BIZ: How To Prepare For Your First Craft Show

My booth at the Crafty Wonderland Super Colossal Holiday Sale, 2013.

Camp Smartypants‘ booth at Crafty Wonderland Holiday Sale, 2013.

 

UPDATE: This post originally ran on April 9, 2014. Since holiday craft show season is on the way we thought we’d share it again in the hopes that you find some useful tips and enjoy the free printable checklist!

Applying for your first ever craft show? We’ve got some important tips to help make your experience fun and successful, plus advice from seasoned craft show vendors and a free printable checklist of must-have items you should have with you.

Choose your show:

When I first started my business, Camp Smartypants, I applied to as many craft shows as possible. Some shows I was busy with customers and other shows I sat in an empty room with no one but other vendors. I recommend doing a bit of research about the event before applying for any show. Find out how many years the event has been running and what ways they promote the show. How many shoppers do they expect to attend? Is it indoor or outdoor? If they don’t seem to have much of a promotion plan, I’d say look for a better show. Without proper promotion, potential shoppers won’t know about the event and you’ll be sitting in your booth by yourself, bored all day.

It’s also a good idea to find out who the show’s past vendors are. Take a look at the event website and browse through their photo galleries (if they have them). Would your products fit in with the other types of vendors? It’s also great to see how people have set-up their booth displays for that particular show as well.

Here I am at my very first craft show in 2009 at the Doug Fir in Portland, Oregon.

Here I am at my very first craft show in 2009 at the Doug Fir in Portland, Oregon.

 

Applying for your first craft show:

Depending on what type of event you are applying too, you’ll need to fill out a detailed application. Make sure you follow their application instructions exactly and provide clear photographs to your work and a link to your website or Etsy shop. Some shows may even ask for a photograph of what your booth will look like so if this is your first craft fair, don’t wait until the last minute to apply as you may have to set up a mock booth to photograph for your application. Also be sure to read the F.A.Q. page on the event’s website. They will often explain further how to submit a good application.

Note: Some shows, like Crafty Wonderland here in Portland or Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle, are fairly competitive to get into, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t accepted the first time you apply. Instead review your application and look at how you can improve it for the next time you apply and yes, you should definitely apply again!

Our first craft show was in Missoula, MT called the Missoula MADE fair. We were living in Spokane at the time, so it was the closest one to us. It was summer and held in an outdoor park downtown and it was very memorable! The day started out sunny and beautiful, but they’re known for quick sudden thunder storms to roll in. The wind picked up and it started hailing and raining for about the last hour of the show. People were packing up and leaving. We had lots of prints, cards, some tea towels and pillows, but were lucky enough to be towards the center area of the covered canopy they had, so our things didn’t get too wet, but still, it was pretty crazy. – Year Round Co.

How Much Product Should I Make?

As much as you possibly can. Bring everything you have, even if you don’t think you’ll sell all of it. You want your booth to look nice and full. You don’t want a big table with only a few items on it. I’ve always gone by the rule, the more you make, the more you’ll sell.

Designing Your Booth:

I always set up my entire booth at home before the show. That way I know exactly how things will be set up and I can take my time figuring out the best display for my products. Use a tape measure to mark off the exact dimensions of your booth space in your living room and start setting things up. Experiment with different arrangements of your products to find the most appealing setup. It’s good to display product at different levels so that the customer’s eye has multiple places to look when visiting your booth.

Year Round Co. show booth

Year Round Co. (formerly Slide Sideways) at Renegade Holiday Show in San Francisco.

 

Our current display is made up of pallet wood that Scott put together and painted. Our display has to be durable enough to be taken apart multiple times a year while also fitting into our car and, of coarse, look good and able to hold all the product we carry, so a lot of thought went into the design and how it would break down. We seem to constantly be evolving how it looks or how our new products fit into it too. –Year Round Co.

BOOTH ESSENTIALS:

Table. Consider the size of your allotted booth space. Your booth display should fill your entire space. You don’t want a table that’s too big or too small.
Tablecloth. When choosing a tablecloth (I like using a twin size flat sheet), consider the color and look of your products. You want a tablecloth color that will compliment your handmade goods and make them stand out. Usually neutral colors work best (unless your products are the same color). Avoid using patterned fabric for your tablecloth as this can potentially distract the viewer and make your booth look too busy.
Banner. Make some sort of sign or banner with your shop name on it. I made my sign by hand-painting my shop logo onto canvas and sewing it into a banner I can hang in front of my table.
Signage. All your products need to be clearly marked with a price. Consider making small signs or tags to attach to each item.
Display Items. This is where you really have to be creative. Choose display items that are lightweight and easy to set up. You don’t have to break the bank; great places to find baskets, frames, containers, etc. are local thrift and vintage stores. Don’t be afraid to give an old crate or shelf a DIY facelift with a little cleaning or new paint job. You can also look at IKEA or a display fixture store in your area (like Portland Store Fixtures here in Portland, Oregon.) Lastly, when designing your booth, you can’t depend on having a wall behind you. Everything in your display needs to be free-standing.

I use wood crates, old tackle boxes and vintage glass collected from thrift stores to display my handmade jewelry and art. Some things I make sure to have with me at every craft show are: a lint roller, paper towels, coffee, and a mirror for customers to use when trying on my jewelry. –A Tea Leaf

The Day of the Show:

I like to arrive to any craft show 1-2 hours before the doors open. I don’t want to feel stressed or rushed about setting up plus I like to give myself time to run to the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee/tea, and get settled into my booth before the doors open.

It’s also a good idea to ask a friend or family member to help you load in and out for your event. Remember that you have to load your entire booth into the show space and you may have to carry things quite a distance. (If you have a hand truck or rolling cart, bring it).

In addition to bringing my entire booth display and all my products, I always bring the following items to any craft fair. It’s better to ‘be prepared’ than be freaking out about forgetting something or something going wrong. This checklist will help you have a stress-free, successful show! You can download it here and use it for your first show!

Free Printable Craft Show Checklist by Adventures In Making http://www.adventures-in-making.com

CRAFT SHOW CHECKLIST: (Free Printable)

A chair. If it can fit behind your booth, you’re going to want it.

Water bottle and food. You most likely will not be able to leave your booth during the event. Depending on how long the event lasts bring plenty of snacks or lunch so you don’t get hungry/cranky.

Emergency tool kit: Pens, pencils, tape, hammer, pliers, box cutter, scissors, safety pins, tacks, twine, zip ties, extra price tags/stickers, band-aids, tampons, Ibuprofen, hand wipes, napkins.

Change, cash box and calculator. make sure you have plenty of change (mainly $1 and $5). I usually get $100 in change for a show and that’s been plenty for me. I keep all my change in a metal cash box behind my booth. You could also wear an apron or fanny pack to keep all your change in.

Square App. an essential tool for any craft show. The Square App allows you to take credit cards on your smartphone or tablet. You can order the Square Reader for free here. Before the show starts, set up your free account and do a test transaction (I usually charge $1) to make sure it’s ready and working. Make sure your device is fully charged and don’t use up your battery power on facebook or instagram during the event. Also- ask the event coordinator if they have wifi access for vendors.

A notebook and pen to track sales. It’s good practice to write down every sale. That way you can review what items sold the best and how much money you made at the end of the day.

Business cards. Business cards a SUPER important to have at a craft show. I order mine from Got Print. You can also look for local printers in your area. Make sure your business card includes your name, your shop name, your email and website/etsy shop. This way customers who aren’t looking to buy something the day of the show can find you again.

Mailing list sign up sheet. So you can stay in touch with your customers.

Tools of your craft. Especially good for last minute repairs. If show traffic is slowing down, I’ll usually get out my supplies for making my products and get to work. Customers love seeing you in action! It could spark conversation and questions about you and your work. Just make sure it’s something you can put down easily so you can continue to interact with customers and make sales.

Packaging materials. You’ll need to bag or box up your product when someone makes a purchase. Make sure you have enough bags, tissue, etc. to properly package sold goods for customers.

Wear comfortable shoes and layers. Keep in mind that you’ll most likely be on your feet most of the time so comfortable shoes are important. Also, you never know what the temperature of the room will be (or what the weather will be if you’re event is outdoors) so it’s best to have a few layers of clothing you can take on/off.

We keep a small box that holds all the nuts/bolts/screws we need, plus a screw driver, extra hooks, and tape. We always keep pens, lots of business cards, and sometimes even our wholesale info on hand too, you never know if a potential store owner will be stopping by. Snacks and water are never forgotten either! – Year Round Co.

A FEW FINAL TIPS:

Show Etiquette. Tearing down your booth and/or loading out before the show ends is extremely bad show etiquette and disrupts the flow of any show. Even if you sold out of all your products, don’t tear down your booth (unless you have special permission from the event coordinator). If you tear down early, a lot of shows will put you on their ‘naughty’ list and won’t invite you back to do the show again. Also, be sure to leave your space as you found it and throw away any garbage.

Exposure and feedback. Don’t be too upset if you don’t sell out or make a ton of money at your first show. Many of the shows I first attended I didn’t make much more than the cost of the booth fee. Exposure of you and your work and customer feedback are the best things you can gain at your first show. This is your chance to test out your products, interact with customers and receive instant feedback on your work. As a rule, if I at least make my booth fee back, I consider it a success.

Outdoor shows. If you are planning to attend an outdoor show, I recommend using a pop-up canopy. They are quite an investment to buy, so ask the show coordinator of there’s someone you can borrow or share a canopy with. Also remember to prepare you booth for inclimate weather. You don’t want anything to fall or collapse due to a gust of wind and you don’t want your product to be ruined by rain or fade in the sunshine. Also- sunscreen and bug repellent are important.

Network! A craft show is the perfect opportunity for you to meet other like-minded people! Talk to the other vendors. Tell them it’s your first show and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. I’ve made many new friends this way and it’s great to offer each other advice and support.

Opportunities. Local shop owners might be attending the event on the look out for new handmade products for their shop! I’ve received many consignment opportunities with stores that first saw my work at a craft show.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: The Ultimate Craft Show Preparation Link List by Handmadeology

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BIZ: Feedback makes things better.

You don't have to work in a vacuum. (It's too cramped in there, and too dusty.)

You don’t have to work in a vacuum. (It’s too cramped in there, and too dusty.)

In advance of their Fall Conference, Schoolhouse Craft asked me to write a little post with some business advice, and I decided to take the time to write about one of the things I’ve learned from running the store.

One of the best things about my job is that I have daily chances to interact with customers and creative types. I don’t even have to try!  They just walk through my door, and react to my work. I didn’t do a great job with this before I opened the shop (although I always encouraged friends to let me critique their work.) It takes a lot of courage to ask the tricky questions about your work and your business.

The benefits of that back-and-forth are so valuable, and will encourage you to push your work in new directions, to perfect your business, and to be a well-rounded maker. Since not everyone has the benefit of sitting in a gift store, so I thought I would share some ideas for bringing a little creative input your way.

 

The Kind Of Things You Might Ask About

You probably already have a good base of people to ask about these things. It’s worthwhile to keep adding to you collection, but in the meantime be sure to get feedback as often as you can.

Feedback On Your Products As A Whole.

This is the hardest thing to ask for, and the hardest advice to take, but it’s incredibly important for the development of your work and business. Encourage your audience to be candid– and make sure to take a deep breath before reading anything that might be negative.

Your Packaging And Promotional Materials.

Ask people to proofread for you, and offer edits. Make sure to run it by people who have no idea what you’re working on– it should make sense after they see everything.

Shipping And Bagging Procedures.

Send a package to a friend, and see if everything makes it there alright. Ask people what they are looking for when they buy a similar product- do they want a cute bag and tissue? A gift box? A Thank You card?

Your Prices

Ask if they would pay that for a similar product. This is also a good opportunity to ask what things you can add or change to give more perceived value.

Suggestions Of Materials, Tools, And Techniques.

This is a great thing to run by people who work with similar processes, but you might even get good results from out-of-the-box solutions from people who have a completely different knowledge base. Some people can be close-mouthed about their technique- but I think that sharing information is good for everyone involved.

Advertising and Networking Opportunities

Is there a chance to reach your niche audience that you haven’t considered?

Sales Opportunities

You can try all day an never round-up all the craft shows, shops, events, and other great places to sell you goods. Other artists can give you ideas of what has worked for them, and non-artist friends have surely seen great opportunities too.

Other Business Practicalities

like software or person for booking and accounting, an excellent Lawyer (just in case), Liabilities you might not have thought of, etc.

 

Other Ways to Get Feedback

There are ways other than one-on-one question pestering to get your questions answered.

Attend Conventions And Meetups For Creative Businesses.

(Like Schoolhouse Craft.) Be sure to schmooze and look for people who have similar interests- and get contact information for everyone.

Make a Mailing List

Put together an email list of people who are willing, and who you can count on to give you honest feedback. When you have a new design, run it by your list, and see what they have to say.

Join or Start A Facebook Group for Creative Feedback

You can keep it private, if you don’t want just anyone to see what you’ve got going on.

Offer To Look At The Work Of Other People

Giving advice is a great chance to work on your own experience, and it you help people, they are more likely to help you with feedback down the road.

Befriend People with Different Backgrounds and Experience

People with lots of opinions and ideas. People like your friendly local shop owner.  You know the one….

 

 

BIZ: Tips for Selling the Unique

photo-3b
After posting about “Pricing the Precious” we got emails and comments asking great questions about other aspects of creative business. It’s one of my favorite parts about the blog, because it gives me the opportunity to think about the challenges that other artists face. I can only ever give advice based on what I’ve witnessed, but if we all share our experiences, it can only make us more happy and more successful. So! If you ever have a question or comment after reading one of our posts, please make sure to share with us.

In the day-to-day running of the shop I get to meet all sorts of working artists. Mostly I feature artists who are creating the same, or similar, items over and over- but that’s just the kind of store So, There is. Selling and producing one-of-a-kind goods, art, or goods that require a lot of individual production time definitely has its own challenges. It can seem especially daunting to try to recoup money for your time when the time you spend on your art seems endless.

Selling art has never been easy, but I hope the tips below give you a chance you look at your business from a different point of view. If you don’t already, right now is the time to…

Outline your goals

I am the most hesitant business planner ever. I hate writing down all the plans that are there in my head already, but I do it anyway. It’s extremely important to be in-tune with your own plans for the future of your business. Take some time to figure out what success for your business would look like. Do you want to be a well-known artisan who makes products from your studio? Do you want to turn your creations into a mega-business with lots of people working under you?

Take that picture of your perfect future, and work backwards to clarify the steps you need to take to bring your business to that point. You may need to make some compromises to get things started. Always keep that end-goal in mind, especially as you…

Adapt your line

Sometimes it seems to me the difference between “artist” and “artistic business person” is as simple as having the ability to step away from the things you are making and evaluating the success of each item. It’s harder for those of us who are really emotionally involved with our work, but unless you’re experiencing unbridled success, it’s absolutely necessary.

These mugs are offered with custom hand signs, so customers can have their own initials on a mug from the playful potter.

These mugs from the playful potter. are offered with custom hand sign decals.

Think about adding pieces to your selection.

I had some great advice from a gallery owner when I was setting the shop up. She said that I should make sure to include a few expensive pieces in the store, even if I felt I would never sell them. They might encourage the sale of a lower priced piece by the same artists, or they might just sell themselves.

The same is true for your line. If you take some time to make quicker, lower priced goods to fill our your selection, you will appeal to an audience who doesn’t feel they have as much money to spend. You get a sale that contributes to your company, and you are establishing a fan base. Those people will share your goods with their friends- and eventually someone will find your great work of art a necessity in their life.

There are lots of benefits from having a wide range of prices in your line. You’ll appeal to more customers, and you’ll be able to customize your line when applying to art shows and sales. Think about adding prints of your pieces to your line, selling patterns and kits, or smaller accessories.

Look for ways to reduce your costs.

Try to think of ways you can reduce your personal costs in time, supply, and overhead. Can you order supplies in bulk? Take a production line approach so that you can get pieces made more quickly and efficiently? (That is, do the same small task over and over again before moving to the next task. You’ll save time by not having to change you tools/setup/attention as frequently.) Sometimes the steps you take to reduce your costs will make you feel like you’re more a production person, and less of an artist– but might be necessary nonetheless.

Make your items even more special to your audience.

Sometimes all it takes is a quirk to get your line the attention it deserves. Take some time to think about if there is something you could change to make your goods so special that no one will want to walk away from them. (Or as I say to customers at the store “When you dream about it, give me a call so I can put it on hold for you.”) Think about popular trends, and other things that will catch some eyes. Can you use repurposed materials to appeal to the environmentally conscious? Can you up your packaging game? Can you offer a custom monogram or other custom motif that customers will love?

Reevaluate less popular and more expensive designs.

Over the years I’ve had to drop items from my selection that were too time-consuming and not popular enough. I don’t consider any of these things failures- because for me it’s the inventing and making that I enjoy. I try to take some time to figure out what the make-or-break details are, absorb the knowledge, and move on to my next big idea. I know artists who have decided to turn their whole business in a different direction because their line wasn’t as successful as they wanted it to be. Sometimes you have to stop embroidering hand sewn bags, and focus on your popular illustration style.

Try not to be discouraged by decisions like this. There’s a lot of luck involved in businesses like ours, and sometimes it’s just that you haven’t found the right audience (are you ahead of your time?)

Find the right Audience

Advertising, sales, and networking are extremely important in selling your work. As much as we want to, we can’t sit back on our haunches and wait for people to discover our online shop. We all know this– so we do everything we can think of to get a new group of customers to find us, and fall in love.

YEAR ROUND CO. (FORMERLY SLIDE SIDEWAYS) AT RENEGADE HOLIDAY SHOW IN SAN FRANCISCO.

YEAR ROUND CO. (FORMERLY SLIDE SIDEWAYS) AT RENEGADE HOLIDAY SHOW IN SAN FRANCISCO.

Go to your niche customer.

Sometimes your most successful sales spot is not the easiest. Take some time to think about your product, who loves your product, and where those people are. Are they at the weekly farmers market? Are they at conventions? In tourist spots? Do they go to stores? Shop online? This is a great time to talk to your friends and get their honest opinions about where you should go. (Be wary of suggestions that are self-serving; like school craft sales and the like.) Go where your ideal customer is. Try out as many things as you can stand to- and give yourself permission to have a couple of misses before you get a hit.

Teach what you love!

Sometimes the best way to prove the value of your products is to show people everything that goes into them. Think about teaching a class, or demonstrating your work. You give your well-crafted items more value by demonstrating the skill it takes to get them right, and customers connect with them because they “saw it being made.”

Donate to raffles and auctions when you can.

You can reach a whole other audience by donating to charities and fund-raising auctions. You get the double value of reaching a new audience, and showing that you care about _____. This is a great way to move an item you love, but hasn’t sold for what it should- or a chance to advertise that class you’re going to teach (above.) You can also write-off most charitable contributions, and you know that your piece is going to someone who will love it, and supporting a good cause.

Set Emotion Aside (for a minute)

Sometimes it just isn’t working, even though we’re amazing at what we do. We’re in pricing battles the big-box stores. We’re the only ones doing the work. And we’re also expected to find our audience and sell to it?

Try to look at your line and history and think of what you would tell a stranger. Maybe it’s time to shift your focus. Maybe it’s not worth selling at wholesale to stores. Maybe it’s time to open your own store! But don’t ever give up…

If you love what you do, usually it’s worth doing for the joy- even if it’s not going to make you a millionaire.

BIZ: Pricing the Precious

BIZ: Pricing the Precious #handmade #business #adventuresinmkg

Pricing is such a tricky thing. I often work with artists to try to find the right price for products, and even my experience is limited to research and what I see in my own store. I’ve listed a couple of great resources that go into all the things you need to think about when setting a price on a product, but I just want to talk about one thing.

After you do all the calculations (figure out what you need to make, double it to get a retail price, and balance that with what the market will bear) you might end up with a small range of prices. The bottom one (say $15) would mean you have to work a little harder for a little less. The top one (say $22) would give you a nice little cushion, and make you feel like what you’re doing is really valued by your customers. What do you do?

Even when it comes to handmade goods, customers have a clear idea of what they should be paying for something. Often that figure is a little unrealistic because of big box stores, cheap labor, and (let’s be honest) flimsy options. We’re all working to turn that around– but the reality is if they can buy it from Target for $11, they will be more likely to buy yours at $15 than at $22.

In fact, they might buy your product like mad. You might sell hundreds.

Here’s the rub. You will be the one to make those hundreds of things. And if you are up late at night grumbling the words “fifteen dollars” under your breath as you work your fingers to the bone, you aren’t a happy little maker. Are you?

So here are some things you should think about when you’re finalizing your prices.

Consider the Lower Price if…

You are happy when you’re making it.
Can you sit idly in front of the TV, listen to music, work at the park? Do you feel satisfied while you’re crafting those little guys? If so, I would err on the side of the low rate. Making a hundred of something you love (and will still love after the hundreds go out to new homes) is a pretty great thing.

Your materials are abundant, easy to use, and non-toxic.
If you can easily get your materials, don’t see any trouble getting them in the future, and working with them doesn’t make you sick continuing to do so as you get more and more successful shouldn’t be a problem.

This product is the foundation of your business.
If the success of this one product is going to make or break your business, I think it’s smart to aim for selling a ton of them. If you’re making decent margins with them, then that means more money for you to try new things. Also, this one product might be the success that gets you in the door with stores and customers who will then take a chance on those other products.

You’re emotionally and artistically satisfied.
I know I already addressed this; but really, it’s a big deal!

There is enough variation in your product to keep your brain working.
If you’ve come up with a product that can be different from piece to piece, it will give you more freedom to continue growing as an artist. They may be very basic tweaks (different colors, different designs), but variety is the spice of life!

Your products are really just a copy of an original design and have a limited amount of work involved.
If the majority of your effort and material cost went into the first design and now you can just automate the production of the item, go for the lower price. If you sell a million, you’ll have made more towards your original design…. and your work will be EVERYWHERE!

Digitally printed cards are a great example of items that can be produced easily again and again, once they have been designed.

Digitally printed cards can be produced easily again and again.

 

Think about charging the Higher Price if…

Your materials are rare, or difficult to acquire.
If you think you might possibly run out of your materials in the future, it’s worth considering. (A couple of the things I make use vintage papers that I will eventually have to try to replace. That means time and money on my part, and I eventually might not be able to find those things at all.)

If you are wearing out the tools that you are using.
If you will need to replace or repair tools on a regular basis, that’s something to consider in your pricing structure. Charge the higher rate, especially if it’s an expensive tool.

It’s a niche item.
If you will sell fewer of your items because they have more of a limited audience, charge a little more. Eventually they might pick up in the right crowd, but until then you want to make sure you’re covering your costs.

It’s one of those things that scarcity actually adds value to.
If you are only ever going to make one of these like this, then give it a precious price. People will likely use that price to reassure themselves that what they are buying is a one-of-a-kind item.

You have to keep a lot of material on hand, order in bulk, or make other costly investments.
This is usually considered as part of your material cost, or as part of your overhead- but it’s worth thinking of again. If you have to buy your items in large quantities, you want to make back enough to cover that cost as quickly as possible so you’re not sitting on a lot of debt. Even if it’s not actual debt, those materials were purchased with money taken from your company- and until they are made into products and sold, they have basically no value. (Also, your roommate might not be too happy with how much space they are taking up.)

It’s hard work.
I know, I know, all creation is a combination of expression and hard work­­– but some work is harder than others. If you’re exhausted at the end of each production shift, take that into consideration.

This thing is precious to you, and difficult to part with.
If you put your heart and soul into each item you make, and it matters to you that they go to “a good home” please use the higher price. Then you know the person who bought it will love it, and the extra pocket money doesn’t hurt.

When the vintage maps are gone, so are the notebooks.

When the vintage maps are gone, so are the notebooks.

 

Try to use these to think about pricing in the bigger picture.

The goal is not to make a complicated subject more complicated, but rather to help you figure out why you’re unhappy with one price or the other. Hopefully this will be another tool to cement a great starting price that ensures you’re successful and satisfied. Cause that’s what we want.

 

Other Resources

Craft, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Turning Your Creative Hobby into a Successful Business by Meg Mateo Ilasco

Some Thoughts on Product Pricing”, at OH My Handmade Goodness.

(If you have a go-to resource for creative business, please let us know in the comments!)

BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 2)

BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 2) #business #handmade #tips #craft

So, you’ve visited the store, done your research, and you’re ready to submit your work. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re reaching out to a store.

Sending a Successful Submission

Make sure to include all the things they ask for.

Chances are you will be able to send a very similar email application to a number of stores, so it makes sense to build a kind of form letter than you will add to or subtract from depending on the application guidelines. Including all the elements they ask for is a great way to show that you are organized, and interested in interacting with them.

Be compelling with your words.

If they want to know about you, tell them. Give enough positive details about you to make them want to know more. If someone likes you, they will be more diligent about representing your work.

If they want to know about your process, take the time to really explain what makes your work special. Don’t assume that the shop owner understands that you take very basic materials and do all the steps to make an amazing product. If you do all your own smelting, paperpulping, or scrounging for supplies make it known.
 
BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 2) #business #handmade #tips #craft

Be thoughtful with your photos.

Pick quality images that represent your line, and items that you think would compliment the store. If there are specific elements that are special on your pieces, include detail photos as well.

Also be thoughtful of the size and quantity of your photos. High res photos aren’t usually the best option for email. Don’t send a photo of every item you have, limit your number to 5 or so (unless they specify otherwise) or fewer if you are also including a link to an online portfolio or shop.

Include details about your pricing.

This is another time that an online shop is helpful. If you don’t have one, be sure to include the retail price of the items you are showing. Remember that you will only get a certain percentage of this amount.

Finish it all up with your contact information.

Including your email, phone number, link to your online store, and your full name and business name.

For goodness sakes…

DON’T BE CRAZY WHEN YOU FOLLOW UP.

I try to respond to everyone within a couple of days, whether I am going to meet with them or not. If it’s been more than a week, I think it’s alright to send a follow-up email to make sure you didn’t get lost in the ether. If you want to be sneaky, this is a good time to send another photo, or another detail that you “forgot”. Whatever you do, don’t accuse them of ignoring you, or forgetting you. (This seems like common sense, right?)

Hopefully this will all come together for you, and you will get a meeting that boosts you into immense success.

BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 1)

BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 1) #business #handmade #advice or first steps to get your work in stores (and make people like you.)

Our brick and mortar shop has been open less than a year, but I feel like I’ve already seen everything under the sun. The advice below is directed mainly at approaching stores for consignment placing, but many of the elements can (and should) be applied to any type of interaction. It all comes down to starting with a great relationship.

Most stores will have much of the information you need right there on their websites. Take some time to look around, find out who the owner is, what their submission policy is, and the general feel of the place. It shouldn’t take too long, but I would recommend taking notes, and maybe keeping a spreadsheet or list with notes (you can also keep track of who you talked to, when.)

BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 1) #business #handmade #advice

VISIT THE STORE (THE FIRST IMPRESSION)

If you’re approaching a [local] store without visiting it first, you’re missing a big opportunity. Visiting the store gives you a chance to see the general style of goods that the store owner is drawn too, which means you can send a targeted email with photos that you know they’ll love. It also gives you a chance to size up the owner, and see if it’s someone you’d want to partner with (more on this later.) You can do all this without even talking to the shop owner, if you feel shy or if the shop is busy.

There are a few things I think everyone should do when they visit a shop they are interested in selling products at. The first and most important step…

BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 1) #business #handmade #advice

Take a look around.

When you go to the store, give yourself plenty of time to look around. Pick a day when you have a babysitter, some time to kill, and maybe a friend to shop with. Really spend some time taking in the store and its goods.

It isn’t absolutely necessary to buy something, but if you have the interest and the funds, pick something out. Whatever you do, take the time to absorb the feel of the store, the kind of products it carries, what its specialty is. If you make something exactly like a product they already have, you should keep that in mind. Don’t let it stop you from talking to them, but be aware that you might have to wait a little while to have product in their store.

Don’t forget to give yourself time to get an instinct. Do you feel comfortable? Does the store seem organized? Do the people working there seem polite and happy? You will be entrusting them with your beloved goods, and with your brand’s reputation. If it seems like a fly-by-night operation, let it go for now, and apply if you feel differently later.

If you have a hard time approaching the store owner, I think that it’s fine to skip that on your first trip. Feel free to reference your trip when you contact them later.

But if you’re up to it, and the shopkeeper is free…

Talk to them.

You might not be talking to the person who makes the decision, but there’s a good chance whatever you say will make it back to them. I like it when people express interest in my store. Ask about certain items, artists, etc. Once you’ve broken the ice, and introduced yourself…

Ask about their submission and vendor policies.

“How do you find your artists?”
“What kind of things are you looking for?”
“What are your terms? Do you take goods on consignment, or buy them wholesale?”
“That all sounds amazing, how do I sign up?”
You probably know all the answers to these questions, from the research you did on their website, but it’s worth asking anyway.

Listen, and do what they say.

Most likely they have a policy of only meeting artists by appointment; which means even if you are wearing your product, you should arrange to apply the right way. This sets the best tone to your interaction. As with most things in life, if you show respect and kindness, you will probably get it right back.

Then, when you have all these details flying around in your head…

APPLY!

Check out the second part of this series for my hints at making the best impression when submitting work.

BIZ: How To Prepare For Your First Craft Show

My booth at the Crafty Wonderland Super Colossal Holiday Sale, 2013.

Camp Smartypants‘ booth at Crafty Wonderland Holiday Sale, 2013.

 

Applying for your first ever craft show? We’ve got some important tips to help make your experience fun and successful, plus advice from seasoned craft show vendors and a free printable checklist of must-have items you should have with you.

Choose your show:

When I first started my business, Camp Smartypants, I applied to as many craft shows as possible. Some shows I was busy with customers and other shows I sat in an empty room with no one but other vendors. I recommend doing a bit of research about the event before applying for any show. Find out how many years the event has been running and what ways they promote the show. How many shoppers do they expect to attend? Is it indoor or outdoor? If they don’t seem to have much of a promotion plan, I’d say look for a better show. Without proper promotion, potential shoppers won’t know about the event and you’ll be sitting in your booth by yourself, bored all day.

It’s also a good idea to find out who the show’s past vendors are. Take a look at the event website and browse through their photo galleries (if they have them). Would your products fit in with the other types of vendors? It’s also great to see how people have set-up their booth displays for that particular show as well.

Here I am at my very first craft show in 2009 at the Doug Fir in Portland, Oregon.

Here I am at my very first craft show in 2009 at the Doug Fir in Portland, Oregon.

 

Applying for your first craft show:

Depending on what type of event you are applying too, you’ll need to fill out a detailed application. Make sure you follow their application instructions exactly and provide clear photographs to your work and a link to your website or Etsy shop. Some shows may even ask for a photograph of what your booth will look like so if this is your first craft fair, don’t wait until the last minute to apply as you may have to set up a mock booth to photograph for your application. Also be sure to read the F.A.Q. page on the event’s website. They will often explain further how to submit a good application.

Note: Some shows, like Crafty Wonderland here in Portland or Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle, are fairly competitive to get into, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t accepted the first time you apply. Instead review your application and look at how you can improve it for the next time you apply and yes, you should definitely apply again!

Our first craft show was in Missoula, MT called the Missoula MADE fair. We were living in Spokane at the time, so it was the closest one to us. It was summer and held in an outdoor park downtown and it was very memorable! The day started out sunny and beautiful, but they’re known for quick sudden thunder storms to roll in. The wind picked up and it started hailing and raining for about the last hour of the show. People were packing up and leaving. We had lots of prints, cards, some tea towels and pillows, but were lucky enough to be towards the center area of the covered canopy they had, so our things didn’t get too wet, but still, it was pretty crazy. – Year Round Co.

How Much Product Should I Make?

As much as you possibly can. Bring everything you have, even if you don’t think you’ll sell all of it. You want your booth to look nice and full. You don’t want a big table with only a few items on it. I’ve always gone by the rule, the more you make, the more you’ll sell.

Designing Your Booth:

I always set up my entire booth at home before the show. That way I know exactly how things will be set up and I can take my time figuring out the best display for my products. Use a tape measure to mark off the exact dimensions of your booth space in your living room and start setting things up. Experiment with different arrangements of your products to find the most appealing setup. It’s good to display product at different levels so that the customer’s eye has multiple places to look when visiting your booth.

Year Round Co. show booth

Year Round Co. (formerly Slide Sideways) at Renegade Holiday Show in San Francisco.

 

Our current display is made up of pallet wood that Scott put together and painted. Our display has to be durable enough to be taken apart multiple times a year while also fitting into our car and, of coarse, look good and able to hold all the product we carry, so a lot of thought went into the design and how it would break down. We seem to constantly be evolving how it looks or how our new products fit into it too. –Year Round Co.

BOOTH ESSENTIALS:

Table. Consider the size of your allotted booth space. Your booth display should fill your entire space. You don’t want a table that’s too big or too small.
Tablecloth. When choosing a tablecloth (I like using a twin size flat sheet), consider the color and look of your products. You want a tablecloth color that will compliment your handmade goods and make them stand out. Usually neutral colors work best (unless your products are the same color). Avoid using patterned fabric for your tablecloth as this can potentially distract the viewer and make your booth look too busy.
Banner. Make some sort of sign or banner with your shop name on it. I made my sign by hand-painting my shop logo onto canvas and sewing it into a banner I can hang in front of my table.
Signage. All your products need to be clearly marked with a price. Consider making small signs or tags to attach to each item.
Display Items. This is where you really have to be creative. Choose display items that are lightweight and easy to set up. You don’t have to break the bank; great places to find baskets, frames, containers, etc. are local thrift and vintage stores. Don’t be afraid to give an old crate or shelf a DIY facelift with a little cleaning or new paint job. You can also look at IKEA or a display fixture store in your area (like Portland Store Fixtures here in Portland, Oregon.) Lastly, when designing your booth, you can’t depend on having a wall behind you. Everything in your display needs to be free-standing.

A Tea Leaf's booth at Crafty Wonderland, 2012

A Tea Leaf‘s booth at Crafty Wonderland 2012

I use wood crates, old tackle boxes and vintage glass collected from thrift stores to display my handmade jewelry and art. Some things I make sure to have with me at every craft show are: a lint roller, paper towels, coffee, and a mirror for customers to use when trying on my jewelry. –A Tea Leaf

The Day of the Show:

I like to arrive to any craft show 1-2 hours before the doors open. I don’t want to feel stressed or rushed about setting up plus I like to give myself time to run to the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee/tea, and get settled into my booth before the doors open.

It’s also a good idea to ask a friend or family member to help you load in and out for your event. Remember that you have to load your entire booth into the show space and you may have to carry things quite a distance. (If you have a hand truck or rolling cart, bring it).

In addition to bringing my entire booth display and all my products, I always bring the following items to any craft fair. It’s better to ‘be prepared’ than be freaking out about forgetting something or something going wrong. This checklist will help you have a stress-free, successful show! You can download it here and use it for your first show!

Free Printable Craft Show Checklist by Adventures In Making http://www.adventures-in-making.com

CRAFT SHOW CHECKLIST: (Free Printable)

A chair. If it can fit behind your booth, you’re going to want it.

Water bottle and food. You most likely will not be able to leave your booth during the event. Depending on how long the event lasts bring plenty of snacks or lunch so you don’t get hungry/cranky.

Emergency tool kit: Pens, pencils, tape, hammer, pliers, box cutter, scissors, safety pins, tacks, twine, zip ties, extra price tags/stickers, band-aids, tampons, Ibuprofen, hand wipes, napkins.

Change, cash box and calculator. make sure you have plenty of change (mainly $1 and $5). I usually get $100 in change for a show and that’s been plenty for me. I keep all my change in a metal cash box behind my booth. You could also wear an apron or fanny pack to keep all your change in.

Square App. an essential tool for any craft show. The Square App allows you to take credit cards on your smartphone or tablet. You can order the Square Reader for free here. Before the show starts, set up your free account and do a test transaction (I usually charge $1) to make sure it’s ready and working. Make sure your device is fully charged and don’t use up your battery power on facebook or instagram during the event. Also- ask the event coordinator if they have wifi access for vendors.

A notebook and pen to track sales. It’s good practice to write down every sale. That way you can review what items sold the best and how much money you made at the end of the day.

Business cards. Business cards a SUPER important to have at a craft show. I order mine from Got Print. You can also look for local printers in your area. Make sure your business card includes your name, your shop name, your email and website/etsy shop. This way customers who aren’t looking to buy something the day of the show can find you again.

Mailing list sign up sheet. So you can stay in touch with your customers.

Tools of your craft. Especially good for last minute repairs. If show traffic is slowing down, I’ll usually get out my supplies for making my products and get to work. Customers love seeing you in action! It could spark conversation and questions about you and your work. Just make sure it’s something you can put down easily so you can continue to interact with customers and make sales.

Packaging materials. You’ll need to bag or box up your product when someone makes a purchase. Make sure you have enough bags, tissue, etc. to properly package sold goods for customers.

Wear comfortable shoes and layers. Keep in mind that you’ll most likely be on your feet most of the time so comfortable shoes are important. Also, you never know what the temperature of the room will be (or what the weather will be if you’re event is outdoors) so it’s best to have a few layers of clothing you can take on/off.

We keep a small box that holds all the nuts/bolts/screws we need, plus a screw driver, extra hooks, and tape. We always keep pens, lots of business cards, and sometimes even our wholesale info on hand too, you never know if a potential store owner will be stopping by. Snacks and water are never forgotten either! – Year Round Co.

A FEW FINAL TIPS:

Show Etiquette. Tearing down your booth and/or loading out before the show ends is extremely bad show etiquette and disrupts the flow of any show. Even if you sold out of all your products, don’t tear down your booth (unless you have special permission from the event coordinator). If you tear down early, a lot of shows will put you on their ‘naughty’ list and won’t invite you back to do the show again. Also, be sure to leave your space as you found it and throw away any garbage.

Exposure and feedback. Don’t be too upset if you don’t sell out or make a ton of money at your first show. Many of the shows I first attended I didn’t make much more than the cost of the booth fee. Exposure of you and your work and customer feedback are the best things you can gain at your first show. This is your chance to test out your products, interact with customers and receive instant feedback on your work. As a rule, if I at least make my booth fee back, I consider it a success.

Outdoor shows. If you are planning to attend an outdoor show, I recommend using a pop-up canopy. They are quite an investment to buy, so ask the show coordinator of there’s someone you can borrow or share a canopy with. Also remember to prepare you booth for inclimate weather. You don’t want anything to fall or collapse due to a gust of wind and you don’t want your product to be ruined by rain or fade in the sunshine. Also- sunscreen and bug repellent are important.

Network! A craft show is the perfect opportunity for you to meet other like-minded people! Talk to the other vendors. Tell them it’s your first show and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. I’ve made many new friends this way and it’s great to offer each other advice and support.

Opportunities. Local shop owners might be attending the event on the look out for new handmade products for their shop! I’ve received many consignment opportunities with stores that first saw my work at a craft show.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: The Ultimate Craft Show Preparation Link List by Handmadeology