The “Selling at a Craft Show” series is intended to help those interested in selling any handmade good, whether it be knitting or crochet, paper airplanes and jewelry. Each post will focus on a different aspect of selling your goods at a craft shows or fairs. If you have any specific questions you would like answered, leave a comment!
So you found a craft show, applied, and got accepted! Congratulations!! Now the real fun can begin!
A lot of work goes into preparing for any craft show. There are a lot of variables to think about, and a lot of planning to do! Start early and you’ll be able to avoid some of the stress and panic that I went through my first time doing a show!
The first thing you’ll want to decide is WHAT you’re going to sell. This may not apply to everyone, but in my opinion, a lot of people try to sell to MUCH variety. If you normally sell a wide variety of product, you’ll need to decide if you’re going to sell them all at the show, or if you’re only going to select a few different things. Figuring this out can take some trial and error at first, but you’ll grow to find what you’re comfortable with and what you can keep up with!
I’ll use my own experience as an example. When I first started crocheting and selling at shows I had a LARGE variety of work; I sold scarves, bags, headbands, slippers and hats. My first month at the farmers market went okay, but I decided I was stretching myself too thin trying to do too much, and that the next time around I would only sell headwear – headbands and hats. I took 5 animal hats the next month, along with a lot of other hats and headbands. The day started out strong, and I sold all 5 animal hats within the first 2 hours. But, because I hadn’t brought more, and there were a lot of other vendors selling regular hats and headbands, things slowed down after those first 2 hours. I decided that the next month I would bring more animal hats, but still continue to do regular hats as well. That 3rd month went better than the 2nd, and I was much better stocked with animal hats. I sold quite a few animal hats, and people seemed to really like them. So I decided to take a gamble the 4th and final month of the market. I would ONLY sell animal hats, and use the time that I wasn’t making regular hats to make many different animals and I would leave all my regular stock at home. It was a gamble because I didn’t have any non-crazy items. If people didn’t like my animal hats, I wouldn’t sell anything at all. I had no backup product. The response on this 4th month was wonderful! I sold more hats than I had sold the previous 3 months combined. As I talked to customers I began to understand that the real difference between the 3rd and 4th months was how my booth looked to customers. Having a booth full of animal hats and regular hats was okay, but having a booth that was just full of a variety of animals was visually appealing to customers, bringing more of them in. Many told me that they had seen my animals in the booth the months before, but hadn’t come in because they could see that I only had 3 different kind. This last month though, I was up to 13 different animals, in sizes from newborn clear up to adult.
Now, this may not work for everyone. It takes a lot of work to get a booth stocked with items, but taking a gamble on just one thing may not be comfortable for you! After that 2nd month I could have jumped straight to month 4 and only sold animal hats. I would have gotten an extra month of extra income in, but I wasn’t ready to risk my steady income for a chance at more just yet. I did things slow and dipped my toes in the water before I jumped all in. If you have the chance, do the same. Adjust your inventory to what your customers respond to until you find the thing that works for you! If you make a variety of different jewelry, try to find something that makes you unique, and use that to grow your business.
Once you’ve decided WHAT to sell, you can start to prepare for your show:
Figure out how you want to set up your booth. I’ve been know to map out my booth in my driveway or living room using masking tape. Or you can draw it out on grid paper. Whatever works for you! You’ll need to know how many tables you will need and where you’re going to put them. Don’t forget to leave room for you (and your helper if you’ll have one, which I highly suggest!). Most shows ask that you remain inside your booth space so that the aisles are clear for customers.
Decide out how much product you want to have and start making it! Don’t wait until the last minute, as you’ll have a lot of other details to worry about!
Read through all the rules of the show and make sure you are complying with them! Some shows have height restrictions for booth walls, other have signage rules, and all have payment deadlines! Make sure you don’t miss anything or you risk extra stress the day of if you have to make last minute changes.
If you will need to travel for a show, make sure you book your hotel early. There is a big show in central Utah that people travel from around the country for. Some people don’t get a hotel early enough and end up staying over an hour away! Make your reservations early and you won’t have to worry.
Try to arrange to have someone join you at the show. If you’re on your own, you’ll find that bathroom breaks and food runs can cost you a lot of money! Having someone there to back you up can be very helpful, and they can provide comic relief if needed! Make sure that the perosn you bring is friendly and open, and idealy, someone that knows about your craft. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but having someone that can answer customer’s questions if you have to step away can save sales! In my experience, it’s also best to have someone of the same gender as you! When my husband helps me out and I step away, he’s told me that customers walk by more often, but the second I come back customers start to come inside the booth again. It happens every time he helps. But when my mom comes, that never happens. My husband still makes some sales, and he’s a great helper, but having a man in a crochet booth seems to drive customers away!
Make sure you have adequate transportation! You don’t want to find out the day before the show that everything you need to take won’t fit into your compact car. Make sure you know all the big things your packing and how much space you’re going to need!
If you need to special order anything, make sure you do it early! Business cards and banners can take up to 2 weeks just to be delivered, and that’s not counting processing time! Be sure to get on these things early so that they arrive in plenty of time! I recommend using www.vistaprint.com! They have a lot of premade business cards and banners that you can put your information in to, or you can customize one yourself! They also have a lot of other fun stuff you can order for your business, at great prices! (No, they’re not paying me to say this, I really do get my stuff from them)
Part 3b will focus on the actual things to bring to a craft show, so check back Thursday for a comprehensive list, and good luck on preparing for your show!