An introduction to craft fairs
As a maker, you may have started out by selling your products to your friends and family. As a result of their encouraging compliments, you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the world of craft fairs and selling your products to a larger audience. Woohoo! Selling at craft fairs is a great start to increase your brand awareness, sell more of your products and increase your network circle. (So what’s not to like about that?!)
But on the other hand, I can understand how you may feel nervous or shy about the idea of selling your products to the public. After all, you’ve poured your heart and soul into your work!
What if people don’t like my products? 😣
How do I design my booth display?! 😖
What if I don’t sell anything?! 😫
Many doubts may run through your head and I can tell you from experience that although the preparation can get a bit stressful, at the end of the day the entire experience is a great learning curve, and most importantly fun! So don’t worry, I’ll be walking you step-by-step on how to do it and avoid all the common mistakes!
Congratulations on embarking on this journey! I’m excited to be walking you through the world of craft fairs (or otherwise known as craft shows or design markets!) In this post I’ll be sharing with you the methods I use and things I’ve learned during my 10 years working in a customer or client based environment and my last 3 years doing craft fairs (or also called craft shows) and design markets.
Why should you sell at craft fairs/craft shows/design markets?
Selling at markets allows you to interact directly with your customers, which will enable you to gain greater insight about your work, network with other fellow stallholders and increase your brand awareness. It’s also an opportunity to connect with potential customers and make money – profit that doesn’t need to be shared with a gallery or retailer. Selling at craft fairs requires research, planning, the ability to remain calm when busy, waking up early, smiling and standing all day, working on the weekend and maybe even travel. I recommend starting small at some local craft fairs before going all out and travelling further away to attend your first craft show.
Selling at craft shows takes a lot of investment, money, time and energy – so before you dive straight in and get overwhelmed, let’s take things slowly and determine if selling through this channel is a good fit for you and your business.
What types of craft fairs/craft shows/design markets can I sell at?
There are two main categories of craft fairs or markets: juried and non juried. Now before you get too worried, that there’s going to be a scary panel glaring down on you, analysing every little thing – it’s nothing as scary as you imagine. So what is the difference?
What is a non-juried show?
Non-juried shows are often less expensive, and run by local communities and usually accepts vendors on a first come, first serve basis. The costs to book a booth are generally under $100AUD (depending on the duration of the fair) and are often held in churches, schools and community halls. Because non-juried shows don’t have a selection committee, the organisers may not have much control over who applies which means you might be planning to sell at a market that’s oversaturated with the same type of products you’re selling. So if you’re planning to book yourself into an non-juried show, find out answers for the following questions:
- Is the fair well established and how many years has it been running?
- At what frequency does this market run?
- How many vendors sell at the fair and what types of products do they sell?
- What’s the stalls layout like?
- How much traffic have they had at previous fairs?
- Is the fair promoted? If so, where and how much? Follow the organisers on social media to see what they do. Do the organisers just promote themselves or do they promote their vendors too?
- What’s the duration of the event?
- Is the organiser able to give you good answers and do they seem organised?
What is a juried show?
Juried shows requires applicants to send in their application along with some product photos and descriptions of what you sell. Every application is screened against an application criteria and selected based on the quality of the product, whether the product fits in with the overall feel or vision of the craft fair, level of originality and innovativeness of the product and booth display to name a few criterion. The market organisers may also limit the number of stallholders in a particular category so that the fair is well-balanced.
More and more of the bigger fairs are becoming juried, which means there’s increased competition to get in. But many organisers have found that running a juried show is more profitable for the organiser and the vendors because the there’s a higher quality of vendors and products available for customers.
Determine what your craft fair/craft shows/design markets goals are
- Why do you want to sell at craft fairs?
- Do you want to do this to make your living?
- Do you want to do this to supplement your online shop’s income, increase brand awareness?
- Want to learn more about what your target audience likes?
- What they don’t like?
Set these out with smaller measurable metrics before you even consider paying for your first booth. Need some help to write your craft fair goals? Click on this link to help you write SMART goals in 5 steps and how to achieve them!
Do some recon work
Visiting the shows will give you an idea if your goods are at the same level as other vendors. Furthermore you’ll gain a deeper understand of what type of goods are sold by vendors, the amount of traffic to expect and how much it’ll cost for the size of the space you’d like. In addition, some craft fairs require you to buy your own public liability insurance or other types of certification – so don’t forget to factor this in!
Talk to the other vendors (like a customer) to see how they’ve found selling at that craft fair, get a feel of the quality of items, types of items and price points. Talk to a range of vendors so you can get a better idea of what it’s really like to sell at the show and to figure out if the event is a good fit for your products.
Since you’re there, why not even ask the vendors what other shows they sell at – you can pick up a lot of insider knowledge based on which ones they recommend and which ones they avoid.
The booth fees are so high! What can I do?
If you’re just starting to sell at craft fairs, I recommend you start small. Sometimes they’ll have introductory rates for first-timers, but if not, why not share the booth with a friend so that way you can split the fee?
How far in advance do I have to apply?
It depends on the fair. Craft fairs should have stipulated deadlines, some range from years, months or even a week for smaller, local fairs. So the best thing to do is to call the organisers to confirm if it’s not clear on their website.
You’ll usually hear back from the organisers with months to prepare. Sometimes you may be placed on a waiting list and may not know if you’re going to be exhibiting until just before the event.
Also, if you have any special requirements such as electricity, need to rent furniture or a change room – be sure to include all of these in your application.
How much will it cost?
It depends on the market and usually, the quality of the craft fair is correlated with the amount it costs. So therefore higher costs should correlate to higher quality sellers and a higher level of anticipated traffic.
If the craft fair you’re thinking of attending is not in your home state or home town, remember to factor in travel costs such as petrol/airplane tickets, accommodation, food and shipping, costs of materials (so you can make enough stock), costs of your booth display, costs of an assistant to help you during the show and marketing materials. Prepare a breakeven analysis to understand just how much you need to sell, before deciding to apply. (You’ll find a template and pre-worked example in the excel template you can download below!)
Time to download your worksheets + templates and do some Adult homework! (Who said homework can’t be fun?)
Inside the worksheet I’ll take you through step by step on how to tackle and work your way through the following points of thought:
- Determine what your craft fair goals are
- If your craft fair coincides with a particular holiday, brainstorm possible products or promotions you can run during the event
- In the spreadsheet file do some research on a list of possible craft fairs that fit your product and target market within your home town, same state and maybe interstate (because inside the spreadsheet is a starting list of some points you should consider to see if the market would be a good fit for your products)
- Prepare a break-even analysis
- (my free template and a worked example are inside this same spreadsheet!)
P.S. I hope you enjoyed the introduction to the craft work and my bonus downloadable worksheets + excel templates because if you did, I’d love for you to share it with your friends! So hit the social share buttons on the left or below to do so!
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