Q: While drawing live caricatures each spectator is a potential next customer. But what are you doing at the beginning? Are there some methods or tricks to get the first customer?
A: I assume by “live caricatures” you are referring to live RETAIL caricatures, meaning a stand at a theme park, fair or some other event where those getting drawn pay for the caricature as opposed to at a gig or event where the client pays and the subjects get the drawings free.
There are a lot of answers to this question. Everyone has their own philosophy regarding the “sales” aspect of live caricature. I’ve seen artists who stand up when not drawing and act like carnival barkers, doing the “hard sell” and accosting walkers by trying to get them to sit down. I’ve seen artists offer deals (or even do freebees) on their first drawing or two to “get the ball rolling”. I’ve also seen artists sit there and work on some sample piece with their back to the walkway and only turn around when someone asks them if they are available. That latter “strategy” is a recipe for a long wait for the first drawing. The former are very aggressive and certainly get the job done, but it’s not what I advocate.
I’ve always done the soft sell. First, I make sure I have a LOT of samples on the wall and make my presentation very attractive and fun. Not a lot of loud signage, but as many samples of celebrity caricatures as I can get squeezed in. Then I always engage with anyone that actually approcahes the booth… not with a “HEY HOW ABOUT A CARICATURE!!!” but with a simple “hello” and asking how their day is going. I engage in a little small talk about their favorite ride, then ask them if they can name all the people on the wall. After they play that game for a while I’ll mention that if they are thinking about getting one done, there is no wait right then and we can hold it for them so they don’t have to carry it around. I do not offer a discount or do any freebees… that devalues the product.
No doubt the more aggressive methods yield better results, but I like people to feel like they can walk up to our booth without getting pressured and just enjoye looking at the artwork.
Thanks to Dominick Zeillinger for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
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