Posts tagged ‘advice’

Kickstarter: Setting it Up – Time and Money

I have run six Kickstarters for my brand Kimchi Kawaii, four which successfully funded beyond the goal, one that didn’t fund and one currently running. I get a lot of questions about running Kickstarters and while I don’t claim to be the foremost guru of crowd funding (I have yet to hit that magic formula where I fully fund in a few hours), I figured I would start a little four part series compiling what I’ve learned through trial and error. Part One gives food for thought when planning your project.

You’ve got your ideal time to run your Kickstarter crowd funding campaign so now it’s time to get set up and put your creation out in the wide world! I said it earlier and will say it again – Kickstarters can be rough rides, but having a successful one can make it all worth it. Hopefully, you can find some tips in the following paragraphs to bring you closer to your goal.

Make sure it adds up

One of the first things you’ll need to do is set your funding goal. Depending on your product, that number can start to look very scary, very fast. You may be tempted to set it just for the amount needed for the product or set it even lower to make it look more obtainable to backers. Resist! It’s better to not fund than to fund and suddenly find your goal isn’t sufficient to fulfill all the backer rewards which you will be legally bound to deliver with a successful campaign.

Kickstarter and their payment processor (currently Stripe), will take out a fee for their services. Expect to give about 10% of your funding to this. 10% may not seem like a huge number, but when you’re looking at a campaign in the thousands, this adds up to a chunk of change pretty quickly.

Funds raised are also considered taxable income by the government. You may plan on just covering taxes on your own later in the year, but if not, make sure you factor this into your number as well.

Make sure to set yourself a little padding for any shipping mishaps which are almost unavoidable – packages go missing, packages turn out more expensive than planned, etc. As I do plush which have about a two month production time that doesn’t include the months of planning and the actual campaign, I’ve actually had postal rates change between when I set my shipping and when I actually ship.

Something I want to point out that I learned the hard way – plan for dropped pledges and include a buffer in your funding goal. Kickstarter bases the success of a campaign off pledges. No money is collected until after the deadline you set and you reach your funding. Every campaign I’ve had has had pledges that failed to collect for whatever reason. Through messaging my backers and phrasing it that I don’t want them to miss out on their rewards (be very careful to not come off as accusatory, a lot are just honest mistakes), I’ve been able to keep failed pledges to a minimum, but there are still some that I can’t get a hold of.

No matter what the reason is for these failed pledges, it still doesn’t change the fact that at your deadline, you had the right number to be considered fully funded. Per Kickstarter’s terms, you are legally bound to deliver what you promised to your paying backers – even if the actual amount collected comes to less than your funding goal.

Here’s an example: You want to create a plush and it costs $8,500 to produce. You factor in the 10% and set your goal at $9,350. You reach full funding by your deadline which is awesome, but 6 large pledges fail to collect, totaling $600. After Kickstarter takes out their fees, you’re left with $7,875. You need to come up with $625 on your own to fill in that hole to order the product promised to your backers. When you’re operating on a tight budget and a timeline, that can be financially devastating.

Under promise, over deliver

When setting your estimated time of arrival to your backers, it’s always better to set the time further out and deliver ahead of schedule. This can also help prevent a mad shipping scramble and cover you for any shipping delays as let’s face it, putting packages in the postal service can be an adventure in itself!

Get ship shape!

There’s really no way to get a 100% accurate shipping cost for your backer packages. Postage rates could increase or if you’re doing an add-on shop in your campaign, package weights can fluctuate. Sometimes, it really does feel like trying to hit a moving target.

Consider buying a postal scale. If you are able to get actual prototypes before launching, you can weigh it with your intended packaging to get pretty close estimates. Kickstarter allows you to set up shipping by location which is pretty handy.

  • Domestic – I pick the state the furthest from me and run my cost based off that. For me, it’s somewhere on the east coast. You can’t set shipping by specific states, but your rates are not going to change much, if any. Be warned, Priority Mail can get a bit pricey though the further your package has to go. I try to keep everything to First Class, but sometimes, it’s just unavoidable (and that’s why you put in some padding on the funding).
  • International – The rates I figure out and list are Canada, Europe (Great Britain, Germany, etc. are all very close in cost) and Everywhere Else. I found that shipping to Australia wasn’t too different from the cost to ship to Asia, so I lump those into this last category on Kickstarter.
Example of backer tier with customs fees disclaimer.

Example of backer tier with customs fees disclaimer.

Make sure to put in your Kickstarter a note about customs fees and taxes being the responsibility of the backer for international packages. Each country can have different policies and fees which are impossible to keep up with. Some packages will get through without any fees at all, but it’s best to put this out there as fair warning to backers. I put it in the main body of my content AND in each tier so the backers can see it when they are making their selection.

Another reason to get a postal scale – everyone at the post office will love you for pre-printing your shipping labels instead of going to the counter and purchasing postage for 100 different weight packages at the counter.

Keep it simple!

Try to keep your tiers simple and straight forward. This will help backers make a decision faster on what level to back. Consider making a quick view chart as an image in the main body of your content. Here is an example of one I did for my Purrista Pawfee 2 campaign:backer-chartIt’s easy for a backer to see all tiers and rewards at a glance and avoid having to scroll up and down a lot, comparing each tier in their boxes as listed on Kickstarter.

Another reason to keep your tiers simple? Your sanity! If you are fulfilling your rewards on your own and have 100+ packages, keeping the tiers simple and limited will mean less chances for mistakes when putting all the packages together.


Kickstarters really do require a lot of time and thought to have a chance at success. This post mainly touches on the financial planning of a project. What I’ve put in here is what has worked for me and I know each project will have it’s unique challenges, but hopefully, this can help you get going in the right direction your own.

Next up: Setting Up (Part 2b) – Make it Shine!





March 11, 2017 at 6:52 am 1 comment

Put on Your Sales Face

Since there aren’t flashing signs over our heads that say our personality types, we really need to be careful of the front we present to the public when representing our brands. Joe Schmo who doesn’t know me at all may not give me the mercy of the introvert card. They may just think I’m rude or disinterested.

Continue Reading February 25, 2017 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

Professional Plush Manufacture: Direct to Factory or Middleman?

You’ve thought about all the realities of getting a plush manufactured and are ready to make the investment. Now to choose the method of getting your creation brought to life.

Continue Reading October 27, 2015 at 7:07 pm 3 comments

Artist Alley Checklist Part 3: Items to Bring (and make your life easier)

Here is the last and final part in what unexpectedly turned into a three part blog on Artist Alley tabling. If you’ve stuck with me this long, you are awesome, lol! This one will cover the little behind the scenes things that are yes, kinda boring, but really help to keep your experience running smoothly.

Cash – Bring about $150 in change. A good breakdown is $50-75 in ones, $50-60 in fives and a smaller amount in tens. Ones will go FAST at first. Some suggest that you don’t need tens, but I found that it helped me not go through my fives as fast (which then helped with my ones). After the first day, you should be fine. I also set my prices at even amounts as I didn’t want to deal with coins.

Seller’s Permit – This is ESSENTIAL. I keep mine in a folder with my registration receipt and inventory lists. Some cons will ask for a copy for their records. Check your contract to see what you will need and prepare accordingly. For CA sellers, you can obtain a temporary permit (location and event specific) at the Board of Equalization website. Hint: if you can visit one of their offices in person, you may be able to obtain a permit same day. Otherwise, factor in about 2-3 weeks for processing and mailing of your permit if you do it by other means.

Inventory Sheet – Mine are nothing fancy, just something to keep track of sales at con. I made a table in Word with columns for date, name of event, cost, qty, paid and any notes. Obviously, they will be paying at the time of purchase, these are sheets that I use for all my sales, not just con sales. At con, I’ve started using the paid column to indicate if they paid by credit card. I was tracking how many sales were made that way that I may have otherwise lost. Having an itemized list also helps with stats later on. I can then see what sells best and what I might consider dropping from the next con. I keep all my events separate so that it’s easy to find totals per event when it comes time to do sales tax. If you sell at multiple locations, you will need to allocate the sales made in that location and if all your sales in one year are all in a jumble, it’s going to make for a headache. Taxes are complicated enough!

Some people do receipt books. I have one that I bring with me in case a customer wants a receipt, but generally, I find that they don’t and it’s lots of little papers to keep track of rather than a few large sheets. It’s up to you and what you find works best.

Card Reader. As smart phones and tablets are taking over the world and more and more companies are coming out with credit card readers you can use with these mobile devices, it’s changing the way things are done in AA’s slowly, but surely. It used to be expected that AA’s were the smaller sellers, i.e. not some big company with the resources to have a credit card machine. It was pretty rare to be able to buy something there with anything but cash. At Fanime, I did not have a card reader (I actually didn’t even have a cell phone, I was a hold out). I actually had some people end up not buying because they didn’t have cash. True, there are often ATM’s in the convention halls, but a) they charge large fees to pull money out and b) you don’t want to bet your sales on the fact that they will come back. I think I’ve had only one or two people actually return from the ATM. Cons are overwhelming and it’s easy to get distracted and forget what you were pulling the money for or relocate that table. After Fanime, I finally caved and got a smart phone so I could get a card reader. I went through Square, but there are many more out there who offer readers. I know Paypal has one and I think I saw another company that I had never heard of before. My next con was AX about a month after that and I tracked sales – cash vs. credit card. I made a good amount of sales with the card reader that I would have otherwise missed out on. It’s not something that is totally required as most people still expect that a majority of the AA is going to be cash only, but each year, I notice more and more signs saying that they take credit cards.

Cheat Sheet. Maybe my memory is going as I get older, but I often can’t remember the price of an item when con starts. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m trying to sell too many items, lol! Sometimes, despite the price cards, a customer will still ask you how much an item is. It looks awkward if you have to keep reaching over to check your own price cards. Do yourself a favor and print a cheat sheet to hang off the back of your table. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a list of the items and their prices. This is especially helpful if you have a helper and they are even less familiar with your prices than you are.

Snacks. Man does not live by con vibes alone. If you are unable to have a helper at con, chances for getting something to eat can be pretty slim. Do yourself a favor and pack some snacks for your table. I take stuff like almonds, fruit, granola bars and a water bottle. Try to stay away from bringing cookies and sweets because those will just make you hungrier. I have a small lunch bag and when possible try to pack a lunch to bring with me. Con food honestly is pretty subpar and over priced. I lived off a soggy corndog at AX last year on the day I didn’t have my helper. BLEH!

Hand sanitizer. You are in a room with thousands of other people, handling cash and probably sleep deprived as con winds down which means your immune system may not be fully up to snuff. Take into account that among the 10,000 plus people attending, chances are high that someone is going to have a cough/cold/flu/random sickness that will make you feel like death and you will probably come in contact with them sometime during the con. You may need to snack, but not be able to run to the bathroom to wash your hands. Having a little bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer is a very good idea.

Office supply box – It doesn’t have to be big. I keep pens, tape, calculator, clips, string, scissors, and little price stickers in mine. I then store it on my table in the area under my displays so it’s handy.

Business Cards. Definitely bring business cards! People will either really like your stuff and want to keep up to date with your brand or not have money with them to shop at that moment, but will want to check out your things online. Or they may want to commission you. Business cards are small, cheap to reproduce and easy for the customer to grab for what will hopefully turn into future business.

Bubble Wrap. If you have fragile items, it helps to have bubble wrap and some scotch tape available to wrap customers’ items in. They will appreciate it!

Rolling Cart and/or Suitcase. For cons where I don’t have to fly, I have a rolling cart with a lid from Office Max. I pack it totally full and then have a storage bin that stacks on top with more of my items. I lash the whole thing together with bungees from the hardware store. When I attend cons that I have to fly to, I just use my rolling suitcase. Wheels are amazing. Period. With this arrangement, I can get nearly all my display items and inventory to the table in one shot. It helps that I played a lot of Tetris as a kid and so am very good at fitting things in with minimal wasted space. 🙂

A Helper. If you can, it’s really nice to have someone else at the table with you. If you have a popular table, then you can both help customers that much faster. You can also sneak away for a potty break, snack or to check out other artists’ tables. I like to pay for my helpers’ reg fees and food as I feel that’s only right.

Starbucks :). By the third morning of con, I’m usually sleep deprived. You wouldn’t think it, but sitting at a table all day long IS a bit tiring! Luckily, most convention centers know that America runs on caffeine and have a Starbucks inside. I make sure to factor in the Starbucks stop on the third morning of con 🙂

So that wraps up my tips and ideas that I’ve gleaned from lots of Google, asking fellow artists and a lot just through personal experience. I love doing Artist Alleys. It’s just so fun to interact with people who are admiring/buying your things. I also like meeting up with people I previously only communicated with online. One thing I forgot to mention in Part 1: if you have Facebook, a blog, a deviantART, etc. make sure to advertise where you are going to be! Post a map with your location circled or highlighted.

Obviously, it’s always a work in progress as I go to more events and see what other people are doing for their table set ups and see things that I may want to adapt to my own display or things that may work better than my current one. Be open to ideas and change and just go with the flow and most of all, have fun!

January 30, 2013 at 6:17 am Leave a comment

Artist Alley Checklist Part 2: Setting Up a Table – The Pretty Stuff

Ok, so you got through the registration process and subsequent adrenalin rush and you got a table confirmation. First off, congratulations! Pat yourself on the back! Now, about that table…

Make It Visible! You are just one artist in a whole room full of them. In the larger cons, there can be up to 300-400 fellow artists! Some attendees will make a point to examine every single table (kudos to you guys!), but most will walk up and down the middle of the aisles just glancing and then approaching a table when something catches their eye. The best way to do this? Have something up above either in the form of an eye catching banner or your artwork prints (if you sell them). People are going to be standing in front of your table at any given time which can block the contents from passerby. Having something overhead helps to still have something attention getting while customers are visiting your table.

First Fanime AA table, 2011

First Fanime AA table, 2011

This was my very first AA table. I was selling at FanimeCon in San Jose, California. I didn’t have anything overhead and I did notice that people were passing up my table more so than the ones that had something more ‘in your face’ for lack of a better term. I know we are all told not to judge a book by it’s cover, but honestly, in a place as full of sensory overload as AA’s can be, the most eye catching is what is going to draw people over. I’ve even passed up some artists’ tables just because they didn’t have a very visible presence. It was only later when I went back through the AA in a more detailed inspection that I would discover them and often be pleasantly surprised. Your average con attendee may not have that time or patience though, so you really need to try to catch them at the very first as that may be their ONLY pass through the AA.

My second time was once again at Fanime and I made sure to get an overhead display which I have used in some form or another ever since. I started out with a smaller version of my banner hanging from PVC pipe. Eventually, I started selling prints of my designs and used the frame to display them. That has actually done the best in drawing people in and subsequently increased sales for my items all around so I am continuing to display my prints up above.

The easiest and cheapest way to have an overhead display is with PVC pipe that you can get at any hardware store. I have three pieces – the two posts and one longer piece (mine is 5ft) for the top. I also bought two corner joints to hold them together. The frame is attached to the table with Quick Grips, also from my hardware store. One thing to keep in mind for overhead displays: some cons have height restrictions. Check with their AA rules before buying pipe. It wouldn’t be so great if you are relying on an overhead display to bring in customers, only to get to con, find you are over limit and have to take it down! Another thing, I was suggested use of the Quick Grips as you need a secure way to attach the frame that doesn’t damage the table. Damage to the actual table can result in a fee charged to you!

Create Different Levels on Your Table. Having all your items just at one level makes them easier to overlook and isn’t that exciting. For my second table, I bought those storage cubes that you assemble with the plastic joints. The first time I did this, I used blue, solid sided ones as that matched my brand’s colors as you can see in this picture. Most people use the wire ones which are also good (I actually switched to half and half, more on that in a second). I liked the idea of having a ‘storage’ area under the cubes. The top part is used for displaying my items and open to the front. The bottom section is open to the back of my table where I sit and I keep my supply box, snacks and extra inventory there. You can stash things under the table, but I liked having things within easy reach, especially when it got super busy.

Second AA table, Fanime 2012.

Second AA table, Fanime 2012.

This was the only con that I did the entire cube set up in the frosted blue. For my third con, I switched the top level walls out for the more standard wire cubes. I found that the solid cubes all the way up blocked me from attendees so they sometimes thought there was no one at the table. It just looks bad to have an empty table with no one there. They also blocked my own line of vision. My first year I actually had someone steal some items from my table so I like to keep as much of the table in my line of sight as I can. I didn’t think about how much these would block things when I was formulating the idea and testing it out at home.

Contain the Chaos. Many artists sell more than one type of item with their art. I sell buttons, charms, jewelry, prints, plushies and decor. Try to keep all items of a like type in a contained area/display. If you look at my first table, you’ll notice that I sort of did that, but stuff was still pretty much just laid out on the table. As people looked at my items, they would start to look sloppy and I was constantly rearranging stuff and straightening things out.

I decided to move my earrings and charms to display boards that showed one of each design. I keep the actual inventory in boxes in the storage areas of my table and pull the items as customers want them. It means that I don’t have my table space taken up with my actual inventory supply, leaving me more space to display the large variety of items I sell. I’ve since added small, low sided trays for my necklaces and pins.

Display Boards. I actually saw another artist displaying their charms and smaller jewelry this way and liked the idea. Unfortunately, I saw this online and so was unable to find out how they made theirs, so I improvised. I designed the backgrounds using my own graphics. The hooks on the boards are clear, plastic hooks from Command. I put very light marks in the design to show where to attach the hooks once it was all printed and mounted. I then took the files to FedEx Kinkos and had them print, mount on foam core and laminate the boards. Then I attached the clear hooks with E600 since I don’t need to remove them and I didn’t want the white adhesive squares showing. I switch out the charms and earrings as I restock or sellout of designs.

The buttons are on a small bulletin board that I picked up for $1.50 at Daiso. I bought the easel stands on Amazon after researching ones that I liked and thought would work. Scroll to the bottom of this entry for a link to my Pinterest Anime Con Tabling board. I pin items in there that I’m considering for displaying or storing my things.

Note on the display boards: You’ll notice that I have them at the front of the table. People at cons are often in costume with bulky parts or props. Or they are in street clothes, but carrying around a ton of purchases from the vendor’s hall. This means that stuff will often get bumped and knocked ajar on your table. I had the earring board get knocked over about 5 times before I decided to move them further back on the table. I now keep the plushies on the front edge of the cubes. They can take a fall MUCH better than a board full of little plastic thingies that you have to search for and rehang each time.

My most recent table set up at SacAnime, 2013.

My most recent table set up at SacAnime, 2013.

Table Cloth. Fanime had table skirts and white vinyl on our tables. Not all cons are going to do this. In fact, most just provide a table and two chairs. We are talking convention center tables that have seen much use and abuse so they are often not pretty. I strongly suggest getting a table cloth. It just makes your table look neater than having stuff out on a scarred, scratched brown, wood laminate table. It keeps your items clean. And adjusting the drape length in the front helps to hide all your storage bins and the fact that you may have kicked off those cosplay shoes that are killing your feet by Day 2 🙂 Tables seem to range anywhere from 6-8′ so spring for the longer length to give you flexibility.

Price Cards. My first con, I had one price list on a display at one end of the table. Customers constantly were asking me how much certain items were. I decided to make cards that would go near each item section instead. This makes it easier for the customer and for me! Items that are different shapes and sizes, like my cake boxes, I mark individually on the bottom with a little price sticker. Those get a price sign ‘Priced as Marked’.

That about wraps up the table display ideas. Part 3 (the last part) will be covering the nuts and bolts stuff which may not be as fun as buying display items, but are just as important!

Here is that Pinterest link I mentioned earlier.

January 25, 2013 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

Artist Alley Check List: Part 1

Ah yes, it’s a new year and though it’s still freezing outside (for me, literally), you can almost taste the anime con excitement even though the main season is still 4-5 months off. Many cons are launching their registration and home pages now. I have a few that I’m keeping an eye on. I even put them in my calendar so I don’t miss them. With LOTS of alarms to keep me on top of it. Yes, I like attending cons.

I am going into my third year of selling in various artist alleys. AA’s are my best outlet for sales and exposure for my brand. When I first started out, I scoured the internet looking for advice on selling at my own table. Obviously, it’s a constant work in progress, but thought I would compile a list from what I’ve learned online and through personal experience.

Make a List. There are a ton of anime cons out there (at least in my country – the USA) and it can be easy to say ‘I’m gonna do ALL of them!!!!’. has a very good list that is searchable by many different criteria. I went through this site and wrote down the names and dates of the ones that seemed like good choices. I keep this list tacked to my bulletin board by my computer. Things to consider when making this list: smaller ones may be less competitive to get into, but it will be harder to cover expenses, especially if you travel from afar. Don’t discount the small cons, they can be great opportunities to test out your AA strategy, but stay closer to home for those. The further away the con, for me, the bigger it needs to be to increase my chances of covering costs. Sure travel will also increase, but it does expose you to a whole new group of people who may not make it to your hometown. Just make sure to chose wisely and it can pay out in more ways than one.

Keep Up to Date. Most cons have Facebook pages, Tumblrs, Twitters or other social media pages where you can stay on top of the latest news and announcements. If nothing else, they almost always have a forum on their actual site where you can interact and ask questions. I follow most of the cons I’m interested in through FB. I made an interests list called ‘Anime Cons’ and made sure that all cons I like are categorized in that list. This makes it easy for me to get all my news in one area and not miss an announcement in my general FB newsfeed which can get super cluttered. (This is also a great idea for other pages you like on FB. I have other lists for shopping and ‘Kawaii Artists’).

Note the Date Registration Opens. AA’s can be very competitive to get into. While some are actually juried – meaning they grant you acceptance based on your works – many are based on being vigilant and lucky. It’s not uncommon for an AA to launch their AA registration at the top of the hour and sell all 300 tables in 5 minutes. I’m not kidding! So being ready to go and in front of a computer or with a reliable WiFi connection on your mobile device is essential. I actually put the dates in my iPhone calendar with alarms set to remind me the day of. Have all your paperwork ready like permit numbers, registration badge numbers (some cons require you to buy an attendee badge prior to registering for a table and will ask for the number at AA reg). Most of the time, you have a grace period to get in seller’s permit numbers, but I like to take care of as much stuff as I can right then and there. Less to forget about later.

Make sure you are online and ready to go the minute reg opens up. I actually worked it out with my friend for her to come up here instead of me going down there when an AA reg opened up the same weekend we were supposed to hang out. I can’t stress how important it is to get your application in as fast as you can. Fanime last year sold out in about 7 minutes. I heard that SakuraCon for 2013 sold out even faster. It can be a bit stressful, but if you have as much information gathered and at your finger tips as you can, it definitely helps.

Ok, to prevent this from becoming a TL;DR (I suspect that I may have lost some readers already by this point, lol), I am going to break this up into sections. I know I don’t blog that regularly, but I promise, I will be completing this series! I am actually going to start the draft for Part 2 right now, but will just publish it later so as not to scare you off. 🙂

January 23, 2013 at 5:26 am Leave a comment


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