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Many craft fair organizers and promoters wonder how to host a successful craft show that will appeal to the public, but also draw talented, top-quality crafters. Over the years, I’ve seen many craft shows that were amazing and others that had potential, but missed the mark.
My goal in creating this post was to poll and talk to as many fellow vendors as possible so that I could create a helpful list of suggestions for things vendors really want you to keep in mind when organizing events.
Use these craft fair success tips to build an amazing show that shoppers and sellers alike will eagerly anticipate year after year.
Organized, well-run craft fairs are a fantastic way to raise funds and awareness for any organization. They’re attended by a variety of people and offer local artists and crafters an opportunity to earn a living while benefiting your cause.
Churches, high school band boosters, and animal shelters are just a few organizations that can find success with craft shows. Yes, a lot of hard work is involved, but the profit potential is immense.
Venue Planning. Is your venue the right size and easily accessible? You’ll need to consider the amount of vendors you can hold, the space needed for booths and aisles, and the number of doors you have for loading and unloading.
Careful Scheduling. Be aware of other events that might interfere with your chosen weekend. If a neighboring town is having a large event that is well-established, you don’t want to have a first time event on the same weekend. Research well before setting a date.
Attendance Rules: If you’re hosting a 2 day event, ensure there will be enough traffic for both days. I’ve attended a few craft fairs with mandatory attendance rules where no one showed up the second day. Nothing angers vendors more. This is a waste of your vendors time and there is a good chance they won’t come back. If you only need one day, only schedule one day. Those are often the most profitable events.
Pricing. Yes, you’re there to make a profit, but so are your vendors. If you have a well-established show with consistent high traffic you can charge more for spaces, but don’t get greedy. Most small town shows can’t and shouldn’t be trying to get 3 figure space rentals for small shows. If you are a new event don’t exceed $25 for a space. A few of my local area shows failed after years of success because they increased booth fees so high that their top vendors sought more affordable shows.
Booth Sizes: Make sure you clarify the sizing of booths and that on the day of the fair the size you stated is accurate. I went to a Spring show one year with 10 x 10 spaces all touching each other. Whoever marked the lines needed a new tape measure. Imagine the frustration that drizzly morning when we couldn’t all get our canopies to fit.
Be specific AND accurate. If you provide tables clarify the sizing and any extra charges.
Setup: Please allow plenty of time for set-up, preferably the night before the event and early in the morning the first day. Clarify the rules. If you need people to unload and then move their cars, state that on the contract and place a reminder at the venue.
It can be a frustrating experience for vendors to have short setup times while also combating parking and loading/unloading issues.
Volunteers: Whenever possible, have volunteer help available. Volunteers can help vendors set up, show them where everything is, provide relief for bathroom breaks and even bring food from concessions. Vendors really appreciate these gestures and are more likely to pay a bit more for space rent at events that offer these services.
Appreciate your vendors: At the very least, visit each booth and ask how things are going. Your vendors will make or break your show. Ensure your sellers are comfortable and have what they need.
Consider doing a small gift bag or some kind of thank you gesture – it really means a lot and spreads goodwill. Vendors will respond in kind by promoting your event and you’ll show them that you appreciate their participation.
Avoid unreasonable rules like “no outside food or drink”. We paid for our booth. Many vendors have restricted diets or preferences so please keep that in mind. Most vendors are happy to purchase some things from your concession stand, but it shouldn’t be “mandatory”.
Child Friendly? Kid friendly events should have a special area with activities dedicated to the kids so they aren’t running around the sales floor.
No Stroller Rules. Conversely, if you don’t allow strollers please make sure that information is included in your event advertising. This angers shoppers when they don’t know in advance and I’ve see it happen often.
Advertise! You need to advertise your event adequately, even if it’s been on the same weekend every year for 20 years. Advertise on social media, in your local paper and via fliers, signs, and whatever means possible. To keep top-quality vendors and happy shoppers this is the most important thing you need to do!
Want to save money? See this post on how to advertise cheap or free. This is not your vendors responsibility – it’s yours. You’ll find if you advertise, your vendors usually will also. It needs to be a joint effort.
Surveys. Towards the end of your event when things are slowing down take a few minutes to pass out a vendor survey. You can get a free one here… This allows vendors to provide valuable feedback about your event.
With these tips in mind, craft fair promoters are far more likely to have a successful event.
Interested in turning your artistic hobby into a business? Find out how you can make money by selling your handicrafts at art shows and craft fairs.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When Terry Speer was a struggling art student in the 60s, he put himself through college by selling his prints and paintings at local art shows. In 1979, after eight years as an art professor, Speer left academia to do the show circuit full time with his wife, Deborah Banyas, a fellow artist and quilt maker.
"I had tenure and benefits," Speer recalls, "but I was miserable. I thought, 'Why am I torturing myself as a professor when I can have more fun doing this and make more money?'"
Speer hasn't looked back once. Today, he and Banyas run a homebased business selling their whimsical mixed-media sculptures at art festivals and craft shows around the country, including the recent Coconut Grove Arts Festival in Miami where they rang up sales of several thousand dollars over the three-day Presidents' Day weekend. Despite an estimated $3,000 in travel and other miscellaneous costs, Speer and Banyas ended up making a tidy profit. Then they packed up their truck and headed home to Oberlin, Ohio, where they stayed for less than a day before traveling to another show in Baltimore.
"This isn't an easy way to make a living," says Banyas, who estimates that the couple exhibits at 12 shows a year. "You've got to be willing to drive a truck and get up at four in the morning."
Still, Speer and Banyas can't see themselves doing anything else. And they're not the only ones who feel that way. Though it's impossible to know how many artists and craftspeople sell their wares full or part time at shows and festivals, their numbers appear to be growing as crowds turn out by the thousands to buy paintings, sculptures, woodwork, metalwork, glasswork and jewelry and to meet the artists and craftsmen who make them. And as Speer and Banyas have discovered, there's real money to be made. Last year, the Coconut Grove festival drew more than 150,000 visitors who purchased approximately $4 million in artwork from more than 330 exhibitors over the course of the three-day show. (Figures for this year's show were not available at press time.)
"I think it's a great opportunity for the public to connect with artists," says Lisa Remeny, a Miami artist whose painting was picked to be the official poster art of this year's Coconut Grove show. "You don't have that in a gallery where people buy from dealers."
For homebased artists and craftsmen, selling at fairs and shows provides an opportunity to ring up sales and find new customers at little cost and no overhead. Typically, shows charge just a few hundred dollars for a booth and allow artists to enjoy big markups on the work they create--profits they don't have to share with a gallery or store owner. But making money at fairs and shows isn't as easy as it seems. It requires research, planning and the ability to keep a smile on your face while standing on your feet for long hours. And that's not for everyone.
"To be successful at shows, you need to have a retail personality and that's not me," says Debra Sachs, who creates fanciful wooden canes with her partner, Marilyn Keating, at their company, The South Jersey Museum of Curiosities LLP in Gloucester City, New Jersey. Even though Sachs says she and Keating made a profit at every show they attended, the shows took them away from doing what they really loved--creating art. "We're doing public art projects now," Sachs says.
Think selling your work at shows and fairs might be for you? Follow these 10 road-tested tips to success:
1. Walk the show. Just because your Mom used to tack up your drawings on the refrigerator doesn't mean your work is professional enough for people who aren't related to you to buy it. First, attend a few shows to see if your stuff is good enough to pass muster. Some shows are juried, which means that judges review your work and select you; others are open to everyone.
It's also important to find the right venue for your work. While an indoor art show may be beyond your grasp, a craft show or Renaissance fair may fit the bill just right. You can find out a lot of information about the shows by talking to artists and craftsmen you meet there. "The best way is to ask other vendors where the best shows are," says Christopher Spelman of Wax Creations in Oceanside, New York. "They'll tell you which fairs to not even bother with."
2. Do your homework. Find out who typically attends the show, what kind of turnout you can expect and how much it will cost to exhibit there. Even though booth space typically costs just $200 to $300--the Coconut Grove festival charges $550--you need to factor in travel costs, shipping costs and the cost of a table, banner and the booth itself. And don't forget the materials costs; for jewelry or sculptures made of precious metals, those costs can add up. And depending on the city or state the show is in, you may also need a license or permit to sell there. It's best to figure out your breakeven point--that is, how many items you need to sell in order to make a profit--before you decide to pack up and go.
3. Start small. Most established artists and craftspeople sell to repeat customers who frequent the same shows every year and often collect their pieces. While you're establishing your reputation and building a following, keep your expenses to a minimum. Speer suggests renting or borrowing a booth from another artist instead of buying your own. Another option is to share a booth with another artist or craftsperson. "Don't invest a lot of money until you're sure it's going to work," he says.
4. Price it right. While cheaper work is easier to sell, you've got to sell a lot more items to cover your costs and make a profit. At the same, an artist selling $10,000 paintings may go home empty-handed. That's why many art show veterans offer a range of price points to potential customers. Biba Schutz, a New York City jewelry artist, sells her work for anywhere from $150 to $900 but offers one-of-a-kind pieces for up to $5,000. "If your material costs you $10 and you double it, you've got a $10 profit," says Schutz, who works in silver, bronze, copper and gold. "If the material costs you $200 and you double that, it's $400. You need to sell less to make those numbers."
5. Bring your credit card machine. Credit cards are the common currency of shows and fairs, and if you don't accept them, you're going to lose sales to vendors who do. You also face the risks of dealing with bounced checks from strangers who may be hard to track down after the show. Especially if you're selling work priced in the hundreds of dollars, credit cards are a must. To find out more about obtaining merchant credit, see our " Resources " section.
6. Don't go it alone. While shows can be exciting and profitable, they can also be physically and emotionally exhausting. That's why it's important to bring along someone to help you work the booth and deal with customers. This will also give you a chance to get up and go to the bathroom and grab a hotdog or something to drink without losing sales. Spelman of Wax Creations works the fairs with his wife. "You need a lot of good friends and family willing to help you," he says.
7. Pack your stuff. Make sure you bring enough work to sell but not so much that you'll have to carry most of it back. Besides your artwork, you'll also need to pack your booth, several chairs, a small table, a calculator, a credit card machine, bags for customers to carry your products home in and any brochures or marketing materials you might have.
8. Put your best foot forward. People like to see a craftsperson creating artwork in his booth, not just selling it. While this isn't always possible, it's a crowd-pleasing idea that works well for jewelry makers, woodworkers, quilters and other craftspeople. At the very least, make sure your display table is clean and attractive and that your products are well displayed with prices clearly marked. Some artists, like jewelry maker Schutz, string lights in their booths and display color photos of their work to spice things up a bit.
9. Build a mailing list. Shows are a great way to develop your customer database. Try putting a fishbowl on your table and offering people a chance to win a piece of artwork in return for giving you their contact information or business cards. Giving away promotional items with your company's name and logo works, too. This way, you can send out postcards inviting prospects to your next show. Don't forget to collect e-mail addresses, too! It's a lot cheaper to send out 100 e-mail messages than it is to pay for paper and postage. "I have some customers who've bought from me every year for 10 years," Schutz says. "These days, I send more e-mails than postcards, and with my wholesale customers, I actually call them."
10. Count your money. Before you move on to the next show, sit down and figure out how much you made on the last one. For example, if you spend $1,000 on this show, did you make $1,000 back? Remember, we're talking about profits, not sales! Don't forget to include the cost of your materials, the booth space, travel, shipping and cleanup. This kind of breakeven analysis will help you figure out if you should exhibit at the same show next year.
Don't be disappointed if you don't make a fortune your first time out--or ever. Except for artists like Speer and Banyas, who sell exclusively through shows and fairs, most artists and craftspeople also sell through galleries, wholesalers, the Internet and other marketing channels. "My best year ever I made $18,000," says Spelman of Wax Creations, who does most of his business at parties and events. "I'd consider making $2,000 in a weekend to be a success. Some people live off these shows; other people use it to market their business."
Looking to break into the world of fairs and shows? Check out the web links below to jump-start your business today.
Rosalind Resnick is president and CEO of Axxess Business Centers Inc., a boutique consulting firm for startups and small businesses. She can be reached via her website.
Successful Craft Show Tips: Booth Display. How the Smallest Details Can Make the Biggest Impact. When preparing for your next craft show.
One of the biggest things soapmakers agonize over when it comes to doing shows is how to setup a successful craft show booth. There’s a lot of great and common advice out there about what tables to use or silly common sense things like including signage. So, today, let’s gather up some less commonly talked about features of a successful craft show booth design and setup!
To start with, all successful craft show booth layouts have particular features. When you are planning your craft show booth design, keep in mind that you want to:
The most common mistakes include not allowing customers a safe zone to browse and not providing aisle escape. No one likes being confronted by a maker, which makes them feel committed to browsing (even if they aren’t interested), which wastes valuable real estate on a warm body instead of a potential customer!
When you design your craft show booth, keep the points above in mind. I highly recommend setting up your craft show booth in a dry run, and then pretending to be a customer. Approach your booth from different angles, think about where you would stand as a vendor, and try shopping your booth!
When setting up a craft show booth, you’ll want to keep in mind a couple things about your tables, displays, and setup! Here’s some other tips for creating a successful craft show booth design that will be efficient for you and welcoming for your customers:
Successful Craft Show Booth Design Tip: Give ’em some space.
Most first time vendors fill up their tables from front to back, leaving no empty space on the table top. This is a big mistake! It doesn’t give customers any room to place their belongings, if need be. (For instance, when making a purchase, a lot of women appreciate space to set down their purse on your table.) You also don’t want anyone to knock down your products that are close to the edge of the table. I prefer keeping about 6 inches of space clear around the front edges of every display table.
You’ll also find that you appreciate a little bit of space behind your displays for writing down information for customers, storing extra inventory or samples, and other items you want to have readily accessible. If you have space in your vendor area (the section of your booth that you alone can access) for a table with such supplies, then it’s not necessary to have that wiggle room behind your displays.
Successful Craft Show Booth Design Tip: Make sure it’s safe.
Make sure your displays are secure and won’t knock over if bumped into, or if a customer drops a product while picking it up or putting it back. You don’t want a giant mess of damaged product to clean up, and a customer isn’t going to feel great about breaking anything!
Keep you, your products, and your customers safe by doing a safety check on displays. Make sure that they can be bumped into without being knocked over, and if a product is dropped, it won’t break or destroy things!
Successful Craft Show Booth Design Tip: Create your own space.
If your booth has back walls, fix those up! There’s nothing more distracting than being in a booth and being able to see through and check out the booth behind you. If you are outdoors, use your tent to create back walls and hang attractive display banners with a great photo of your products and your business name. If you are inside, you can still create a back wall by using a photography backdrop stand or creating your own backdrop stand out of PVC pipe. Whichever you do, make sure it is secure so it won’t fall over!
If you are at an outdoor event, you’ll likely be using a tent. Don’t forget about those tent legs being in the way! Use the tent legs to your advantage, and include them in your plans.
A neat trick to cover up those unsightly tent legs is to use shutters or bi-fold doors around them to create visual interest, a place to hang additional banners, or modify them to hold brochures and business cards for your customers to snag. An easy to transport cover-up is creating a curtain panel that hangs from the corners of your tent, around the tent legs, with a couple yards of fabric and velcro. Both of these options give you the opportunity to bring in more of your brand visuals while making the space feel more like a boutique instead of a tent in the middle of a busy craft fair.
Successful Craft Show Booth Design Tip: Create visual interest.
While your whole craft show booth should be eye-catching, it’s always good to plan one or two displays that catch a customer’s eye from far away. Think tiered shelving or stacked crates that create a visual break in your display with height. Use these display areas to showcase your bestsellers or a new product – anything you want folks to be drawn to or see first.
Another way to do this is to create a color break – where you use a single accent color in a large swatch in one area. For instance, if your brand colors are aqua, coral, and white, you might use aqua and white tablecloths and displays. You can add that nice pop of color by painting the back of the inside of your largest display shelf a pretty coral color. This will create a visual break in the color theme and draw attention – yes!
Successful Craft Show Booth Design Tip: Maximize your potential.
When designing your setup, imagine the customer flow and what they will do while they are in your booth. If you are busy with another customer, and they want to ask you questions, is there an option for them to grab your contact info and order online? Let them know!
Throughout your booth include info collection points where customers can grab a business card, check you out on social media, sign up for your email newsletter, and more! Some soapmakers also include interactive elements, like discounts or a free with purchase product for snapping a photo and posting it on Instagram with a hashtag or “checking in” to the craft show location on Facebook. Use the in-person format to translate your customers to other methods of contact online!
Do you have any other tips for successful craft show booth designs and setups? Leave a comment below and share your tips to help another soapmaker out!
Filed Under: Branding Your Business, Making Money Selling SoapTagged With: craft shows, live events
One of my favorite pastimes? Attending fairs. Whether they are women’s fairs, book fairs or a craft fair – I love them all. I love going to craft fairs for several reasons, namely to get out of the house without my husband and children. Bahaha! I also enjoy meandering and browsing, taking my time to both appreciate and purchase other crafters works and to get new ideas for my own home.
Vendor fairs and I go way back. As a child I attended and assisted my mother at her booth in countless fairs. I would help set up, I would man the booth while she had bathroom breaks and I learned how important it is to mingle with other vendors during slow times. If you are thinking of attending your first craft fair as a vendor, there are some definite do’s and don’t’s when it comes to setting up your booth and how you engage with your customers – and other vendors too!
The obvious goal, when paying the entry fee to a craft fair, is to sell your wares and recoup your cost (and then some). But, you also want people to remember you and your name so that they can find you later on your Facebook page, your website or find you on Etsy etc. Take the following tips and see if you can’t walk out of your next craft fair feeling like a boss.
Presentation is everything! Your buyer’s first impression will many times make or break a sale. When setting up, think of the ways your booth will appear to passersby. You want to offer a wide array of items, in a wide range of price points, without over crowding your table. This is not an episode of Hoarders, but you definitely want to utilize ALL space available to you – including vertical space.
Take table cloths (inexpensive flat sheets from Walmart work well also) to drape over the table, use wooden crates to add depth and “shelves”, use old opened suitcases for charm, invest in a mannequin, convert an old photo frame to have chicken wire stapled to the back for hanging items (with mini clothespins) etc… The more eye catching your booth (without being overcrowded) the better.
Provide a mirror! I can not tell you how many times I have left an item I might have purchased if I could have just seen it ON myself. Try to have a good sized mirror (full length if possible) with a frame instead of hand-held. Of course if a large mirror is not possible a hand-held mirror is better than nothing, but again – presentation is everything. If you don’t already have a cute, decorative mirror, watch for sales (or use your coupons!) at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s or Joann’s etc and pick one up!
I can not stress enough how important it is to have business cards in multiple places. Have a stack at the front of the table and throw one in the bag when you package a purchased item. If they do not make a purchase, you can also give them a business card from your handy dandy stack.
There are numerous places to find inexpensive business cards online. Make sure you include where to find you online and how to contact you.
As a customer, I do not want to have to ask for a price. In fact most times I will not ask, instead I’ll just pass right on by. Don’t do that to your customers – or to yourself!
Want an even better way to price your items? Use your business cards AS your price tags (but also have some available in that stack). Create a small hole to string through and attach to your items. Think of it this way: if someone likes your work enough to pay you for it, they automatically get a business card that they will later have to remove (and hopefully stash in their purse, wallet etc). To me this is better than just throwing the card in the bag that will then get thrown away.
Be available but not pushy. My main craft will always be crochet, so I am sure to bring my yarn and my hooks and I crochet as I stand at my booth. (I try not to sit as it may come off as me being bored) This allows me to be present and available for questions, but in a way that doesn’t feel overly in-your-face to the shopper. Plus, I’m creating more product!
Alternatively, engaging with your customers is key. When I shop I want to be left alone, but I also want to know that should I have any questions (can you make this in a different color? etc) that the vendor is accessible. When I am on the other side of the table however, my approach is different. Definitely make eye contact, smile and say hello, read the person’s reaction. Their body language will tell you if they wish to engage in further conversation or simply shop.
Think small (ish) and think ahead! What kinds of things will people be needing in the next few months? In October, the best items would be Thanksgiving or Christmas related, whereas in March you might want to stock your table full of items pertaining to Easter, spring cleaning/useful things and perhaps even some items geared towards the 4th of July.
You also want to have a wide array of items, including unique items you can’t just find at Walmart. Keep much of it simple and trendy. Many times the smaller items, like the Aldi Quarter Keepers, dishcloth sets, chapstick keychains, mini-blind cleaners, sell better than scarves and blankets simply because it’s an impulse buy at just a few bucks – and those sales add up! Don’t forget that if they buy something small now with your business card attached, when they need something large like a blanket or a poncho etc, they’ll remember you (and be able to contact you)!
Do you have a selection of super cute hats for sale? Wear one! If not possible, or if you just have too many different items to wear without looking like a walking pegboard, try to display the items in the manner they would best be worn/used. A shawl just laying on the table won’t get nearly as much action as it would if it were aesthetically displayed on Catherine (a.k.a. my mannequin).
Spending a little bit of money to offer quality packaging goes a long way in the professionalism of your brand. The packaging does not have to be expensive to be effective. These merchandise bags would suffice, and just between you and me, Hobby Lobby has the best value on tissue paper (yes, even better than the Dollar store). Also provide care instructions, printed out on regular paper and cut to size (and be sure to include your business name for marketing purposes).
Photo thanks to Christine! (love that floor pouf)
I bought my mannequin Catherine, (named after the second beheaded wife of Henry VIII) to use as a photo prop for my crochet patterns listed here on Heart Hook Home. She’s pretty (albeit a little shy) and she’s got a great sense of humor. She was also one of the least expensive and best looking mannequins I found online. I am a deal hunter at heart, and Catherine and me are BFF’s now.
You might also have several heads for display if you’ve got the space. Here’s a decently priced head. Ha!
If at all possible, accept credit cards (Square is a great tool) and advertise that you accept them. Take up just a bit of your space to advertise a sign like mine below. I whipped this up using Canva, a free online photo editing tool. I added some of my most popular designs to draw people in. Create one yourself to convey that not only do you accept cash and credit cards, but you have other colors available as well.
Tip: Store a tote under your table containing various colors of yarn. If someone loves that hat but wants it in purple instead of blue, you can offer to have it ready for them in an hour (depending on how quickly you crochet, of course).
When presenting at a craft fair, you only have a limited space available to you. Why not create a hard cover photo book from Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walgreens or CVS showcasing items you have made in the past, but may not have on hand today? Pack that book full of the blankets you’ve made, any amigurumi (stuffed animals) you’ve crocheted, use it to showcase the different stitches you know and/or colors you have available. Keep it open to the page with your most popular design(s).
If you’ve got lots of little dishcloths or rings for kids, consider placing several in a special basket labeled “free gift with $50+ purchase”. You set the amount required, but if someone is spending $40 or $45, they might just pick up another $10 item if only to get the freebie.
You could also spin this a little differently and offer a spin wheel for small prizes as well. See what I did there?
By mingling I don’t necessarily mean with your customers. Sure, you want to mingle with them too, but if you take the time to get to know your neighbors (I hope they’re cool 😉 ) you might get information about other upcoming craft shows, item placement tips and tips on pricing etc. Also, you take note of each other’s inventory. They can send people your way and you can send people theirs!
As I said above, this is not an episode of Hoarders. Don’t put all of your items out (unless you don’t have a ton) instead replenish them as they are sold.
I feel like this should not have to be said, but here goes. One of the reasons I like to stand and crochet during a craft fair is because it keeps me from browsing on my phone. Nothing is worse than ignoring your prospective customers or looking bored. If you are up and moving, working, crocheting etc it shows that you are attentive and open for business.
You could save any unsold items for a future craft fair, or you could donate them to a worthwhile charity as well. If you do donate, make sure you get a receipt for tax purposes!
If you have someone with you at the table (your older children, a friend etc) make sure they have, in the very least, basic answers to any questions that may arise. Color choices, care instructions, different sizes etc. This way if you step away for a restroom break (which you should try to do at off-times) they will have those answers.
Not craft related, but my latest fair, a financial health fair at a credit union in Wichita, Kansas.
Sure, we are all here to make money, but try not to focus on the sales. Focus instead on having fun, meeting new people and learning from the experience.
One thing mentioned by Dianna in the Heart Hook Home Crochet Community really struck me: having a booth at a craft fair is a lot like going hunting or fishing. You spend money on supplies (entry fees) and you spend all day trying to catch a buck (or make a buck). Even if you come home empty handed, you have gained knowledge, experience and you’ll be more prepared going in next time. What a great reminder!
What do you do differently at a craft fair, if anything? Do you have any tips I missed? Let us know in the comments so we too can leave our next craft fair feeling like a boss!
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Home, Other Craftscraft fair, craft show, how to have a successful craft fair, how to sell items at a craft fair
First, there are no set rules on how much inventory you should take. You should strive to have your craft show booth full (but not overcrowded) of inventory for.
I am the classic over thinker/ over researcher. I google, pinterest, facebook, encyclopedia pretty much everything before I dive on in. So when I decided that I wanted to do a craft fair I read about every article out there and felt like I was pretty prepared. There was a lot of great and invaluable advice! But doing a craft fair is kind of like having kids. You just don’t know what it is REALLY like until you have one. So here are my tips and tricks that no one told me- So I am telling you! What to expect, what to prepare for… and what advice to take with a grain of salt.
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1. A good display is important- but no need to go overboard!
I really stressed about my display for the first few fairs- that is in every craft fair tip article on the internet!! I wanted it to look amazing, like an actual storefront! And maybe you will get to a point where that is feasible. But I wasted a lot of time worrying about that when I could have been making actual things to sell. My best advice?? Make stuff that is awesome and make sure people can see it! Sound over simplified? Well it kind of is! But I have seen A TON of booths with things in baskets, boxes, piled, small things lying flat…. You can’t see them unless you are right in front of them! And if people have to rifle through items to see them all that is a serious problem. Most people are walker stalkers. They will walk through booths to check them out but any more serious effort? NOPE.
Have at least a few displays that are VERTICAL. Your best sellers should be VISIBLE from the aisle! For my crochet hats I had them on hat stands and a big hanging display. This is the draw. Then when they are closer have your other items easily visible on a table or such. If you have smaller things that are variations of one thing and want to put them in a basket I think that is fine. I recommend that you have a display item easily visible so they know what they are looking for in the basket.
Along with your display, you want people to see prices! A lot of people don’t want to ask… But want to know! I have used these tags and they were perfect.
2. Put on your happy face, folks!
I am an introvert. I like people, but small doses really does it for me. Usually my Sunday church attendance sets me up for a week. So when I get ready for a craft fair I mentally put my cheerful game face on. You need to be helpful, engaging, smart, funny, personable… Things I like to think I am (ha!) but you got to be that ALL DAY LONG. Be prepared for crazy comments, rude comments, incredibly sweet rewarding comments, and some cheek hurt. Because you got to have that smile on! As much as you are selling your product, you are selling YOU! If this comes naturally to you then great! If you are like me just fake it til you make it. And it’s not as hard as I am making it sound. You are selling something that you are passionate about, that you love to make! Remember that and it makes it much easier. For today you are a Salesman (woman) first and a maker second.
3. People be Crazy
There are some great people that make it all worth it, but there are a few that will say some nasty things. My biggest advice is to KILL THEM WITH KINDNESS. Your first reaction may be to snap something back, but if you are overly kind and encouraging then it will make a huge difference. Want an example? I had one lady tell me that my hats were way overpriced, snapped a picture of one and told me she knew someone who could make it cheaper. I was burning (literally, I have a horrible blushing habit when I am flustered.) I said I was so sorry she felt that way but was so glad that she liked my work to take a picture of it! She stomped off. Another woman who was also looking at the hats was super indignant on my behalf, bought two hats and brought back another friend who also bought another hat. A couple of hours later the earlier woman came back and bought the hat she took a picture of and apologized. Apparently her friend quoted her the same price! Not every story will have such a happy ending (I have had many, many more that did not!) but I will always be grateful that I came off professional in that encounter of the weird kind.
4. Bring Snacks
What??? Seriously. Snacks and drinks will be a saving force. Like I said I am not a huge people person so it really wears me out and I get tired. You will be standing most of the day. It will be hard to leave the booth (what if you miss a sale!) and you will get HUNGRY. I always pack a few granola or protein bars and some water bottles.
5. Bring a Person
Like I said, it will be hard to leave the booth but you will need to sometimes (hmm hmm. bathroom.) If you can’t have a person there all day, somebody who can come spell you for a little bit is seriously a life saver!
6. Have a Paying Station
This is a big one that I didn’t do for the first few fairs and then figured out… I was so intent on using every inch of space for my product that I didn’t think to set up a place for the actual exchanging of funds for goods! It is hard to do this standing up. If you have to juggle change, your phone or ipad, and whatever you are selling it becomes awkward fast. Have one little section with your cash box and a little chair and things will go sooooo much easier. It is more comfortable for both you and the buyer. You can have your cash box, some bags for your product (I use these and think they were a great deal!) and maybe your receipt book.
7. Get an Actual Cash Box
You CAN get by without one… but when you are taking money people like to be reassured they are dealing with a professional person. My first fair I just used an envelope and accidentally pulled everything out. Umm excuse me potential buyer while I pick some twenties off the floor. NO. Not professional. I like THIS ONE if you are in the market. In the same line, make sure you have some change! At one fair my first purchase was with a hundred and I was so grateful that at the last minute I got some change made!
8. Make sure you are not one in a million
One fair I
went to had a TON of similar crochet items. Like 6-7 booths out of 40.
People still liked my stuff but they had “just got a hat from over
there.” Gag, blegh, sigh! From then on I checked and double
checked that there were not going to be a lot of the same items that I
was selling. MOST fairs don’t want this and won’t allow duplicates but
be sure to check!
9. Bigger is not Always Better
you are heart broken that you weren’t accepted to sell in a large fair,
or can’t afford the booth fee do no despair! I used to always do the
craft fair in my very small hometown and consistently did better than
the larger fairs! Why? I am not sure. My small town is remote so the
fair is a bigger deal than larger places that have them more often.
People liked buying my stuff because they knew me. And there wasn’t as
much of what I was selling (see number 8!). What I am trying to say is
you can make it work in a smaller area! Look at all the factors that
goes into a fair, not just size! Another thing that helps is going to
the same fair year after year. People start to remember you and say “I
was looking forward to seeing what you made this year!” BEST FEELING
10. Plan Ahead
Don’t decide a week
before that you want to do a craft fair UNLESS you already have a ton of
inventory. It will be bad on your health and stress levels and maybe
your marriage. Haha! Seriously, though, a fair is hard enough work that
you don’t want to be so worried about making inventory that you don’t
have the time to do all the other stuff that comes with it. You may walk
away disappointed. The ideal is to work at it all year long and be
ready to go! I say ideal… but I know I have let it sneak up on me! But
I was always happier and more successful when I gave myself plenty of
11. Have Pictures or display only pieces
my crochet hats, lots of people want to try them on. Uhhhh… that is a
little iffy. What if they have lice? Or are just dirty? Or something
crazy happens and they damage it? and then don’t buy it!! Ahh! MOST of
the time it will be fine.. But what if it isn’t? I think most people try
it on for 2 reasons. They want to see what it looks like on and to make
sure it fits. So I recommend having a few pictures displayed of the
hats being modeled and make the time to have a few display only hats
that are in the different sizes you offer. (or whatever you are selling-
I just think in hats!) Offer them that hat and point them to the
pictures. Most people will be understanding!
12. Make things in different price ranges
is one that I saw often through my perusal of craft tips but I really
found it valuable! A lot of the time the big ticket items are what draw
people in and they leave with a cheaper item. Or they will add on a
cheaper item! Keep making your big ticket items because sometimes that
is where it is at. But have options because for some reason those
smaller things will be what makes you more money overall. It may differ
on where you are at, too!
This is a good example of a smaller thing to make! Free Octopus Baby Toy
or these crochet key chains have been really popular!
And some bigger ticket items! You can find these The Friendly Dolls patterns HERE
13. Don’t go overboard with inventory!
year I just wanted to make all the hats! I had like 35 different hats,
all kinds of styles! And there were a lot of people that loved them…
but wanted it in a different size. Or color. And I didn’t have it. I
have learned its best to stick to what you love and what sells well and
then offer options. Oh you like this Tiger hat? Great I have it in 4
sizes! You like these headbands? I have 6 different colors! It helps you
because you will get good at a certain thing (less making time) and
more people will buy (more money!) CHA-CHING!
14. Do you offer custom orders? Let them know!
lot of the time people like what they see but want something a little
different. Maybe a scarf in the one color you didn’t make, or a hat in
the one size you just ran out of! If you take custom orders let them
know and then (this is the biggie!!) have a way to let them
contact you! Business cards are great, but a printed off paper invoice
where they pay you THERE with all of THEIR contact info is gold!
15. Have fun with it!
If this seems like the cliche go to for every other article conclusion, I want to tell you this is my number one tip!
I got to the point where it was so stressful on me and my family that I
had to take a big step back. I had to ask myself some hard questions
like how much time am I putting in this? what is the return? and the BIG
one… is it worth it? To me it wasn’t. So I am way more picky and way
more choosy and let it become FUN again. I make more and I like it
better (and my kids and husband like ME better!) It shows when you are
burned out. So don’t let it ever get NOT FUN.
That is it for my best tips and tricks for craft fairs! Do you have any you would add?
If you have any questions, pop over to The Friendly Crochet Club! This is the best place if you have any questions!!
Do you have any other rules for running a craft fair booth? . I have run successful booths at local craft shows for many years and I ALWAYS.