The first thing you can ask about this article is what motivated me to write this:
It is simple:
1) I know it exists a great long article from Kamui cosplay about telling your value. And I really recommend you reading it! 🙂
But I still got a lot of questions after reading it: How high should be the fee? When I can ask a fee? Is it still my hobby when I ask money for it? I know these questions are too specific to be answered in just one way, but I’ll try to bring in some arguments how to value yourself without having any doubts.
2) I still know a lot of people, cosplayers, that don’t know the real value of their work and kinda fight with that problem. A lot of friends ask me what should they ask for their work, what should they do or how should they act and I think I am not the best person to tell them this, but I still feel like I have some experience from gaming and cosplaying community to guess what is a good and what is a bad treatment of cosplayers.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions written in this article are just my thoughts and you don’t have to agree with them – they are there just to help you make cosplayers aware of value of their work and to let events and people know how much work is involved in making and wearing a cosplay.
I do not say cosplay should not be handled as a hobby and that you should earn money with it, I just say don’t let yourself work to exhaustion and let other people earn money from your work and time.
Don’t underestimate yourself!
As Kamui cosplay said in her article – with time, you get better in what you do and if you want to be better and better, your hobby (cosplay) consumes more and more of your time and more and more of your money. You need tools, material, time, knowledge to make a costume, but you also need a lot of time and knowledge to be present on social sites, to give back to your followers and to extend your fanbase (whoever said managing a social site is easy, never fully understood how it is done).
If you are working hard, you are present on social sites, you grow, attend contests, make panels – suddenly you start to be interesting for cons, gaming events, VIP parties or different events, where people in costumes are welcomed. And if you are contacted by event to appear on them, this is the time you have to start thinking about maybe taking some fee for your time and effort, since:
1) You spend time, energy and money by travelling to an event.
2) You spend more time dressing and undressing from costume for this event.
3) You use material to make your costume wearable – costume maintenance, wig styling, makeup use.
4) You have to spend time on the event doing what you are said to do (sometimes not having chance to enjoy the event).
ad 4) Sometimes you have to take free day off work to be able to go to an event, so you lose money and time not working (or not working on more cosplays or social sites)
5) You use your hard work put in your costume (sometimes months of work, material and knowledge) on set event.
6) If you have some special appearances on an event, you have to prepare for them – discussions, panels, workshops,…
7) You have to behave in set way – for example attract people to a stand or a product – you are sometimes better than a superhot hostess – you attract more attention, a lot of time speak in foreign languages and know the stuff you’re supposed to know (games, PC hardware, …)
8) You are not a guy in costume, you are a proffesional craftsman/woman, some cosplayers have to train ther roleplay, weapon handling, be electrician, armormakers, seamstress, technicians, artisans and even models. For most part, normal event attendees don’t know the effort put into the costumes, so it is up on the event to make them learn about that.
9) You are a famous person – with more fans on social sites, there are cosplayers, that are sometimes more popular than actors or TV personalities.
You don’t need hunderts of thousands of fans to be interesting for an event – sometimes, the event wants just „people in costumes“, sometimes you are invited because of your achievements or because your work has high quality or is interesting. So don’t say now these points doesn’t fit to you!
You should always have all these things in mind when bargaining with an event!
And even if an event wants just a „girl in costume for hostess work“, still you shouldn’t ask less than a normal hostess would ask, since you have specialization and you are more attractive in a good costume than a hot girl in leggings and short T-shirt + you often know about the thing you should promote.
And now, let’s look at the fees for hostess work in the second largest city in Czech Republic HERE – just for your insight and it can serve as a BASE for you for setting your price here.
Consider pros and cons of the event
There are different types of evetns you can be invited to and the type of the event should be always considered when bargaining with it. Try to ask these questions:
1) Is the event used for earning money or is it rather a charity kind of event?
Be careful when contacted by charity event – always try to find out what is the charity thing about an event before bargaining more – there is a big difference between a charity event to make a workshop for kids vs. a charity event made to earn money from a streamed match where all the organisation is paid to make this possible and only the earnings from viewers are collected for the charity.
2) Does the event have potential for you to be seen, make connections or get new experience?
Can it bring something positive to you?
I always ask this question, since there is a huge difference between appearing on a Comic Con-like event with big admittance, lot of people, that can see your work and great experience being there and hostess-like work on a trade-fair for some company or a VIP game launch or other promotional event.
3) Always try to minimize your expenses when you are invited to an event – try to have at least paid travel expenses, food and drinks and accomodation (for you and your helper – depends if you need a helper and if the con allows it). And if you are travelling really far, then parking spot or people who pick you up from the hotel and take you to the venue. For start you don’t spend your own money to be at the event you have been inivited to.
Some cons will make you a great promotion, like for example Aniverture Comic Con in Bulgaria did when they made big banners to promote cosplay guests as their biggest stars and it really makes a difference to be treated like a star 😉
PLEASE DISTINGUISH BETWEEN CONS AND PROMOTIONAL EVENTS! (ad 2)
This part is for cons:
And if then get into situation, that you’re invited to such many events it is already taking too much of your time, it consumes so much time that it makes it harder for you to go to normal work – consider asking conventions for a fee in exchange for you to be a cosplay guest making appearances, promoting on social sites, doing panels or fan sessions,… Asking for a fee is really problematic and it is something a lot of cosplayers struggle with, but start small, consider always if you WANT to go and for which prize is it reasonable for you to go.
This part is for promotional events:
If you are doing a promotional work – doing a hostess kind of work – ALWAYS TAKE MONEY. This work is not about bringing back to cosplaying community, judging, sharing knowledge. It is about you standing next to a product and making a product look cool. It can be a gaming event where you are one of the attractions as ‚girl in a costume‘ (compared to a con, where you are for example ‚Germia, the european cosplay champion, judge and panelist‘ – insert your name and biggest achievement) – see the difference? Promotional work does not give a lot of things back. the only thing you can earn are some contacts on people you meet on promotional events, that can offer you a cooperation, but the chance for this is really small and depends more on your communicative skills and comes often rather naturally with your social media presence.
Promoting a company/product
Sometimes you can be asked to promote some kind of a product or company on an event or be interesting enough to have full cooperation with a product or company. There are some special things you have to bare in mind when promoting a product:
1) Don’t promote a product you don’t know just to have free stuff (credit on social site, free sample, free HW) – it will come back to you the hard way.
I can show you some of the scenarios I know:
– I was attending an event in a costume and a girl came up to me and gave me some new energy drink. I was like ‚thank you‘ and wanted to go away and she stopped me and told me, that people who got the drink should take a picture with it next to a banner. And I just returned the drink to her calmly, since I know I would do them a big advertisment in exchange for something dispensable and worth almost nothing. I would also go against my partner RedBull in that matter, which is actually the only energy drink I like and I was eager to cooperate with this company because I love it and I know thier products and I know the quality of it.
– Let’s say it happens again and instead of an energy drink, you got a gaming keyboard – cool, isn’t it? Once again – think about it more – what are the positive and negative things of this? Positive – you get a keyboard and you’ll be seen on the company’s social sites (keep in mind a lot of companies are not used to give credits to you, so sharing like this is kinda worthless). Negative – you can promote a product you don’t know and eventually get to know the keyboard is really bad. Or you can be seen with this product and lose oportunity to make cooperation with much better company you like or you use the and know the products of.
2) Don’t promote a product or do a costume for a company for free
It is a big advertisment for a company to cooperate with you, so always try to think about all the positive and negative things, that you can experience. Don’t promise impossible things and don’t work in a rush.
Also, take money for it – if your are doing hostess work, try to find normal hostess prizes and double them at least – noone can deliver such a full package as a cosplayer (more in Don’t underestimate yourself part)
3) Don’t promote a product, that is not something you’d recommend – don’t be a SELLOUT
You can see it everywhere on the internet – more or less famous people doing promotional work for almost everything – just to get their money – simple word is sellout.
I was asked twice to promote an alcoholic drink company and I refused them with me saying: I don’t drink alcohol, so I can’t recommend drinking your product. And they would reply: It doesn’t matter, you don’t have to drink it – just fake drinking it on the camera or let it stand next to you, that is enough…
Try to understand: Me drinking an alcoholic drink would be misleading and I would totally and visibly betray the trust of my followers, who know that I don’t drink alcohol at all!
And something similar works in every case – if it is keyboards, mices, computers, food products, drinks, clothes, cosplay products… There are always people who promote everything, sellouts, but if you are standing by the products you really like and use, your promotion will be much more effective, since people will recognize with time if you are just saying stuff to the camera, or if you really love something.
4) Be careful about the location you are taking pictures in
Some companies would ask you for a photo and let you stand next to their products and banners and post the picture on social sites, that it seems you are promoting their products. Be careful about that and be aware of the location where the pictures are taken!
It happened to me already and you can’t controll it all the times, but be at least aware of it 😉
Hello from the other side
Since I’ve said to you how much worth a cosplayer is, let’s talk about how a good cosplay guest should behave. I’ve said to you, that it is completely okay to ask for money or to get invites, but don’t forget that attending a con or promotional event for money needs you to work and behave in a specific way. I thought it is something normal, but I’ve seen so many people disregarding stuff like that, that I write it rather down:
As a cosplay guest on a con (or even a hostess in costume):
1) Don’t be late – and please, I mean it, don’t be late – EVER.
You appearing later can move the whole program of an event and cause financial problems to organizers, you appearing late to prejudging as a judge shows big disrespect to competing cosplayers waiting in their elaborate costumes just for you to show up. People, who come late, are saying a lot about themselves even before they appear.
(I know flying can be really exhausting, but you have to be really strong!)
2) Show high quality cosplay work, not something incomplete or something you’ve just made in few days, especially if you are a cosplay judge. It is not wise to appear as a cosplay judge in an unfinished costume and then pick flaws on other people’s costumes. Take care even of your costumes to be always in good and working shape.
3) Be polite and respectful – always try to be polite to people and respect others even you don’t really get well with everyone. Always say please and thank you when requesting something and praise people for their efforts. If you see something is wrong, don’t try to be bitchy about it, try to say it politely and rather tel people how it should be done better, than telling them something is wrong – simple constructive critique.
4) Be prepared – if you are holding your panel, make sure your panel is finished, understandable, you have all the needed materials and you are prepared to talk standing in front of crowd (in different language). If you are prejudging, know the rules of the contest, know your fellow judges and try to get as much info about the costumes of the contestants too. If you are promoting a product, try to get as much info about it too, since you are there to serve people not only as an attraction, but as a guide through the products.
5) Do a promotional work on your social sites – usually your followers want to know where and when they can meet you and the event would be glad for any advertisement. don’t forget about it, since it is very important!
6) Be fair!
Always try to be as fair (objective) as you can – especially when you are judging a cosplay contest – try to look at all the people with the same eyes. Don’t let further knowledge about the cosplayers themselves influence you in any way.
I know it would sound harsh, but it happened to me, that some contestants tried to explain me subjective reasons of them being in a contest like:
-This is my last contest, since I’m ending with contesting after this event. This is my last chance in my life to be succesfull. – It can be heartbreaking, but it should be irrelevant for the judges.
– I was doing this cosplay because you were my inspiration and I want to make you proud since you are my hero. – It is really flattering but you really have to stay firm, since you cannot judge more sympathethic towards someone just because you are a hero for him.
– I brought some progress materials just to show you more – I know it wasn’t in the rules, but maybe it will help me to get more points and win, since the organizers on Eurocosplay want something like that. – Previous experience in contests should not be taken in consideration by deciding the winner.
Also those thing can be said about friends in cosplay community. Don’t make someone a winner because he is your friend, don’t make someone lose just because you don’t find him likeable.
Be fair and professional.
7) Some words to the con organizers
Give your cosplayers as many things as you can – and I mean not only guests, but all cosplayers – for the most part, it is them who can attract more people to your event. Give the dressing room with place to sit, mirrors, light, electricity slots. If you can, give them something to drink or eat. Try to let them pass through crowds. Give them love.
EDIT October 2017:
I’ve just read an article by Hayley Williams and have to admit I forgot about one thing:
If you are a cosplayer and come to a promotional event for free, you’re telling the company, that cosplayers in general work for free and maybe you are making the problem with valuing a cosplayer by yourself and spoiling the chance to earn some money to other cosplayers. As Hayley wrote: „Why does the industry not value our time like they do their booth babes‘? It’s simple: they know they can always find a cosplayer who will work for free.“
Did I answered all my questions I had on the start? If you look into the article, I didn’t write exactly how much you should ask, but I did find a site for you, that evaluates the work of hostesses and that is a good starting point for you. I did say to you what to request when you are invited for an event and I think it is really individual, but also – good starting point 😉
And if you are struggling with taking money for your hobby – why? Taking money for quality work is not something you should be ashamed of – It is still your hobby no matter what – just do what you like and do what you love! This article doesn’t tell you what to do – if you want to visit as many cons as you can – JUST DO IT!
DO WHAT YOU LIKE AND WHAT YOU LOVE!
and if you like this stuff I do, you can support my work by donating on my PATREON.
Published: 25.09.17 8:00, Pacific Standard Time