The morning of the first craft show where I sold my handmade goods I was SOOOO nervous but also really excited! During the slow times at the show I started making a list of things I wish I would have known and things that I did right so that I’d be better prepared for my next sale.
Back then there weren’t as many awesome resources for makers like there are now. If there were blogs that focused on sharing information about running a creative business, I didn’t know about them. There were no online workshops like our Craft Show Success where I could go to learn the ropes. I couldn’t find blog posts like these: 10 Ways to Boost Craft Show Sales, Tips for Vendors to Evaluate Craft Fairs , How to Submit a Successful Craft Show Application and Ten Tips for Craft Fair Booth Design.
Back then I think most makers were scared to share their ‘secrets’. A few years later as the maker movement grew this awesome thing happened… we all started sharing what we’d learned as we started and grew our creative businesses and guess what? All those lonely crafters (like me) started creating a community and that community grew rapidly! Sure all that ‘sharing of our secrets’ meant that more people had the tools they needed to turn their passion into their business which meant more competition but it also opened up tons of new opportunities as online platforms like Etsy gained more traction and there were more in-person events like craft shows.
The emergence of all of these new venues means that we makers get to be a bit more picky about where we sell our goods, which is a great thing! If you’re weighing your online marketplace options check out lawyer Kiffanie Stahle’s post on the differences between Handmade at Amazon and Etsy. If you’re considering selling at craft shows I urge you to check out the posts we linked to above (or our posts on running a creative business) and if you want a comprehensive manual on selling at craft shows, check out our online workshop Craft Show Success which is the culmination of over a decade of my experience vending at and producing craft shows. The workshop includes tips, resources, downloadable PDF and spreadsheet worksheets, exercises, photographs, stories, tutorials and examples or what to do and what not to do.
Craft Show Success teaches you how to:
- Find and choose the right craft shows for your brand
- Determine and achieve your craft show goals
- Get organized and be prepared before, during and after craft shows
- Submit a stand-out application with great photos
- Create cohesive branding for your business
- Maximize your booth space and create unique on-brand displays
- Price your goods for profit
- Navigate licenses and permits
- Maximize your time at the show
- Build and solidify relationships with your customers, creative community and show producers
Click below to preview our Craft Show Success online workshop.
AND… If you’re just about to sell at your first craft show check out my seven questions to ask yourself before doing a craft fair below.
1. Do I have enough product?
You should have 4 to 10 times the amount of product you hope or expect to sell. You don’t want your booth to look empty after you sell a handful of things.
2. Are my products ready for the public?
Your products should be sturdy enough for people to use. If you make jewelry, you don’t want the clasp on a necklace to break the first time someone wears it. If you make clothing or something else that requires washing, you should have care labels on your goods and make sure they stand up to the wear and tear of washing. If you make something edible, your production must be safe and you’ll need proper permits from the health department.
3. Is my product line cohesive, my branding strong and my product unique?
Craft shows get so many applicants and you want to make sure your goods stand out. Chapter 3 in our Craft Show Success online workshop covers branding will help you figure out what branding is and how to create branding that fits your business. Having a cohesive product line is something new makers rarely think about. They just make what they feel like making without thinking about how it fits with other items they make or the overall feel of their crafty business. A cohesive product line can include various types of products as long as those products fit the branding of your business. This may not be as important for less established craft shows as it is for the long-running larger ones.
4. Is my pricing formula solid?
You don’t want to sell your goods only to find that you priced them too low and didn’t make any money or worse, ended up losing money. Pricing your goods too low can also affect shoppers’ perception of the product and your sales, not to mention upsetting your fellow vendors in some cases. (We go over how to figure out your pricing in Chapter 6 in our online workshop Craft Show Success.)
5. Am I ready to accept payments from my customers?
You must have some cash on hand to make change for people paying with cash. You don’t have to accept credit cards, though it is HIGHLY recommended. If you’re not set up to process credit cards, look into the Square app. Square allows you to process credit cards on your phone with card reader that plugs into your headphone jack. PayPal also has a free card reader that works the same way, and Etsy provides card readers to its sellers for in-person sales.
6. Do I have the time, money and resources to prepare for the show if I’m accepted?
You need to have time and money not only to make your products but also to create your booth set-up and market the show. Make sure you can afford the booth fee, mark the day on your calendar and have enough time to prepare for the show.
7. Am I able to prepare in the way I need to meet my goals for the show?
Look at your list of goals and make sure you have everything in place to accomplish them. If your goal is to get wholesale orders, you need to have wholesale pricing set and probably a look book or catalog at the very minimum. If you want to build a mailing list, have a system set up for collecting e-mail addresses and be ready to send something out not long after the show.