In my opinion the hardest part about selling your art is getting started. Deciding, if you want to even part with it, where to sell and how much to charge. What if people do not like your things?
My husband and I made living from our art for many years. If you are planning to sell at craft/art shows, here are some helpful experiences we made:
Before you even set up at a craft show attend the show as a customer and see what is selling, who is buying, how many are attending, who is attending (couples, women only, how do they dress….). The best thing is asking a lot of questions, so you do not waste your time.
ASK the vendors: What are their best sellers. Then look what the average price of the items is.
ASK the promoter how many people attend their events. How many events do they put together?
ASK the customers: How many times have they attended the craft show? What was their favorite thing they bought? If you are really daring asking them how much they spend on average when they attend and then deduct one third of the quoted amount. Look, if people carry bags.
As a general rule:
The more the entrance fee for a craft show is, the more money will you take home. BUT you have to show up at the right show with the right product. For instance, you can go to a Sugarloaf show with unique, useful or wearable modern art and go home with a pocket full, but you will die on the vine at a show like that, if you have traditional crafted items, country style crafts and cutesy items.
Our best shows always were, where educational exhibits were connected with the show, such as a colonial environment, reenactments, craft demonstrations on the spot.
Our worst shows were country fairs, civic minded shows, like for a benefit to a cause.
Fairly decent shows are holiday craft shows in a church bazaar, fundraising events, unless they were in a fire hall or equally unattractive places.
Once you have found a good place to exhibit, you can plan what to make:
Keep your prices low enough to attract buyers, but high enough to make it worth your work. Best pricing is under $20, which means you can not spend any more than $3 worth on material and not more than an hour of your time to make the item, else you might as well just sit and watch TV. I will write more on pricing later.
You want your items to be mainstream, but uniquely appealing. Conversation pieces are not what is usually bought at a craft show. You need a gallery for selling those. I will write later on what people generally buy and what your “target customer” will want to buy at a craft show.
Determine your customer group: male? Female? Age? Occupation? Marital status?…. This is VERY important, because it will determine what KIND of art or craft show you want to be in. Certain people groups will attend certain events. For an instant I would not be caught dead in a bead– or jewelry show, but would actually buy things in a country craft show. Not every show is for everybody. We have freedom to choose and you want to go with the interest of the attendees of the show, instead of going to the wrong place with perfect merchandise.
Narrow your art down to only ONE brand or general theme, not a whole slew of different things: Reason being you space at the craft show is only small and you do not want tire kickers clogging up your booth, but NEED to attract buyers. Let me explain: Example: lamps.
As people go in the isle looking the tire-kickers will say: Lamps? I am not interested in lamps and keep moving. Your customer will look and say: Lamps! Just what I want and the buying customer has room enough to browse, because there are no tire kickers to clog up your space.
If you however have a large variety of themes like a retail store, you would have all kinds of people in your 10×10 booth. They scrutinize everything and all items. Pick up and put back- very bad for a craft show, because you have a mess to straighten at all times and no time to observe and assist your customers. Remember, you only have “THAT” scheduled time -moment in time- to sell at a craft show and you are NOT a retail store, where you can clean after hours as you desire. In a craft show you have to have everything attractive and in order at all times, because you have only ONE shot at your next customer.
Having said that: It DOES attract attention, when there is action in your booth. But you make the action YOURSELF with your customers, meaning, engage them in a conversation, assist them, show them different product, don’t just sit there and smile.
Packaging: Whenever possible use clear plastic bags, so your customers advertise your merchandise as they mosey through the show. One of our products was footstools, which we only wrapped in clear plastic when it was raining. But generally the footstools were too big to put in a bag (also packaging takes from your profits). People saw our customers walking with their footstools under their arm to their car. Many were stopped and asked: “Where did you get that?” and with that flocked to our booth. The more we sold the more people wanted them (herding instinct). When we attended new to us shows, we had our older children walk around with a footstool under their arms. People noticed and sought us out to buy.
Plan to do the same show again the next year. People will recognize your merchandise and maybe even you. Almost always you will sell better the second time around, because the repeat attendant of a show already comes to the event with something in mind that they saw last time/year and did not get it. All year long they wish they had bought it and look eagerly for you to show up.
The way you dress at a show is very important. Simulate the “style” of your product. In other words, if you sell baked good, wear a baker’s hat. If you sell paintings, wear a French beret, if you sell folk art, wear a flowing, flowery skirt, if you sell wall art be wearing a “shirt and tie” to talk to potential lawyers, doctors, bankers, who would buy your art for their offices. Attire helps your customers associate you, your charm, your style with the product.
Also design your booth in the style that matches your product. A good booth design is very important to selling, because it puts your product “into the imagination” of the buyer. If you just spread everything out on the table a customer can’t ” feel” how it will look in their home or as a wearable. However: Do not over decorate your booth. What I mean by that is: don’t have too many decorations, but allow your product to be overwhelming attractive. You can’t sell the decoration, but you want to sell the product. If you fill your booth with the decorations, you have no more room for the merchandise and space is valuable in a 10×10, which is what you pay top dollar for in a craft show or exhibit. Have over sized picture with suggestions to place your product in the setting of its potential use, so the customer’s mental wheels are turning to integrate your creation into their own life.
Here are the other parts of this series:
Please tell me if you have any questions and comment generously with your experience, so we all can share.