Yesterday I took part in my first craft show! It was a lot of work, a lot of fun, and a lot of lessons learned. I wanted to share what I discovered with you all, in case you are on the verge of doing your own craft show. Keep in mind this was my experience and it might be different for you. But hopefully my tips/lessons can be of some help!
#1 It’s HARD work! As in my previous post I will tell you that preparing for a craft show is really labor intensive. One thing that I believe helped me is that as soon as I signed up, which was nearly two months prior to the show, I started working on my crafts every single day. It helped me build up my inventory but not feel so overwhelmed by the process. Ideally if you are doing craft shows you are prepping year round, but as a beginner you might really need to get that initial stock going. If you start early enough you can just do a little bit everyday.
#2 It WILL cost you money. This part sucks, but it’s a part of the craft show life I guess. You will have your booth rental fee, in my case it was $25. Then I had to buy table cloths, display stuff, bags, totes for carrying my things, and other supplies I hadn’t thought of. All told, I am pretty sure I spent at least $200 in prep. And I think that is pretty cheap for most set ups to be honest. Granted, this was my first show so the costs would hopefully be less for subsequent shows. But keep in mind that if you do seasonal shows you will need to change-up your display (stuff for Christmas, Fall, Spring, etc.) Be prepared for that first show to NOT break even. Consider it an investment in your craft show business.
#3 Load your stuff up the night before so you are ready the morning of the show. We loaded our car up Friday night and I had everything ready which made the next morning much easier. We had 3 hours to set up but we didn’t get to the location until one hour after set up began. BRING A CART!!! Oh boy, do I regret not having a cart to haul my stuff in! It was a long walk with heavy tables and the other things from the parking lot to the high school gym. My arms are still like rubber!
#4 Be prepared to accept whatever space you get. I requested a space along a wall. I got stuck in the middle of the gym. I made the best of it but you get what you get I guess. I also noticed my 10 x 10 space was more like 9 x 8 so the set up we had practiced in my living room ended up being a lot smaller. You have to be flexible and make it work. In the end I was happy with how we arranged things.
#5 Make sure you have taken photos of your set up to make putting it all together easier. I was so glad I had taken photos of our practice set up because on the day of the show I honestly could not remember what went where. I guess the more shows you do the easier this will get. After you set up go inside your booth and make sure people can see and touch everything with ease.
#6 Signage! If you are invested in doing craft shows you will want a really good sign. We didn’t have one, just my little home-made sign I made with stickers and a small frame from the thrift store. It was okay but if I were going to be doing this on a regular basis I would find a company to make me a custom sign I could use each time. Or have your shop name put on a table-cloth. I saw some really great signs at the show that people had custom-made. I know some of these can be pricey, but shop around for a good deal.
#7 Business cards! I didn’t have any. Big mistake! People kept asking for my card and I felt so lame admitting I didn’t have one. I cringe when I think of the people I could have possibly gotten more business from. These don’t cost much money, you can go through Vistaprint and get 200 cards for pretty cheap. This is one small expense that can reap lots of benefits!!!
#8 People are awesome! Not so much a tip as an observation. Craft people are so sweet and wonderful! I met so many nice folks at the show, the vendors on either side of us were super and we shared tips and stories. I especially loved the lady next to us who made the most beautiful drift wood creations from things she found on the beach. Let me tell you, her booth was hopping! She had a steady stream of customers from beginning to end. I was jealous! LOL
Here are some pics I took during set up. This was prior to opening to the public. I wish I had taken some photos once we got going but I couldn’t leave the booth easily. We had a steady stream of people, it was a good showing!
#9 Be sure to visit other booths. We had about 30 minutes or so once we’d set up so we took the opportunity to visit the other booths and visit and get to know people and their wares. It was nice to see other set ups and we got lots of tips. We also got to see our competition, and observe prices. I had been worried I had under priced my items but I was pleased to see I hadn’t compared to the other crafters.
#10 Use the potty, get coffee, etc while you have the chance. Before the doors officially open do all that stuff so you’ll be ready once the crowds get there. You won’t want to leave your booth unattended. Either have a locked money-box or a fanny pack (bum bag) which is what we had. I was lucky that my oldest daughter was with me so one of us was always wearing the bag. As vendors we got free coffee and donuts which was cool. We did have to pay for lunch though so make sure to plan for that and count it as an expense.
#11 You should already have your change ready but be sure to have plenty of ones and fives. To make things easier keep things to dollars and no cents (unless you enjoy dealing with lots of change!) I had $100 in fives and ones. Most people paid with small bills anyway but there is always that one who wants to pay with a twenty so be prepared.
#12 Keep notes! We didn’t do this. Big mistake. Have a notebook or your iPad or whatever and keep track of every single sale, how much it was, what it was. That way you can see what sells and what doesn’t. Also keep track of any of your expenses such as lunch or items you buy. You need to know what you actually made at the end of the day.
#13 Don’t blow your profits. Or maybe do. I don’t know, it’s up to you. It IS a good idea to be a customer because if you shop the other booths maybe they’ll shop yours and you’ll foster good will, right? Only don’t go nuts. And maybe don’t bring your fifteen year old shop a holic daughter with you. Or if you do, maybe insist they bring their OWN money instead of spending from your shop till. Yeah. Lesson learned the hard way!
#14 Don’t get discouraged! When the doors opened and people began streaming in we sat there eagerly and then watched droves of people walk right by our booth without stopping! Ugh! Remember being that kid picked last for gym? Yeah, that was us the first twenty minutes or so. But then we noticed the same people circling back and visiting our booth. I guess some people’s strategy at shows is to walk around first to see what is being offered then come back to take a second look. Good strategy! So if no one is looking at first, just be patient. They will come back! And if they don’t, well you have a long day ahead of you and plenty of time for others to come by. Not everyone is going to want to stop and that’s okay. Or at least try to tell yourself it is!
#15 Following the above tip, be sure to greet every person who approaches your booth and at least smile at those walking by. Don’t spend time on your cell phone or talking to your partner. Make the customer feel welcome. We spent a lot of time smiling and saying “Hello!” like a cheery stewardess on a plane. But we got lots of smiles in return and many potential customers entering our booth. I can honestly say that everyone was so friendly!
#16 Be prepared for lots of “window shoppers”. We had a lot of people stopping by and really admiring our stuff and saying how cute it was then leaving! It was a little bit of a let down but it is the nature of the business. And at least they were looking, right?
#17 When the show is over take stock. Not just of your inventory, but of what worked, what didn’t. What would you do differently? I will admit that when all was said and done I was discouraged. Greatly. We had spent way too much, both in getting ready (even though it was necessary) and from my daughter’s shopping. Which I admit, I failed to curtail. I didn’t have business cards, I didn’t have proper signage, I didn’t have a cart to help with set up, I didn’t have a good note taking strategy. We had some nice things to sell I think, but what I thought would sell didn’t even get a look. What did sell were magnets, rings, bracelets, charms, pendants and key chains. And very few of those. I did sell a few stamp sets but most people were not interested in any of the crafting supplies I was offering.
What would I do differently? Well aside from what I’ve mentioned above, I would stream line my merchandise. One thing I did notice from the other booths was that what sold were either expensive unique items (such as the driftwood creations I mentioned, or intricate art work), jewelry from Direct Sell companies that was CHEAP (I want to add here that don’t assume DS is the way to go for craft shows, these consultants are selling their wares for CHEAP because they purchased all this stuff themselves for a LOT of money and are now selling it like a brick and mortar store. I mean, if you have LOT of money you want to blow on this stuff and try to sell, go for it, but for the average Joe this is NOT the way to go, just my opinion!), and stuff like home-made soap, etc.
Having a lot of different items might seem like a good way to make money, but really your focus ends up being so scattered that in my experience at least, you are going in too many different directions. It would be much better to focus on one or two things and go from there. Two things you are passionate about because you’re going to be making a TON of them!
Research, research, research! I plan to put any more shows of my own on hold for now and instead GO to some shows and see what other people have, what is selling, what are the prices like, how are the set ups. What is working, what is not working. Which shows are the best attended? I want to ask some of the vendors for their experiences and stories. What about credit cards? How much does it cost, and what are best sites for accepting cards? Where do they get their signage from? Their table cloths, their tents?
And then once I have a better handle on what needs to be done, we will begin again. Maybe we lost money, maybe we got discouraged but this is not over by a long shot. I am looking forward to going ahead with our dream to make and sell our own creations. And yes, you can be sure I will share what I learn on the blog with all of you!
Thanks for sticking with me for this longgggg blog post! I hope I helped in some small way if you too are going along in this journey to craftdom! I would love to hear about your experiences with craft shows, what you have found that works, what doesn’t. After all, we never stop learning, right? :
Have a great Sunday everyone!