Thursday, July 26, 2012

Preparing for Craft Shows


Are You Interested in Participating in Craft Shows?
I’ve been creating jewelry for years and selling to friends and family for the past several years.  But last year, my Husband and I decided to hit the road and try some arts & craft shows.  Our goal was to do at least one show each month from October through April.  We did meet that goal and more.  We participated in a show each month and did an additional show in November, February, March and April.  We had so much fun and met the nicest people at shows.  We found that most vendors are quite willing to share their own experiences and they were so helpful when they found out that we were new.  We learned so much during the past year and I want to share some of it here.
1.        Map Your Shows and Decide What Venue Works for You – Where do you want to show?  It’s as simple as showing in your town only, or getting out a map and circling an area you’d like to use for your shows.  Once you know your target area, you can start researching shows.  There are several good online sites where you can find shows in your target area.  We use www.craftmasternews.com.  You can join for $48.95 per year and they send you quarterly publications as well as providing access to 24/7 online information about shows across the nation.  T There are other sites out there, easily accessible through a Google search, including www.festivalnet.com and www.craftlisters.com.  You can also check local city/county sites for their calendars to find shows and check the local better business bureaus for information. 
Be sure what type of show best fits your needs.  If you sell jewelry, do you really want to participate in a rock and gem show?   Do you want a juried or non-juried show?  Although juried shows tend to charge higher vendor fees, they also limit the number of vendors in each type of craft, so you don’t end up in a show with row after row of the same type vendors.
Consider show length.  Decide what is best for you by trying a few different shows.  We found that the 1-day shows don’t work well for us.  The set-up and tear-down time required isn’t worth the 4 or 5 hours of selling time we get.  We like the 3-5 day shows best, although weekend shows work well.  We also do a 10-day show each year in NV and it’s very profitable for us, but by the end of the 10 days, we’re exhausted.  Be sure to leave time between shows to create more items.  By the end of April, our inventory was really low and I found myself scrambling to keep up.  This year, I plan to space my shows a little further apart to allow me time to replenish my inventory and get some rest.  Visiting all day can be exhausting!
 

2.        Beat the elements – Think you don’t need to worry about weather because the forecast is great for your show?  Think again!  I can’t stress enough how important it is to secure your tent!  At almost every show we did this year, someone lost a tent due to a freak wind or an unexpected storm.  It’s much easier to stake/weigh down your tent during set-up than it is to try and secure it during a storm.  We use a 10x10 pop up tent.  We stake down the tent legs and then run a rope over the tent from side to side in the front and the back, staking that rope down as well.  At night, we lower the legs down as far as possible and retie the ropes tight again.   If the promoter doesn’t allow stakes, we use 5 gallon buckets, put the legs of the tent inside, and add 50 lbs of sandbags to each bucket.  Ugly?  Maybe.  The table covers most of it.  And at one show, a wind storm came up and we were the only pop-up tent to survive.  I felt so badly for those vendors who lost everything because they didn’t think they needed extra protection or bought the 20lb weights for the tent feet and figured they were plenty.
Try not to hang much on the walls of your tent.  It’s tempting to buy those metal wire panels and hang them all over the inside of your tent.  But pop-up tents aren’t made to handle that extra weight and tents with those panels are usually the first to go during wind or rain. 

3.        Displays - Keep it Simple – We live in our RV and tow a Jeep Wrangler (with a roof rack) so there isn’t much room for our display items.  We use plastic bins, collapsible display items (whenever possible), folding tables, etc.  Since we sell jewelry, I purchased a rolling cart with trays so that I could easily store items and use the trays for displaying bracelets and other items.  The trays make it easy to see what you have and tear down is much faster because I don’t have bag up each item.  I can just pull items off of the displays and lay them in the trays.  The key is to make set-up and tear-down as simple and quick as possible.   I use fitted table covers made from fabric that doesn’t wrinkle.  I also use smaller plastic bins, covered with more non-wrinkle fabric to raise parts of my display and add visual interest.  Try to limit the amount you put on your tables.  Keep the rest in bins under the tables, out of sight and replenish displays as you sell items. 
4.        Talking to CustomersAt a recent show, we were placed next to another jewelry artist.  She did stunning beadwork bracelets and necklaces.  But by the end of the second day, she was very discouraged because she hadn’t sold anything.  I had noticed that during the entire time, she never talked to anyone!  Just sat there, watching as people picked up items, tried them on, put them down.  I don’t think I saw her get out of her chair once.  I think you have to let your passion show. You love what you do.  Don’t be afraid to interact with people and let your passion shine through.  Don’t overwhelm them with information, but don’t be afraid to talk to them either.  You’ll be able to tell if they don’t want your help.  If they don’t, walk away.  If they do, let them know where you took that great photo, or about the wonderful artist who made the focal bead you used.  Strike a balance; be friendly but not overwhelming.
5.        Payments and TaxesOur business increased dramatically when we started accepting credit cards.  We use a Square.  I love this method because they charge a flat fee but no monthly fees, so if I don’t use it, I don’t pay.  Since we don’t show in the summer months, this is great for us.  You can find them at www.squareup.com.  All you need is a smart phone with a data plan.  I have an iPad, and often, if the show is outside of a community building, free internet is available for me to use.  Otherwise, I’ll use my smart phone.  PayPal also has a similar item.  You can find out about it at www.paypal.com.  You can also choose more traditional methods to accept credit cards.  If you check with your local banker, you can usually get a reduced rate by using their services.  Also, www.propay.com is another wonderful source.  They have some of the lowest rates around, and also offer a device to go on your iphone or computer.  
Be sure to check with the city to make sure you have the appropriate permits for your shows.  Many cities require a temporary license and will charge you a flat fee for the days of the show.  Most states also have a chart to let you know the correct sales tax to collect and have instructions for payment.
If you’ve never done a craft show before and are thinking of taking that next step with your art, these shows can be a great way to meet people, increase your sales and boost your self-confidence.  Shows can be time consuming and create extra work for you.  But they can also be a very profitable and enjoyable experience.    

Written by :   DesertShineJewelry

23 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for all the wonderful tips & info you've shared in this article ... very helpful!!!

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  2. Wonderful tips... a few here I really need to put into place..

    I love craft shows but have had a few bad experiences too but meeting the people that come and the other vendors is exciting.

    Yep, been there.. lost tent at last outdoor event!

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  3. MY experience matches yours. I love the people and yes, talk talk talk and show your passion!

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  4. Wow - lots of great info here! Thank you!

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  5. Wow great info for if we ever start with shows.

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  6. Great reminders as I get ready to tackle my first (almost) full season in two years.

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  7. Great info on doing shows. I miss the days I did shows, now I shop at shows :-)

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  8. A fasinating insite into how shows are run in the US

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  9. A great helpful post about shows. And you tray method is what I use too, plus a bazillion other nonconventional display ideas.

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  10. I really enjoyed reading your post! Thank you for sharing some craft fair tips with us! I'd love to go shopping too at a 10 day show :)

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  11. Wow, lots of great info on shows! I've been in a local craft festival before but no shows. I will refer back to this if I ever start doing them. Thanks so much!

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  12. Great information. Lots of things to consider when doing a show. You've certainly had lots of experience with your schedule. Glad to hear things are going well.

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  13. great tips! thanks for sharing them :O)

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  14. Very good tips! I have not done any shows but I sure will keep in mind your info.

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  15. Your information is great! I would really love to do a show, but my disability does not allow for it - at least not at this time. With you doing so many shows, it would be interesting know how much of your business is now ue to shows and what percentage is online sales? Thanks for sharing all the valuable information!

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  16. I love doing shows myself, I get way more sales in person... I network.... it is great. But it is a lot of work the hauling, setting up and breaking down etc. I am looking forward to some winter shows. Thanks for this great write up!

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  17. What a resource! Thanks for the awesome input and for sharing your vast experience!

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  18. Great information! I keep thinking about doing a craft show - maybe one day I'll work up the courage. I'll keep your tips in mind if I ever do :)

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  19. Ever since last summer, I've wanted to be involved in a Craft Fair. There was a Strawberry Festival out by where I live & it was so inspiring to see all the craft vendors there! It looked like so much fun....

    I went home & researched a bit into how I could get involved & become successful at a Craft Fair. But, I found little information that actually seemed helpful :/ When I came across this post, I was so excited because there's such a wealth of information & really helpful tips. Thank you for posting!!!

    ~Jessica

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  20. Very informative post. Do you purchase your own pop-up tent or is that something you rent from the fair? Great to know the options for accepting credit cards!

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  21. UniqueCozyTreasures - That is great info. Thanks for sharing with us!

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  22. Wow tons of great information....now all I need to do is actually participate in a show haha :)

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