COVID-19 shook the world and destabilized the live-events industry. As infections and deaths rose, events were canceled. For many cosplayers, actors, artists, vendors, creator brands and regional economies, fan conventions and expos represented a significant loss of revenue to sustain their companies and their personal livelihoods.
While the con industry hit pause due to the pandemic and necessary mandatory quarantine, conventions shifted to virtual events, industrial brands manufactured PPE for frontline healthcare workers and ventilators for patients, and national craft retailers pivoted to mask-sewing supplies (including a shortage of sewing machines). Due to cosplay appearance cancellations, many cosplayers turned to streaming, video creation, participating in virtual panels and creating more content for their pages to stay relevant, and hopefully sustain interest and generate revenue.
For me, I lost revenue from cancelled fan convention appearances, the opportunity to design a national touring cosplay exhibit for a major craft retailer and content creation gigs for companies whose own budgets were reduced due to COVID-19. These opportunities were offset by pursuing business consultation opportunities and as a coach for cosplayers and conventions, assisting their goals, vision and business plans.
Now at the midpoint of 2020, July is good time to re-evaluate. With conventions unlikely to re-open within the next 6-12 months, I've compiled 10 business tips for cosplayers to consider during quarantine:
Update your website copy and presence
It's probably outdated since February. This is a good time to review content areas that have become stale, remove items that no longer serve you, and tighten up the overall experience. Having a friend experienced with mobile-first design test your site for responsiveness on multiple devices and time to do some quality-assurance on those bugs (and typos!). Check for broken (borken?), dead and expired links. If you have monetized links, make sure that your monetized programs are still running. There are resources on the web on optimizing keywords so that folks who seek you will find you.
Likewise, it's time to update your bio. It's always going to be an item that will need updating, so make sure your bio stands out with your current happenings.
Refresh your media kit
If cons reopen in mid-2021, they will probably start evaluating their budgets in late 2020, around November/December, if not earlier. If they are looking to bring on cosplayers for spots on their guest roster, they will probably start evaluating/considering candidates soon. This is a good time to clean up your media kit.
You can learn more about media kits in my books Cosplay Marketing & PR 101 and Cosplay Secrets Revealed
Clean up your socials
You probably have old content up there that no longer serves your or is relevant to the cosplayer you are today. Time to scrub through your socials and start archiving or eliminating. This is also a great time to leave any Facebook groups and unlike/unfollow pages and people that no longer serve your interests or purpose. While you're in there - give yourself a mental health break: unfriend those folks that are following you just to keep tabs on what you're doing and never interact with your content. You don't need those distractions; likewise, if you are that person, now's a good time to dump that habit yourself. Now's the time to give up non-productive energy and move on.
Evaluate your skill sets
Are there any areas of growth that you want to enhance/improve, or any new techniques and technologies you want to explore? Now's a good time to evaluate your own skill sets and make a plan. Reach out to a friend and ask them what they think of your skills/products and collect honest feedback.
Take (or teach) an online class
We are now living in the age of Zoom. There are plenty of free or near-free resources available on the web and YouTube. There are also learning communities for specific skills/techniques. Check out CosplayCentral.com for instructional content from fellow cosplayers. Likewise, if you are feeling confident in the subject areas you work in, teach a class. This can be as simple as writing an instructable, or as complex as hosting a live-tutorial over Zoom or other virtual platforms. This is also a nice way to generate revenue.
Myself, I'm currently in a graduate program in sustainable business strategy. With time and ambition on my hands, quarantine's a good time as any to get back into it.
Apply for an Economic Impact Disaster Loan or Grant
The U.S. Federal Government has made provisions for supporting independent artists and makers, such as cosplayers, impacted by COVID-19. Research EIDL Loans and Loan Grants for qualification criteria and apply for a chance to receive a grant or loan.
Shore up your Finances
Now is a great time to clean up your credit report, if you are a sole proprietor. It's also a good time to check any auto-deducting subscriptions that you no longer use. There are many tax-deductible items that many qualify. Similarly, if you don't have separate bank account for your business, create one. This is business identity principle 101 and can help separate your business revenue/expenses from your personal. Check out Oxygen, a free flexible banking solution designed for freelancers and creative entrepreneurs.
Also, now would also a great time to organize that pile of receipts and open that stack of unopened mail (I know I need to).
This is also a good time to consider if you should start an LLC or an S-Corp or another model for your business.
Clean your Craft Room (and get rid of cabbages)
The current season of Hoarders on Netflix is both eye-opening and a call-out to my craft room. I've been "saving" cabbages (scraps/remnants of fabric) for a long-time and hasn't been touched since January, with some even longer. Time to donate the usable pieces and toss the scraps in the recycling bin. Perhaps a little inspiration from Marie Kondo, ask yourself if it still sparks joy.
Connect with Potential Partners
Now's a great time to think about what business opportunities you want to pursue in the world of partnerships and sponsorship. Who has been on your dream list? You can also reach out to other creators and pursue a collaborative project together!
During COVID-19, I pulled together the Sewcial Impact Awards to celebrate individual sewists across the United States who were making a difference in their communities as volunteers. Together, they created masks for families, hospitals and service members. Through my partnerships with SINGER Sewing Company and JOANN, these sewists were rewarded with products and gift cards. I am grateful for those partnerships! You can learn more in my book Cosplay Sponsorships and Partnerships for help on getting started
Save 15% off any purchase on Singer.com by using promo code CANVASCP at checkout!
Relax. Reinvent. Re-emerge.
Finally, things happen in life that cause us to pause and evaluate our values and purpose. COVID-19, quarantine and the march for justice highlight the power and importance of community and perseverance. We often have to sit within ourselves and let those turning points affect us and change us. And it is okay to pause and pivot. Ask yourself: Does this still bring me joy?
New logo? New brand name? New purpose?
Cosplay business folks, including myself, often burn the candle at both ends, resulting in exhaustion, self-defeat and doubt. We are now in a place, in the middle of 2020 exactly, where we can sit with our selves and ask ourselves this important question: "Why did I get into cosplay to begin with?" Reconnect with your values, your purpose, your why. Relax, reinvent and re-emerge. We love to see it.
You may reach out to me if you are interested in scheduling a consultation about your cosplay brand/business
Philip Odango (Canvas Cosplay) is a teaching artist, author, cosplayer and business consultant based in Virginia Beach, Virginia USA. His vision is to equip people with accessible information and tools to practice their creative self-expression.
Philip owns a successful marketing, event production and project management consultancy and uses his 15 years of experience in partnerships and brand development to:
Write and publish a series of professional development books for cosplayers focused on marketing and public relations, how to book appearances and navigate contracts and working with brands and sponsors
Consult on strategic initiatives with global brands, including SINGER™ Sewing Company, FISKARS™ Crafts, VELCRO™ Brand, IKEA, Plaid Crafts, Vero True Social, Kryolan Professional Makeup and JOANN Fabrics
Coach entrepreneurial cosplayers in shaping their personal goals, brand vision, business plans and media kits
Advise universities and community makerspaces on tools and equipment
Philip serves as brand ambassador for SINGER™ Sewing Company since 2017, has taught workshops and panels worldwide. He has been featured by Forbes, Business Insider, GQ, MARVEL, Disney, The New York Times and SYFY. He holds degrees in psychology, public relations and project management and currently pursuing the graduate program in Sustainable Business Strategy at Harvard Business School.