If you’re wondering how to get into a juried craft show, unfortunately it’s not as easy as submitting an application. Most juried craft shows worth selling at many more applications than they have spots so your’s must stand out. You can’t expect to be accepted to a juried craft show by doing the bare minimum. Here’s what to look for.
Of course you want to start with applying to the right shows but once you’ve found one that’s a good fit for your business, brand and is attracting a customer who’s likely to buy from you, check in on the tips below.
What you’re selling is the first thing organizers will look at. You should be offering something unique and be able to explain your USP (unique selling position). Check out 3 MISTAKES HANDMADE BUSINESSES MAKE WITH THEIR USP.
On top of that, your products should have a clear direction, make sense together and follow a theme. Think of your craft show booth as a small boutique selling specialty products, not as a thrift store where a shopper can find a variety of random goods.
If you limit the categories your products fall under, and your product’s features, you’ll find it much easier to build a cohesive and powerful product line. The free email course, BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES, explains in detail why limiting your product categories and features is insanely important, and not just for craft shows, for your entire business. You can read more about it and join for free here.
To get into a juried craft show, you need to take things to the next level. Creating a brand is something not every handmade business does and is your ticket into the juried event.
Your brand should be driven by your USP, so you should start there (USP help is on day 3 of the free email course). And then consider how your brand can come through in every aspect of your application.
If your brand is playful and whimsical, the photos you submit, wording you use in your application, social media page you link to, etc. should all have a playful and whimsical vibe.
First and foremost you want to follow the juried craft show’s directions; if they ask for 5 product photos, stick to product photos but if they ask for 5 photos of your choice, including a photo of your table or booth will let organizers know that you’re capable of creating an attractive display.
If the application form has a spot for links to your website or Facebook page and you don’t have room to include a display photo in the application, update your page so they see some display photos when they follow your link.
If you’ve never sold at a juried craft show, or any craft show and don’t have a picture of your display, you can still show organizers you have an eye for display.
Instead of snapping individual photos of your products, create a vignette or setting that displays several products together in a pleasing manner, incorporating props and display fixtures.
To improve your chances of getting into a juried craft show when you’ve never sold at one, you can even create a mock setup at home.
You don’t need an 8-foot table or 10′ x 10′ space. A small coffee table or dresser placed against a clean wall (no distracting paint colors, windows backlighting your products or messy desks in the background), in a room with lots of natural light. Place a tablecloth over the table and set up a collection of your products, incorporating props and display fixtures.
Be sure to note you created the setup at home and maybe even how you plan to improve/expand it for the big event.
Looking for tips to improve your display? Check out my most popular articles:
Craft show applications are like an interview; and you wouldn’t walk into an interview knowing nothing about the company would you? You’d want to do some digging beforehand so you could show them your interest and knowledge of their brand and reference how you think you’d fit in.
If you’re applying to a juried craft show that has occurred in the past, check out their Facebook page or website to do some snooping. Look for photos of vendor booths from past events, lists of participating vendors and pay attention to the event’s branding, achievements and anything you have in common. These are all things you can use to your advantage when communicating with the organizer or filling out your application.
Here’s where your research above comes in handy. You never want to mislead an organizer into thinking you’re selling something you’re not but there’s nothing wrong with playing up a different side of your products or brand to get into a juried craft show.
Just as you may cut back on the swear words when you’re at a family function as compared to a party with friends; you’re not being misleading or fake, you’re just adjusting to your environment.
If you’re looking at past vendors or work they’ve featured on their page and they tend to all have one element in common, determine whether you can work that element in or play it up in your existing products.
For example: if you’re seeing a lot of quirky, funny and really unique products, can you add a new product to your line or change a small detail in an existing line? Maybe instead of using floral fabrics you use a print with dancing cats or robots. If you make bath and body products you could introduce a line for a very specific problem that just requires you to tweak the label or packaging; “mid-life crisis” bath bombs or “over the hill” creams.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it still fits with your brand; you don’t want to turn off any existing customers or feel completely out of your element.
Even a small change to your photos or display could do the trick. If the show has a vintage vibe, can you edit your photos or adjust your display to add a touch of vintage to them? A lace tablecloth, some vintage props and tea stained table signs may give your existing (non-vintage) products a vintage feel.
What type of photos do they share on their Facebook page? If they’re clean product shots on a white background, can you mimic that in your photos? If the show’s poster is bright, bubbly and heavy on the turquoise, submit photos of your brightly colored products (as opposed to your neutrals) or use an app like PicMonkey to add some turquoise text overlays to your images.
Slipping in that you’ve visited their event in the past or bringing up some facts they’ve shared lets them know that you’re familiar with their craft show and aren’t blindly applying.
You don’t want to say anything insincere but when explaining why you would love to be a part of their event, showing your interest and knowledge of it can go a long way.
For example, you could say something along the lines of: “I visited your event last year and was blown away by the quality of vendors. I understand how important having unique vendors with top of the line craftsmanship is to the success of a show and I think my brand and products consist of just that.”
*Again, make sure that you show up with the vibe and products you told the organizer you’d be bringing. Include a description or photos of the other types of products you may sell and stock up on the ones you applied with.
You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you sell them on one idea but show up with another; organizers choose vendors for a juried craft show based on what they think the audience they’re marketing to will want to buy. If you added vintage products to your application but show up with a modern display and stock, your sales may suffer since shoppers are going to be looking for vintage.
Don’t explain how quirky, fun, unique and high-end your work is only to include low quality, boring photos of basic products. They won’t know what to trust; your word or your pictures. Your brand and style should come through in your writing, photos, products, display, etc. and be consistent.
It may be a good idea to have a friend or family member look over your application to see if anything seems inconsistent. We may miss what stands out to others since we’re so close to our work.
This includes following their instructions to a T, only giving them information they need and being friendly.
If you require them to follow up with you because you didn’t attach the right kind of photos or they can’t find your website, you’re creating extra work for them.
Pay attention to the details and instructions. If they ask for a link to your Facebook page, include the direct link to your page, not the name of it they must search.
If you’re emailing the organizer questions to determine whether the event is a fit for your brand and schedule, don’t ask them the dates and times of the event when they’re plastered all over their social media and website. Show them you’ve put some work in and aren’t relying on them to do it all.
Don’t make the organizers dig to figure out how you’re different from the next vendor. You may travel overseas to find the most unique and high quality materials for your pieces but if you don’t explain that in your application, they have no way of knowing.
Also think about updating your social media pages to include some images that will be a fit for the craft show’s social media pages. If the juried event’s Instagram feed is full of bright, colorful images, make sure you have a few that fit the look, feel and filter of theirs.
Don’t go overboard with your answers. Making them wade through tons of information to find the answer they’ve asked for is a whole lot of extra work they don’t need. Include important details but make sure you get to the point.
Regardless of how much money a customer is paying you, nobody likes dealing with grumpy, demanding people. Make sure all your communication with the organizer is friendly and the way you would want to be treated.
Any way you can make their life easier and bring a little positivity to it will be noted.
Application forms are all about you, your business and your products; it’s how the organizers determine whether you’re a fit for their juried craft show or not. But consider adding in what you can do for them.
Do you have a popular blog you’d love to use to talk about the event? What about a huge following on Facebook? Or maybe the contests you run get a ton of interest, especially when you’re giving away tickets to an event.
Of course you don’t want to come across like you’re bribing them (i.e. “if you accept ME, I’ll do this for you”) but finding a way to subtly slip in that you love to do your part when it comes to spreading the word will come off as helpful, not coaxing.
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