Because it’s friggen cold out here today.
*huddles into blanket with hot tea, dreams of Colossal Con*
ANYWAYS. I’m not here to remind you that winter is cold and harsh on your skin (and soul!) but that the srs bsns world is totally harsh on your skin and soul too.
“But Calamity,” you might say, “Cosplay isn’t really business. It’s fun!”
Oho, but that’s where you’re wrong my friends. Cosplay is a hobby up until you decide that it is going to be your career. Then. Then you enter the wide, scary world of entrepreneurship.
“But I just wanna be CosFamous! Who cares about boring BSNS stuff?”
You do, now. Think it’s boring? Too bad. Getting famous requires work. You need to get people to know who you are, decide what you want to be known for figure out how you’re going to pay for everything cosplay related, plus food and rent. Al that means yourself/hobby is now a business, and you have to deal with things like Market saturation, supply and demand, and budgeting.
Calamity’s Crash Course on Starting your Business
Basic Definitions (that you need to know before we start)
While writing these out, I realised how many sound like sex euphemisms. Not intended, but I’ll roll with it.
Barrier(s) to Entry – The stuff that is in your way to getting started in your business’s field. Like, becoming a mad scientist has a high barrier to entry because it requires: fancy lab equipment, a hunchbacked assistant and tesla coils.
Benchmarking – Using someone else (company or individual) who is already successful to plan out your timeline to success
‘In the Red’ vs ‘In the Black’ – (No, not a period or butt reference) When you get/make financial statements in business, incoming money is shown in black, and outgoing (costs, etc) are in red. If you are overall making money, you’re In the Black. If you’re losing money, you’re In the Red.
Market – The customers, people you can theoretically sell to.
Market Segment – The group of people (defined by age, gender, various other stuff) that you are specifically targeting with your business.
Profit margins – How much money you make per item/service more than it costs. If you buy a wig for 30$ and turn around and sell it for 45$, your profit margin is 15$.
ROI – Return on Investment. This is something you don’t really have to worry about until you have an investor. Basically it means how much an investor gets back on their initial investment. Yeah, investing means you have to pay them back once you can.
Sole Proprietorship – A business that is run, and only consists of ONE person. In this case, You.
Sunk Costs – Costs that you need to put into your business (usually only once) that are not going to be made back. Examples: buying a serger, dress form or hair shears. All things that are necessary to cosplay production, but that aren’t directl going to give you money back.
Sweat Equity – Basically, the time and work that you put into a business without pay to
SWOT Analysis – stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It’s a way to look at what you’re facing in regards to business, and where you need to improve.
Take a look into Business Plans, and try to write one up. There’s tutorials and templates all over the intertubes, and don’t worry about having yours be super complicated, most of the templates are for larger business that sell things rather than a cosplayer.
Why plan ahead?
Aside from the obvious answer of ‘so you know what the hell you plan to do’, planning ahead lets you figure out what the best way to approach your business will be. Sure, it’s going to change, and change often, as you go, but having a map to Cosfame is a lot easier than blundering around blindly.
AIf you really do want to bcome CosFamous, you’re going to need all the help you can get… why?
Depressing Fact #1: Most small businesses fail. How many? ALMOST ALL OF THEM. In fact, in the US, more are failing than are being started:
While 400,000 new businesses are being created annually, 470,000 are closing, leaving a deficit of 70,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. – CNBC
That’s a Success rate of – 118%*
* not really, that’s the just ‘small business growth rate’ in the states at the moment. Oh, that doesn’t make me feel better…
If you don’t have a plan, you’re gonna fall into that pit of the hugely negative statistic. This isn’t to say that ALL businesses will fail. But unless you’re a leprechaun made out of rabbits feet and lucky clovers, you’re not gonna fall down the rainbow into Fame and mild Fortune.
Whatcha gonna give us?
So, like, WHY should you be famous? And why should people pay you for stuff? WHAT are they going to pay you for? These are kind of basic questions, if you can’t or don’t answer these, you’re effed up the A. Sorry folks. But nothing is for free in the business world. And if someone offers to give you a whooooole bunch of money for ‘nothing’, there’s going to be a hell of a catch there somewhere.
Reasons for CosFame
What makes you so special? Really, are you…
- Extremely pretty? Drop dead gorgeous? Aphrodite is jealous of your body?
- Massively talented at sewing? Armor?
- Funny as hell? / Really sweet? / great personality?
- full up on Charisma?
- The first one to cosplay [hugely popular character here]?
So, Ladies, I hate to break this to you… but unless you’ve got #1, there’s not much point going down the list. Society is dumb. It likes hot/beautiful women. You might be the best seamstress, but if you’re like me and tipping the ‘overweight’ side, CosFame is a no-go. Recognition, hell yeah. Can you be sexy? Fuck yes, you bet! CosFamous? …the odds are against you.
uh… guh… I … had a point. Or something.
Dudes have a bit more leeway, because… well… they always do. The problem you Guys might face is, the lack of T&A. Well, okay you’ve got the A bit, but unless you cater specifically to the Gay subset and ladies, you’ll find your star won’t take off as fast as a female counterpart.
Depressing Fact #2: Society is superficial as hell.
I know, what a shocker, right? Also totally digging the ‘I wear this for him’
shit. Bit. /s
So, if you are pretty, that’s enough right?
Haaaaaah. Nope. There’s plenty of gorgeous people out there who haven’t made it as ‘CosFamous’. You need to be gorgeous, skills to set you apart, and to be LUCKY AS SHIT. (we’ll get to that later)
Goods vs Services
So, let’s say you’re confident you can make it. What’s in it for me? And everyone else? What are you going to offer US so you can make a living and get us to like you?
I’m like, really good on the phone?
Goods: Physical stuff, like Prints (Nigri), accessories (Yaya), or books? (Kamui)
Services: Running workshops and panels, signing prints and more, MCing events, promotion, etc.
You need to think about what you want to offer, if anyone will want it. I’m not talking about your mom, or good friends. I’m talking about actual people who don’t know you, seeing what you’re offering and saying ‘yeah, I need that. I’m going to pay this money that I spent hours working at a job I hate, for that’.
Your Target Market
Okay, we all know (or should rapidly start accepting the fact) that you can’t please 100% of people even 1% of the time. You need to focus on the needs/wants of a particular group and cater to them. Let’s look at the basics of the difference between Jessica Nigri’s Target Market and Kamui’s:
(note, this is just the ‘target Market’, there will always be outliers)
Sells: Prints, pin-ups, promotional services
Sells: How-to books, patterns, prints, panel services
SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE: there is nothing wrong with wanting to be sexy. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be more technical. The wrong parts come from other people telling you what you should be doing.
Ultimately, your target market will affect what you offer business-wise, and it should. If you aren’t adjusting your business to suit your market, you’re going to join that -118% of small businesses.
Okay, so you’ve got your market figured out, and what you’re gonna offer them. Now the money starts rolling in, right?
Supply and Demand
“HEY GUYS” you say, using the gender-neutral form. “I HAVE THIS THING. YOU SHOULD BUY IT.” You shake your thing at them. The crowd of strangers stare at you, before one person says ‘But I don’t want that thing. Or need it. I have this better thing that I got a year ago.’
“Yeah,” stranger #2 says, “that’s nothing new.” You pale, and turn towards our pile of way-too-many Things.
CONGRATS! you’ve just unlocked Achievement: Supply and Demand!
Basically, if you have this thing, but no one wants it… You’re not gonna sell it. Prints, books, etc. That means that the demand isn’t there.
This horrifying thing showed up in my search for supply and demand.
Say there is demand, but someone else is selling the same thing, you’re going to have to compete with them to sell to your customers. If I’m about to start writing books on armor making, for example, I’m going to have to compete with Kamui’s books which already have a) a big name attached to them, and b) more of the market would know about her books, and buy them first.
Ahhh so depressing, business. *sips wine*
There’s two ways to deal with competition: Do something that hasn’t been covered yet, and use marketing to convince people that they need YOUR book/print/whatever. Or that, you know, you’re a thing and exist.
I’m not going to get too much into this, it’s a whoooooole other post. If not series of posts.
I couldn’t not share this stock image when I realised it’s a woman’s hand, with a dude behind it.
Tools that are available to cosplayers looking to market themselves are pretty well known: facebook, share-zines, twitter, favourite fridays, entering masquerades, etc.
Market saturation is when the market you’re after is full. No room, money and target is all accounted for. You’re stuck in a giant con floor shouting at con-goers, next to every other wannabe cosFamous person.
Depressing Fact #3: we’re already at that point.
Yup. We’re saturated. At least if you’re looking to become self-sustaining CosFamous. While the community of cosplay is growing, it’s a hobby community. How many ‘celebrity’ quilters do you know?
even being on a television show isn’t enough these days to become an A-list Cosplayer.
So, yeah. Kids, if you still want to be cosFamous, just be ready for a long, difficult slog. And don’t quit your day job.
Also, don’t assume getting a table at conventions means cosplayers are making bank. Or whatever your slang word of choice for money is these days.
Follow the rest of this series:
Part 1 – Going Pro Isn’t What You Think…
Part 3 – Playing to Win