Craft fairs, handmade markets or trade shows: the pop-up event is the perfect stepping stone for handmade sellers to showcase their products, sell their creations, market their brand and learn a thing or two about dealing with customers in person.
If you’re used to selling on online marketplaces, craft shows let you connect with your customers on a more personal level. Shoppers get to see your creations in the flesh – they can feel, smell, taste and try on your collection.
Navigating a craft fair can be a daunting task whether you’re a first time seller or a trade show circuit regular. But with some preparation, those sleepless nights, long days and capital you’ve sunk into materials and tools will be all worth it. Let’s dive in and start taking full advantage of selling at craft shows.
Do your craft show research
Before you start organizing your inventory and applying for every show and fair within a 50 mile radius, you should sit down and do your homework.
Make a list of craft shows in your city
Open up Google and start exploring local fairs around you – try search terms like “craft shows in your area”, or “craft shows near me”.
Look out for different kinds of events you might like to sell at.
These are events that are held on a weekly, monthly or recurring basis. Many of these are hosted by local communities that aim to encourage weekend shoppers to come out and explore their neighborhood. Flea markets usually have a wide range of sellers: from vintage collectors, craft makers and stalls that resemble your uncle’s garage sale.
Arts and craft fairs
Next, you have the shows that are dedicated to highlighting local makers, artists and creatives. These shows are often seasonal and pop up once, twice or just a few times every year.
Trade shows and conferences
Many industry bodies will host conferences and trade shows where you can sell to a very niche audience. Most trade shows are annual but at any given time, you could have a few different shows running in your city.
Think music festivals, food festivals and huge community events where many like-minded people come together. Festivals often happen once a year and if you’re hosting a booth, expect to sell your creations over a few consecutive days.
Pull out your diary and write down the event dates, locations and application dates for the shows you’ve found.
Shop before you sell
Find out what these events usually feel like. What’s the average number of sellers? How much foot traffic does the event get? What types of crafts have been exhibited in the past? And most importantly, what type of customers attend the event?
Seeing is believing, so make out time to actually attend these shows if you can. Talk to booth owners, show organizers, volunteers and don’t be afraid to give back to fellow makers and buy a few pieces you love. After being a customer, you’ll have a better idea if the show is right for you and your business.
Find out how much it will cost to sell at a craft show
Most craft shows and events will have a website that includes information for exhibitors. Check out the information to see how much it will cost for you to secure your own booth. Big name shows may cost a lot more to secure, but you’ll be exposed to a bigger crowd of shoppers. Don’t ignore smaller markets where you can be confident your product will really stand out, though.
Remember, costs will also vary depending on your booth. Large sized booths or booths in prime positions will cost more. Consider the cost of your stall design, too. For big name shows, you’ll be competing with other businesses on big budgets – you’ll need to spend more money on your booth display to really stand out. At smaller shows, it’s easier to get away with a simple table set up. Weigh up all the costs and make a priority list of which shows you really want to get into.
How to apply for craft shows
You’ve narrowed down your list of perfect craft shows and you’re prepping your products to be displayed – it sounds like it’s time to get cracking and send out applications.
Visit craft show websites and sign up for reminders or email newsletters. Next time the show does a call-out for vendors, you’ll be one of the first to get notified. If the show has a Facebook group or event set up for sellers, sign up and join in order to get scheduling updates.
Filling out your craft show applications
Once your favorite show has opened up, get in as soon as you can. Some events will make sure there aren’t multiple competing businesses selling similar products at one show. So get in first if you want to get ahead of your competitors.
Some events are more selective in who they accept as vendors. For competitive shows, consider putting some extra time aside to make your application shine. Include links to your website, online shop and social media. Many event organizers are searching for sellers that have products they think will be popular with attendees. So, clear and professional product photography will give you a nudge in the right direction.
Start small and work your way up
There might be some virtue to starting small at first – work your way up from smaller, low-key shows, and move on to more elaborate shows as you begin to feel comfortable. In the beginning, you get a feel for what the entire process is and how to deal with obstacles during the day. Experiment, learn from the event and apply your new knowledge to bigger shows.
How to prepare for an upcoming craft show
Before you hit the shows, organize and prepare to avoid any hiccups during the day.
Estimate how much inventory you need for the day
Figuring out your expenses will help you plan how much stock you need to bring on the day. Follow these steps if you’re unsure about where to begin:
- Calculate your fixed costs such as your event fee and staff costs.
- Put together an operating budget for your booth with the things you’ll need to run a stall: credit card readers, packaging, furniture and everything else.
- Figure out the cost price of your products. How much does it cost to make one item?
- Find out how many products you must sell at full retail price to cover the fixed costs, booth design and the cost price of your products. This is the price your customers are paying to purchase your product.
- How much profit you want to make at the end of the day after all your expenses have been calculated.
Now let’s do some math! Download the free Craft Show Inventory Calculator tool as part of the Craft Show Bundle to find out the exact number of stock you need to prepare, make and bring with you on the day of your show.
Prepare your selling booth
Make your stall memorable. Make a list of everything you need for the day. Here’s a quick checklist of the big essentials.
- Props, signs, banners and displays for your booth
- POS system or a credit card reader
- Spare change for big bills
- Furniture – chairs, tables, mirrors and makeshift changing rooms
- Product packaging and shopping bags
- Stationery and pricing labels
- And, your products, of course!
Get the free full Craft Show Checklist as part of the Craft Show Bundle here. It has all the big ticket items as well as the small items that’ll make your day run just that little bit smoother.
Set up a few hours before the show starts
It pays to be early. You’ll be able to take your time setting up and escape the stress of having a half ready stall as the customers pour in. Get your furniture in place, test your card reader and pretty up your shop display. Be sure you have business cards printed and ready to hand out.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Craft shows can be stressful, demanding, and taxing – remember, you can only do so much before you burn out. To make sure your smile stays on your face all day, seek out help wherever you can. Recruit family, friends, coworkers and anyone who is willing to help out with the hustle and bustle on the day. If it’s in your budget or you’re a seasoned craft show seller, it’s also worth looking into hiring some help from a local casual worker.
How to get more sales at your craft show
Now to the business end of the guide, how do you turn onlookers into customers?
Stand out with an eye-catching stall design
Research ways you can bring the most attention to your creations. Consider using large signs, banners and posters. Use height wherever you can: prop your items on racks, blocks and shelves so that people can spot your products further away. Test out your display at home before the big day.
Up-sell and cross-sell
Suggest extra accessories to go with a customer’s purchase or offer deals when people buy multiple items in one transaction.
Nobody wants to buy from the stall where the owner looks miserable. Remember to always wear a smile and offer help to anyone taking a look – it’ll be your biggest sales weapon.
Tell your community beforehand
In the days or weeks leading up to a craft show, use your personal and business social media accounts to invite your community to visit the show.
Build a list
Collect email addresses of buyers and browsers alike at your show. You can even run a giveaway on the day and collect emails as entries – simply leave a clipboard for people to write down their details. You can use this list to send offers, details on new products and promotions after the event. You’ll be converting browsers to customers and remain on the radar new customers.
Download the free Craft Show Mailing List template as part of the Craft Show Bundle. It’s a simple and beautiful way to collect emails at your next big event.
Working a craft show is one method to grow your handmade business. Are you attending any craft shows soon? I’d love to hear your favorite craft show tip in the comments below.