by Lisa McGrimmon
Art and craft shows are what many of us think of first when looking for venues to sell handmade treasures. They can provide great opportunities for craft business owners. Participating in your first few shows might seem daunting, but you can be better prepared with a few simple tips.
I can tell you from experience (good and terrible), not all shows are created equal.
Before you commit to selling at a show, check it out. Ideally, you should try to attend the show as a customer before you apply.
Attending shows as a customer the year before you apply to be a vendor does require quite a bit of advance planning. If the timing just doesn't work, 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, go and assess the show. Check out the quality, variety and types of products represented and the types of displays used. Honestly assess whether your items are up to the show's standard, and if they are not, ask yourself 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. It's not always possible to talk; you do have to respect the fact that they are there to make the most of their sales. But if you do come across someone who is chatty, you may be able to gather a lot of valuable information.
The costs to enter an art and craft show may include booth fees, displays, raw materials, merchant account fees, travel and perhaps shipping costs.
Before you commit to a show, roughly determine the amount it will cost for you to attend that show, and then determine your break even point. That is, how much money do you need to make to recuperate the costs of attending the show.
This calculation will give you a rough idea of the number of items you need to sell before you are making a profit, and you'll be able to assess whether that target is realistic.
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In your enthusiasm to build your business, it can be tempting to try to do too much too fast. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking on too much at once 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. Losing focus can cause you to make expensive or time consuming mistakes. It is generally better to do two or three things spectacularly well than to do 50 mediocre things.
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. Try to do more with less.
Be careful about immediately diving into projects that require huge time or financial commitments. Assess new projects before you dive in. Find ways to limit expenses, and develop experience and learn through that experience before you commit to too much.
Customers' expectations regarding craft prices will vary widely from venue to venue. It's important to ensure the shows you attend are a good fit for your business and attract the right customers who will pay a reasonable price for your work.
Developing a line with a range of prices can help increase sales. Lower-priced items normally sell more easily as impulse purchases and can often form the backbone of your sales. For your higher priced items, find ways to increase their perceived value without substantially increasing the cost to produce them.
If you're concerned you won't be able to sell your crafts at a price that is profitable, I highly recommend you get a copy of James Dillehay's book, How to Price Crafts and Things You Make to Sell. It has excellent recommendations to help you command higher prices.
Who carries piles of cash these days? Not me.
Customers typically expect to be able to pay by credit card at craft shows, so some type of credit card processing system is a must for boosting sales at shows.
Credit card processing systems' terms and fees vary, so read the terms of a few plans carefully to determine which one best suits the needs of your business. Some are better for people who do a lot of shows, while others have terms that are more favorable to people who just do a couple of shows per year.
A few options craft professionals rely on include:
Credit card processing solutions vary in terms of the fees they will charge you, their ability to function offline (or not), and the additional services they offer, such as providing an emailed receipt to customers. Read about each option you're considering carefully to ensure you choose the one that best suits your needs.
An art and craft show can be a lot of fun, but it can also involve long, busy tiring days. If it is possible to bring a friend to help you out during the show, do so. You'll be happy you did. You won't be completely tied to your booth all day, and you'll be able to take breaks to freshen up, have lunch, check out other booths, talk to other artists at the show and enjoy yourself.
Want to learn more about selling at craft shows? Check out the related articles below for more ideas.