**I’d like to thank Ashly Tahilan: [Tumblr] and Terri Litz: [Deviantart] / [Livejournal] for their excellent input on this topic. Thanks you two!
One of the best ways to reduce your convention costs is to have a table partner. Usually sharing a table allows you to share transportation, housing, and tabling costs. It’s amazing, but the downside is that you’re cutting your selling space by half (and sometimes thirds).
Still, depending on what you sell, these are great outcomes and sharing tables can lead you to buying more costly tables at bigger conventions, knowing you’re likely to be sharing hotel/housing with your tablemate.
But just having someone else at a table isn’t the ONLY thing you need to be concerned about. This part flies through peoples’ heads very easily, and you really won’t get it unless it’s happened to you–you walk out of your table, and suddenly people are walking at your table. Can you handle it? Can THEY handle it? WILL they handle it?
I’m egging at the fact that SOME TABLE PARTNERS ARE NOT GOOD TO PARTNER UP WITH. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean bad as in their drawing art skill, I mean bad as in they’re not interested in helping you out. By bad, I don’t mean they won’t do your money transactions either–that’s easy peasy. I mean bad as in they are trying to sell their work and their work only at your table. Or take it a step further, and sometimes just not enthusiastic about selling anything whatsoever. And well, standing at a distance, you can tell if they’re doing it or not.
First off, choose your partner carefully. Please consider these questions:
1) Can you get in contact with them? If they can answer your emails every two days or earlier, than it’s okay. And make sure you get their number.
2)What’s their work look like?
Be honest. If your work isn’t amazing, and you’re sitting next to an insanely talented person, where do you think all the business will go to? You want to have an artist who is struggling as hard as you trying to get better. Or at least, a balance of skill between both artists. Or you both mutually understand the situation and accept it.
3) Is your work going to COMPLIMENT theirs, or CLASH with theirs?
One thing you want to avoid is selling the exact same stuff the same series. If you’re selling stickers and pins from one series, and your partner did the exact same thing, it’s going to CLASH. It’ll feel like a shitty competition of whose will sell better.
“OH YA. if anything avoid selling the same things as well. It’d be total butts if both of you were selling charms of pokemon.. THE SAME POKEMON. DOING THE SAME CUTE THING. AS CELL CHARMS.”-Ashly Tahilan
One trick/tip when doing tables is to sit next to someone who isn’t selling your stuff. For example, if you’re selling prints, try and get next to someone selling crafts.
Also, I sound like an ass, but if the convention gives you the option and asks for your seating preference and you know there are some artists that kind of bang on your style or you don’t like them, just leave a note saying ‘I don’t want to be seated near [insert artist’s name]’ Better safe than sorry. On the contrary, if you don’t have a table partner but trust another artist who also has a table, consider asking the convention to seat your table next to theirs so when you leave you can entrust your money to someone you know.
It’s all on judgement of the artist’s style whether or not it compliments your work. If you have something that’s very vivid and colorful, maybe you should consider tabling next to someone with very dark moody artwork. If you’re selling headbands, maybe you should table with someone selling hair clips.
4) Do you know the person?
At least talk to them a few times before immediately trusting. Also, it MIGHT NOT be a good idea to partner with someone you know who is very attached to you as a friend without considering it very hard. This is because if for some reason you don’t want to partner with them (either because they just ruin your business, art is bad, or attitude), and you tell them you don’t want to partner with them anymore, it can feel very very bad. So you want to have a mutual understanding with your partner that neither of you are obliged to share ever again if you ever do it in some other convention. A good table partner won’t feel butthurt if you tell them you want the table for yourselfor are sharing tables with someone else.
So, what constitutes as a good table partner?
(left, Louie Hidalgo (http://leadapprentice.deviantart.com/) and right is me, Jackie Lo (http://www.jackieloart.tumblr.com). Photo taken by BlizzardTerrak. While his work is amazingly well rendered from the computer, my work is almost entirely drawn by hand. It’s hard to compare completely different styles of art.
-You inform each other what you’re going to sell/prepare AHEAD of time. Not at the convention. If you’re going to have a stand or prop, you tell your partner that or you’re going to have some conflict the day it happens. If you brought a red tablecloth and they brought a black, you better be able to settle for either splitting the color in half or fighting over one.
-You know your limits to your space. Don’t just shove as much as you can on your side to the point where people can’t see your face, and you’re going to be squishing yourself sitting next to them on their side because of that. If that’s the case, it’s likely that table sharing may NOT be the best option for you. If you don’t have a lot of stuff then let your table partner put some of their stuff over the other half of your side.
–Don’t be annoying. They bug you? Tell them politely. You bug them? You better stop it.
–Don’t ignore them. Dude, you are standing next to them for eight hours. But don’t bother them too much if they’re drawing or you see that your talking is distracting their commissions.
–You guys know how to deal with food. Seriously, if only one of you just get food for yourself that’s selfish and too much work. Get food for both of you at the same time, and know where you’re getting it. Also be aware of your friend’s food preferences and allergies. For tips on food, check out my article ‘how to do the food’
-if you think there’s something they can fix up, like helping you sell your work, or something like that, feel free to tell them. They may or may not do it, but at least telling them will inform them of your concern. If you get butthurt because they told you something, it’s probably not a good idea to table with them if you couldn’t handle the criticism.
–They don’t jack your money. Stealing your partner’s cash is a no-no. If you’re anxious, take some of your money with you.
In some instances, they might not have change, and you will have to give out the change. It’s your judgement whether or not you want to do the money transaction and tell your partner later.
And here’s one of the biggest flaws in table partners….
-If you or your partner walk out the table, that does NOT mean you lose half the work on the table. That means you work hard and help them with their side of the table while they’re gone! I don’t mean go commando and only sell their work, I just mean that if someone looks at their work you keep their attention at the table and if they want to buy something then you should know how to exchange money. That may sound ridiculous to some, but imagine if someone walks at your table but only looks at your partner’s work but not yours. I bet you that if you just made light conversation with them, they’d at least take a glance. If you just sit on your butt and ignore the crowd, no one is coming to look at EITHER you or your partner’s stuff. So there should always be someone actively trying to engage with customers. Engaging customers is a very important key to good business! Even if it’s their work people want to look at, sharing tables is a team effort. Also, ignoring their sales with customers is not cool.
Here’s an instance of why you need a table partner that will help sell your work when you’re gone. Imagine you leave to go to dealer’s hall for half an hour. Your table mate says ‘okay’ and sits there. Then, when you’re done, you come back and your table mate tells you, “oh yea, three people wanted to buy some of your work but I didn’t know what to do, so I told them to come back.” What if they forgot and don’t come back? You just lost some business there because your partner didn’t know what to do. Having a partner you can trust with handling money and knows all the prices of your work will help you out a LOT.
Tips about sharing tables:
-At least one person is trying to engage customers. That usually means one person always standing and waving their hands at the art. The other person can be drawing a commission or out shopping. But always one person is getting people to the table. If your partners leave, don’t just sit lazily on your butt; that rarely attracts customers. Stand up and engage.
-You both know exactly how/when to get to the convention, and you know exactly how you’re getting food. No conflicts or problems. If you both take the train, it’s a good idea to meet at the exact time so if you plan to take the taxi, you can share the fare getting there.
-If someone buys your partner’s stuff, you know where to get the change from, and write down what you sell to inform them. Forgetting to do so or being unable to handle money is not a good idea when sharing tables.
-Don’t take your sweet sweet time outside the table. Don’t leave all the work to your partner. That’s not cool. For me, one hour is tops. However, at bigger conventions it could be longer. But don’t leave for half the day and not tell your partner.
-If you can’t do a commission or something, why not tell them your buddy can? That’s a plus!
In the end, if they’re friends, strangers, lovers, or family members, if you think they’re not helping your table when you’re sharing tables, just tell them no; no hard feelings, not everyone is good at it, but it really does suck when you feel obliged to share because you did it once. Do you have a story about a positive or negative experience sharing tables at a convention? Please share by leaving a comment below!
Rachael Ann Miller
At Fanime, I was standing in front of her table staring at a picture because it seemed familliar. I asked her if it was on tumblr at some point, and she said she posted it a while ago. I told her it looked amazing and recognized it and she gave me a postcard print (it’s the black on on the table), and on the back she wrote ‘thaks for tumblr creepin’ LOL. No, she meant it in a good way, because she was really happy to see a follower recognize her art. I feel the same way when people come to my table too :3