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Craft Fair Tips and Lessons Learned


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Here are the lessons I learned from my latest craft fair, plus some tips I can give to others doing craft and street fairs this Fall:

Be professional at all times.

One woman who bought a pair of earrings asked me if I do home parties. I became a deer in headlights as 100 things ran through my mind. I ended up telling her that I had never done a home party before but I would be happy to set something up for her if she was interested and I gave her my card. She did not look pleased and just walked away. Maybe not the most professional answer, but an honest one. *Note to self: come up with some concrete policies for doing home parties*

Be prepared.

Had my booth not been set up in front of a hardware store I’m not sure what I would have done when my jewelry displays started falling over. I would have had to have my husband run out to find some wood while I stood at an empty table waiting for him. I know it can be a pain, but set up a mock booth at your home or in your yard before attending your first fair with new displays. This will give you a better feel for precautions that might need to take place (like bolting down your displays or better securing your tent) and give you a chance to view your display from all angles and make some final changes without the pressure of trying to set up your booth with customers walking around. It’s better to take care of it when you actually have the time and not the day of the fair.

Know your policies and stick to them.

I told myself going into the fair that I would not be discounting my jewelry (as people often try to get a bargain at fairs). Most people actually did not try to negotiate but then there was this one woman who was persistent. She bought a pair of earrings earlier in the day and came back to say that she was leaving the fair and that she regretted not buying more earrings. She asked me what my best price was on the earrings and I told her that I was not negotiating today. “Really?” she asked. “Even if I buy 5 more pairs?” My head started to spin, she happened to come by at a slow part of the day and I thought to myself how this sale would really help me out, so I said OK. We went back and forth on the price and finally ended up settling on a discount. She bought the earrings, and as the day went on and my booth got busy again I started to regret going back on my no discount policy. Those earrings ended up being my best seller for the day and I think I could have sold them all for full price to someone else had I stood my ground.

Know your stuff.

One potential customer at the fair came up and asked me to prove that my crystals were authentic Swarovski crystals because she had never seen the designs I had anywhere else before and because my jewelry wasn’t stamped with the official Swarovski logo. I explained to her the difference between Swarovski jewelry and jewelry made from Swarovski Crystallized Elements. I gave her a website where she could get more information on these types of stones and told her that I only buy from reputable dealers. It turned out that this customer didn’t realize my jewelry was handmade and hadn’t heard of Crystallized Elements before. She thanked me for my explanation and bought a pair of earrings.

Have fun.

Even if sales are slow. No one wants to come over and shop at a booth while the person who is running it stands there was a puss on their face. Smile, relax, enjoy the day. If things are slow, reorganize your table to give it a fresh look. Greet customers and start a conversation with them. Even if you don’t have sales immediately people may like your demeanor and take your business card for future purchases.

Do you have any tips to add to my list? Please share them in the comments below.

~Michele Gallagher

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  • http://www.honeyfromthebee.com Janet

    Your candor and honest comments on your experience will surely help others starting out. No one has ever asked me to discount my jewelry, but I’ve heard it happens. My response would be – best price is what you see. They’d pay double at a gallery so they’re getting a good “deal” buying directly from the artist.
    Another thing that happens at shows is other vendors that may not be doing as well as they’d like start to grumble. You want to distance yourself from that and keep a smile on and say you’re having a great day. You never know who is listening. Also who wants to spend a valuable weekend feeling down which is what would happen if you joined in or commiserated.

  • http://RegalCottage.etsy.com Regina

    Great tips! I agree, having fun is the best part of doing shows. I look at as a day of research and marketing. I enjoy talking with customers and pay attention to the messages they give on my products.

  • Creations By Viviana

    I’ve never done a craft show but have wanted to and I’m looking into it for this Fall! Thank you for your tips!! They will be a great help when I partake in a craft show/fair.

    I will say that the tip regarding about knowing your policies and sticking to them works everywhere. I have been approached by a friend of a client who wanted to purchase 3 of my items at a discounted rate. My prices are low as it is to begin with and I would lose my profit if I were to accept their offer. They tried very hard to convince me, but I stuck to my ‘guns’ and let them know that these are handmade items and the quality of work (they had mentioned how they knew someone else who makes a these pieces and their prices are lower). I focused on my work (vs pointing out that that seller didn’t seal the back like I do, the image quality is low and well, you get the picture) pointing out the quality of the print, neatness, dedication, etc. I lost a sale that day, but gained a loyal client later on as they realized that they were getting what they paid for and even more with my items.

  • http://www.thenakedsquirrel.etsy.com marlo

    Thank you for your insights. I plan on doing my first fair this fall and Iam nervous! Setting up beforehand is a great idea.

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes when we are novices at this and have never done well as we see others are, we take each situation as a desperate attempt to make sale and not lose out on the moment. It is good to stand by your guns. You need to take value and pride. in what you have to offer. If you let one then you will let another and another and befoe you know it, there goes all your work at a profit loss. As much as you love making your stuff you have to have something in it for yourself. Making the jewlery might not be real hard but the toting of it, it being handmade and everything else makes the factors count.. I have been guilty of this. As far as the makeshift displays like boxes covered, etc that fall over,I am still looking unprofessional. I need someone to build permanent totable displays. If your husband is a honey do type perhaps he can contruct some displays for your necklace forms to stand on, etc. I have seen such great displays at the shows I do and some are made by husbands. It will take time. Just observe what people are using when they set up as far as displays. Now is the time of the year to take advantage.

  • All About The Buttons

    I always stick to my established prices which are more than fair. I find the hardest thing is to smile when someones says “Oh now I know what to do with all my buttons”…arghh! Smiling is the #1 tool to get you through the day and as someone else said, no one will buy from a grump! Be prepared also with tools you may need to fix something or to wrap the sale…tape,pliers,scissors,etc. bring plenty of business cards for the lookers to take and enclose with a sale. Do have fun! And think if you were not at the fair you might be spending instead of earning.

  • Suefahy

    First- I would say NEVER sit with a book or newspaper- I see this so many times and the person reading does not seem approachable- it’s just rude. I will sit and cut out jewelry or straighted my display throughout the day and greet each customer with a casual ‘ Hello- how are you today’, then leave them alone. This is a way to say hello, without pressuring them to buy. Don’t hover over the customers- I personally will leave if I feel someone is too pushy or hovering while I browse. If they’ve been in my booth for a while and can’t seem to find what they want (I have a LOT of inventory), I may say’ let me know if you need help finding anything’- this just lets them know that you are there to help- if they want….

    Your display is SO important! I will always remember years ago at a show when two women had very similar items- (stuffed bears wearing various costumes- obviously they used the eame pattern)- anyway, one woman had dimesional displays with shelving and spotlights , and the other woman just had all of her bears in rows on a table. The woman with the great display looked busy throughout the day and people just passed by the other’s booth- although hers were of a much nicer quality….a shame! I would avoid a flat table with your items in rows- try to catch your customer’s eyes- go vertical if you can.

    I also always try to set up the day before, if possible. That way I can get anything I may have forgotton at home and bring it back. It also makes for a much more relaxing morning for tweaking my display. Since I’m usually at the fairs by myself, it usually gives me time to take a walk around before the show starts and see what else is out there, and chat with some of the other artists. If you’re by yourself, make friends with your neighbors- they will usually keep an eye on your booth if you need to leave your booth to use the restroom or grab a drink. :)

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/momsjewels Momsjewels

    I have also brought a couple of projects with me to work on during the slow times. Potential customers will stop to see what you are working on and I have found that on most occasions I get a sale or two. Plus, I usually complete the projects that day.

  • http://www.earthnskystudio.com Diane

    Setting up our display at home the week previous to the show works out very well for my hubby & I. That way, we can tweak whatever needs tweaking and it makes the set-up at the show move along faster b/c we know where everything goes.

    Regarding the discounts…..I gave a discount to a couple asking (or should I say ‘badgering’?) for one and I regretted it from the moment I acquiesced. Our handmade items that we spend time and effort creating are not manufactured; hence, there is only one item made like that. That, in itself, should be worth something to the buyer. If it doesn’t, they probably don’t need to be shopping at an arts/crafts fair.

  • http://www.nerdJERK.etsy.com nerdJERK

    Your tips really ring true. I would especially like to comment on a couple of things:

    – Knowing your policies –
    When I do craft fairs, I usually give deals that are closer to wholesale prices for my items, but recently started really upping my prices because I was only paying myself $30 for 8 hrs of work and those items were selling out. I decided to allow my friends to come help my at giant show yesterday (I called them my interns) and started going over prices and how long an items takes to get made. They immediately understood that I was still under-paying myself by a bit, but also understood that the prices & deals that I give are pretty strict. They were great about giving extra info to our customers throughout the day (i.e. Kirby takes 4-6 hours to crochet and he had hand-stitched muslin bags filled with polybeads so he can stand on his own) and made some nice sales. I was confronted with a couple that really wanted my Bob-Omb, but didn’t want to pay $50 for him. I told them he was close to $70 online and that my deals at the craft shows were fair. When my last intern of the day started going into details with them, I was super proud that I had taught someone the value of handmade that day.

    -Have Fun-
    I’ve shared some booths recently & been at shows where the traffic is lower so you have slower times during the day. If you’re not smiling or having fun, work on your items. If you’re not working on your items, compliment a boothmate’s items. Ask them if you could use one of their items during the day to help promote their table. You could both do some cross-promotion for each other. I’ve had a custom ring made for me one a slow day for a big festival by a boothmate so I could show it off my customers. One of them even took it out into the sunlight, smiled and started buying some rings of her own. It’s sometimes a small helpful thing that gets people smiling.

  • Silverclouddesigns

    I’m about to do my first craft fair and advice is just what I need right now. Thanks a million! I’m sure I’ll make mistakes but at least I can avoid some of them with your good input.

  • fatdogbeads

    nice article. thanks.

  • http://www.doubleloriginals.com Double L Originals

    Remember that tear-down is important too. If you have a set-up plan, you can reverse it for your tear-down. Do NOT just throw everything in the bins because it was a long day and you are tired. You can lose items or display pieces that way, not be able to find them a week later when they sell from your website, or just be forced to completely repack everything before the next show. The more you plan and the easier you make set-up and tear-down on yourself, the more enjoyable your experience.

  • malia J

    Great post. I will remember your tips when I sell at craft fairs.

  • http://www.kimscraftyapple.com KimsCraftyApple

    Great tips! No matter how many times I’ve done a fair I always ‘pre-set’ up my booth – it drives my husband nuts but it makes me feel so much better!

    One thing I would say is that if it’s slow DO NOT READ A BOOK! Knit or do one of your crafts, but no book reading. People will not want to bother you and you can become engrossed in the book so you won’t notice your visitors.

  • http://www.kimscraftyapple.com KimsCraftyApple

    oh! And don’t forget to wear what you make – if possible :) I’ve sold a hand-dyed hoodie off my back, rings of my fingers and bracelets off my wrist (I’m most proud of the hoodie sale…)

  • http://AuntAdeleinesVintage.etsy.com Mary

    Great article, thank you. I started my business doing home shows; first in my studio and now most recently at a friends homes. It was wonderful, relaxing I could really spend time with my customers, we laughed and talked our way throughout the night. I was one of four total vendors that complimented each other perfectly. I have since booked 3 other shows in homes of friends, along with doing fairs. I have a permanent display set up in my studio of all vintage luggage that holds my vintage inspired jewelry and transports with ease. I always know the square footage I need to have to display everything and always request the dining room table. It’s going to be a really strong season for handmade I am very hopeful !

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  • http://profiles.google.com/spazzgirl555 S Collins

    Would love to republish this on our website, CraftCritique.com during Crafty Business Week! Great info for our readers and increased exposure for you. Please email me if you would like more information. Thanks!
    Simone Collins
    Executive Editor
    Craft Critique

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