Before you attend your first art and craft show, use these tips to research, plan and prepare for success.
1. Research the Show
I can tell you from experience (good and not so good) that not all shows are created equal.
Before you commit to selling at a show, check out the show.
Ideally, you should try to attend the as a customer before you apply. If that is not possible (it does require quite a bit of advance planning), at least review the show's website in detail. Take a look at the craft artists who have attended in previous years, and visit their sites to get a sense of the type of work, the quality, and the price of the items that are typically offered at the show.
If you can attend the year before you apply, assess the show in terms of the quality, variety and types of products and displays represented. Honestly assess whether your items are up to the show's standard, and if not, ask how you could improve to meet those standards.
Watch the activities of the crowd. Are they buying or just browsing? If they are buying, what are they buying? Do they fit with your own target market?
Try to talk to craft artists at the show to get a feeling for whether that particular show would be a good fit for your own craft business.
2. Assess Your Costs
Cost to enter an art and craft show may include booth fees, displays, raw materials, merchant account fees, travel and perhaps shipping costs. Determine the full amount it will cost for you to attend a show, and then determine your break even point (i.e. how much money you need to make to recuperate the costs of attending the show).
That way you'll know how many items you need to sell before you are making a profit, and you'll be able to assess whether that target is realistic.
3. Don't Try to Do Too Much Too Fast
In your enthusiasm to build your craft business, it can be tempting to try to do too much too fast. This mistake can actually limit growth of your business.
If you jump in to too many projects at once, you can lose the sense of focus on what you do best and make expensive mistakes. It is generally better to do two or three things extremely well than to do 50 things in a mediocre way.
Consider options for limiting your expenses, such as sharing a booth with another artist at your first few art and craft shows or bartering for business services. Be careful about diving into projects that require huge time or financial commitments immediately. Find ways to limit expenses, and develop experience and learn through that experience before you commit to too much.
Customers' expectations regarding price will vary from venue to venue. Be sure the shows you attend are a good fit for your business and attract customers who will pay a reasonable price for your work.
Developing a line with a range of prices can help increase sales. And, lower priced items normally sell more easily as impulse purchases and can often be your bread and butter. For your higher priced items, find ways to increase their perceived value without substantially increasing the cost to produce the (James Dillehay's book How to Price Crafts and Things You Make to Sell has several good recommendations to help you get higher prices for your work)
5. Consider Payment Options
This craft artist uses SquareUp to accept credit cards
Customers commonly expect to be able to pay by credit card at craft shows. The increased sales that result from offering credit card payment can be well worth the time and cost required to set up a merchant account for your craft business, particularly if you intend to sell your crafts at several shows each year.
Merchant accounts often include a monthly fee as well as fees for each transaction, but plans vary, so read the terms of a few plans carefully to determine which best suits the needs of your business.
One option to consider, for those who have access to an iPhone, is SquareUp. They charge you a percentage fee per transaction. They do not require you to have a merchant account, and they do not charge a monthly fee, which makes it a nice option for anyone who only does a few shows per year.
6. It Helps to Have an Assistant
An art and craft show can be a lot of fun, but it can also involve long, tiring days. If you can bring a friend to help you out during the show, do so. That way, you won't be tied to your booth all day, and you'll be able to take breaks to freshen up, have lunch, check out other booths and talk to other artists at the show.
Art and Craft Show Success Tips