Sunday, December 12, 2010

So you want to start doing craft shows

At some point, you might think "hey, I bet I could sell more if people could only see my items in person...if I could only talk to them about what I do...if I could only get more exposure."  Well, it's time to get out there and start doing craft shows!  They are a ton of fun, you get to hear a lot of feedback on your work, and you get to network with a bunch of other great artists.  What's not to like? 

I'll be honest:  it's not for everyone.  There's booth fees, startup costs, setting up and tearing down is a pain, not to mention standing around all day in the blistering heat, freezing cold, or rain.  Maybe that's what scares some people off.  Maybe some people don't like hearing "I could make that/could find it cheaper at Wal-Mart" over and over (because some people, believe it or not, are rude.)  But I think the good points far outweigh the bad.

Chatty Crafty in TN
My husband and I have been going to shows for over a year now, and we've learned a lot!  We always try to help people just starting out (even though compared to a lot of crafters, we're new ourselves) because we threw ourselves in without a whole lot of assistance.  So here are our tips to those wanting to start, but not sure where to begin.

1.  Start small, start local.  You don't want to break the bank or travel for hours not knowing whether a show will be worth it.  Plus, when you go to your first "big" show, you really want to look professional.  I spent a lot of time googling "craft shows in SC" when we first started out.  You should also check out Festival Network Online for a pretty solid listing of shows.  I would stay away from the flea market.  It may be tempting to rent a table there to see how it goes, but the people who shop the flea market are looking for deals, not necessarily quality products.  Also be wary of 1st year shows, they're generally run poorly with low attendance, so they are bad examples of how well you could do.   

2. Decide what type of shows you want to do.  We quickly found out that traditional craft shows weren't suitable for our jellykoe stuff, so we stick to indie shows and folk festivals.  I use to stay up to date with new shows.  See what market your work fits well into and try out those shows.  We took a chance on a folk festival, and it turned out to be one of our best venues.  Talk to people in those circuits and see if they think your stuff would be a good fit.  A lot of craft show websites show previous artists, and it's a good way to get a feel for the show.  You also are going to have to decide if you want to stay local or travel to shows.  For us, traveling is the way to go for bigger shows and more exposure, but for some it's just not feasible.

3.  Gather a list of everything you'll need for a show.  There's a super helpful checklist at the Joyful Abode blog.  Everyone needs different things, and what you'll need will vary from show to show.  I print out a checklist before each show and go through it several times to make sure I don't miss something.  There's nothing worse than being unprepared or missing some vital part of your setup (like chairs to sit on).

4. Decide on and test your booth set up before the show. It takes time and money to get the perfect booth setup.  We've changed ours several times through the course of our travels, and it's still not where we want it.  Some crafters need specialized displays, such as jewelry mannequins or gridwalls, which have to be ordered way in advance.  We also have different setups for different shows, so be aware of how much space you'll get.  A helpful hint is to have items at varying heights, so that more things are up near eye level.  Try to think of what would catch your eye as you walk by your table.

5. Look professional.  Act professional.  Know your product inside and out so you can answer any questions.  Keep a happy face on through the day and greet everyone who stops by your table.  Don't chat away on a cell phone or keep your nose in a book, but don't hover over people either.  And definitely don't badmouth other vendors, especially to or within earshot of customers.  It will only reflect poorly on you. 

6. Talk to as many other vendors as you can.  They are a great resource for finding new shows.  Plus, they can help you to better your booth setup or even improve your crafting technique.  Besides, it's always nice to make new friends. 

Have anything to add?  Let me know in the comments.
 Next time: Fabric flowers- techniques and tips

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