by Lisa McGrimmon
If you're exploring the idea of making money with crafts by selling at shows, don't forget smaller community shows. Some of them can be a good, low risk way to get your craft business started.
Selling crafts at small local craft shows such as church or school sales or small community organization shows comes with a few benefits. Most notably, you'll have lower booth fees, and limited risk. However, there are also a few drawbacks to selling at small shows. You'll want to consider all sides before you decide to commit your time to selling at a smaller local show.
If your craft business is new, a small show may provide you with your first opportunity to get unbiased feedback about your items. The more opportunities you find for total strangers (i.e. people who don't tell you your work is amazing simply because they love you) to see and comment on your work, the more you'll be able to develop a sense a who falls into your target market, and how your work is perceived by those people.
You'll have the opportunity to meet some like-minded people and perhaps you'll meet people who will help your crafting business grow.
At the first small show I did, I met a fantastic carpenter. He was an extremely nice man, and, it turns out, he was a friend of my grandfather from years ago.
I was in the process of making some changes to my craft display. I wanted something custom made, but what I wanted was well beyond my own DIY capabilities. This person ended up making my craft display for me for a very reasonable price. It was a win-win; I got a new craft display at a price I could afford, and he got some more business.
Normally booth or table fees for small shows are fairly low. You won't need to risk a lot financially to enter the show. If you're not ready to commit to shows with higher booth fees, smaller shows can be a way to dip your toe into the craft selling waters without a huge amount of financial risk.
If you are new to the process of applying to craft shows, the application process for juried art shows may feel a bit daunting. Attending a few smaller, non juried shows can help you to develop your displays and your products so you'll be ready with the great booth and product photos, products and displays you need when applying to more competitive craft shows.
Of course, I didn't forget, you're selling crafts to make money. While crafts that sell at smaller shows are typically lower-priced items, if you have the right items, making money with crafts can be easy at these shows because your booth fees will be quite low. You won't have to sell a lot to make your booth fee. Assuming you stick to small shows that are local, you won't have to factor travel or accommodations into your expenses before you can say you've had a profitable show.
Often smaller shows have a limited number of customers, so while they can easily be profitable because your expenses are limited, they are often not lucrative (that is, your profits may not be huge).
Selling at small shows is generally a way to get started and get a little experience; it's not a long-term plan for a profitable craft business. You'd be hard pressed to make a living selling only at these small shows.
This benefit can also pose challenges. If people selling at these shows are not really screened, you may find yourself at a show with a lot of low quality items. You might think that your gorgeous crafts would really stand out and look fabulous amid a room full of lower quality items, but that's not necessarily the case.
I was talking with another crafter who I met at a show I did a while back. He was selling at a show that I chose not to do, and I was there as a customer. He was not doing well because all of the booths around him were, as he put it, "junky." He said no one was in a buying mood and people were zipping past his booth (this is someone who normally does well at shows). After seeing booth after booth of "junk" people assumed none of the booths had quality items, and they walked through as quickly as possible.
Often shoppers at these kinds of shows are looking for lower priced items; the kinds of things you'd buy as an impulse purchase. If you make items that fit this category, you could do quite well at a smaller show. If, however, you make higher end items that must carry a higher price tag in order for you to make a reasonable profit, this type of venue may not be a good fit for you.
Making money with crafts at smaller shows is possible, and with the right product and expectations, can be a good starting point for building your crafting business. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons, and you'll make a smart decision for your own home crafting business.