Getting ready for your first craft show? Getting face to face with your customers can be daunting, but never fear! Lori of Loriola is here to help with a craft show primer. Her 10+ years of craft show experience have taught her a lot, and she’s been nice enough to share it here so the rest of us don’t have to learn it the hard way. Read on for tips on how to make your first craft show a successful one… and the start of many more.
Congratulations! You’ve researched which shows you think will be the best fit for you, you’ve taken great pictures of your work, you’ve applied and now that first acceptance has come in. Now what? Doing your first craft show can be daunting, but if you take some time before you go to prepare you can have a much smoother, less nerve wracking experience.
Be sure to ask questions
The first step is to really think about what kind of show it is. Be sure to ask the promoters these questions if you do not already know the answers. Is it indoors? Outdoors? Will you have electricity? Do you need to bring your own tables/chairs/tent? How large is your space? Will there be food on site or do you need to pack a lunch? How much inventory do I need? What else do I need to bring with me?
That’s a lot of questions that need answers! Some of these I can help you with, so lets get started!
Indoors vs. Outdoors
There are different challenges involved in setting up a show indoors compared to one outdoors. Because the weather can be so unpredictable I prefer to do indoor shows, but in the spring/summer/fall most shows seem to be outdoors. If you are going to do outdoor shows the most important this you need is a tent, and I will recommend you invest in a 10×10 WHITE EasyUp or similar style tent. You will look more professional with a white tent and there are some shows that do not allow anything else. It will keep the sun off your head and give your display nice perimeters. There are so many other things that go in to having a successful outdoor show that I may need to write another article to cover the rest. So, to keep things simple, let’s assume the show is indoors.
Some indoor events will supply you with a table and often a chair or two, but rarely do they provide anything else. Ask how large your table is. Even if they are providing a table cloth for your table I recommend bringing one of your own, preferably in colors that match your logo. This will help you stand out from the sea of other tables. Either way, make sure your table cloth covers the entire table all the way to the ground. Nothing looks sloppier than a half covered table. Here’s one of my favorite tricks-bring risers for your table legs. I use metal flower pots from Ikea but you can get bed risers from Target. People will shop more if they do not need to bend way down to see your products. Plus, it will also set you apart from the other exhibitors. If you have electricity provided be sure to bring some kind of lighting. People can’t buy what they can’t see.
Do I need a banner? Business cards?
If you are able to invest in a nice banner go ahead. If you can’t, or don’t think you’ll be able to hang one, here’s another little trick of mine. Pick up an inexpensive frame and if you can, spray paint it to match your table cloth colors. Then just print out your logo, frame it, and put it in a prominent spot. People tend to be more comfortable handing over their money if they know who they are giving it to. If you have a large table or bigger display use a few frames scattered around. You may be tempted to include your website (if you have one) on your banner or logo, but it is my experience that if people think they can buy from you later they will wait. The danger there is they might forget about you, lose your card, decide they don’t really need that scarf/necklace/plush after all. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have your website on your business cards, you HAVE to if you have a website, but just don’t flaunt it.
Be sure to bring business cards. You’ll want your customers to be able to find you again when they want another scarf/necklace/plush and I’ve found that I always have sales in the following weeks from people who saw me at a show and regretted not buying from me then. You can get inexpensive business cards from a local print shop or online. Vista Prints, Overnight Prints, and 123prints are just a few of the online options.
How much inventory do I REALLY need?
Short answer, as much as you can bring. You need a full display to attract people to you. If your table looks picked over people will think all the best items are gone. You should be able to replace things as they sell to keep your table looking fresh. When I started someone shared this formula with me:
Bring 3x the amount of inventory as you hope to make at the show. Be realistic, if you think you should be able to sell $500 of product, bring at least $1500 with you. How do you know how much you should be able to sell? I think of it this way-if the show cost $50 for the day, I want to make 10x what I spent for the show fee. Otherwise I don’t feel like the show was worth my time. So assuming that at a $50 show I should be able to make $500 I would be sure to have $1500 with me.
If you can bring more be sure to bring more. You can’t sell what you don’t have. But, if you can’t bring more DON’T STRESS OUT. You can only do as much as you can do. Next time you’ll have a better feel for what you need to bring.
What should my display look like? Should my items be priced?
The first part of this questions depends too much on what you sell to really answer. Just keep it clean, keep it uncluttered, raise your items up as close to eye level as you can but keep it interesting by having items at different levels, and be sure they’re well lit. Before you go to the show, set up your display somewhere in your house and TAKE A PICTURE of it once you get it the way that works for you. Be sure to bring the picture with you so you can refer to it while setting up. Try to use tablecloths or fabric that is solid or a simple pattern. Don’t let it compete with your fabulous creations!
As for pricing…there are some people who will disagree with me here, but STRONGLY believe every item should be priced. I absolutely hate having to ask about a price. There are a lot of people who are too shy, or feel embarrassed, and what if you’re already helping someone else? Don’t risk people walking away because they can’t see how much something costs. If you don’t want to put price tags on each item be sure to have signs that list the prices. Trust me on this one.
But I don’t want to talk to strangers
This can be very scary for some people, but it is very VERY VERY important that you make yourself available to anyone who walks near your display. You don’t need to speak to everyone; eye contact, a smile, and a little nod works wonders. Doing this will help you in a few ways.
- People will know it’s your display
- You will become approachable if they have questions
- It will discourage people from stealing from you if they know you are aware of them
Once you make initial contact be sure to let people take their time and look. I don’t usually talk to them again until they’ve picked something up. Then I might tell them a little something about the item (like how it’s made, my inspiration, etc). If at all possible ask open ended questions. Something that requires more than a “yes/no” answer. When all else fails I try to find something the person is wearing (like a piece of jewelry) to compliment them on. Most importantly, SMILE SMILE SMILE. When people walk away, even if they haven’t bought anything, I try to thank them for stopping by. You never know, they may come back.
Try not to eat on your booth if you can help it, and avoid DEFINITELY lengthy cell phone conversations.
This will sound like a total no brainer, but be sure to thank people who buy something from you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought something at a show and not had the artist thank me. Those are the people I will not buy from again.
What to bring
Early on I bought a big tupperware tote and I keep my show essentials stashed inside. Here’s the list of necessities, and items that you never know when you’ll need.
- Plenty of change
- Clip board
- Receipt book (some people will want a receipt, and it also comes in handy to take names for your mailing list)
- Pens, lots & lots of pens
- Bags (I’ve found that for smaller items most people don’t want bags any longer so I always ask before I give them one)
- Risers for your table
- Table cloths
- Banner/framed logo
- Price tags
- Packing tape
- Tax table for sales tax (you can print them out from every state’s website)
- Water/snacks/lunch (I usually bring a little cooler with me)
- Paper towels
- Tables/chairs if not already provided (I use a tall chair so when I’m seated I can still see over my table and look people in the eye)
Remember to have fun. And I promise you that once you do your first show it only gets easier. Every show will present you with unique challenges, but the more you do the smoother they will go.