Over the past year, my mom and I have started doing something I’ve always wanted to do – sell our handmade artwork, jewelry and other items at arts and crafts shows.
We’re still considered “newbies” in the vendor show world, with about 11 shows behind us, so a lot of what we’ve learned to do and not to do is still fresh in my memory.
Here are a few tips you can use to make your first fair a good start (so you’ll want to keep going!).
Put prices on everything. In the US, people don’t generally want to ask for the price of an item. Make the prices easy to find and read. If you have a lot of the same item, make attractive signs to sit next to the group of products.
Expect to sell more “smalls” than bigger items. Visitors to craft fairs are often unprepared to spend a lot of cash and cart around a large item like a 24×36 painting. It’s OK to have a couple of larger items so that people see what you can do for a commission or to contact you later, but your best-selling items are going to be the ones that people can easily carry with them through the show and back to their cars.
Don’t take comments to heart. Once in a while, you’ll have someone say, “Oh, I can do that for less money!” Or, “I don’t like that.” Or, “This is too expensive.” Sometimes people will try to get you to lower your price. If you don’t mind haggling, go for it. But if you don’t, stay firm with your prices. You know the time and cost it took to create your items.
While we’re on the subject of time and cost, pricing your products is one of the toughest things you can do! You need to consider not only the price of materials and your time, but also factor in all of the other expenses of having a booth. You’ll probably have a booth fee, possibly insurance, sales license, business license, tent, signage, tables, price tags and bags or packaging. If you take credit cards, you’ll also have to pay a fee to the credit card processor, like Square. Some of these expenses you may want to consider as start-up costs (such as the tent, tables and insurance) so they don’t factor into your product prices, but you definitely want to cover your time and materials and hopefully make some profit.
Bring enough cash to make change and consider getting something like a Square reader to take credit cards. About half of our sales are cash, and half credit card. Although we love cash because there are no fees, we find that people often spend more on their credit/debit cards because people don’t tend to carry around as much cash these days. We just plug in the little Square reader into our phone and the money goes directly into our bank account (after a few minutes of set-up the first time).
Make sure you read everything in the vendor contract. Some fairs want you to get insurance. Others want to see your business license and tax license. Get the proper documentation prior to the event.
Presentation is huge! Help visitors imagine your items in their homes, as a gift, or how it will look on their bodies. We sell artwork, so we hang many of our pictures on grid walls. If you sell jewelry, have a nice mirror handy. Pair items together to create a little vignette. For example, we sell handmade coasters, trays and wine glass charms. We put them together with a couple of wine glasses on a table so people can see how they go together. Put items at different heights. We have one table that is higher than the others. We also put a couple of boxes on a table and drape them with tablecloths for the jewelry so that it’s more at eye level.
Get business cards made and put little stacks of them everywhere. Stick a business card in the bag with the merchandise when you make a sale. If the items you sell need to be cared for in a certain way, include a little “Caring for your…. “ card in the bag.
Be prepared for bad weather! If it’s an outdoor event, make sure you have weights for your tent! We can’t emphasize this enough. We recently saw a tent fly away toward the ocean after a strong gust of wind. Bring along a couple of towels to wipe down items (and maybe yourself) if it starts to rain.
Promote yourself on social media. Start a Facebook page or an Instagram account. Let people know where you’ll be and what you’ll be selling. Build up some buzz. It’s easier said than done, but we’ve gotten people to come to our booth via Instagram because they were interested in one of our items.
Don’t be disheartened by a low sales day. Although our first ever show was a success (that’s when we realized we were on to something), the next two almost made us give up. In the second show, we sold a whopping $3. In the third, we went up to $5. Talk about a letdown! It was a good experience, however, because it helped us understand where our products would do the best. The 4th show was in the right place, and we sold several hundred dollars’ worth of items.
Have fun! I really enjoy the days that we have a booth. I get to meet new and interesting people, see other artisans, watch people appreciate what we make, and earn a little extra money from something I create. I also get to have some time outside after working 60+ hours a week in front of a computer.
I hope this helps you take the plunge and get started. If you’re an experienced vendor, what are some tips I’ve missed?