met Tim at Brisbane Supanova two years ago when he sat next to me at his booth. He had his new comic Sunsets and Sodas for sale, and was taking commissions. He was so busy all weekend. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Tim again at Gold Coast Supanova April 2017, and it was there I asked him to write an article on how to take commissions at conventions and events.
Being a genuinely great guy and fantastic artist, he agreed on the spot, and it’s with pleasure I present to you:
How to Take Convention Commissions
– Written by Timothy Delaney.
(This is Tim Delaney – our guest blogger)
If you asked me at my first convention if I thought I was going to be selling many sketches, I would have smiled sheepishly and shrugged with genuine uncertainty. By the end of the convention weekend, they had proven to be the most valuable product available at my table and something I knew I would be offering for years to come. People are very used to seeing artists selling prints and other merchandise around the convention floor, but it is only every other artist they encounter that offers personalised artworks. To the artist, they provide a way for you to showcase your talents to new clients, giving you a chance to earn their trust and potentially create a lifelong fan. To the commissioner, it is an opportunity for them to buy a product that is unique to them that will embellish their convention experience.
Commissions show your customer that you’re willing to cater your art to their interests, beyond the prints you made of your favourite TV show or even your personal project. They are also a great way to spark the interest of the potential buyer, helping to retain people at your table longer. The longer someone stays at your table, the greater your chance will be at striking up a conversation and potentially some sales.
Knowing what it is exactly that you are willing to offer is half the battle sometimes, and in my experience I have found it all boils down to three key points to make your commissions a success.
- What are you offering?
Are you doing a sketch? A full colour piece? Is it from the waist up, or full figure? Do you draw realistic portraits or zany toons? What about furries?
Be upfront about what exactly it is that you are selling. While being at the convention is about you strutting your artistic stuff and letting the world know you exist IRL, you’re also at the show to enjoy yourself and make new friends. If something is so complex that your head is down for half the day, you’re doing something wrong.
Of course, not everyone is always going to be 100% happy about the kind of art you’re selling. If a client demands something more that what you are willing to offer, try and explain that you have tried to cater your services to give everyone a fair chance to get a drawing from you. If the client is still disappointed, you can always produce a business card and offer to do the commission outside of the convention.
- How much are you charging?
Pricing is a complex issue and should consider the skill you have accumulated as an artist, the amount of time involved to produce a piece, while also how accessible you are allowing yourself to be to your chosen demographic. You also need to consider how you will utilise your services to help cover convention costs.
At a show there will be a wide range of clientele roaming the floor. Doing simple quick sketch at $10 a piece will ensure you are catering to a broad audience, whereas offering complex $100 illustrations will target convention connoisseurs.
- How long does it take?
This last point can make or break sale. Some customers will spend a whole day or even an entire weekend at a convention and are happy to wait until the end of their stay to pick up their piece. Others are on a tight schedule and need to see celebrities, view panels, and catch the early bus home. The most important thing is to be realistic and honest about your timing. If a sketch takes you ten minutes but your queue already has five people, advising your customer the wait could be around the hour mark would be fair. You can even offer to text or email the client when the piece is ready, and save them the hassle of having to come back later only to realise you will need another ten minutes.
Sometimes it is advantageous to prioritise a customers commission if they are in a hurry. This, while tempting, will push your other commissioners to a later completion time and may cause some upset if you aren’t careful. As long as you do this with the certainty that nobody is being hard-done by, then you have nothing to lose.
What is most important however is that you are offering something that reflects who you are as an artist and why it is you love doing what you do. This means taking on the jobs you know you will enjoy, and trusting yourself enough to refuse those that disagree with you on a deeper level. The people that share your passions and interests will naturally gravitate towards your table if you follow this last step. Word will get round that you really care about what you’re producing, and once people realise this they’ll be hard pressed to not want to get in on the action. So grab that pen, that brush, whatever it is you use to, and prepare to make your mark at your next convention.
Here are some examples of how people set up their commission prices at events:
Which is your favourite? Which would you choose to display if you were offering commissions at events?