With nearly four years of craft shows under my belt, I’ve learned a lot about selling at craft shows. A "financially successful" show and a "good" show are not always one and the same. If you’re thinking about vending in your first craft show, you’ll want to learn how to find the right show for you, how to prepare for a successful day, and how to follow up once the show is over.
Choosing a Show
Before you spend money, time, or energy on the first craft show to fall into your lap, take a moment to think about what you’d like to accomplish at your first (or next) show. Are you looking for basic experience with selling at craft shows? Trying to burst in on the crafty scene like an instant pro? Just testing the waters and still unsure what you’re even going to sell? These are all really important questions to ask yourself to guide you in the right direction.
Once you’ve identified a goal, make sure your next show will actually help you achieve that goal! It will be no use trying to stage a dramatic entrance into the crafty scene if your first craft show is a ten-booth operation in the parking lot of an industrial park. Likewise, you may end up spending several hundred dollars and countless hours of frustration on a booth at a big show that just isn’t right for your product. Do a bit of research and find out what types of crowds your potential shows are drawing.
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After you’ve chosen a craft show you can fill out that application and fork over your application money. Craft show fees can range anywhere from free (!) to hundreds of dollars. Application fees tend to say something about how many people can be expected to attend the event, but be aware that this is not a direct reflection of how much money you can expect to make! Some small shows may not draw huge crowds, but if the right customers are shopping this will hardly matter. On the other hand, you could easily end up spending an uncomfortable, bored, and frustrated day because your show just didn’t have any customers. Think long and hard about the show itself before you get scared off by fees.
Preparing for the Show
In addition to making enough product for your first craft show, you’ll want to pay close attention to the following booth elements:
The table: Depending on your booth size you may want to purchase one or more fold-up tables. Having the right sized table on hand can entirely change the scale of your booth when you're selling at craft shows. You wouldn’t want to pay for a 10’ x 10’ booth and end up using only a single six foot table!
The tablecloth: Choose something that will not distract from your product and something that will enhance the overall look of the booth and table.
Display items: Use lightweight, easy to carry items to display your work. In time you may want to create displays just for your work, but for your first craft show just experiment and be creative!
Signag-: Clear signage can make or break a sale when selling at craft shows! Your first craft show will go much, much smoother if you post attractive, pre-printed signs with important information such as price, care, quality details, etc. Also, don’t forget your email newsletter sign up sheet!
Crafty tote: Make sure to bring along pens, paper, tape, snacks, water, a calculator, first aid kit, and a mini sewing kit.
In the days after your first craft show, you might feel thrilled, invigorated, exhausted, or let down. Go over the pluses and minuses, and think about how you might do it differently next time. What things did you do that worked out great? Would you do that craft show again in the future? Chances are you’ve made some new acquaintances–both vendors and customers–at your show. Make sure you follow up with a short note within the first week. These relationships will become very valuable in your crafty career so make sure to keep in touch!
With the number of craft shows growing every year, there’s no better time than now to start looking for opportunities for selling at craft shows. Getting started with craft shows can be intimidating, but with the right research, organization, and preparation, you’ll be able to find the most successful shows for you and your crafty goods!