Are you ready to sell at a craft show?
As potters and artists, we have to find ways to sell our product, especially if you don’t live near a big city with tons of galleries and unique gift stores. Selling at Craft Shows is another way to get out there where people can see your product, pick it up, and explore it further.
Because of the 2020 pandemic, most of the craft shows were canceled. It was quite tough not having these venues to sell our beautiful products in. Many of us upped our online presence and that was so great. As the nation begins to open up, online sales seem to be slowing down and art and craft shows are starting to come back.
It’s July 2021 and it’s time to start thinking of Holiday Shows!!!! So start making inventory!
I Prefer Inside Shows
Personally, I prefer Inside Shows. After almost losing all my pottery at an outside show when a gust of wind helicoptered my weighted canopy up and over my tables several years ago, I resolved to never do an outside show again.
But that is just me. Maybe you don’t live in a windy state like me. I also don’t have a show buddy, my hubby hates to go with me, so setting up the canopy tent all by myself is not something I look forward to. Usually, someone jumps in and helps me set it up (a big thank you for that), but at the end of the show, when everyone is scrambling to pack up and go home, there is generally no help.
Please note this post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you click them and make a purchase. This is, of course, at no cost to you, and I only share products that I use and love myself.
Best Practices for a Successful Art & Craft Show
This year I am extending myself out and applying for a few bigger and more expensive shows. In order to make sure I have a successful show, I have put together my list of things to do to have a successful show.
1. Know your audience
Before agreeing to a show try to find out who the target audience for the show is. Know who your target audience is. Does it align with the shows’ target audience?
As a potter who makes artful pottery, my own personal discovery is that I do better at shows that are geared around art. Therefore vintage shows, and gun shows are not shows I am interested in. Those shows are not geared toward my target audience.
Will I sell stuff at these shows? Probably. I have actually set up at a gun show and did ok. My target audience is 85% female and when the guys are shopping for their next rifle, the ladies come and see me. It was a small, local show so I had nothing to lose but a day!
2. Have some way of taking credit card payments.
This one thing alone doubled my sales. People tend to come with only so much cash. I would often hear this along with “I am looking at everything and will make my decision at the end”. Rarely do they come back if they don’t purchase right then and there.
I use Square and have for years. Their fees are reasonable and I can accept not only credit cards but can log cash sales and check payments so at the end of the day I know exactly what I sold and how much tax I collected (yes….I collect taxes).
Be sure you let them know you accept credit cards. I printed 5×7 cards with the CC logos and place them around my booth. The extra sales you make by offering credit cards greatly outweigh the small fee you pay for this service.
3. Make your space look visually appealing and professional
If your booth looks like you don’t care then people won’t care about you.
Ditch the cheap plastic tablecloths. There is nothing that says “I don’t take my product and business seriously” more than cheap plastic tablecloths.
Make sure you get the right size for your table.
I couldn’t find the ones I bought but these look similar.
They are heavy-duty and go right to the floor, which hides everything you stash underneath your table. For my booth, I use Rocket Risers to lift my table up a bit which makes it easier for people to see everything. To compensate for the taller table I have a fold-up Directors chair which puts me back at eye level when sitting.
You are normally allotted a 10 ft space so get a 6-foot table (or 2). They are affordable (usually under $60) available everywhere and fold in half with a handle for easy transporting. Please leave the card table home with the plastic tablecloths.
4. Use height and light to show off products.
I bought some wooden crates at Michael’s (they are way cheaper in price than Amazon) to add height to show off my pottery. When the product is eye level it catches the attention of passerby’s. If you can, add extra lighting to showcase and illuminate your products, These are the lights I bought for my setup. They clip onto my crates or table and have a really long electrical cord. I also had a cloth banner made (from this Etsy Seller) that I drape over my black tablecloth. I feel this lends to the professional feel and it tells the customer I am a real business.
5. Give your customers some space
When I first started doing shows I would set my booth up like a horseshoe with a table in the back and two tables on the sides and the customer could “come in and browse”.
Since there was no place for me to sit I would either hang out in the space or out front of the booth. But you know what? They didn’t come in and browse. They walked right by.
So I went walking around the show and soon found out that if I had to go into space to see anything, I did not go in. If the vendor was sitting in the space I felt uncomfortable.
What I did look at were products that were within my eyesight, and only if something caught my eye would I go further into their space to see what else they had.
I went back to my space and did some rearranging. By moving my back table halfway up, I lost some table space on the sides but I was able to showcase more of my best sellers and eye-catchers and my sales increased. It wasn’t the optimum setup but it was what I could do at the time.
Each space you get will be different. Sometimes you will be sandwiched between two other 10 by 10 spaces with no room in between. Sometimes you will get a coveted (in my case anyway) corner space. Sometimes you will have loads of space.
Just keep in mind that your customer needs to feel comfortable to look around without feeling trapped and committed.
Last year I was at an art show and my booth was across from a painter artist. She had some paintings on easels in front of her space and they were great paintings and they were expensive. She had two tables set up inside the space with easels and baskets with affordable prints. For THE ENTIRE TWO DAYS, she and a friend sat in front of these tables barring customers from browsing through her beautiful prints. At the end of the show, she said “what a crappy show. I won’t be back” Her whole booth looked uncared for, unprofessional and by her sitting there her customers did not feel comfortable looking. I, who was situated right across from her, had my best show ever!
6. Meet the other Vendors
I always love to take a walk around and see what everyone is selling (as well as look at their booths to see how they are set up). A little reconnaissance work!! Get to know your neighbors especially! They come in handy when you need a potty break, something to eat, or more change (because that first customer paid with a $100 bill. Remember!).
Vendors are buyers too! I don’t think I have ever done a show where other vendors did not purchase something from me. I love supporting handmade so I am prone to purchase from them as well!!
7. Make sure there are prices on everything
When someone walks by and something on your table catches their eye enough to pick it up and inspect it, one of the first things they do is look for a price. Make sure it’s easy to find because most of the time THEY WON’T ASK. For my pottery, I use removable dots but use whatever makes sense to your product.
8. Don’t put everything out at once and crowd your table
Too much product is confusing to the customer and it makes your small space look cluttered. The customer goes into decision overload. Put a piece or two of similar items out so there is less choice and replace as it is sold. It feels counter-productive and it’s hard to decide which pieces to put out but I have seen this work. Having fewer pieces out also gives the customer a feeling of urgency. Get it now or it may be gone.
9. Bags and Tissue for your artworks trip home
Don’t forget to bring something for the customer to take your goods home in. I am not talking about used Walmart bags either (remember the “be professional” tip above). You can get bulk bags fairly inexpensively. I get tissue and Bags at Store Supply Warehouse but Amazon has some good deals too.
10. Business Cards are a MUST
Let me say that again BUSINESS CARDS ARE A MUST. Make them easily accessible by placing them somewhere on your table so the customer can help themselves. A customer may not be ready to buy from you YET but they need to have some way of finding you later. On my business card, I have a beautiful photo of some of my artsy Mugs which will remind them later to remember me and my product. I also have my website address, Etsy Store address, and URLs to my Facebook and Instagram accounts. Make it easy for them to find you later.
11. Stay Positive
Sometimes shows are slow. The weather may be bad or there is something else happening in the area that draws the crowds away.
It can be discouraging to sit (and sit and sit) with no activity but that happens. Not every show is a huge success. But there will be people and they can feel your energy so stay positive, stay smiling and hand out those business cards, collect email addresses, chat with your vendor neighbor. You are getting out there and gaining experience.
12. Promote the Show
Start promoting that you will be at the show well before the show date. Ask people to come to see you. Promote other vendors as well so that they will know there will be other cool products there as well. Put it on your Website Calendar, promote it on Social Networks, blast it out to your email list.
13. Have an Email Signup list
Email is not dead, far from it. In fact, It’s far from it. An email list is something you own and it will always be a way to stay in touch with your customers.
Start collecting names and email addresses. These folks want to hear from you so email them at least once a month. I always say “Out of sight, out of mind”. If you pop into their email every once in a while it will remind them of you and your product. I personally use Mailchimp. It’s free up to 2000 emails and it’s really easy.
14. Most importantly, Have Fun with it.
Shows can be fun as well as profitable. If you are just starting out keep these tips in mind and add them a step at a time. Case future shows to see how they are run and the quality of the vendors. Space them accordingly so that you have enough product made!
Feel free to leave any comments about what has worked (or not worked) for you. We are all in the same boat and can learn from each other.
I highly recommend accepting Credit Cards at shows. There are several options out there for this but personally I use and like Square.
There are no monthly fees so even if you only use it once or twice a year it won' break your bank. The reasonable fees they charge when you do make a sale will be worth it because you will make more sales by accepting Credit Cards. Their phone app is simple to use and you can even log cash sales. If you click this link you (and I) will get some free processing!
Check our Square Credit Card Processing
If you want to sit a little bit higher at your shows so you can communicate better with your customers I suggest getting a director’s chair like this one. It allows you to comfortably sit at eye level and is especially useful if you raise your table up! Mine came with a carry bag and it’s perfect for storing other things like my table clothes!! Win Win
I have standard 5-foot tables and wanted to be a bit different than the rest of the tables so I bought these table risers to raise my table up higher than everyone else. What I really like about these is that it puts your product a bit higher and easier to view and more professional.
View on Amazon
One year I worked a three-day inside show. It was super hot outside and the A/C was not working very well inside. It was horribly hot. On Day Two, I stopped at a store and bought a small fan which helped a little but not enough to be comfortable. After the show I scoured Amazon and found this little gem. Its a small personal A/C unit. The cool air is created by ice and generates cool fine moisture breeze. I took it to the same show the following year and it was a life saver. When we needed to cool down a little bit It was there for us. It’s not big or powerful enough to cool a large space down. Plus its rechargable making it really portable. Lots of other uses besides shows!!
View on Amazon
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