My first craft show of 2022 was inside a mall and I was like "Yay! This will go great! Everyone goes to malls to shop, so I should sell a lot".
Nope. It did not go great. I have also decided malls are not my market.
However, I learned a lot that first weekend, and I have continued to learn at all of the following events. Over the summer I've been doing everything from art fairs to farmers' markets and I've had a blast. My first art fair ever was back in 2015, but this is the year I'm really jumping in head first and learning to swim while I do it.
(Since this post was originally written, I've learned a lot about how to find the right markets so that the mall experience doesn't happen again. Read that advice here).
The teacher in me can hardly stand learning something without sharing it, so here are 5 things for you to plan so you can have success at your next craft show.
1. Plan your Prices
Pricing is one of my least favorite parts of selling art and you don’t want to wait until you are in your booth waiting for customers to walk up to figure them out. Not only should you plan what you will price each item, but how you will display those prices.
Are you going to price items individually with a tag or sticker?
Will you have a few signs that say "all [item name] are $10"?
I'll save how-to-price details for another day, but do some research and see what other items like yours sell for when they are handmade. Remember, you are not a box store. You cannot and should not compete with their prices. When people come to a craft show, they want to shop for handmade and one-of-a-kind items. They should be prepared for the prices that go with those types of things.
Lastly, always bring extras when it comes to pricing things. If you’re using pricing stickers, bring extra and a pen to write with. Same with tags or signs, you never know if something will get lost, broken, or you decide to change your mind. Extras are never a bad thing.
2. Plan for Weather
Weather is not always easy to prepare for. How to prepare will depend on what you sell and how hearty it is when it comes to rain or wind. For example, if you have heavy ceramic or wood pieces that sit on a table, you don’t have to worry about wind as much as someone like me, who hangs art on grid panels (that act like sails when I have a black curtain attached to the back). I pack extra sandbags to weigh down those walls in addition to the sandbags I use at each leg of the tent.
The wind can also be a problem for me because I sell greeting cards and stickers. Both of those are lightweight and easy to fly away in the wind. You want to have things that will hold these items and keep them from flying away. I use a jewelry box for stickers and a card rack for the cards to keep them contained.
When it comes to rain, it never seems to fall straight like we think it does. If there’s any chance of rain, you will want to keep your items a few extra inches in from the outer edges of your tent canopy. You can also bring tarp walls to put up if necessary. I usually hang up one wall at the back of my tent for a clean backdrop, however, I don't put up side walls unless I have to. I find that people can see my stuff from further away as they approach when I don't have the sides closed. But if your items are more susceptible to rain, you will want to have those walls for the sides as well.
I go over the specifics of how to prepare for rainy weather here.
One more thing about tent walls and wind. You might think the tent wall will keep the wind from blowing things over, however, the tent wall can also act as a sail and make your whole tent wiggle and wobble and even lean into and knock over product. Hopefully, if the wind is that strong you can just pack up and try again on a different day. Don't risk losing or damaging all of your product.
3. Plan Your Theme
When I say plan a theme, I am referring to a few different things. The first theme is picking a color to have behind all of your goods. Usually, a neutral color is best. For example, I use black tablecloths and curtains. My signage usually has black as well (like chalkboards). I know a fantastic jewelry artist, Aqua Essence Co, who uses white. Kaila's setup feels bright and clean, and she adds pop with bits of her accent color, aqua. Choosing a neutral color helps all your items feel connected even if you sell a few different things. It also makes sure that your products do the talking, not your tablecloth or decorations.
The second thing about sticking to a theme is your products. While you want to sell at a variety of price points, you also want all your creations to feel related in some way. For example, I am a painter so I sell my original art and prints of that art. However, those are mid to high price points so I have started selling greeting cards, stickers, and magnets still made from my art. Those items are priced much lower so they are an easy impulse buy or intro into my art without becoming fully invested in an original piece. All of my items feel connected and yet they are appropriate for a variety of different budgets, just like there are a variety of different people who come to shop at craft shows.
4. Plan You
To plan "you" means to think about all the things you have to do that day. For example, dress for success. That means to dress for the weather and dress in a style that goes with your goods. If anything you make is wearable, wear it so you can be an example. I can’t wear my art so I try to wear things that are either neutral and match my theme, or have bits of blue and green to go with the typical colors in my art. You should look like you belong in your booth.
You will also have to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom. So think about the snacks or meals you’re going to have, how many water bottles you will need, and if they should be in a cooler. If you have someone to come with you and help run your booth, then running to take a bathroom break is not too difficult. I love my husband and he loves me, but at a craft show, I'm typically on my own. My go-to strategy is to make good friends with my booth neighbors, for many reasons, but one reason is to run to the restroom. If we've had a few conversations and they seem pleasant, I usually feel comfortable asking them to keep an eye on my booth while I run to the bathroom. I don’t expect them to make any sales for me, but they usually offer to look after things or tell somebody I’ll be right back if they start to browse. If you are asking someone else to do this for you, be sure to offer it back too!
5. Plan the "How"s
The “how”s can mean a lot of things.
How are you going to pack your art in your vehicle?
How are you going to pack up after the event?
How are you going to lay everything out so it is visible to your customers?
How are you going to talk about your art?
These kinds of questions are important to mull over in your head or even write down a plan depending on how you roll. The one I want to focus on is how to talk about our art. I like to come up with a quick spiel I can give over and over again. By the end, my booth neighbors usually know it backwards and forwards. For example, this is what I say...
“I paint places and plants. Things in frames are original works of art, if they have a matte in plastic then they are a print. I use those works of art to make my greeting cards, stickers, and magnets.”
With this statement, I lead their eyes around the booth to see the variety of things I have for sale. It also let them know that I am the artist and I make all the art. Once they move in closer to a certain area or item, I can go further into an explanation of what it is, what the price is, or any deals I have going on.
Now you know 5 important things to plan for your first craft show!
- Plan your Prices
- Plan for Weather
- Plan your Theme
- Plan You
- Plan the "How"s
If you are feeling overwhelmed, that's ok. Take a breath, and go read this blog post where I talk about making sure you still have fun. If it's not fun, you're not doing it right!
Did I miss anything? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Don't miss out on any new insider tips by signing up for my emailing list here!