March 24, 2017

What to Sell at Craft Shows to Make Money

Whether you’re just starting a business and aren’t sure what you’re going to make or you’re already running a business and are looking for ideas on what else to sell at craft shows to make money, this article will help.

 

No matter what you make, you can offer variety and increase sales without having to learn a new craft or break into a new industry. 

 

If you want to know how to have a best selling product at craft shows, check out this article.

 

If you want ideas on what you can create and bring to craft shows to make more money, this article has got you covered. Keep reading below…

 

If you want to make money at craft shows, it takes more than creating stock and setting up a table. Follow these 5 steps with any product to increase sales.

 

 

STEP 1: WHAT’S YOUR CRAFT?

 

I’m assuming you’re already making and selling something or you’re crafty and want to start selling something at craft shows. You don’t want to go reinventing the wheel and putting out handmade products that aren’t well made or aren’t you.

 

Whenever you’re starting a business or simply expanding, consider the following.

 

1) YOUR SKILLS

If you’re already making and creating, as a business or a hobby, stick to what you’re good at. It may be:

  • Sewing
  • Knitting/crocheting
  • Woodworking
  • Soap making
  • Jewelry making
  • Photography/art
  • Etc.

 

If you’re just starting your craft business and aren’t sure what to make and sell yet, be sure you choose an area you have a natural talent in. You’ll perfect your craft over time but you should be starting with some basic skills.

 

If you’ve never been great with tools, woodworking probably isn’t the best area for you. If you excelled in Chemistry, soap making may be a good field to explore. If you’re already making soap, try to stick to making products that use your soap-making skills, as opposed to learning a new skill like knitting to add new products.

 

As you’ll see in this article, there are lots of ways to expand your offering without venturing too far away from your main product.

 

 

2) YOUR INTERESTS

When you’re shopping at the mall or for a big purchase like a car, can you tell when a sales person really loves the product they’re selling and knows it like the back of their hand? And can you tell when they’re just trying to make a buck off you? I sure can.

 

Handmade is all about showcasing your natural talent and passion. If you’re simply starting a craft business or turning out handmade product to make money, that’s going to come across to craft show shoppers. You want to find something you truly love making and are passionate about.

 

If you do, it’s going to make running your craft business so much easier and a whole lot more fun. It’s also going to help you make more money because shoppers will pick up on your authenticity and the fact that you really know your stuff.

 

 

3) YOUR PURPOSE

This may sound a little grand but really think about it. Creating things may not be your main purpose in life but what purpose do you believe you’re fulfilling through your art? What is your art and creativity adding to this world?

 

It may be beauty and perspective through photographs. You could be teaching people about the environment and natural care through your handmade bath and body products. You might add humor and connection through your greeting cards. Or perhaps you want to add more color and fun to fashion through your handmade jewelry or accessories.

 

There should be a meaning and purpose behind what you do, which will allow you to do it well. It will also be what drives you and keeps you going in slow times.

 

 

STEP 2: WHAT’S YOUR FOCUS?

If you’ve read any of my articles, ebooks (#1 and #2) or joined my FREE challenge, you know I’m big on finding a focus. It’s not to say you can only sell one product and one product only; it’s to say if you’re selling more than one product, they should generally all fall under the same purpose, category or subcategory.

 

Big corporations can get away with selling hundreds of different products under different categories, with each serving a different purpose. They have the manpower and money to do so.

 

But you’re likely one person running a craft business, trying to wear the hats of a designer, producer, website designer, developer, social media manager, visual merchandiser, etc. The more products you try to master, produce and sell, the less time you have to do everything well.

 

This section is all about deciding on your product’s main purpose, category and subcategory. This will help you get clear on new handmade products you can offer at craft shows that fit your focus and skills.

 

It’s also about defining your main product. The product that drives your business and leads the direction of your branding, craft show display, etc.

 

You can sell a variety of products at craft shows, but there should be one that takes the spotlight, tells shoppers who you are, has the most stock, sells the most, etc. Otherwise it’s like a bunch of flashing lights; where should the shopper’s focus go?

 

 

1) Purpose

What will be the purpose of your product? Will it be something people:

  • Wear
  • Use / Consume
  • Display

 

If you’re just starting out, I would suggest sticking to ONE purpose your handmade products serve. Trying to fit under more than one is going to become overwhelming for a new craft business and create a confusing display at craft shows.

 

If you’re currently running your handmade business and are thinking about new products to offer, try to stick to one purpose as well. As I explain in my free 5 day challenge, offering too many different types of products is going to muddy your message, confuse shoppers and decrease sales.

 

Some products may transition smoothly into a new purpose, in which case, serving more than one purpose may work to your advantage. For example, if you’re a graphic designer and create prints to hang on the wall (purpose: display), it may make sense to offer those same prints on t-shirts (purpose: wear).

 

But if you’re a soap maker (purpose: use) and you’re thinking about adding jewelry (purpose: wear), it’s harder to draw a clear line from one product to the other (unless you’re offering jewelry that makes you smell good and is offered in the same scents as your soaps).

 

Do your best to keep a clear focus by sticking to one main purpose and brainstorming new products that will fit under that purpose.

 

 

2) Category

Get more specific now and determine the category your product will fall under. Generally, I suggest your products fit under one main category as well, whether you’re starting a new craft business or expanding an existing one.

 

When you try to make products under multiple categories, your product, message, brand, display, etc. start to lose focus. If you are venturing into multiple categories, try to keep a cohesive message across the board, which will help your sales at craft shows.

 

For example, if you knit, it may be tempting to create hats, mitts, scarves, blankets, mug cozies, dishcloths, etc. covering the categories: Accessories and Home. But generally your brand and your craft show display will be more cohesive if you can stick to one main category. You may decide to sell under Accessories and offer hats, mitts and scarves, or to sell under Home and offer blankets, mug cozies and dishcloths. If you decide to sell products under both Accessories and Home, it may be beneficial to find a theme that carries throughout. Perhaps all your knitted goods sold at craft shows are in a chunky knit or they’re all in soft colors, greys and creams and have a classic style.

 

If you’re unsure of the categories to sell under you can check out the categories listed on online marketplaces. For example, a few of the categories Made Urban allows sellers to list under are:

  • Art
  • Accessories
  • Bags
  • Bath & Body
  • Home
  • Jewelry
  • Etc.

 

You can also check out the main categories craft shows list their vendors under. Find a popular craft show in your city, visit their website and see if they have a “Vendors” tab.

 

Once you choose your category, you’ll likely still want to get more specific and choose a sub category to focus on.

 

 

3) Sub Category

Here’s where you can get really specific and find your niche, as well as find ideas for new handmade products. Selling Art, Bags or Jewelry isn’t specific enough for a handmade business. What kind of art, bags or jewelry do you sell?

 

Once you start breaking categories down in to subcategories, sub-subcategories and even sub-sub-subcategories, you start to find your niche and the different types of products you can sell within it.

 

Have a specific niche helps you stand out at craft shows and drives sales.

 

You may find your niche one level deep in a subcategory (i.e. BAGS -> MESSENGER) and focus strictly on making Messenger bags. Or you may go two or three levels deep into sub-subcategories (i.e. BAGS -> MESSENGER -> LEATHER) and focus on making only Leather Messenger bags.

 

Think of your sub category as the type of products you can offer under your main category. As you work your way into your subcategory, sub-subcategory and sub-sub-subcategory, you’re just getting more specific and finding your USP (unique selling position – covered in my free 5 day challenge).

 

If you’re making products under the category ART, what type of art are you making? What type of BAGS are you making? What type of JEWELRY are you making? Etc. Once you find a subcategory, ask yourself if it’s specific enough to stand apart and build a name. For example, if you decide on JEWELRY (category) -> JEWELRY SETS (bracelets, earrings, necklaces) (subcategory), you’re not really specific enough yet. Lots of people make bracelets, earrings and necklaces; what makes yours different? You may decide on using a specific material (gold) or style (statement) for all of your jewelry which would help set you apart.

 

Sub categories are broken up differently so visit a variety of websites to get some ideas on the direction you can go.

 

My advice is to try to stick to 1 – 5 types of products that use the same sets of skills, tools, materials, etc. so you can really find your niche and perfect your craft. Each product should also work together and be able to be worn, used or displayed together in order to increase your sales per transaction.

 

For example, if you’re making jewelry, you may be able to make bracelets, earrings and necklaces using the same skills, tools and materials. A customer could also purchase these items and wear them together, if they’re all the same style or materials. Once you start offering wire-wrapped, beaded, gold, etc. jewelry, your customer is less likely to find pieces that work together and you’re having to learn new skills and use different materials for each type of jewelry.

 

However many types of products you decide to make, just be sure you’re able to keep the quality high and other areas of your craft business don’t suffer because you’re trying to offer too much. 

 

Keeping your products focused also helps you target a niche market, which you’ve probably heard is one of the keys to success in any small business. As you grow, so can your audience but starting with a very specific product, targeting a very specific customer will help you:

  • Build a name for your business
  • Perfect your craft
  • Brand your business
  • Market your business
  • Gain loyal customers
  • Streamline your business & increase profits
  • Attract shoppers at craft shows
  • Etc.

 

For ideas on the sub category you can focus on, head to a large corporation’s website that focuses on your category of products. For example, if you’re a soap maker, head to Bath & Body Works. On their website you’ll find a long list of subcategories, sub-subcategories and sub-sub-subcategories they organize their products under.

 

The main subcategories they break their products into are:

  • Body Care
  • Hand Soaps
  • Home Fragrance

 

You’d likely want to get more specific with the products you offer as a handmade business so go a level deeper. If you looked under Body Care you’ll find the sub-subcategories:

  • Bath & Shower
  • Skincare
  • Personal Fragrance

 

You may decide to focus on Bath & Shower for your products or you may go another level and get more specific yet. Another level and under Bath & Shower you’ll find the sub-sub-subcategories:

  • Body Wash & Shower Gel
  • Bubble Baths & Soaks
  • Body Scrub
  • Bar Soap
  • Hair Care
  • Bath Sponges

 

You could either focus on Bath & Shower as your sub category and offer a few products within that (e.g. you may make body wash, shower gel and bubble bath – those would all use similar ingredients and recipes).

 

Or you could get more specific and focus on making one type of product found under Bath & Shower such as Bar Soap. You’d likely still want to get more specific as lots of vendors sell bars of soap. What kind of bars of soaps will you sell?

 

If you don’t find a specific enough sub category for your products on a big company’s website, brainstorm how your product may vary based on:

  • Purpose
  • Style
  • Method
  • Materials
  • Ingredients
  • Colors
  • Scent
  • Size
  • Etc.

 

For example, Bar Soap may get more specific by focusing on Cold Processed Bar Soap.

 

Once you find your niche, you can begin to expand by offering variation, which I’ll explain next.

 

 

 

STEP 3: WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS?

Now that you’ve chosen a niche and narrowed down the products you’ll make, you can start to expand what you sell at craft shows by offering variation.

 

Go back to the different ways sub categories are broken down and see what types of options you can offer based on them.

 

For example, let’s say you’ve decided to focus on Cold Processed Bar Soap. Now you can expand your offering by having a variety of bar soaps to choose from. You could offer bar soap in:

  • Different scents (i.e. lavender, lemon and patchouli)
  • Different shapes (i.e. bars, soap on a rope, novelty soap in the shape of fruit/flowers)
  • Different purposes (i.e. exfoliating, moisturizing, soothing)
  • Different ingredients (i.e. charcoal, goats milk, honey)
  • Etc.

 

You don’t have to add on new products or learn new skills to expand what you offer. Brainstorm the options you can offer your product in to build collections and variation for your customer to shop at craft shows.

 

For more info on creating cohesive collections, my free 5 day challenge has a free download in the first email, which will walk you through building your collections.

 

 

 

STEP 4: WHO’S BUYING AND WHY?

Now let’s explore if what you want to sell aligns with what people want to buy at craft shows. There are a few reasons people shop so think about how your products might fit into each one.

 

First, buying is broken down into the recipient. Is the item for the buyer or to be given to someone else?

 

1) GIFTS

Gift giving is a major industry and a good one to create products for. Many people visit craft shows to buy gifts, especially around the holidays. But there are ways to alter your product so they sell as gifts at craft shows, year round.

 

Don’t you feel like there’s always some occasion you’re being invited to that requires a gift?

  • Weddings
  • Birthdays
  • Retirement
  • Babies being born
  • House Warming parties
  • Dinner parties
  • Etc.

 

And some even have multiple occasions to buy gifts for. For example, weddings have:

  • Engagement parties
  • Bridal showers
  • Bachelor / Bachelorette parties
  • The actual wedding
  • Anniversaries
  • Etc.

 

Consider whether your product will work equally well as a personal item for the buyer and as a gift or if it will be mainly purchased as a gift.

 

For example, photography would likely be a personal purchase. Everyone has specific tastes when it comes to art and most people want to find the perfect piece of art for their walls. It would be hard to buy a piece of art for someone, unless you knew them really well. If you also sell your photography in card form, you first need to determine which is your main focus; do you sell more prints for the wall or more cards. If it’s prints, your products are likely bought as personal purchases. If you sell more cards, your focus will be on gift giving.

 

Soap may be purchased both as a gift and a personal item, depending on the type of soap. If the vendor is selling novelty soap (soap in the shape of animals, toys or food), it would move into gift territory. If the soap is focused on a specific purpose (i.e. for dry skin, sensitive skin, etc.), it becomes more of a personal purchase.

 

If your product is a gift, it opens up other options to offer and ideas on what you can sell at craft shows.

 

If the soap vendor chose gift giving as a direction, it also helps them decide on things like product options (e.g. creating collections around different gift giving occasions), packaging (people buying items as a gift want the packaging and wrapping to look nice) and sales pitches (e.g. the benefits of giving one of their soaps as a gift as opposed to pitching based on the shopper’s skincare needs).

 

There may even be the option to sell items you don’t make but can buy at wholesale prices and charge a bit more.

 

For example, the soap vendor may bundle 3 bars of soap together into a box for a nice gift pack. They could also purchase loofahs at cost and include them in the box or sell gift bags and tags as an add-on so they’re creating a one-stop-shop for their customer.

 

 

2) PERSONAL PURCHASE

When someone is buying an item as a gift, they’re buying for an occasion. When they’re buying for themselves, they’re buying to fulfill a need or a want.

 

NEED

Let’s be honest, most handmade products aren’t “needed”. The basics such as food, water, shelter are real needs. But if people are shopping handmade at craft shows, they have those areas covered. So think of needs in terms of problems they need solved.

 

It doesn’t have to be a huge what am I going to do?! type problem. Problems may range from:

  • Having empty walls in a new house
  • Needing a new purse because the old one fell apart
  • Having dry hands
  • Needing a room in the house to smell better
  • Not having earrings to match an outfit
  • Etc.

 

Think about your customer and the problems they may have, how your products solve them and any other options you can offer at craft shows for additional solutions. 

 

For example, if you paint pictures, your customer may have the problem of empty walls in a new house. That may also come with the problem of having a lot of empty walls but also being on a budget. You may decide to start offering lower priced prints of your art or smaller sized prints that work together to create a gallery wall of art. You may also be able to buy products at wholesale price to resell, such as picture hooks or frames they can add-on to their purchase so they can head straight home and put their art up. 

 

 

WANT

A “want” is something your customer desires. Think about the things you desire in life once your needs are met. You may desire to feel:

  • Happy
  • Healthy
  • Admired
  • Comfortable
  • Successful
  • Beautiful
  • Trendy
  • Good about your purchases
  • Connected to a community
  • Etc.

 

Consider which “want(s)” your handmade products will fulfill. Knowing the want can help you make decisions when it comes to the options of products you offer and will of course affect things like signage, packaging, craft show display, sales pitch, etc.

 

For example, if you’re selling scarves and you determine your customer wants to look trendy, you may decide to only offer your scarves in the season’s most trendy colors or offer trend-setting styles. Or if your customer wants to feel good about their purchases, you may decide to only use cruelty-free wool.

 

 

SILENTLY COMMUNICATING WITH SHOPPERS

Knowing why your shoppers will buy at craft shows and how your products fit into that “why” is an important message to carry into all parts of your craft show display. Your display is your silent seller. If you don’t communicate how your products solve their problems or fulfill their desires through your display, you’re losing a whole lot of customers.

 

You can’t speak to each shopper so your display needs to.

 

If your scarves help people feel good about their purchases because you use cruelty-free wool, each shopper that walks by your craft show booth should know that within the first few seconds of looking at your space. You can’t wait until they come closer and you’re able to tell them; you have to do it through visuals.

 

Your product’s “why” should come across in: the way you display your products at craft shows, the colors you use throughout your space, the words you use in signage, the props and photos you use to tell your story, etc.

 

My free 5 day craft show challenge will walk you through discovering your “why” / message and determining how to implement it in your craft show space to attract more shoppers. This article helps you with “what” to sell. 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY will help you with “how” to sell it.

 

Read a bit more about the challenge here or sign up for free below.

 

 

3) WORKING WITH YOUR CRAFT SHOW SHOPPERS’ BUDGET & COMFORT

The last piece of the puzzle is thinking about your products in terms of different budgets and what your shoppers feel comfortable spending.

 

BUDGET

If your products are out of someone’s price range, you take away the option to buy. And if your products are priced low and they’re looking to spend a little more money, you’re again making it difficult for them to buy.

 

I know you may be wondering; why would someone want to spend more money? How is having a low price point bad? But think about when you’re gift giving.

 

Let’s say you need to buy a friend a birthday present. You figure she spent around $30 on your birthday gift and you’d like to spend around the same on hers. You come to a soap vendor’s craft show table and find a bar of soap you think she’ll love. But it’s $5. If you buy that bar of soap it means you need to find $25 worth of product that makes sense to give with a bar of soap.

 

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if that same craft show vendor sold a $25 gift set of soaps with a matching loofah that was packaged in a beautiful box that made it look like it’s worth much more? And you could add on a beautiful gift bag, tissue paper and ribbon for $5? All your shopping done in one stop.

 

Think about the different price points you can create for your handmade products. You may alter the options to create a low-priced, mid-priced and high-priced product.

 

For example, a soap vendor may offer sample sized soaps for $2.50, full bars of soap for $7.50 and gift sets for $25. A scarf vendor may offer the same scarf in polyester, wool and high-end cashmere for their 3 price ranges. And an art vendor may sell cards, prints and originals.

 

COMFORT

Think about how comfortable you are spending over $50 for a product made by a business you’ve never heard of. You don’t know how long they’ve been in business, how great their quality is, etc.

 

If you like their products but you want to think about it before you jump into a large purchase, you’ll likely want to test the waters with a smaller purchase.

 

Offering smaller, less expensive versions of your products not only works with different budgets, it also works with different comfort levels and helps ensure someone will buy today and come back for something bigger tomorrow instead of simply not buying.

 

 

 

 

STEP 5: HOW WILL YOU MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT SHOWS?

Before you dive into making anything, determine your profits. If you have a great idea to put your woodworking skills to use and you want to sell cutting boards, but it takes you 2 hours to make one, it’s unlikely you’ll recoup your time costs or be able to keep up with demand.

 

The more you can lower your costs, the higher your profits and the more money you’ll make with each sale at craft shows.

 

Consider all the materials, expenses and time that come with making your product. Don’t skim over this part or price your products based on what you think people will pay. You’re in business and you must be able to cover your costs and make a profit.

 

Expenses may be high in the start up phase due to buying tools, materials, etc. to get started. But after a couple craft shows, you should be able to make a profit and you want to be sure each handmade product you sell makes a decent profit.

 

If you’re selling soaps at $5 a bar, 75% of that price should be profit. Meaning the cost of your materials and your time to make that bar of soap is about $1.25, giving you $3.75 profit.

 

Let’s say you decide your time is worth $30/hour ($0.50/minute) and the materials for one bar of soap work out to $1.00 of the $1.25 in costs. That means that you’re paying yourself $0.25/soap and you would need to make 120 bars of soap in an hour to be making $30.00/hour (1/2 minute to make one bar).

 

That doesn’t sound so realistic now does it? If it’s more like 5 minutes/ bar of soap, you can make 12 bars of soap in an hour and in order to earn $30 for that hour, your time is $2.50/ bar of soap. Bringing your total cost to $3.50 (time + materials). Leaving you with $1.50 profits.

 

OR it devalues your time so you’re only making $3/hour.

 

If you’re thinking about offering a new product, really dissect the costs of it before you go into production. Although you may be able to sell lots of that product at craft shows, you’re not making lots of money if your profits are low.

 

If the numbers aren’t adding up now, consider if there are ways you can lower your material costs (e.g. buying in bulk) or decrease your time to make it (e.g. creating in bulk).

 

 

CONCLUSION

I hope this article sparked some ideas on what you can sell at craft shows to make money.

 

Every business is different and you have to decide what works best for yours. If you’re able to make a wide variety of products, spanning under different purposes, categories and subcategories, and you’re making lots of money, then follow your plan and ignore my advice to focus and niche down.

 

My advice is based on my experience as a handmade seller, craft show shopper and website owner who sees which online shops and products garner the most attention, messages and sales.

 

Comment below if you have questions related to this article and how it applies to your specific products.

 

I also think you’ll really enjoy my FREE 5 DAY CHALLENGE if you’re curious about how to improve your craft show display and seeing how little changes can affect your sales.

 

Wishing you success!

 

Erin

 

 

 

 

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Comments

4 thoughts on “What to Sell at Craft Shows to Make Money”

  1. Thank you for all your great tips and ideas! It’s so good to get new information! It’s especially helpful when we can learn about our mistakes, too!
    Thank you so much!
    Linda Marquesen

  2. I’ve been loving all the info from you. I feel like I’ve finally found a site that is giving me the information I’ve been searching for.

  3. Hi Honey,

    Thanks so much for reading! I’m so happy to hear you’re finding my advice helpful. Feel free to post any questions in the comment sections 🙂

    Erin

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