What you Must Know Before your First Craft Show
There are some handmade items that sell amazingly well at craft shows. If you sell a great handmade product and have been accepted to your first craft show, there are a few things to be aware of heading into it.
I sold at craft shows for many years and had a lot of successes but also made a LOT of mistakes. I continually improved and used events as the main platform to grow my business. But I wanted to reflect on my very first craft show to share some of the most important lessons I wish I knew. Hopefully this list will help get you to peak performance faster than I did 😉
1) Start prepping now
My first craft show, I underestimated how much time it would take to build enough stock. Not to mention, I was usually guessing how much stock I would need, based on how much I could make. Which is the reason I developed a bunch of formulas and calculations to calculate stock levels based on different variables.
Although you can never know for sure exactly how much stock you’ll need, the formulas in Make More Money at Craft Fairs will help you be more accurate. When you’re more accurate, you save time and money.
Once I figured out realistic stock numbers and a way to prepare for craft shows strategically, I said goodbye to staying up until 2 am the night before an event.
Don’t get me wrong, I still had my late nights but they were less late and I felt more prepared.
2) Everyone is a little nervous
Each vendor has worked extremely hard preparing for the craft show and everyone is hoping that their hard work will pay off; whether it’s their first craft show or their hundredth. I could never fully relax until I made a few sales and felt more certain I would cover the costs of the event.
Until that first sale was made, I always worried; what if I don’t sell anything? Or what if I don’t sell as much as the other vendors and people notice how slow my booth is?
The more vendors I talked to, the more I realized I wasn’t the only one. Regardless of your products, your business, or the event, you never really know what each craft sale will bring so it’s important to relax and go with the flow.
3) Set up takes longer than you think
An hour may sound like a long time but once you factor in unloading the car, unpacking everything, and getting the front and back of your table in order, opening time comes pretty quick.
It’s important to have everything ready to go; don’t leave tagging, pricing, or sign-making for the morning of or you’ll likely be scrambling.
I wasn’t completely ready by the time the doors opened at my first craft show. It only added to my nerves and started the day off on the wrong foot. It’s better to give yourself more time for setup and be done early than scrambling and sweating to get it all done.
Bonus points if you can get your behind-the-table supplies organized before the event too. Pre-stuff shopping bags with tissue and business cards, pre-cut ribbon, print inventory sheets, etc.
You want to be able to “process” customers quickly and efficiently, regardless of whether there’s a lineup or not. So create a setup that works as an efficient “cash desk” and “stock room”.
4) You’re offering too much
At least I know I was at my first craft show, and several more after that. You’re a creative person and I know you can probably make anything and everything. But don’t use craft fairs to show off your multiple talents. Use them to show off your best talent.
The size of your space will determine how many groupings you can display. For an 8-foot table, a good place to start is with 3 – 5 groupings. A grouping may be a product (i.e. messenger bag, tote, and clutch) or it may be a product line using specific design styles, patterns, textures, colors, etc. (i.e. floral prints, geo prints and damask prints).
Mockup your table at home and step back to see how your space feels. Are there clear groupings the eye is drawn to or does it look overwhelming and cluttered? Keep it simple and let your products tell the shoppers exactly what your business is all about without having to say a word.
>> Join the FREE email challenge 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT CRAFT SHOW DISPLAY if you need help refining your selection & designing your display.
Are you the craft show vendor shoppers can’t quite describe? E.g. “They sell a few pillows, a couple of crocheted goods, I think they had some necklaces and maybe a couple of pictures for sale?”
Or are you the vendor shoppers want to find online, visit at your next event, and tell friends about because you make wine-themed soaps that are perfect for your wino friends. AND they can’t find something similar anywhere else.
When you try to do too many things, everything gets put on the back burner and nothing stands out as extraordinary. You’re not looked at as the expert or THE person to go see when you need ____________.
Choose ONE focus, get great at it, and show shoppers why you’re the only choice when it comes to buying handmade ______________.
If you aren’t sure what that focus is, pay attention to shoppers and sales stats at craft shows. Slowly start removing low-performing products from your lineup and adding more bestsellers until you’ve found your niche.
5) You DO need to sell
Trust me, I didn’t want “selling” to be necessary. I barely said “hello” to shoppers at my first craft show. I thought a smile and an answer for any questions were good enough.
But once I actually started selling, my sales went up.
Think about the selling points of each type of product you sell; what’s interesting or unique about them or how they’re made? Who are they great for and why?
You’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you have a line or two you can use while shoppers are at your table.
The first few craft shows always feel a little awkward; there isn’t room to give shoppers space while they browse your work. But the more you learn about selling and the more you practice it, the more comfortable you’ll become.
You and your shoppers will feel much more comfortable if you brush up on your sales techniques. Complete silence while they shop your table feels awkward for everyone.
6) Your display should get just as much thought as your products
I would suggest browsing a craft show or looking online to get an idea of table displays before your first craft show.
I admittedly put very little thought into my display for my first craft show. It was a small event but everyone had the most creative setups and props. I had a wrinkly tablecloth, a flat display, no branding, and a hodgepodge of products.
The FREE challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY will help you with the display details most vendors don’t think about.
You may also like these popular blog articles:
- Want to Stand Out at a Craft Show? Try These Display Tricks
- Why you’re Looking at your Craft Show Setup Wrong
7) Don’t forget signage (and registration)
It’s easy to jump into your first craft show without thinking through the logistics, but it’s important you take the necessary legal steps.
The sooner your start getting your business name in shoppers’ eyes and ears, the sooner you’ll start building a reputation. And you don’t want to start with one name then realize it’s already been registered and you can’t use it.
You want people to use your business name (here’s how to choose a unique craft business name) when they tell their friends where they picked up their awesome new handmade item. If you’re not communicating it at your booth, on your tags, and through marketing material, people will quickly forget what your business is called.
8) It’s not about location
It’s easy to look at the position of your booth or table and start worrying whether you’re in a good spot or not. Some booths may seem like they’re in a better place than others but you can find reasons for and against any position. For example, a table right near the entrance – PRO: first booth shoppers see, CON: shoppers want to look around before buying.
At the end of the day, it’s your display, products, and attitude that determine your sales, not where your booth is.
If you’re selling the right products and you’ve created a memorable display, shoppers will buy no matter where your table is located.
9) Expect the unexpected
It can be the perfect venue, with perfect weather, and the event may have a rock star organizer…but that doesn’t mean you’re going to sell out of product.
Each event is different and each day of an event is different. Often the products you think will sell like hotcakes, don’t get picked up but the items you made a few of to test out, will be flying off the table.
You can’t always make sense of it and you need to go into each event with an open mind. If you’ve done your research and feel you’ve picked a great first craft show to be a part of, relax, go with the flow, and trust you’re in the right place at the right time.
10) Vendors love trades(ies)…but you don’t have to say yes
Often the other vendors participating in an event are your perfect customer; they love and appreciate handmade items. Instead of purchasing each other’s items, vendors may ask if you’re interested in a trade. You get one (or more) of their products in exchange for one (or more) of your products.
If you’re not interested, you can let them know how much you love their work but that you’re really looking to make some extra cash, so unfortunately, you’re not in a position to make a trade.
On the occasions I do want to make a trade, I prefer to leave trades until the end of the event to be sure I have as much stock as possible for shoppers.
11) It’s a tight-knit community
Everyone is really connected in the craft community, regardless of how big or small your city or town is. It can feel intimidating walking into your first craft show feeling like everyone knows each other, but it’s one of the friendliest communities out there.
Be sure to take the time to walk around the event and introduce yourself. Be mindful of their setup time or customers. You don’t want to interrupt, but a quick “hi” goes a long way.
Everyone gets to know you quickly, so it’s also important to keep a good reputation.
If you have a bad experience at a craft show, remain professional; word will spread really quickly if you’re difficult to work with.
It’s also bad etiquette if you leave a craft show early. It’s not only a disruption to the other vendors, but the organizer won’t be happy about the empty space in their venue.
12) You don’t have to say yes to every craft show
Craft shows will all seem like opportunities to make money but it’s much more important to choose the right craft fairs than to say yes to them all.
Take the time to research the event, the organizer, the location, etc.
The time it takes you to apply, create product, set up, sell and take down your display, is time that may be better spent somewhere else in your business if the event isn’t a good fit.
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