Craft show Dopers: Give me advice!

I posted this thead back in March, and, by golly, I really did get in!

So, I’m about 5 weeks from the show. It’s July 8th. I’ve been working like a fiend to meet my WAG goals for inventory. I should be doing that right now, but instead, I’m reading the Dope. Please assuage my guilt for Doping instead of beading …

If you sell at craft shows, what advice can you give me about…anything! I’ve found a few good “craft show tips” web sites. Are there books you can recommend? Things you’ve learned from experience? Do’s and don’t’s?

If you go to craft shows, what makes your experience at a booth good or bad or meh? How do you want an artist to interact with you when you wander in to look? As a craft show attendee, I always feel some guilt when I stop to oooh and aaaah over someone’s work, but don’t buy anything.

Help me, Dopers!

My mother considers herself quite the craft show enthusiast, so I’ve gone to quite a few with her. There seems to be only two distinct modes when it comes to running a booth: chat with everyone who even glances your way about your art or pretend you don’t notice the three people desperately attempting to get your attention so they can buy something. Please don’t be either of these people! :slight_smile: There’s got to be a balance. I don’t want to buy from someone whose too desperate to sell their work (what’s wrong with it?), but at the same time, you want customers to feel welcome. Make sure you set up the booth so that the flow of traffic is good and that you aren’t stuck sitting behind some big display or pile of merchandise.

“Meh” craft shows are ones we go to that have the same exact booths they’ve had for the past umpteen years, and those booths have the same stuff they always have. You’re at an advantage, there, precisely because you’re new. And you sell sparkly things. I bet your booth gets a lot of attention!

From my experience working craft shows many moons ago and going to many craft shows I’ll toss these out:

Don’t drink or eat obviously in your booth. It’s difficult to converse with someone who you know spent tons of time creating beautiful things… and she has a piece of lettuce hanging from her mouth, clearly from the Subway sandwich spread out in all it’s glory in front of you.

Of course dress appropriate to your booth. Your jewelery is very tasteful and elegant - while I’m not saying dress to the nines, I would not wear jeans or a business suit. Wear your work also.

Purdy packaging works wonders. Spend a little more for unique giftbags, preferrably ones that cannot be easily folded down. Since what you are selling is small, it would be easy for a buyer to simply put their purchase in a coat pocket or purse. If you put their purchase in a bag with tissue, all creatively done other buyers will 1) see you’re making a “special effort” JUST for them and 2) if your name is on the bag (even if you handwrite it or do calligraphy) others will see and remember who you are. Extra points for having the bags as part of your set up. [side history: I worked a craft show with a person who bought pocket knives, removed the factory handles and replaced them with beautiful woods, etched metals, engraved woods. Was doing okay. We went to a paper outlet and bought a stack of “manly” looking marbelized bags, tissue, and gift boxes. “Fancied up” the booth a bit with the bags for the next day - much larger sales with approximately same traffic]

And the booth. Come with a few ideas as to who your customer might be. Are you in a mall? An art center? Art fair? Three different customers. Minimalism is not appreciated. Beautiful displays are. Your work is gorgeous - it should sell itself, but jewelry can be difficult.

Stand firm on your pricing- to an extent. Some will think you create your work just for poops and giggles and that it’s easy. If you have a necklace priced at $100, maybe agree to take $90, but no less. Don’t explain how long it took you to create, but rather explain how unique the design is, how special the beads are, and how much detail is in each piece. [I *still* have problems explaining why, when I’ve spent 80+ hours on a needlepoint work, I won’t let it go for a song. Doesn’t cover the cost of the materials let alone my time.]

Finally, make what types of payments you will take very clear. Small tags around the display area stating “Cash and checks only” or whatever. Don’t have one big ol’ sign by your cashwrap. I’ve used table placecards for this.

Have fun - you’ll meet wonderful people and complete whackadoos both in front of your booth and behind other booths.

Bring lots of change, more than you think you will need. Especially singles and fives. A lot of peple come fresh from the ATM and all they will have is twenties.

Do you have a tax license to sell in the state where the show is being held? Some shows get visited by an inspector and if you don’t have a license you can be kicked out of the show, or worse. The state department of revenue should have information.

Make your booth as safe as possible, no sharp edges sticking out, no cords for people to trip over. Think about security with your set-up. Make sure there are no corners where people can hide and put things in their pockets. Most people at shows are honest, but it only takes one bad apple. Keep a careful eye on your jewelry during set-up and breakdown.

Make a list of everything you need to bring and check it before you go, but realize you will probably forget something anyway. If you can do a dry run setting up your booth ahead of time, it will help you make your list and give you an idea how much time you need to set up.

Figure out your return policy ahead of time and post it clearly in your booth. If you can accept credit cards, it will probably increase your sales.

Bring a mirror, the largest one you can manage. Bring tools and extra findings. Bring polishing clothes, rubbing alcohol and cotton balls, a receipt book, lots of pens in case some go MIA. Bring lots of business cards. Wear comfortable shoes. Not eating in the booth is good advice but it may not be practical if you are alone and it is a long show. Try to get a friend to help out, it will make your life much easier. If nothing else, find out if they will provide you with a booth sitter. Make friends with the people working the booths around you.

How you approach customers will depend on your personality and your clientele. If you are not a real Chatty Cathy, maybe you can be working on a simple project during slow moments. A lot of people like to see the artist work and it can help take some of the pressure off so they don’t feel like they are being hovered over and can keep you from looking bored and awkward. Don’t just be sitting there (but whatever you do, don’t read or have unnecessary phone conversations!). Some people think it is rude to be doing anything but helping customers so it can be a tough call. I like to greet people as they enter and let them know I am available if they need me. From their response you can try to gauge them. Some people like to be left alone, others like a lot of attention. But by all means, if you are great at conversation, it can help make sales so go for it.

Keep a positive attitude, but don’t get discouraged if sales are slow. Craft shows can be tricky and a lot of people go through a few that are a bad fit before they find their niche. No matter what you do, it will be a good learning experience. Have fun!

I hope this helps. If you have more specific questions, feel free to post.

…and a calculator. And don’t forget to bring along your tax license. It’s no good to you at home.

Great suggestions! Keep’em coming!