Craft Shows - tips to sell more, stress less and have more fun!

Craft shows are not for everyone - they are alot of work but if you have the right stuff at the right show you can make alot of moulah. Here are a few tips for making the most of them.

# 1 - My first tip would be to find the right shows for you.

The best shows book early so now is the time you should be booking for fall (and it is too late for some of those) - don't be afraid to ask other sellers for their favorite shows (ask people who have your same target market, but not a similar product - if you sell jewelry maybe don't ask a jewelry seller - although you can ask me, I don't mind - I think the more jewelry the better at the shows I do (kind of like the way those car dealers and furniture stores group themselves together along the highway- I think it's a good thing) but since show promoters limit people of the same genre - maybe talk to people with different items.

You can also search online - there are sites like festivalnet, smartfrogs,, your local newspaper, search google and there is a magazine called Sunshine Artist that has show listings and reviews.

# 2 - Make your prices easy to find - I use arrows so I don't have to string those little jewelry tags that just don't cooperate with my fingers - if people are asking you the price of things you have not marked your items clearly enough

# 3 - Set up your display prior to the show - I set up most of my display in my livingroom a couple days before, so I can see what I am missing and then I pack up right from there so I don't forget anything

# 4 - Use table covers (I use brown sheets) that go to the ground, so you can store your boxes underneath and still look neat - some people have been using risers to raise their tables and I do love the look and ease of having a counter/table, but since I once had a wonderful customer in a wheelchair bring to my attention that she was having trouble, I don't use them anymore

# 5 - Bring enough stuff! This is important because you want to appear full at all times.

(if you think people will see your near empty booth and think you must be selling something amazing that everyone just had to have - they won't - or they might - but they'll still just keep walking)

My friend who sells fruit and vegetables at a farmer's market will not display her deliciousness in half-empty baskets. Instead she heaps the remaining fruit and veggies into smaller and smaller baskets to make the baskets appear full and overflowing.

You can also do some manuevers with your display - removing shelves and even tables if you have to, to keep things looking full and inviting - think staging areas.

Also you need to bring enough stuff to make money - otherwise, why are you doing all this work in the first place. I have been near crafters who could probably sell everything on their table and not cover their booth fee - you need enough stuff!

I have also had people tell me happily that they sold out - well, you can't sell what you don't have - selling out is really not a good thing unless it is seasonal stuff, your last show of the season or the end of the day.

My goal is always to make 10X my booth fee and so I stock with 3X what I need to sell that much. For example if my booth fee is $100.00 - I want to make $1000.00 and so I bring at least $3000.00 retail of my work.

(which sounds like alot and it is - you may not need this much - and it brings us to #6)

# 6 - You're either in it or you're not. You can't do just one craft show because you need a certain amount of over-inventory as I explained before, the show could be a dog or get rained out, too many things could go wrong and you will have a start-up investment that you will want to recoup over several shows.

# 7 - Bring your product forward - customers sometimes hesitate to come into a 'cave-like' booth - the closer you can get your stuff to them when they are walking by the better. It will cost you space but trust me you want your stuff practically in the aisles.

(this is hard for me with 2 distinctive product lines that both take alot of space so although I have a table on each side of the booth, something I don't really recommend since we don't want to create a 'cave' feeling, I use the table ends - that I place as close to the customers walking past as possible - to display directly to the walkers by having merchandise on the ends face the walking aisle - I also have a vertical banner that catches their eye)

(back tomorrow with more tips and tricks)

* very cool - fox selling watches screenprint by neversleeping

7. Nothing Draws a Crowd Like a Crowd - when I had carts in the mall I always had my hubby and daughter come by and ooh and aah over my stuff and make it look popular.

(maybe it's human nature to want what you think other people want and I think sometimes people hesitate to approach a booth when the only person in sight is the seller)

8. Smile

(but not one of those big creepy smiles where you show your gums and everything)

Make eye contact. Say hello and ask people how they are doing. Don't pressure people looking around in your booth. Most people like to browse. It's great to tell people interesting info about something they are looking at, but choose your approach smartly and don't be pushy.

(note- most makers are not pushy, most makers are the opposite of pushy- most of us need a little 'push' in our delivery)

9. Talk about the benefit to the buyer.

When customers would approach my lockets, I used to say "these are made from a little recycled auto part" and they would usually go "wow" and get kind of glassy eyed -

(I still cannot understand why people do not see the benefit in having an auto part hanging around their neck)

then I would say the locket is magnetic and the lids are interchangeable - well that was when they perked up.

The problem was that in a busy show - I didn't always get to that part before their eyes wandered. It didn't take me long to realize that what I thought was the coolest part - the auto part that seemed so clever to me - was not the benefit for most customers - so I started talking about the magnetic lids first and putting them in people's hands

(the lids clicking off and on are somewhat irresistible to us fidgeters)

and my sales went way up.

I did a show with Vinnie (somethingwhimsical) who sells these little BOB (bunch of bolts) necklaces and everytime a customer approached and smiled at his necklaces he would say "they come with an instruction book".

(I heard this about a hundred times that day - I still hear it in my sleep)

Now this instruction book is really something else - it is cool and clever and witty, but maybe not the first benefit to the customer.

When his wife was nearby she would chirp in with - they are called BOB for bunch of bolts and also named as a homage to Vinnie's father BOB who made these for him as a child - well that was the grabber to people because it made it personal and a little story that they loved even more than the alien story in the instruction book and they would be hooked.

10. Make It Personal. You made it. Be proud of It.

I did a show with another maker (briefmoments) who sells these gorgeous kaleidoscope pendants.

Now as soon as a customer approached, Maribeth would immediately own her work. She would say "I make these from bits and pieces of my photographs" and then go on to explain her process. People were immediately intrigued and because she was so enthusiastic (and her work so gorgeous) she sold tons that day.

This was her first craft show and my 30th plus, but I learned something very important from watching her own her work.

So now instead of saying "these are made from a recycled auto part" (not the first thing I bring up but I do say it) - I say "I clean, drill and weld these from a recycled steel car part" - the "I" is the important part because the benefit is often the handmade part - why would the customer want my locket more than some China-made copycat necklace at their drugstore - well, because I am a talented, amazing artist (ack) and I made it! We have to own our work!

Back tomorrow to finish up these tips and tricks!

*fast crowd vinyl print by lori gordon

11. Accept Credit Cards

With propay it's easy and inexpensive - paypal also has a virtual terminal that can be rented monthly as needed. I bought a card slider (aka knucklebuster) for about $20.00 on Amazon. I imprint the cards and then put them through after the show - this is a little risky, but I haven't had a problem. If you sell pricey stuff you probably need to be able to process the cards at the show. Google it - there are lots of options - you can even process cards with a slider attached to your phone.

Alot of people do buy with cash at shows, but I find customers with larger, multiple item orders pay with credit. Your average sale $ will increase when you accept them.

Make sure to put up signs that credit cards are accepted - it costs you money to accept credit cards so make sure you advertise it.

12. Get a cash bag - keep your eyes on your moulah.

My niece once had one customer distract her while their accomplice walked off with her cash box. She didn't notice until they were long gone - she lost hundreds of dollars. Alot is going on at a show and, especially if you are working alone, you need to know where your cash is.

I have an amazing traveler bag (this is so not a fanny pack!) from JennyNDesign that is perfect.

13. Be nice to your neighbors.

Say hello. Tell them your name. Don't encroach on their space. Be considerate. If you ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your booth so you can run to the restroom (something I don't really recommend, but it can happen) - realize their commitment is to their own booth, not yours, so make a run for it and be sure to thank them.

(at Art Star last weekend after setting up my tent I noticed my neighbor staring at my wall - on her side - and realized hubby had stuck an X made with duct tape on the outside to cover a hole - I rarely use the sides and hadn't noticed it - since my outside wall was about to become her interior wall I quickly ditched the tape - the hole BTW was about 1" and the duct tape a gigantic 6" X!)

14. Don't be afraid to do a show alone.

You can do it! I've done it many times. It's more fun with a partner, but don't let your inability to lasso a friend into helping you (I bribe people with free jewelry and cookies) stop you. The set-up and take-down is a little tiring solo, but no one knows your work like you do - it isn't that hard.

15. Try to offer a freebie.

When I'm offering up a little free something or other to someone (usually a cork stopper with my logo) every head near my booth whips around - people love freebies! You could give out a sticker, pin, etc - I once saw someone giving out free teabags with their logo - people drank it up!

16. Oops I have one more - After KJ reminded me yesterday that buyers like to tell people they know the artist it is a good idea to save a part of your display area for a little self promotion - set up newspaper stories, any articles you are in, any books you are in - you can put pictures of your work in a book (think Blurb) very inexpensively and it makes you look very impressive.

(I know I would be impressed or depressed since I've never done this)

Photos of your work being worn or used are a must; a photo of yourself with your own story - makes your handmade item even more personal. You can set up your laptop and flash pictures of your work and draw people in.

We could go overboard with this - remember we are not DaVinci - but we are the creators of our own amazing work and if we are not impressed with it no one else will be either!

Hope some of these tips help someone - I didn't focus on our displays since being the crafty mavens that we are, we can most likely come up with something amazing - just think staging areas (grouping things in different areas) and using various levels and especially having items or photos at the customer's eye level.

I made my first magazine ad yesterday directed to retail stores - whatcha' think? My brother, the artist, said "very nice - the only thing that is unreadable is your studio name in your logo" - ha!

* be nice typography print by tiny bungalow